Saturday, April 05, 2014
Thoughts on Porcello's First Start
(Photo Credit: Associated Press)
Over analysis of Rick Porcello has been a favorite pastime of internet fans and writers for five years now and year six will be be more of the same. I'll start with some thoughts on his first start of 2014, one which saw him allow just one run on three hits in 6 2/3 innings versus a good hitting Orioles club. The 25-year-old right hander allowed one run in the first inning on a walk, a steal and a single, but held the Orioles scoreless after that.
Porcello generally does well when he keeps the ball on the ground and today he recorded 11 outs on ground balls. He had just three strikeouts, all on swinging strikes.
Last year, Porcello improved, in part, because of less reliance on his sinker and adoption of the curve as his primary breaking pitch. According to Brooks Baseball, Porcello used his sinker on 43( 44%) of his 94 pitchers which is similar to his 42% sinker rate of 2013. However, he used he slider almost as much as his curve (12% versus 15%). Interestingly he seemed to have more success with his slider today posting a whiff (swing and miss) rate of 46% (versus just 7% on curves). It's just one game and might mean nothing, but it's something worth watching in his next start.
Porcello has always had trouble with durability shown in dramatically reduced fastball speeds and results as the game progresses. Table 1 below shows that today was no exception as far as losing zip on his pitches. He threw as hard as 94 MPH in the first inning, was down to 90-91 on pitches 60-70, the interval where he traditionally starts to lose it and 88-89 by the end of the game. He often gets hit hard once he loses his velocity, but today he was effective until the end. Perhaps, we can credit manager Brad Ausmus with having the foresight to remove him before the hits started coming.
Table 1: Pitch Speed by Pitch Number
Another Porcello theme is his extreme lefty/righty split. Last year, left-handed batters hit .300 against him whereas right-handed batters hit just.239. Today, a lefty-heavy Orioles line-up hit just .182 against him. Again, it's way too early to make conclusions, but that's a good early sign.
Over thinking Rick Porcello's performance continues next weekend when he faces the Padres in San Diego.