5 Reasons To Believe Detroit Tigers’ Rick Porcello Will Have A Career Year In 2014
Rick Porcello May Have The Best Season of His Young Career in 2014
After the Detroit Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals on Dec. 2, some Tigers fans were left feeling perplexed. They simply could not understand why Dave Dombrowski would trade away a pitcher who was probably the best No. 4 starter in MLB last year. Furthermore, Fister posted a 32-20 record with a sparkling ERA of 3.29 over a period of two-and-a-half seasons with the Tigers so it was easy to understand why the fans had questions.
Moreover, many Tigers fans also felt that the Tigers did not get a good enough package in return for Fister. However, although Steve Lombardozzi and Ian Krol are most likely not going to be superstars they could very easily play key roles in the Tigers' 2014 season. Many believe Robbie Ray will ultimately become a fine starting pitcher in the big leagues a few years from now. It is also very possible that Rick Porcello will slide right into the No. 4 slot and put together the best season of his career.
After finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2009, Porcello has not been nearly as good as the Tigers had hoped he would be in the subsequent four seasons. He has had two sub .500 seasons and has posted ERAs north of 4.50 three different times. He has been hit around quite a bit and even gave up a whopping 226 hits in 2012 which led the league.
However, Porcello did appear to turn over a new leaf in 2013 as he posted the highest winning percentage of his career and set a new career-high in strikeouts. 2014 may finally be the year the kid from New Jersey -- who was a first round draft pick all the way back in 2007 -- puts together his first truly exceptional season for five different reasons.
5. Pitching Coach Jeff Jones Will Be Returning
Brad Ausmus, the Tigers' new manager, made very wise decision to bring pitching coach Jeff Jones back into the fold. Last season, Jones was credited with helping Justin Verlander -- who was having a very uncharacteristic season -- straighten out his game before the postseason began. Moreover, Max Scherzer really began developing into the pitcher he is today right after Jones was named the Tigers' pitching coach halfway through the 2011 season.
Jones has also been credited with helping Porcello develop his curveball which has been a much more effective pitch for him than his slider was. It is evident that the Tigers' pitchers have become very comfortable with Jones which is why the Tigers were wise to keep him on the staff.
Jones has worked wonders with Verlander and Scherzer, and Porcello is one project that he has not quite finished working on.
4. The Tigers Have An Improved Infield
Anyone who has watched Porcello pitch over the last five seasons knows that he pitches to contact, induces a lot of ground balls, and relies heavily on his fielders. Therefore, he can be expected to benefit greatly from the Tigers' new-look infield which features the soon to be 24-year-old wonder Jose Iglesias at shortstop.
Last season, after the Tigers acquired Iglesias from the Boston Red Sox on July 30, he played like Ozzie Smith redux and made acrobatic plays that defied gravity. He got to balls that Jhonny Peralta could only dream about getting to. Moreover, the Tigers have also hired Omar Vizquel, another one of the best defensive shortstops the game has ever seen, to be their new infield and first base coach. The Tigers could not have found a better mentor for Iglesias.
The rest of the Tigers' infield has been improved as well. Although questions still remain about Nick Castellanos' defensive abilities, he will almost certainly be a better defender than Miguel Cabrera and will show much more range over at the hot corner than Cabrera did. Some have argued that Ian Kinsler's defense is actually a notch below the defense that Omar Infante provided at second base last season, but overall the Tigers do have an improved infield with Iglesias at shortstop and Cabrera moving back home to first base where he was developing into a respectable defensive player prior to the arrival of Prince Fielder in 2012. Porcello should love pitching with the Tigers' new infield behind him.
3. He Has Always Had Good Stuff
Porcello may not have what people describe as "great stuff," which is a term that is usually reserved for the Verlanders and Clayton Kershaws of the world, but he has always had "good stuff." Porcello's "good stuff" was on display all year long during his rookie season of 2009. If it hadn't been, then Jim Leyland would have never given him the ball for the now infamous Game 163 against the Minnesota Twins. Even though Porcello has been hit around a little bit in the four seasons since 2009, his "good stuff" has still always been there.
When Porcello's sinker is sinking, he can be very good pitcher. His change-up and curveball have also proven to be very effective pitches, especially against left-handed hitters, and he appears to be growing increasingly confident in his secondary pitches. He has also been much better ever since he decided to ditch his slider in favor of his aforementioned curveball. Based on what he showed in 2013, there is plenty of reason to believe Porcello will have all of the pitches in his repertoire working exceptionally well in 2014.
2. Added Motivation And Boosted Confidence
The fact that Dombrowski traded Fister rather than Pocello and showed enough confidence in Porcello to move him right into the No. 4 slot should most certainly boost Porcello's confidence. Moreover, he also has the added motivation to prove the naysayers wrong and show that Dombrowski did in fact make the correct call.
1. He Is Building Off Of 2013
In 2013, Porcello easily had his best year since his rookie season of 2009, and some have even made the argument that 2013 may have actually been his best season ever. In 2009, Porcello posted a 14-9 record with a 3.96 ERA, and last year he was 13-8 with a 4.32 ERA but some of his other statistics were greatly improved.
In 2013, Porcello had 142 strikeouts which was a new career-high for him that blew away the 89 strikeouts he had in 2009 as well as his previous career high of 107 which was set in 2012. He also averaged 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings which was a new career-high for him as well. Porcello surrendered 185 hits last year which was not quite as low as his career best of 176 which was set in 2009, but it was a tremendous improvement over the league leading 226 hits he gave up in 2012. He also posted the lowest WHIP of his career which was 1.282 and threw the first complete game of his career.
The numbers clearly indicate that Porcello turned over a new leaf last season, and he really has something to build off of. Don't be surprised if Porcello goes out and puts together the finest season of his still young career in 2014.