After Rick Porcello’s 0.2 inning, nine run outing in Los Angeles a couple of weekends ago, many fans and media members called for his immediate removal from the starting rotation. But Jim Leyland and the Detroit Tigers decided to stay the course with Rick and, although saying that decision has “paid off” might be a stretch, it hasn’t come back to bite them yet.
Porcello has turned in a quality start in each of his two starts since that frustrating afternoon in California. His ERA line isn’t overly tremendous – it’s 4.05 in the 13.1 innings – but it’s still MLB average for a starting pitcher and no worse than what we could have / should have expected out of Drew Smyly.
The most encouraging thing about Porcello’s recent outsings – so, yeah, small sample size caveats apply and we need to see these trends continue – is that he’s upped his strikeout rate. He’s punched out 12 batters in the 13.1 innings – an 8.1 K/9 rate – and walked only two. The two games were against Atlanta and Houston – the top two teams in baseball in terms of hitters striking out – so we need to temper our excitement, but getting teams that swing-and-miss a lot to swing-and-miss is still a good thing. It’s certainly not a bad thing at any rate.
The only concerning thing about these two games is the fact that he’s allowed two home runs – both last night in Houston – but the long ball hasn’t been a big concern for Porcello in his career. And, even with the two home runs, his 4.05 ERA is still acceptable, and it’s backed by a FIP in the 3.70 range.
These last two games don’t really tell us all that much about Porcello. We know he’s not that bad, we know he’s not that good, and we knew all of this heading into the season. What these two starts do is reaffirm that Porcello can get hitters out and can serve as an effective fifth starter on a World Series conender.
It’s not always going to be pretty with Rick, but at the end of the day his numbers are probably going to be right where we thought they’d be. For what it’s worth, the Steamer projection system has him finishing the year (from here on out) with a 4.20 ERA (3.88 FIP). That’s a very unremarkable (and very Rick Porcello) line, but it makes him more or less an average starter in the major leagues.