Earlier this season, I wrote a piece about Rick Porcello breaking out and becoming a different pitcher. After a sizzling hot July, August has hit Rick hard, and he’s put up a 7.27 ERA during the month. Opponents have a .396 BABIP against him this month, which obviously correlates to a lot of hits: 41 in 26 IP and a .360 avg against. Why is Porcello struggling so mightily though? Are people hitting the ball harder, or is he getting unlucky?
After studying the numbers from Porcello’s last three seasons of data, it’s pretty easy to determine he’s been getting the short end of the stick. His FIP has gone down from 4.77 to 4.31 to 4.02 in respective years, as has his xFIP, 4.27, 4.24, 4.04. The same thing rings true with his SIERA and tERA, 4.48, 4.37, 4.01 and 4.96, 4.46, and 4.40 respectively. So, if his fielding independent stats are getting better, why is he giving up more runs?
The answer is pretty simple, really. He’s getting extremely unlucky on balls in play. In 2009, he had a .277 BABIP, 17.1 LD%, 54.2 GB%, 4.9 IFFB%. Since IFFB are outs 100 percent of the time, Rick surrendered hits 27.7% of the time out of 95 balls put in play that weren’t automatic outs. So, his adjusted for aIFFBBABIP (yep, made up stat) in 2009 was .292. This year, Rick has a .325 BABIP, 19.3 LD%, 49.4 GB%, but an 11.9 IFFB%. While there’s a small increase in LD% and a decrease in GB%, that gap is filled by 7% more IFFB. Once again, Rick’s aIFFBBABIP is 32.5% out of 88% of balls that are possibly hits, or .369. So, in short, when a hitter puts a ball in play against Rick that isn’t an IFFB, 37% of the time, he gets a hit, vs. ~29% of the time two years ago. That is a huge jump.
What can Porcello do to fix this problem? I’m really not sure. It may be a matter of mechanics, sequencing, fastball command, pretty much anything, really. He’s been inconsistent at best this year, tossing a few good innings or starts at a time, but is unable to put it together. Hopefully for the Tigers’ sake, he puts it all together in October.