We're continuing our previewing of the Detroit Tigers player by player. Expect much of the bullpen and the bench players to be doubled up a bit during the final week before the season, but we'll goone a day until then, by uniform numbers. I reserve the right to go out of order either on purpose or by accident.
Rick Porcello #48
Rick Porcello made it to his first full season in the major leagues before he could walk into a bar and order whatever he wanted to drink. He wowed fans after pitching so well in the second month of his career he was competing with stats lines that hearkened back to Doc Gooden in the 1980s. His start against the Twins in Game 163 was memorable, showing maturity beyond his years. But the plot took on a bit of struggle over the next two seasons, as Porcello failed to live up to the hype and expectations of fans who thought he could only get better. With an ERA of 4.92 in his second year and 4.75 in the third, some are ready to declare Porcello a one-year wonder.
I disagree. We've actually seen some improvements across different fronts from Porcello, even if the results lagged a bit. Porcello's strikeout rate for the first time in his career surpassed 5 per nine innings. It's actually up by 0.5 K/9 above his prior two years. Meanwhile he continued to show good control with a walks per nine innings that remained in the lows 2s. He got batters to chose more balls out of the strike zone than ever before and saw modest gains on his swinging strike percentage. Meanwhile, batters continued to put the ball on the ground where it could do less damage. One area of concern was that batters seemed to line up on pitches a bit more for a few more line drives, but if Porcello can get that number down to his career norm, results would be even better.
Put it all together and you've got a pitcher whose ERA was 4.75 but whose FIP and xFIP were both just above 4. Continued growth from Porcello, as he has every year, could get that number even loser. If the ERA catches up with the abilities, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Porcello closer to 3.75 at the end of the year than 4. Don't give up on him yet, he might just surprise you in 2012.