Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy!
Well, that was unexpected.
In 2015, Rick Porcello had a 4.92 ERA, a 4.10 FIP, and a 4.14 DRA. “Not great, Bob!” we told ourselves. “There’s room for improvement. He wasn’t really this bad. Hope springs eternal, and all that. Maybe next year he won’t serve up batting practice in every start.”
He didn’t. In fact, he did whatever the exact opposite of throwing batting practice is, and that got him the American League Cy Young award.
What Went Right in 2016
When you win the award for best pitcher in the American League, there’s quite a lot that went right. In a career-high 223 innings, Porcello posted career-bests in WARP (4.9), ERA (3.15), FIP (3.36), and strikeouts (189). See those strikeouts? He only walked 32 guys. That comes out to a stellar 5.91 K/BB, which is worlds better than pitchers like Chris Sale, Noah Syndergaard, and Porcello’s Cy Young counterpart in the National League, Max Scherzer. There are so many more individual accomplishments to list here, but the main point is that Porcello’s incredible efficiency made him the first Red Sox to win the Cy Young Award since Pedro Martinez in 2000.
From July 29th to September 19th, Rick Porcello started 11 games. In those games, Porcello:
- threw no fewer than seven innings
- gave up no more than three runs
- walked four batters (Porcello didn’t even walk a batter in seven of those games)
- struck out 66
- threw three complete games
That is about two months of quiet dominance. Porcello didn’t throw a lot of shutouts, but he went deep into the game far more often than not, kept it close, and gave the best offense in the majors a chance to win in every start. I know it sounds like dad-speak, but Rick Porcello was the perfect pitcher for an offense-heavy team like the Red Sox.
Sure, the Cy Young Award was contentious, but there’s no way you can say Rick Porcello didn’t deserve it. He was fantastic, even if it was through his consistency and not his flashiness. Besides, he was the league leader in trash talk:
Rick Porcello actually won because of his A+ trash talk while pitching pic.twitter.com/HUZfDnHF5Y
— Brett Cowett (@BACowett) November 17, 2016
He said that to Manny Machado on September 19th. He threw a 89-pitch complete game that night. Rick Porcello, everyone.
What Went Wrong in 2016
When you win the award for best pitcher in the American League, there’s not a lot that went wrong. If I had to nitpick, he induced the lowest amount of grounders in his career, and that doesn’t bode well for his future prospects.
But, like, he won the Cy Young. That softens that blow just a little.
Outlook for 2017
Yes, Porcello had a great year. But as Craig Golstein says, it would be foolish to expect a repeat to a season this good simply because of the type of pitcher Porcello is. He lucked out a little, and was pretty fortunate when it came to the results on the batted balls he induced. He doesn’t have the potential to rack up copious amounts of strikeouts like Sale, Syndergaard or Scherzer, so a lot more of Porcello’s success relies on getting weak contact and good bounces. He’s not as bad as his 2015, nor is he as good as his 2016, but if I had to choose, he’s probably going to be a lot closer to the ’16 version than the ’15 one.
Even so, this does not make his success any less impressive. Rick Porcello is a Cy Young Award winner and nothing will change that. Until someone else proves himself – I’m looking at you, David Price – Porcello’s the ace of the staff, and you could do a hell of a lot worse than the best pitcher in the AL.
Photo by Winslow Towson/USA Today Sports Images