Tigers right hander Rick Porcello.
_ Three seasons into his big league career, Rick Porcello has put together double-digits wins each season.  At age 23, Porcello is already considered a big league veteran.  Drafted out of Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, NJ in 2007, Porcello hopped on the fast track to the big leagues.  Making 31 starts as a rookie, he won 14 games and posted an ERA of 3.96.  His rookie season ended with a gutty performance in Game 163.  A loss to the Minnesota Twins overshadowed 5 2/3 innings of sparkling work in which he allowed only one earned run and racked up 8 strikeouts. An eye-opening rookie campaign left Tigers fans wanting and expecting more.
If you break down Porcello's pitch selection the last three years, you see a pitcher in transition.  In 2009, Porcello's first year in the big leagues, he threw 77% fastballs, mixing in his breaking pitches more sparingly.  His sinker that season was obviously very good.  Fast forward to 2011 and Porcello threw just 65% fastballs and the remaining 35% were change ups and breaking pitches.  For instance, Porcello threw his slider 20% last year compared to just 8% of the time his rookie season.

Clearly, Porcello has thrown his secondary pitches more the last two seasons as he continues to develop them.  As the league adjusted to his rookie success, Porcello made adjustments of his own.  It will be interesting to see of he goes back to throwing the sinker more in 2012 as he did three years ago or,  if he continues to refine the change and breaking pitch.  When Porcello is at his best, his sinker is inducing ground ball after ground ball.  As his ERA has risen the last two years, his ground ball percentage has fallen from nearly 70% to 63%.

The fact remains however that Porcello is still only 23 years old.  Three years into his major league career he has won 38 games.  That win total matches up favorably with some of the game's top pitchers in their first three big league seasons.  Roy Halladay for instance won just a total of 13 games in his first three years and his career didn't take off until age 25 after he made some mechanical adjustments.  Greg Maddux meanwhile won 26 games his first three years, and was the same age as Porcello when he broke into the major leagues.  Mike Mussina won 36 games in his first three seasons with the Orioles.

A lot is expected from those that make it to the major leagues as quickly as Porcello.  Maybe too much too quickly.  2012 will be a big season for the right hander.  Fitting in nicely in a rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer, Porcello should be ready to take that next step in his career.  We have seen flashes in the past.  Along with Game 163, there was the 8 innings of one-hit ball he threw at the Pirates last May.  Lowering his ERA and beefing up his ground ball ratio would make 2012 a special season not only for Porcello, but a deep starting staff as well.




01/09/2012 01:37

Wasn't Porcello drafted in 2007? Not 2002.

Great article. Want to see Porcello put it all together this season.

Christopher Ray
01/09/2012 02:32

Nice article about one of my favorite players tho to nitpick, he wasn't drafted in 2002. Glad you're our play by play guy on FSD.

01/09/2012 04:59

Thanks for catching the typo. 2007 is correct.

01/09/2012 14:57

Good timing. They just had Porcello on MLB network. He was farilly stoic as his modest demeanor leads him. That was until they talked about the Youkalis charge / take down which got quite the chuckle out of him. High character kid with many great things yet to show us.

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