Rick Porcello on his Curveball

Rick Porcello was better in 2013 for a number of reasons. For one, the Detroit Tigers right-hander was a year older and wiser. Because he broke into the big leagues at a young age, it’s easy to forget he’s just 24. For four seasons, he had largely been learning on the job.

Another reason was the development of his breaking ball. The lack of an effective off-speed pitch had burdened the former first-round pick, especially against left-handed hitters. That changed this year when he put his slider in his back pocket and began featuring a much-improved curveball. The results were telling, as he lowered his ERA from 4.59 to 4.32, and his FIP from 3.91 to 3.53.

Porcello talked about the development of his curveball — including how it impacts his reliance on scouting reports — during the ALCS.

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Porcello on his curveball: “I got more consistent with my breaking ball. I got more consistent with all of my pitch-making, really — fastball, changeup and curveball. I kind of changed my approach against left-handers a little bit. I started using the curveball a lot more, taking something off — going hard and soft — instead of having everything coming in hard. That helped alter their timing.

“It was more consistent because I threw it more. I was having some success with it, and it was also my game plan coming in. I knew I needed to make an adjustment, because lefties were too comfortable. They were hitting me too well. Changing speeds with my curveball helped change that.

“My curveball was definitely better this year. We worked on it a lot in spring training. We tightened it up and made it a lot shorter. Those were kind of the tweaks with it. I also made it my priority breaking pitch. I threw a little cutter-slider, but really, my curveball was my breaking pitch this year. It’s what I focused on the whole season. I wasn’t going back and forth between curveball and slider, I just stuck with the one pitch and tried to get it down.

“The [adjustment] was more my release-point, as well as understanding how hard I had to throw it, and where I had to start it to make it an effective pitch. But the improvement really just came with the experience of throwing it over and over again. Like I said, I made it my go-to off-speed pitch.

“Reports became more important for me. This year I finally had the ability to consistently throw an off-speed pitch for strikes, either ahead or behind in the count, and that became a weapon for me. Once I had the ability to do that, I could actually attack weaknesses. I started looking at guys’ swing-and-miss percentages, and how well they hit off-speed. I took that knowledge into the game. [Pitching coach] Jeff Jones helped me come up with game plans, and we were pretty effective with them. I think the year was a real positive in that respect.”



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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tz
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tz
2 years 9 months ago

David Laurila is the 2013 Fangraphs MVP.

Chicago Mark
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Chicago Mark
2 years 9 months ago

But Cameron and Sullivan had more WAR!

Dan Greer
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Dan Greer
2 years 9 months ago

Classic compilers.

tz
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tz
2 years 9 months ago

Though they have nothing on Cistulli, who can best be compared to what Jamie Moyer might have been back in the Old Hoss Radborne days of 60+ start a year.

Cameron Weaks
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Cameron Weaks
2 years 9 months ago

None of this even matters. Do you want to know why? Well I’m going to tell you anyway. The Tigers suck! I hate the Tigers! The Red Socks kicked their butts this year and won the World Series! Tell me when the Tigers stop chocking at the end of the Playoffs!

Chicago Mark
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Chicago Mark
2 years 9 months ago

Cameron, you sound angry. Enjoy the win brother. It’s all good.

Max
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Max
2 years 9 months ago

How does one chock?

Tak
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Tak
2 years 9 months ago

I didn’t know the Tigers were a semi-truck….

The Party Bird
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The Party Bird
2 years 9 months ago

Sounds like it could be an onomatopoeia for a bat hitting the ball.

kevinthecomic
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kevinthecomic
2 years 9 months ago

If you’re going to post an ill-conceived, flaming comment, you need to know how to spell.

David
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David
2 years 9 months ago

If you’re gonna be a troll, follow these three easy steps… 1. Know your audience, start with a comment that is related to the subject of the forum. 2. over-simplify, take a complex issue and state that yours is the obvious conclusion despite a lack of evidence. 3. Make spelling/grammar mistakes so that the people who are incensed by your asinine argument are distracted in their rebuttals by the inherent structural, as opposed to functional, issues.

Chicago Mark
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Chicago Mark
2 years 9 months ago

When I drink too much I up…chock! Ha!

Kevin
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Kevin
2 years 9 months ago

Really hope Jeff Jones sticks around with the new skipper. What he’s done to the pitching staff really is something.

Detroit Michael
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Detroit Michael
2 years 9 months ago
Pitcha
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Pitcha
2 years 9 months ago

It always surprises me when established major leaguers talk like they are still learning the game. As a college player, I would say I had advanced baseball knowledge strategy-wise, but eventually the physical tools fell short. God bless a 24 year old major leaguer who finally learns to locate off speed pitches while ‘on the job’. Must be nice.

Chicago Mark
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Chicago Mark
2 years 9 months ago

I’d imagine that is one of the many reasons they are major leaguers. They have the skills to make these adjustments.

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