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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Jerry Green: Tigers need a closer — why not Rick Porcello?

Jerry Green (flips open wallet with pre-installed Ruth Chatterton photo intact) BBWAA Badge #2 at your service.

It is time for some logic, I say from my perch, long distance.

Presto — Rick Porcello just might make the highly qualified closer the Tigers are seeking.

He might — who knows? — be another Dennis Eckerlsey. A decent starting pitcher who suffered one poor season converted into a better than decent closer.

...Eckersley made it as a dominant closer when his fastball throttled down. His best pitch was a slider — the groundball pitch.

By coincidence, Porcello’s best pitch is his slider.

Once upon a time — the same year as Eckersley was being converted by La Russa’s logic into a Hall of Fame closer — the Tigers had a young pitcher of high promise in their farm system. They traded the kid away so they could win their division in September.

The trade worked. There was logic used. Doyle Alexander pitched the Tigers into the postseason playoffs.

But the Tigers are still hearing from the criticism crabs for trading away John Smoltz to the Braves.

Odd — many of the finest closers in the history of baseball entered the majors as starters, just like Eckersley. Among such pitchers were Hall of Famers Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers, the great Rivera himself, and also Johnny Smoltz.

And even odder, there are just two pitchers in all the 137 years that professional baseball has been played who have won 20 games as starters and later saved 50 games as closers, in separate seasons.

Dennis Eckersley is one of these multi-talented athletes. John Smoltz — traded away by the Tigers in a deal still controversial 26 years later — is the other.

This one time a trial with Porcello is more logical than another trade.

Repoz Posted: March 16, 2013 at 11:21 PM | 37 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: tigers

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   1. flournoy Posted: March 17, 2013 at 12:22 AM (#4389705)
Somehow I thought Porcello was a lot better than he is. He was a top-shelf talent when drafted, and lasted until late into the first round because of signability concerns, right? Still, he's only 24, I'd give him some more time.
   2. Fancy Pants Handle doesn't need no water Posted: March 17, 2013 at 12:33 AM (#4389706)
Odd — many of the finest closers in the history of baseball entered the majors as starters,

That's not odd at all. Reliever is what you become, when you have failed at starting.
   3. Boxkutter Posted: March 17, 2013 at 01:11 AM (#4389720)
Odd — many of the finest closers in the history of baseball entered the majors as starters, just like Eckersley. Among such pitchers were Hall of Famers Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers, the great Rivera himself, and also Johnny Smoltz.


Mo has never started a Major League game in his career.
   4. bobm Posted: March 17, 2013 at 01:20 AM (#4389722)
[3] Rivera started in 1995. Vaughn never did.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=riverma01&year=1995&t=p#sprel_extra
   5. Tripon Posted: March 17, 2013 at 01:38 AM (#4389725)
I think the issue with Porcello is that he never developed the velocity people thought he would.
   6. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 17, 2013 at 01:48 AM (#4389727)
Dupe

   7. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 17, 2013 at 01:49 AM (#4389728)
   8. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 17, 2013 at 02:01 AM (#4389730)
Who else? Octavio Dotel.
   9. Dan Posted: March 17, 2013 at 03:18 AM (#4389738)
Presto — Rick Porcello just might make the highly qualified closer the Tigers are seeking.

He might — who knows? — be another Dennis Eckerlsey. A decent starting pitcher who suffered one poor season converted into a better than decent closer.

...Eckersley made it as a dominant closer when his fastball throttled down. His best pitch was a slider — the groundball pitch.

By coincidence, Porcello’s best pitch is his slider.


