News broke on Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals are ‘checking out’ four-year veteran Rick Porcello, right-hand pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Understandably the Cardinals have concerns over the back end of their rotation–mainly the fifth starter position–which neither Shelby Miller nor Joe Kelly are running away with.
Procello has been a serviceable pitcher for the Tigers, throwing at least 162 innings since 2009–his high point being 182 in 2011. His best season came during his rookie year in 2009 where he pitched 170.2 innings and held a career-best 3.96 ERA. Pitching in the American League and having a sub-four ERA is a pretty good accomplishment even though your facing average talent in the AL Central.
That being said, Porcello’s ERA hasn’t gone below 4.00 since his rookie year. In fact, over the past three seasons he hasn’t had an ERA below 4.59.
Looking at his pitching abilities a bit closer, I’ll use the advanced (and personal favorite) stat of SIERA. His ERA year by year isn’t very far off his SIERA, which hasn’t broken the four barrier either. Even taking FIP into account, his best season in that regard was last year when it sat at 3.91 (verses a 4.59 ERA).
Despite last year’s ERA/FIP correlation and knowing that Detroit is pretty bad defensively, most of Porcello’s numbers are the direct result of his own pitching skills. And you can ignore his up and down win/loss record as well; that could largely be the due to the run support the Tigers provide.
You could then take that into consideration when arguing that he would move to the National League and pitch in the ‘inferior’ Central Division. At best, his ERA could potentially drop 0.30-0.40 points. Would that really be that much of an improvement over what Miller or Kelly could provide?
You could also argue for the durability of Porcello. He’s made 31 starts three of his four big league seasons and has no history of ailments that would be cause for concern–a big plus for a rotation with injury history.
Given that the Cardinals are still balking at the fifth starter and my personal concern over what type of season you’ll get out of Jake Westbrook, it might make sense to sniff around for more pitching. However, I don’t believe that Porcello is worth trading for, especially since the Tigers would likely try to steal a prospect that wouldn’t be worth giving up. Don’t forget, St. Louis has Michael Wacha in the minors along with Trevor Rosenthal who is currently in the bullpen (and should probably stay there).
Stay the course and keep with the home grown tradition. Its been working out very well for the Cardinals.