Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What's Wrong with Porcello?

The Tigers were routed by the White Sox 15-3 tonight and Rick Porcello was the victim again.  Porcello got through the first three innings allowing just one run but completely fell apart in the fourth as the White Sox scored seven runs.  In all, Porcello allowed eight runs on eight hits and not many of the hits were cheap ones.  The damage included two home runs, two doubles and and some hard hit singles. 

Porcello has now seen his ERA rise from 3.96 in his rookie year to 6.09 this year.  His peripheral stats have regressed across the board from 2009 to 2010.  His ground ball rate has plummeted from an American League leading 54.2% in 2009 to 48.9% this year.  His strikeout rate which was already low at 4.7 per nine innings last year is down to 4.0 this year.  His walk rate per nine innings has increased from 2.7 to 3.1. 

Opinions vary on the reasons for his problems but there is a consensus on a couple of points.  His sinking fastball is not working this year like it did last year.  He seems to be getting it up in the zone more often, which is the likely reason for the decrease in ground ball rate.  According to FanGraphs, he was 16.1 runs better than average with his fastball last year.  This year, he was 3.1 worse than average before today's disaster.

Beyond his fastball, the 21-year-old right-hander doesn't have any plus pitches as of yet.  Both his breaking pitch and change-up need work.  So, when he has trouble locating his fastball, he's not an effective pitcher.

It's way too early to panic about the career of a pitcher as young as Porcello.  But what about this year?  Is it time for the Tigers to send him to Toledo to refine his game?  They sent Max Scherzer down a few weeks back and he has come back with better stuff just two weeks later.  I'm think that Porcello could be next.

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