The story of Rick Porcello’s Red Sox career is one with enough twists and turns it would impress Shakespeare himself. After acquiring the right-handed starter from Detroit for Yoenis Cespedes, the Red Sox handed Porcello a 4-year, $82.5 million extension before he had even thrown a pitch. While there have been highlights of his tenure thus far, the 2016 AL Cy Young Award being the biggest (nbd), there have been a fair share of lowlights as well, with 2015 and 2017 (so far) beings those.
For as awful as his 2015 looks from the outset, people forget that he actually finished the season incredibly strong following a prolonged stint on the DL which lasted from the tail end of July to the end of August. From August 26th through October 4th Porcello made 8 starts, tossing 57.1 innings, serving up just 20 ER to the tune of a 3.14 ERA, striking out 57 batters to just 11 walks, and seeing 7 of his final 8 outings last at least 7 innings in which he surrendered no more than 3 runs. This run down the stretch helped springboard his success into and throughout 2016, and while he’s failed to find the form which produced 223 innings, a 22-4 record, 3.15 ERA, 140 ERA+, 3.40 FIP, and 189 Ks, he has been a reliable and consistent pitcher this year, albeit not to the Cy Young caliber one we witnessed prior.
So far this season Porcello has made 24 starts, posted a 4.63 ERA, an almost 1.40 WHIP, served up 28 home runs along with a league high 178 hits, and collected a 6-14 record. I know what you’re thinking and yes, these are horrendous numbers. However, I’m here today to show you that Porcello has been far better than we’ve given him credit for this season. Let’s begin.
In Rick’s 24 starts so far this year, only TWICE has he failed to toss less than 6 innings. For as high as his ERA, hits, and HR totals may be, the man has kept the Red Sox in games and more often than not given his team a chance to win. When looking at his game logs, outside of his 3rd start of the year against Tampa where he surrendered 8 runs in 4.1 innings and a stretch of 3 straight starts from June 7-17th in which he gave up 5, 5, and 7 runs to the Phillies, Yankees, and Astros, Porcello has truly only been tagged on 1 other occasion. That being his start against the White Sox on August 3rd where he went 5.1 innings and gave up 5 runs. Take away these 5 starts and you’ll find a pitcher who has only served up 48 runs in 126 innings, good for a 3.81 ERA over 19 starts. If you want to manipulate numbers even further and take away his 4 starts in which he surrendered 4 runs, you’ll see he’s only given up just 32 runs in 100.1 innings, good for a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts.
For the 18 times Porcello has held his opponents to 4 or less runs he’s gone 6.0 innings every time, but has only won 7 of those starts. What does that tell us? Well it tells us that even when Porcello has done his job, the offense on the other hand has not. This is no new story for these Red Sox though. The story of the Red Sox offense from this year to last can truly be told by looking at Porcellos’ run support. Where as last year Porcello received the most runs per start among eligible pitchers with 6.83 runs/start, this year he has the 6th worst mark when it comes to run support coming in at 3.83 runs/start. That number right there is what lies behind his horrendous W-L record. When Rick gives up 2 runs or less the Red Sox are only 2-5. When he gives up 1 run or less they are 1-3. While Rick has had his fair share of stinkers, his teammates aren’t exactly helping him when he shines.
When looking at Porcellos’ season from a wide lens, obviously it’s not what you want from a pitcher who’s coming off a Cy Young season and is being paid $20+ million. For those willing to produce #HotTaeks and make knee-jerk reactions about his season though, I ask you to calm down. The title of this article is “Rick Porcello: Actually Better Than You Think!” for a reason. It’s not to say I’m campaigning for Porcello to win Cy Young again this year, that’s not even remotely the case. I’m simply stating that we take a closer look at Rick’s season and appreciate him for what he has been: a reliable #3-4 starter on a team that has 3 starting pitchers much better than him in the rotation. Porcello’s been rocked on occasion this year, but has ultimately done his job. It’s time for the offense to do the same for him.