Porcello started out the first inning by quickly retiring the first two batters before giving up a four-pitch walk to B.J. Upton and a triple to Ryan Doumit. Four of the five Braves Porcello faced in the first inning were able to square up and hit the ball hard, despite tallying only one hit.
Porcello bounced back with an impressive second inning, striking out the side on nine pitches. He forced two of those batters to watch strike three on knee-buckling breaking pitches, which is a good sign for the Tigers’ starter.
Porcello is the type of pitcher who seeks contact from opposing hitters, so the strikeouts come as a bit of a surprise. Last season, he gave up just 42 walks in 32 appearances. His 1.28 WHIP in 2013 was the lowest of his career, but strikeouts have never been his forte. His 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings last season was much higher than his previous best of 5.4 the season before.
If Porcello can continue to improve his strikeout rate, he is bound to drop his ERA below 4.00 — a mark he has not surpassed since his first season with the Tigers in 2009 as a 20-year-old. He has the breaking pitches necessary to get the job done, but he needs to improve his fastball location and action to make his sinker and change-up more effective.
Porcello’s fastball velocity has been consistent throughout his time in MLB. The most important improvement he needs to make this year is when he chooses to use it and making sure he doesn’t miss with the pitch.
As a pitcher who likes to keep the ball down in the zone, Porcello has the luxury of catching hitters on their heels with his heater. His success in 2014 depends on how well he mixes in his fastball. His other pitches need little improvement.
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