We Should be Talking about Rick Porcello More

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By Keith Allison on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Recently we wrote a post about why David Price should be in the conversation for the AL Cy Young. Though we still think that to be true, there may be an even better candidate on his same team. Even Price seems to think so.

Rick Porcello is having an amazing season that not enough of us are talking about. Porcello has a 21 – 4 record, a 3.08 ERA, 0.978 WHIP and 174 strikeouts to 29 walks in 210.7 innings. This has been by far the best season if his career. He has a career low ERA and WHIP and has matched his career high in complete games for a season.

So, why is it that he hasn’t been mentioned much as a candidate for the AL Cy Young? There are likely a few reasons. First, he is overshadowed in Boston by David Price and David Ortiz. It’s hard to be a candidate for the Cy Young when you are not even considered the best pitcher on your team. Second, he is not a dominant strikeout pitcher. Currently he is not even in the top 10 in strikeouts even though he is tied for second in innings pitched and only has 7.4 K/9. Third, he is Rick Porcello and many just don’t believe he is really this good.

Reality is that Porcello has to be talked about more. He leads AL pitchers in wins, third in EAR, first in WHIP, tied for third in complete games, first in strikeout to walk ratio and he plays in the pressure cooker that is Boston, MA. If Porcello does not figure in to the AL Cy Young voting then something is wrong with the system.

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Should David Price be in Consideration for the AL Cy Young?

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By Keith Allison on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
If you haven’t been paying close attention you probably have no idea who the Cy Young favorites are in the American League. I don’t blame you as there really is no clear cut choice. Of the contenders the two most likely to win it are Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber. Others who have received honorable mention have been Danny Duffy, Aaron Sanchez and Michael Fulmer. One name though that should be in consideration is David Price. Yes, the same David Price who through the first two months of the season had a 5.11 ERA.

After Price’s last start in May on May 29th he had an eye popping 5.11 ERA, an 8 – 3 record and 79 strikeouts in 68.7 innings. Why was the ERA eye popping? Because David Price was supposed to be an ace this season and not be sub leaguer average in ERA. He got off to a horrible start in 2016 by giving up 5+ earned runs in four of this first 11 starts. He seemed off and he noticed it. Teammate Dustin Pedroia noticed it too and told Price he wasn’t bringing his hands up as high as he use to, at least that is the story we were told.

If that was the difference or not I couldn’t tell you, but what I do know is that something changed after May. From July 5th on Price has had an ERA almost two runs lower than that 5.11 with a 3.21 ERA. He has only had two games since then where he has give up 5+ runs, half as many as he had in the first two months of the season and he has continued his above average strikeout rate. Looking at his last nine games he has been even better with a 2.47 ERA.

Why though should he be considered for the Cy Young? Even with the horrible start Price got off to he has managed to get his season long ERA down to 3.87 and if the trend continues it will only get lower. He has won 15 games, pitched 197.7 innings and has 201 strikeouts. He is an innings eater going 7+ innings in 17 of his 30 starts. No his ERA is not down to Kluber’s 3.05, yet, but he won’t finish the season far from that number if he keeps up what he has been doing.

When thinking about who should be the Cy Young I ask myself this question, all things being equal if I had one game to win who do I want on the mound? For me I would choose Price over Kluber or Verlander with Kluber being a close second and Verlander a distant third.

What’s Wrong with Jake Arrieta?

Last night in Chicago Jake Arrieta had one of his worst games of the season going 6.1 innings and giving up 6 earned runs on 5 hits and 3 walks. It was, to most, somewhat of a surprise as he was coming off one of his best starts on August 23rd where he pitched 8 scoreless innings of 2 hit ball at San Diego. If you look at his overall line for the year you probably would not be too concerned as he has a 2.84 ERA, 1.048 WHIP with 16 wins on the season. I would argue though that there should be some concern.

It would be unfair to just say Arrieta is struggling because his season hasn’t been what it was in 2015, since that was an amazing season for him and he was the Cy Young winner in the National League. My concerns are more rooted in numbers that not everyone likely pays attention to.

Over Arrieta’s best two seasons of his career, so far, 2014 and 2015 he had a 2.08 ERA and a 0.915 WHP. He obviously isn’t living up to that, but ok we can’t expect that necessarily. In that same span of time he had a 2.31 FIP, 0.4 HR/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 9.4 K/9, this is where my concern falls. In 2016 his FIP is 1.16 higher at 3.47, his HR/9 has nearly doubled to 0.7, BB/9 is up to 3.5 and he is not striking batter out at the same clip with an 8.6 K/9. His struggles are very prominent in his last 11 starts where he has a 4.20 ERA, 34 walks and only 60 strikeouts in 75 innings. To make matters worse he has a record of 6-6 in those games.

So what is wrong with Jake Arrieta? According to BrooksBaseball.net it wouldn’t appear that he is injured as his velocity is right in line with his 2015 numbers. His pitch mix does appear to have changed. As you can see from the chart below he has begun to rely more heavily on his hard stuff versus his breaking pitches, throwing his fastballs 14% more of the time then he did in 2014 and 2015. As the 2016 season has progressed that has become an even bigger trend as he has thrown hard pitches 73.21% of the time in the month of August.

Arrieta 2014 thru 2016 pitch selection

My theory, however, is more than that. Last season Arrieta threw a career high 229.0 innings, 55.7 more innings than his previous high of 173.3 set in 2010. Since 2010 he has thrown 119.3 in 2011, 170.7 in 2012, 154.7 in 2013 and 176 innings in 2014. It is not that a jump to 229 innings is a death sentence for a pitcher, but that is a fairly large workload and many of those innings were in higher pressure situations than ever before. It is very likely with Arrieta already at 168.0 innings in 2016 that he is just wearing down from last year’s innings and because of that his stuff just isn’t as crisp.

Though we don’t know for sure what is wrong with Arrieta, what we do know is the Cubs have to find a way to get him back to his high end form soon as they are likely in the playoffs for 2016 and have a good shot of making it to the World Series if they can get him right.

What Were the Astros Thinking?

download-3In 2015 the Astros took the world by storm with their playoff run surprising nearly everyone. They had a team full of young, exciting, talent like George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. Their pitching staff had the AL Cy Young award winner in Dallas Keuchel. Not to mention Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh. No they didn’t make it to the World Series, but they did put on a show.

Turn to 2016 and it is not hard to see that so far this season has been a disappointment. Those stud pitchers have been ordinary. Their offense has been hit or miss. They just can’t seem to bring back the excitement of last season.

At the trade deadline the Houston Astros were relatively quiet. With all the young talent they have in their minor league system you would have thought they would have made a big splash and gone after a difference maker, but they didn’t. Was it a mistake? Yes. Houston’s offense is going to be there as they have big bats throughout their lineup and more on the way with the inevitable call-up of Yulieski Gurriel. What they lack is a lock down starting pitcher. A slump buster. They guy that goes out there and says today we end our losing streak.

Chris Sale was reportedly available if the price was right and Houston was one of a few teams that could have offered the right price. A package that included multiple Triple-A studs could have been put together and not even made a dent in the future of the Astros. Instead Houston is without an ace pitcher and a log jam of talent that has them bringing prospects up only to split time and platoon.

I am no MLB general manager and never have been, other than in my own mind, but I have to think that the Astros made a big mistake at the deadline and were either prospect greedy or overconfident in the pitching staff they had.