Cute, except for the small detail that the slider is Porcello's worst pitch, and he's been eliminating it this spring to throw his curve instead. Fangraphs has Porcello's slider being worth nearly 20 runs below average last season.
   10. KT's Pot Arb Posted: March 17, 2013 at 03:25 AM (#4389739)
Sample size obviously, but in his career Porcello has been pretty dominant in innings 1&2.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: March 17, 2013 at 04:27 AM (#4389743)
Kind of a strange way to describe Eck. He went from 5 to 6 K/9 as a starter to 9 as a reliever. Porcello is bubbling along at about 5 K/9 in a higher K environment and he probably needs to jump to 8-9 too to be an effective reliever. Could happen, worth a try maybe.
   12. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: March 17, 2013 at 08:01 AM (#4389753)
Sample size obviously, but in his career Porcello has been pretty dominant in innings 1&2.


He's been excellent first time through the order; after that, not so much...
   13. Bug Selig Posted: March 17, 2013 at 08:40 AM (#4389756)
This very idea has been my office water-cooler mantra since the whole "The Tigers CAN'T have six starters - they HAVE to trade Porcello!" thing started in the local papers. Besides the obvious fact that six not only isn't too many, it probably isn't enough - there is nothing wrong with Rick Porcello that 3 major-league quality infielders wouldn't fix. I doubt Leyland would do it, but closing at least introduces the possibility that Porcello could have a couple defensive replacements behind him once the beer-league guys have gotten the team a lead.
   14. Dan Posted: March 17, 2013 at 08:47 AM (#4389757)
Wow, those splits are stark. They really ought to make him a reliever. Maybe a 1-2 inning type like Wade Davis was last year for the Rays since he's got more stamina than your typical reliever, but only seeing guys for one PA seems like it could turn him into a dominant pitcher. Add a few MPH to the fastball and scrap the third ans fourth pitches too, ans he may be even better in short relief than the first time through the order as a starter.
   15. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: March 17, 2013 at 08:52 AM (#4389758)
Of the two candidates for the fifth starter role, Smyly profiles better as a short reliever - he gets a lot more swings and misses and moving him to the pen alleviates some of the injury concerns with him. Moving Porcello to the pen wastes Rick's greatest plus, his durability. They are slightly below league average innings, but he gives you 200 of them every year. Now that he's ditched the slider and is focusing on the curve, I'd give him another shot to start.

The problem is, both of these guys have too much potential as starting pitchers. I'd send one to Toledo. You usually need at least 6 SPs, and right now the other options are Shawn Hill or Duane Below. Try out a couple closer candidates in April, see who wins the job.

   16. bobm Posted: March 17, 2013 at 09:30 AM (#4389764)
[12] He's been excellent first time through the order

His dominance (split vs league split) seems to fluctuate and depend strongly on his BAbip against.

Rick Porcello Year-by-Year splits: 1st PA in G, as SP

                                                                     
I           Year   G   PA SO/BB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
            2009  31  276  2.67 .278 .320 .402 .722  .307    96    99
            2010  27  245  3.38 .237 .278 .328 .605  .273    62    74
            2011  31  285  2.30 .229 .291 .302 .593  .270    55    71
            2012  31  279  2.47 .271 .313 .366 .679  .303    69    93

    Career Total 120 1085  2.65 .254 .301 .350 .651  .289          70
   17. billyshears Posted: March 17, 2013 at 11:01 AM (#4389802)
I think the issue with Porcello is that he never developed the velocity people thought he would.


I thought that he was one of those guys who lost a few tics off of his fastball the minute he was drafted (See also Mike Pelfrey).
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 17, 2013 at 11:24 AM (#4389820)
I think the issue with Porcello is that he never developed the velocity people thought he would.


His velocity last season was his best ever in MLB. He averaged about 92 MPH.
   19. Darren Posted: March 17, 2013 at 11:45 AM (#4389839)
. Besides the obvious fact that six not only isn't too many, it probably isn't enough - there is nothing wrong with Rick Porcello that 3 major-league quality infielders wouldn't fix.


