Rick Porcello was pulled from his start today against the Los Angeles Angels after giving up 9 ER’s on 9 hits in 0.2 innings.
Have you ever been in a relationship where it was clear both sides weren’t interested in making it work? You know, the relationships where the best thing to do is to just call it off? That’s where the Detroit Tigers and Rick Porcello find themselves now, and it really is best for them to call it off.
Neither side has done much to help each other; creating a relationship that has been disappointing for some time now, and which may have reached a boiling point after today’s debacle.
Their relationship hasn’t always been that way though. As is the case with any relationship, there was the “infatuation stage”, and that stage came in Porcello’s first season with Detroit in 2009.
Coming off of his lone season in the minors with the Class-A Flying Tigers, he was competing for a starting pitching position with the major league club at the age of 20. After drawing comparisons (at the time) from team officials to Josh Beckett, it was no surprise he found himself at the bottom of the rotation for the 2009 season.
It was a promising season which included a 14-9 record, an ERA under 4, and a third-place finish in the Rookie of the Year standings. The strikeout’s were low, and he was pitching for contact, but we were all too excited and he was only a 20-year-old after all.
Hell, manager Jim Leyland trusted him so much that he chose Porcello to start in the 163 game of the 2009 season, a play-in game for the final playoff spot. He was on the losing end of that game (Fernando Rodney receiving the loss), but his performance was solid and despite the disappointment that was the Tigers’ ’09 season, there was much promise for Porcello down the road.
Fast-forward to that future, and it is becoming clear that this just isn’t going to work for the two sides. Porcello has only hit 14 wins once since 2009, along with two 10-12 seasons. More alarming than his win/loss record is the other stats, such as ERA, hits, and hits per 9 innings.
Safe to say the infatuation stage ended in 2010 when his ERA spiked from a 3.92 to finish the year prior, to a dreadful 6.14 through June of his sophomore campaign. That staggering number forced general manager Dave Dombrowski to send Porcello to Triple-A Toledo.
Since then his ERA has yet to go under 4.00 for a complete season. The closest Porcello has come is a 4.59 finish last season. These numbers can be attributed with the pitching philosophy of Porcello, which as mentioned prior, is for contact. He has gotten plenty of contact.
Porcello’s hits allowed has gone up every season since 2009, to the tune of 226 last season. This could explain why batters hit .310 against him last season, also a career high and an alarming number for the Tigers organization. In fact his batting average against has also increased with every season since 2009.
For all the WAR worshippers, Porcello doesn’t exactly shine there either. His WAR has never been above 1.5, which is near the “replacement” level according to Baseball-Reference. Porcello’s hits per 9 innings has been at 10 or higher every season since that 2009 year, peaking at 11.5 in 2012.
As is the case with any relationship it takes two, and the Tigers haven’t helped his cause either. Being a ground ball pitcher, your success/failure will be supplemented by your infield. The Tigers while being an offensive juggernaut, haven’t quite had the infield defense to match it. The team has never been ranked in the top-ten in fielding percentage since 2009, the closest they came was 11th in 2009; Porcello’s best season with the Tigers.
The lowest the Tigers have ranked in team fielding percentage was 21st in 2010, the same year Porcello’s ERA was above 6.00 and the same year he was sent to Toledo.
Detroit has made small steps to address their defense, but do not seem to be changing their philosophy any time soon. This, and other factors, can explain why they spent much of the offseason heading into 2013 looking to ship Porcello. However, they have yet to find any deals worthy of shipping the once promising rookie.
As 2013 began without a reasonable offer, Dombrowski has become complacent and is riding the ship while the market gets stronger. Although, after Saturday’s performance which now finds Porcello at 0-2 with an 11.08 ERA on the year, the damage may be too much to find the deal he is longing for.
Pressure from the fans to replace Porcello only grew larger today once his replacement, left-hander Drew Smyly, threw 7 k’s in 5.2 IP. Smyly currently has an 1.80 ERA in 9.1 IP as a reliever.
Adding a lefty to the rotation also presents a positive situation for the Tigers who currently have five right-handed starters. There has been no announcement as of a rotation change yet, but no one would be surprised with the move if it happened this upcoming week.
It’s clear that Porcello is not right for the Tigers, and vice-versa. At 24 years old Porcello has the talent, and the big-game experience to compete at the MLB level, it simply is a matter of finding the right team. If the Tigers do trade him, he won’t be able to control finding a proper match, which would be a team with an outstanding defense, and likely in the National League.
The prospect of Porcello’s value increasing this season is a dim one, and the Tigers would be best trading while they can. This team needs 5 starters that have a philosophy fitting of the organization, Porcello clearly is not that man anymore.
While there is nothing to suggest Porcello and the Tigers are at personal odds, there is an elephant in the room; Detroit is just not meant for Porcello, and Porcello is not meant for Detroit.