After Max Scherzer turned down the big money contract extension offered by the Tigers during spring training, many Tigers fans were left wondering who might replace Mad Max if he bolts for free agency before next season. That question may have been answered after watching Rick Porcello deal against the Orioles.
Phil Coke made the game close by giving up 3 runs in the 9th but fans should focus on Porcello’s gem. Porcello only allowed 3 hits and 1 run as he baffled the potent Oriole’s offense in a 7-6 win. The tigers #4 starter had his off-peed pitches working along with his sinker to induce the orioles into 11 ground balls in 6 2/3 innings.
This start is noteworthy for him for a couple of reasons but mostly because April is usually Rick Porcello’s worst month. He is 6-11 with a 6.58 ERA and a 1.581 WHIP making the opening month of the season his worst by far. If Porcello can put a couple solid starts together he will be on track for the strongest start of his career.
Because he has been a Tiger now for 5 seasons it is easy for fans to forget about Porcello’s youth. The right-handed sinker-baller made his Detroit Tiger debut at the tender age of 20 years old. That means when the season opened last week Porcello was just 24 years old. Players are considered in their prime between 24 and 27 years old.That means Porcello will be entering the Prime of his career with 5 major league season under his belt.
Finally Figuring It Out
The knock on Porcello has always been his lack of pitch selection. In 2013 he incorporated a circle change into his arsenal of pitches. This season he used that pitch with great effectiveness and had Orioles hitters out in front of the ball all afternoon. The result was 11 ground balls one of which resulted in an inning ending double play. If Rick Porcello can perform like he did today over the course of the 2014 season he will help Tigers fans forget the offseason trade of Doug Fister.
So with Max Scherzer’s Tiger career seemingly at an end, could Rick Porcello assume Scherzers role and develop into the top of the rotation hurler Dave Dombrowski was hoping for when he drafted him? In 2013 he posted the best ERA (4.32) since his rookie season and the best WHIP of his career (1.281). His HR per 9 (0.9) and strikeouts per 9 (7.2) were also the best of his career. If Porcello’s numbers keep trending upward he could be an affective and cost efficient replace for Scherzer next season.