Normally, it seems too easy to just look at the difference between Porcello's FIP and ERA the past few years and just say "His defense let him down." But as Double-Spin hits in the above, there are some compelling reasons to think his defense is a big part of the problem. In addition to his good peripherals, Porcello is regularly among the leaders in groundball percentage--52.3% for his career, and his 53.2% was #11 in the Majors last year. Then you look at who's in the field behind him--Cabrera, Peralta, Fielder, etc.--and wonder if the defensive stats are missing something there.

I think eventually the Tigers--or some lucky team that acquires Porcello--is going to be very happy with him.
   20. KT's Pot Arb Posted: March 17, 2013 at 11:45 AM (#4389840)
Year   G   PA SO/BB   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS BAbip tOPSsOPS+
            
2009  31  276  2.67 .278 .320 .402 .722  .307    96    99
            2010  27  245  3.38 .237 .278 .328 .605  .273    62    74
            2011  31  285  2.30 .229 .291 .302 .593  .270    55    71
            2012  31  279  2.47 .271 .313 .366 .679  .303    69    93

    Career Total 120 1085  2.65 .254 .301 .350 .651  .289          70 


Average OPS against for AL relievers

2009 .735
2010 .720
2011 .707
2012 .685 


His home park has been favorable to hitters so park adjustments shouldn't change the fact thathe's been more effective than the average reliever first time through the order every single year he's pitched. in 2010/2011 he was lights out.
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 17, 2013 at 11:51 AM (#4389847)
I think eventually the Tigers--or some lucky team that acquires Porcello--is going to be very happy with him.

Concur. I feel the same way about Phil Hughes. Get him into a less-homerific park, and I think he blossoms.

Actually, Porcello for Hughes probably makes both Det and NY better. They both fit much better in the other stadium.
   22. Darren Posted: March 17, 2013 at 12:17 PM (#4389869)
Yeah, but Porcello with Jeter behind him might be kind of a nightmare.
   23. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 17, 2013 at 01:21 PM (#4389897)
Besides the obvious fact that six not only isn't too many, it probably isn't enough - there is nothing wrong with Rick Porcello that 3 major-league quality infielders wouldn't fix.

This is the right answer.

If I had a good infield I'd call Dombrowski and see how cheaply Porcello could be pried loose.

Off the top of my head, the Royals have a pretty good defensive infield and a glut of relief pitchers--a deal both teams would like would be strikable there, if not for ZOMG CAN'T TRADE WITHIN MY DIVISION OR THE VOICES WILL FEAST ON MY BRAINS.
   24. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: March 17, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4389905)
Royals have a pretty good defensive infield

I'm puzzled by Escobar's horrible defensive numbers from 2012. He doesn't look that bad to me, and his reputation was that of good field, questionable hit before last year.
   25. KT's Pot Arb Posted: March 17, 2013 at 02:09 PM (#4389938)
Jeremy Hellickson for Porcello + heap o' prospects seems inevitable given Tigers "brain trust".
   26. cardsfanboy Posted: March 17, 2013 at 02:42 PM (#4389954)
ZOMG CAN'T TRADE WITHIN MY DIVISION OR THE VOICES WILL FEAST ON MY BRAINS.


With two wild cards per season, I can see that mentality being reduced some eventually.
   27. Walt Davis Posted: March 17, 2013 at 04:52 PM (#4390036)
Off the top of my head, the Royals have a pretty good defensive infield and a glut of relief pitchers--a deal both teams would like would be strikable there, if not for ZOMG CAN'T TRADE WITHIN MY DIVISION OR THE VOICES WILL FEAST ON MY BRAINS.

That and the Royals have a fairly decent-looking and fairly highly-paid rotation that they're not really looking to add to. I'd rather have Porcello than Chen but not if it means adding another $5 M to may payroll (that's the Royals "I" there).
   28. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: March 17, 2013 at 04:57 PM (#4390040)
That and the Royals have a fairly decent-looking and fairly highly-paid rotation that they're not really looking to add to. I'd rather have Porcello than Chen but not if it means adding another $5 M to may payroll (that's the Royals "I" there).

