Success For Detroit Tigers’ Rick Porcello Still Hinges On Strikeouts


Rick Porcello’s two-and-a-half years in the big leagues has given us very little insight into the type of pitcher he will eventually become. Will he be the ace that everyone seemed to project him as when he was a prospect? Will he be the guy that gets absolutely hammered every fourth or fifth time out?

We’ve seen both. At times he seems to be lights out. His pitches move, he gets swings and misses, he gets ground ball outs. Other times opposing batters seem to be able to smash line drives into the outfield at will.

I’m not completely sure why this is, but I hope it’s not because he’s trying to “pitch to contact”. I absolutely hate the idea (as I’ve written before with respect to Justin Verlander). Pitchers can get by with this concept so long as they’re among the best in the league at preventing walks and home runs, but it’s pretty much impossible to be a Cy Young caliber pitcher like this. You really need strikeouts.

Porcello has flashed the ability to strike out big league batters, but he hasn’t done it on a consistent basis. If it’s because he lacks the ability, then the Tigers are probably in trouble. If it’s because he’s not really “trying to”, then things need to change.

Rick has seen much better results in his high strikeout games than in the rest of his outings. He’s had five games this season in which his strikeout rate was 7 per nine innings or higher. In those games (31 total innings) his ERA has been 3.48 (with an average strikeout rate of 8.1 per nine innings). In his remaining 12 starts (65 innings), his ERA totals 5.40 (with an average strikeout rate of 3.9 per nine innings).

His walk and home run rates have also been a little bit better in the high-strikeout outings, but it’s a small difference compared to the strikeouts.

I don’t think we could ever expect Porcello to consistently strike out 8 batters per nine innings (you’re up in Verlander territory there), but he can’t be anywhere near 3.9 if he expects to have success. He needs to be up on the mound looking for strikeouts.

Rick needs to find consistency with the elevated strikeout totals. If he does, he’ll continue to develop into a top level pitcher. If he doesn’t, he’ll continue to be mediocre or worse.

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