Despite a rough start to the season, the former Red Sox Cy Young winner is turning a corner.
Rick Porcello has been an interesting player to watch since he came to the Red Sox in 2015. He was given 82.5 million dollars before he threw a single pitch, then posted a 4.92 ERA and a 0.5 WAR (Baseball Reference). He came back the next season with a 22-4 record and won the Cy Young Award, but followed that up with yet another mediocre season, this time losing a league leading 17 games with a negative WAR, -0.2. Then in 2018, Slick Rick was quite smooth again, lowering his ERA to 4.28 and being valued at 3.1 wins above replacement. Furthermore, he performed well in the playoffs for the first time as well, pitching 15.1 innings and giving up just 6 runs, earning his first World Series ring. If the pattern should hold, Porcello should have another poor year in 2019, as his month of April would indicate.
However, I would not be so quick to be convinced by this “even year, odd year” superstition. The Red Sox starter doesn’t look at the calendar before the start of each season, and decide to be good or bad depending on whether the year is divisible by two. He is reportedly a very hard worker, and will not rest his laurels after a Cy Young award and a World Series title. After all, it is the last year of his contract, and a solid season could land the 30 year old another multi-year deal.
Also, he is not the only Red Sox pitcher who struggled during April. Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez also had mediocre starts to the season. Whatever the reason for the rotation’s inefficiency, they seem to have gotten over it, and are showing more encouraging signs.
His ERA currently stands at 5.52. That is mainly due to his first three starts of the season, in which he gave up 14 runs in 11.1 innings. This could be explained by the fact that those appearances were caught by Swihart and Vazquez, or that Porcello, who relies on his ability to locate his pitches, has only thrown 59% strikes.
In his last three starts with his preferred catcher, Sandy Leon, he has given up just 5 runs in 19.2 innings—good for a 2.29 ERA–and capped it off with eight scoreless against the Athletics on Tuesday. His location was pinpoint, as 68% of his pitches were strikes.
Rick Porcello is beginning to settle in to a groove. As we know from watching him for over four years, when he is comfortable, there is nothing that will stop the Red Sox sinkerballer.