You saw the news by now: On Sunday morning, the Tigers announced they had optioned struggling right-hander Rick Porcello to Triple-A Toledo to work out his issues. Jay Sborz got the call to Detroit, the Toledo Blade found out. (I saw it at Jason Beck's Blog).
The Daily Record, a New Jersey newspaper, spoke to Porcello after the demotion and reports:
"I’m going to roll with it and move on," Porcello said via cellphone shortly after arriving back in New Jersey, where he’d planned to spend the Tigers’ scheduled Monday off with his family.
"I’ve been better, but I’m doing all right… There’s really not much you can say. My performance spoke for itself."
Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters, "We think it’s the best thing for him." However, on Friday afternoon, Dombrowski answered my question about potentially demoting Porcello by saying, "We have not really discussed that. We’ve been more focused on trying to get him into a position where he’s more successful here."
So I guess they've learned what we have: Don't listen too closely to what Dombrowski says because things may or may not actually work that way.
Porcello's FIP was 4.78, more than a run better than his ERA. He was having bad luck on balls in play (.350 BABIP). But it wasn't just luck, anyone who watched the starts could tell you. Thus, no one really seems too surprised by the demotion. Porcello just wasn't doing a very good job of keeping the ball down. Strike Three Mechanics (a site run by our friend MadPoopz) compared Porcello's recent starts and found he is improving. Just not enough, as Dombrowski told reporters Sunday morning.
So I think the demotion is a good thing, and it probably won't be a long one.
In the meantime we have Jay Sborz, who was saving games in Toledo. He is a 25-year-old right-hander who was drafted in the second round in 2003. He came up through the Tigers system but didn't do much to notice until 2009. That season, he did enough in Erie and Toledo to get added to the Tigers' 40-man roster.
He has a 4.38 FIP, according to First-Inning.com with 25 percent of plate appearances ending in strikeout and 12 percent ending in walks. However his groundball rate of 53 percent helps make up for that rather high amount of free passes handed out.
Beck speculates the move means someone from the Tigers' bullpen will likely move into the rotation. Certainly that is a possibility, and Enrique Gonzalez started in Toledo this year. He has been very good in his first two appearances with the Tigers this season, including several innings in relief on Saturday.
Everything that follows I typed up before the announcement of Sborz. So just consider it a look at the Tigers' system, I guess, because I'm not about to delete it now.
Let's start with Oliver. FirstInning.com is my choice for looking at prospects because it breaks stats down by plate appearance quite nice. And when projecting a pitcher, looking at their indicators is an excellent place to start. So here are Oliver's stats: 21.7 percent of plate appearances ended in a strikeout, 7.8 percent in a walk. He forced ground balls 43 percent of the time the ball was in play. The result was a 3.59 FIP.
The past two months Oliver's been even better: His walk rate fell to about 5 percent of batters, while the strikeout rate was as high as 23.2 percent in May.
A pitcher who also saw success in the Arizona Fall League during his professional debut, Oliver would be an excellent selection from the system.
Another option was brought up by David Tokarz in the comments section: right-handed starter L.J. Gagnier. He started off the season in Erie before being promoted to Toledo. At both stops, he's found success. The 25-year-old's FIP has been above 4 in both locations this year. His walk and strikeout rate are bit worse than Oliver's, and both numbers saw a drop in Toledo but are certainly acceptable: about 5.5% of batters walked while he was in Double-A and 19.2 percent struck out. In Toledo it's 8.3 and 16.7. His ground ball rate stayed even at about 41-42 percent this season.
Of the two, I think Oliver is preferable.
In other news:
- You may have seen that the Diamondbacks rookie was not a big fan of Jose Valverde's dancing antics. The Arizona Republic has a nice story summing up the whole thing. Money quote from each character:
Montero: "He's a (bleeping) (bleep). The way he acts, it's not right, you know" You've got to be professional. I've always felt that way. And I've always told him. That's the way he is. I guess he thinks it's right. But I don't care."
Valverde: "Tell Montero he’s a freaking rookie and I can do whatever I want to. Tell him that. Put it in the papers. If he wants to do something, tell him to come to my locker and let me know. I never liked Montero," he continued. "He’s a (bleeping) piece of (bleep)."
A 180 degree rotation from that: It's Ernie Harwell Day in Detroit today.
- Jim Leyland's son, Patrick, is set to make his debut with the Gulf Coast League Tigers today.