Porcello and Detroit’s Future

Never minding the ludicrous idea that the Tigers could score 1,000 runs this season, they did look to come into the year with an overpowering offense and despite a slow start to April that left most people forgetful of them, the Tigers did exactly that. Though Miguel Cabrera perhaps had a disappointing season given his hype and move over to first base defensively, the Tigers offense was not what sunk them this season.

No, it was on the run prevention side that Detroit flopped. Notably, their defense was horrible. Anyone who was paying attention in 2007 would have predicted that coming in however. What was unexpected was the utter collapse of the Tigers pitching staff. Last season the bullpen was nothing special, but neither were they especially terrible. This year? Not so much as they had Bobby Seay and that’s about it as far as relievers that actually contributed positively to the pen.

However, not even that is the most troubling aspect of 2008 for Detroit. That distinction goes to the rotation, once hyped full of young talent. In 2008, it nearly all fell apart aside from Justin Verlander. Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis and Kenny Rogers were all colossal failures compared to preseason expectations and what’s worse is that Detroit purged its system of Andrew Miller in acquiring Willis and Cabrera from Florida.

Detroit would like hope to be on the way in the form of Rick Porcello, but the teenage stud of the 2007 draft who the Tigers nabbed after he fell due to signability reasons did not have an inaugural professional season to write home about. Walking or hitting over 8% of hitters in advanced A ball isn’t going to get you noticed unless you’re fanning over 25% of them at the same time. Porcello certainly wasn’t doing that, registering a 13.7% figure in that department.

Yes, Porcello is young. Very young in fact; just 19 in a league averaging 23 years of age, but his slow start just going to reinforce that the Tigers are going to need to look elsewhere for awhile to find help in the rotation.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

4 Responses to “Porcello and Detroit’s Future”

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  1. Mike R says:

    I wouldn’t call it a slow start necessarily, for Porcello. I don’t find an 8% BB rate to be outrageous, like that’s a knock against him. He also was working without his curveball this year — shelved by the Tigers so he could focus on the slider to give him a 4 pitch arsenal (fastball, curve, slider, change). The A’s did this with Trevor Cahill last year, although Cahill still dominated in the K% department without his best breaking ball. You’d obviously love to see 25+% K’s from Porcello, but I think his 1st year of pro ball in High-A straight out of high school without his best pitch while getting massive amounts of ground balls would be a success. Rousing success? No. Success, though, nonetheless.

    I can’t believe there was no mention of his 60+% GB rate or the lack of his Curve available for him. Those are two major components to his game this year.

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  2. dan says:

    He may not have dominated, but I think a 2.66 ERA at age 19 in high-A is pretty damn impressive. Only 7 home runs in 125 innings, too.

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  3. Andrew Stein says:

    “[Porcello’s low K rate] is attributable to Detroit’s desire that he work on his changeup and limit the use of his curveball and slider. He also was kept on tight pitch counts, so he focused on being efficient rather than going fo strikeouts.”

    -Baseball America, 6 October 2008

    Also consider that the only other 19 year old pitcher in the FSL (Deolis Guerra) threw 130 innings, logged 71 K’s, 71 BB’s, 12 HR and 138 hits.

    Porcello’s performance relative to his in-game limits and his age within that league is actually quite impressive.

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