Are there people out there who still believe Rick Porcello could be the closer? Apparently. Tigers manager Jim Leyland may even be one of them. But is it even remotely within the realm of possibility? Of course not.
I had thought this issue was put to bed. Detroit News columnist / radio personality Terry Foster wrote on the topic more than a week ago, noting Porcello "is a starting pitcher, plain and simple, despite the clamoring from Tiger fans he should be their closer."
The logic behind the clamoring is this: Drew Smyly should be a starter. Porcello can be an excellent pitcher for shorter periods of time. By the time he reaches the third time through a lineup, typically around the sixth inning, his effectiveness takes a nose dive. Porcello may just be a better pitcher out of the bullpen.
I think that's pretty good logic, actually. If I searched the archives at Bless You Boys, I probably laid out that very plan earlier in the year. There was nothing wrong with the scheme at the time, earlier in the season.
Now, however, it won't work, and I certainly cannot advocate for it. Smyly has not pitched more than 39 pitches in a month. He hasn't thrown more than 55 since April. Smyly is not stretched out to start. You can't pull a starter out of the rotation when there's no good replacement.
Porcello meanwhile is having a pretty good nine-game stretch of baseball. His ERA is 2.84 and his team is 6-3 in games he was on the mound. Just once has he allowed more than three runs.
He's still got issues with going deep into games. Porcello has made it through eight innings just once this year and through seven innings twice. You can pretty much count on his starts being days the full bullpen plan is in effect.
But is he doing a fine job as the fifth starter? Sure. So Porcello should stay in the rotation. And Smyly ought to pitch in higher-leverage situations as one of the top pitchers in the bullpen. That, I feel, would be making good use of the pitching pieces available.
Case closed, right? Apparently not. Leyland mentioned Porcello relieving to reporters both before the game and after it.
After the game, via Oakland Press's Matthew B. Mowery:
"One thing I wanna say though is I hope -- I'm asking a favor of all you guys [the reporters] -- I hope that everyone quits going to Rick Porcello and asking him about being the closer. He is not going to be the closer. He is not a closer. There's no sense going to Rick and asking him about it, because it's just not necessary. So I would appreciate if people would just drop that subject with him, because we want him to concentrate on what he's doing right now as a starter."
But is Porcello closing all that outrageous? Leyland, before the game, again via Mowery:
[It]'s not so far-fetched that they're talking about Porcello as the closer. I don't think that's far-fetched. I don't think that's silly.
Leyland did go down to shoot the idea down, for understandable reasons. Porcello's currently more valuable in the rotation than he would be in the bullpen. But if anyone did ask Porcello about closing after Leyland's earlier speech, you can't blame them. It's just part of the job.
The Tigers still need to address their bullpen soap operas -- or move around the furniture, as Leyland also put it, in other ways. But Porcello's not going to close. It's not the right move for the team, and that much should be obvious now.