Rick Porcello looked like the hot hand for the first few innings, but the game unraveled quickly for him
Prior to Game Four, if you asked some well-meaning, in-tune baseball fans whether they considered Rick Porcello to be a good pitcher, I suspect most would have said no. Perhaps an overwhelming majority would have said no, and for good reason. Despite pitching in run-suppressing Comerica Park, Porcello has a career 94 ERA+, a generous figure given his career 87 FRA+. Porcello has never thrown 200 or more innings in a season, never struck out more than 104 batters, never posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of more than 2.3, or accomplished any numerical feat that serves as an earmark for good pitching.
Rick Porcello is sent down to work on his stuff, which has been lacking.
In news that is surprising only if you missed the first three months of the season, Rick Porcello was optioned to Triple-A following Saturday night's ugly start. Porcello allowed four earned runs (five runs overall) and a pair of homers amongst eight hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks. For the month of June, Porcello has just seven strikeouts in 14 innings pitched, which is sadly an improvement on the rates he posted in May.
In late May, I covered Porcello's reliance on his two-seamer and the defense behind him, as he has strikeout stuff that he just doesn't utilize often:
Rick Porcello has strikeout stuff, but he isn't using it to get outs.
Expectations were high for the 21-year-old Rick Porcello heading into this season. He had finished his first major league campaign with an ERA of 3.96, an impressive feat for a pitcher so young with so little professional experience. He had also closed out the season with a tantalizing look at what the future holds, striking out eight Twins in game number 163 of the regular season while giving up just a pair of runs over 5 2/3. The start to 2010 has been tougher than his debut.
Echoes of past Rookie of the Year selections combined with metrics both new and old to inform a particular ballot.
A vote. A vote? A vote.
Being invited to help select this year's American League Rookie of the Year as a new member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America was an unexpected honor, and one I took seriously. By way of process, I started off with a day spent digging up data to inform my sense of who to rank, and where, and why. Then, I spent a day or two caucusing with a quartet of colleagues, inside Baseball Prospectus and out, and putting various arguments through the ringer, and using a variety of tacks, from devil's advocate to fully faithful, and everywhere in between.
Fretting over the workloads of a couple of young hurlers on playoff-bound ballclubs might be a bit exaggerated.
We're coming up against the post-season as well as concerns for younger pitcher's workloads this season. While this is obviously progress-it's better that teams follow and worry about their charges wearing down or blowing out the odd shoulder or elbow-it's also important to frame concern over how much is too much for the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, the Tigers' Rick Porcello, or the Yankees' Joba Chamberlain. It's good to be concerned, especially with pitchers aged 24 or younger-Chamberlain's in his age-23 season, Kershaw his age-21 campaign, and Porcello's a precocious 20. However, in light of recent successes so many playoff teams have enjoyed keeping their better under-24 starters in working order into the postseason and then on into the following season, it's important to recognize that this sort of reasonable caution is an example of a lesson already learned.
In this case, it's important to recognize how a period in time can frame a debate. In the so-called wild-card era, running from 1995 through to 2008, there have been 56 different pitcher/seasons where hurlers aged 24 or younger have started post-season games for their teams. That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that the period includes all of those veteran-laden rotations on perennial contenders in Atlanta or the Bronx. To narrow our focus towards its beginning, there were 15 different who pitchers made post-season starts in their age-24 seasons or younger from 1995-2000, for a total of 18 different post-season appearances (Andy Pettitte, Ismael Valdez, and Jaret Wright each appeared in two postseasons before their age-25 seasons). Of those 15 different pitchers, nine of them melted down pretty publicly and messily, while only six endured:
A quartet of first-year moundsmen taking turns in big-league rotations and doing well, and what to expect next.
There are few things as damaging to your team's fortunes as rookie pitchers. This is not to say that all rookie pitchers are bad, or that you will never get anything productive out of them, but generally speaking they can be trouble. You either drafted them as sleepers, or picked them up after they rattled off a few solid starts in a row, and your emotional investment in them is high because of it. Many owners are willing to stick with them once the league begins to adjust to them, hoping that they will bounce back, and come on just as strong as they did to start their major league career. You don't just want them to do well, you need them to do well, because hey, it makes you look smart.