Really? You wouldn't add a 2 WAR starter and dump a 0 WAR starter for $5M when you're on the edge of competition? Why the heck not?
   29. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 17, 2013 at 05:09 PM (#4390051)
That and the Royals have a fairly decent-looking and fairly highly-paid rotation that they're not really looking to add to. I'd rather have Porcello than Chen but not if it means adding another $5 M to may payroll (that's the Royals "I" there).


Only because they continue to insist on giving a roster spot to the execrable Luke Hochevar, though. Releasing him, moving Chen to the bullpen to make room for an acquisition like Porcello would make perfect sense, assuming they haven't made any promises to Chen that he gets a rotation spot.

Someone's going to get hurt before long, anyway, and they'd be glad they had Chen on tap when it happens, too. Going into the season with six starters is not a bad thing.
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 17, 2013 at 06:31 PM (#4390092)
Yeah, but Porcello with Jeter behind him might be kind of a nightmare.

Maybe. But Youkilis, Cano and Teixeira are pretty good to excellent.
   31. Fancy Pants Handle doesn't need no water Posted: March 17, 2013 at 06:46 PM (#4390098)
Maybe. But Youkilis, Cano and Teixeira are pretty good to excellent.

Teixeira at this point is probably not much better than average defensively, if that. Youk is below average at third, and you are looking at Hip-Replacement-Rod back in there at some point. And you want to trade Cano.
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 17, 2013 at 07:02 PM (#4390103)
Teixeira at this point is probably not much better than average defensively, if that.

The Fiedling Bible has Teixeira as the best defensive 1B in baseball. BRef (+26 cumulative the last 3 years) has him as excellent and UZR (+16 cum. last 3) has him as quite good.

Youk is below average at third, and you are looking at Hip-Replacement-Rod back in there at some point.

I'd guess they're still both better than Cabrera.

And you want to trade Cano.

I'm not the GM of the Yankees. That wouldn't be until July anyway.
   33. Fancy Pants Handle doesn't need no water Posted: March 17, 2013 at 07:47 PM (#4390122)
The Fiedling Bible has Teixeira as the best defensive 1B in baseball. BRef (+26 cumulative the last 3 years) has him as excellent and UZR (+16 cum. last 3) has him as quite good.

The +26 is based on a huge outlier +20 season last year, which doesn't track at all with the 3 seasons prior to that, and doesn't pass the eye test. BRefs total zone has him at 4, 0 and 8 the past 3 years. Fangraphs is projecting him at about 4 runs. And he's coming off an injury.

I'd guess they're still both better than Cabrera.

Damning with faint praise. And your initial qualifier was "quite good to excellent".

I'm not the GM of the Yankees. That wouldn't be until July anyway.

So you want to trade assets for a half year of Porcello, in a season you want to tank anyway, in order to restock on assets. That makes no sense.
   34. JJ1986 Posted: March 17, 2013 at 07:55 PM (#4390128)
So you want to trade assets for a half year of Porcello, in a season you want to tank anyway, in order to restock on assets. That makes no sense.


Porcello isn't FA eligible for three more years.
   35. Fancy Pants Handle doesn't need no water Posted: March 17, 2013 at 08:10 PM (#4390137)
Porcello isn't FA eligible for three more years.

Yeah, but the stated reason for making the trade was the presence of the Yankees infield defense, which would blow up completely without Cano.
   36. JJ1986 Posted: March 17, 2013 at 08:24 PM (#4390145)
Yeah, but the stated reason for making the trade was the presence of the Yankees infield defense, which would blow up completely without Cano.


The Dodgers would probably be happy to send Mark Ellis back the Yankees' way.
   37. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 17, 2013 at 08:26 PM (#4390148)
Yeah, but the stated reason for making the trade was the presence of the Yankees infield defense, which would blow up completely without Cano.

Presumably the new, cheap, Yankee IF will at least be good defenders, even if they can't hit.

In any case, Hughes is gone after this year, so it's worth it even if the IF defense sucks.

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