Red Sox commentary: Rick Porcello is not a playoff-caliber pitcher

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 04: Rick Porcello
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 04: Rick Porcello /

With the Boston Red Sox entering the home stretch of the regular season, where does Rick Porcello stand in terms of the playoff rotation?

The first thing I am going to say is that I am not comfortable when Rick Porcello is on the mound for the Boston Red Sox. I don’t trust his ability to make guys miss and I certainly don’t trust his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark.

Coming off of a Cy Young award- winning season, the bar was set very high for Porcello. In 2016 he was 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA and a WHIP of 1.01. He set career bests in wins, ERA, WHIP, Ks, IP, BB, and BAA. He painted a masterpiece.

In 2017, Porcello’s numbers have been abysmal. He holds a 9-16 ERA to go along with a 4.67 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and a .290 BAA. In addition to these numbers, he is tied for first in the MLB for home runs allowed.

What went wrong?

BOSTON, MA – AUGUST 25: Rick Porcello
BOSTON, MA – AUGUST 25: Rick Porcello /

The worst part about Porcello’s numbers is that they are not flukey. Watching Porcello pitch this year has been a fan’s nightmare. I get very frustrated watching him due to his inconsistency.

Porcello’s velocity is nothing to write home about in today’s MLB, where anything short of an M9A1 Rocket Launcher is considered slow. According to Fangraphs, Porcello’s average fastball velocity is 92.7mph. 

Alright, so we’re working with an average to below average fastball. All he needs to do is locate, right? Right? Wrong. Porcello does one of two things. He throws the ball out of the zone, or he throws the ball right down the middle.

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Where 2016 Porcello hit the corners, 2017 Porcello throws the ball 4 inches out of the zone. This is the reason that Porcello’s walks are already 7 more than last season despite having pitched 41.2 fewer innings.

Home Run Derby

As I wrote earlier, when Porcello throws strikes, he often leaves the ball right in the middle of the plate. What happens as a result of this? You guessed it. The ball leaves the yard more than against any other pitcher in the Majors (except Ariel Miranda, tied for first).

Another factor contributing to Porcello’s susceptibility to the long ball is that he pitches in the upper half of the zone. The only way a batter can hit a home run is by hitting the ball in the air, and the easiest pitch to hit in the air is a high one.

There’s a new hitting philosophy taking the MLB by storm, and that’s to hit the ball in the air. Swinging with the intent to hit home runs is prevalent in baseball today and players like Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper have shown the kind of damage that train of thought can lead to.

With shifts becoming more precise, ground balls lead to more outs. Porcello’s ground out/fly out ratio is 0.84, a career low. He needs to keep the ball low and use his natural two seam movement to get guys on top of the baseball and ground out.

The Final Verdict

On occasion, Porcello will turn in a gem. That’s when he’s hitting spots. Unfortunately for the Boston Red Sox, those games are few and far between.

In my opinion, Porcello should be bumped from the playoff rotation. Having a pitcher who gives up so many home runs is a recipe for disaster.

While the games would no doubt be exciting due to the high probability of a ball being launched into outer space, I simply cannot advocate for that. I can’t get behind that and I won’t change my views until I see some consistency in Porcello’s location.

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I hope 2016 Rick Porcello shows up when it matters, but my expectations are tempered. First thing first, however, is clinching a playoff spot.