Sep 16, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello (21) pitches in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Everyone knows that Rick Porcello is destined for the bullpen when the Detroit Tigers enter the playoffs. There was some silliness a few days back with the suggestion that the Tigers should use Justin Verlander out of the pen and Porcello in the rotation gained some level of traction around the interwebs, but that’s simply not going to happen (nor should it). But while we know he’s going to be in the bullpen, we don’t really have any idea about what type of role he will be used in.
I think the safe, standard assumption is that he’ll serve as the long reliever (sort of like last year). The thinking here is that he’s a starter so he’s stretched out and capable of going multiple innings if needed. This would have some use – say if rain forced a game to be suspended mid-play and they needed a faux starter when it resumed (we saw this two years ago) – but long men (in the mop-up sense) are otherwise relatively useless in the postseason in that you use them most often when you’re down by so much it doesn’t matter. That job should go to the worst guy in the bullpen, and Rick Porcello would not be that.
Here’s a list of Tigers relievers who are in the running for spots on the playoff roster (with Porcello thrown in).Pitcher
It should be noted that the numbers listed for Porcello are not his true numbers, but rather his numbers while pitching to batters the first time through the order. This split is probably more relevant to a relief transition (where he’ll face batters only once) than his total line.
Looking at the numbers this way it becomes clear that Porcello’s relief ability appears closer to that of Veras and Smyly than Putkonen or Alburquerque. Maybe he (i.e. Porcello) shouldn’t automatically jump into a defined seventh or eighth inning role, but he would give manager Jim Leyland another option if he was looking to better play the options in the late innings.
The bullpen still might be the weakest spot on the team, but adding back in a healthy Rondon and potentially effective new weapong in Porcello could turn it into a relative strength.