I really don’t want to be the one to jinx things, but I’m just going to come out and say it: Rick Porcello has looked really good this season.
Yep, it’s out there now. So when he allows five runs in three innings in his next start, you know who to come blame — me. But for a minute, let’s just imagine a world where Porcello maintains the pace he’s at now and doesn’t turn into a pumpkin.
This Red Sox rotation will be incredibly dangerous.
On paper, that’s no surprise. But we know that things don’t always happen as they do on paper. This staff features a pair of former Cy Young award winners (and Chris Sale, who is still the best of the trio).
Sale is a model of consistency. His career ERA is 2.96, and in his “worst” season, he had a 3.41 ERA. He, out of anybody on the roster, is probably the safest pick to repeat their 2017 performance.
Price is trending up (or at least he was prior to leaving Wednesday’s start with an arm injury.) His 3.38 ERA 2017 season in which he struck out 76 in 74.2 innings has transitioned nicely into a promising 2018. Injuries might be the wild card with Price, but he has the history of being elite on his side and in his favor.
And then, there’s Porcello.
He’s been practically unhittable and he’s shown some of the best control of his career. He hasn’t allowed a ball to leave the yard yet, and his ERA and FIP are objectively beautiful.
He’s had a fascinating last few years, really. After coming to Boston, he’s sandwiched a Cy Young-winning season in between a pair of high-4 ERA years. If you believe in patterns, he’s due for another strong season.
If you choose to buy into numbers as opposed to semi-arbitrary patterns, he has those working for him, too. He’s been practically unhittable (14 hits allowed in 19.2 innings) and he’s shown some of the best control of his career (17 strikeouts to a single walk). He hasn’t allowed a ball to leave the yard yet, and his ERA (1.83) and FIP (1.61) are objectively beautiful. He’s throwing lots of sliders and changeups, about as much as he had for the entirety of his career. He just shut down a struggling, albeit dangerous Yankees lineup.
Of course, it’s early. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still going to be “early” until about May. But Porcello is currently passing the eye test.
So where does that leave the Red Sox? It leaves them with at least a dominant three-headed dragon of a rotation. The back end still has some question marks, headlined by roughly 17 pitchers who could fill the back two spots (maybe not that many, but it sure feels like it).
There’s still plenty of time for Porcello to look like his 2017 self as opposed to his 2016 self. But he might be the X-factor in this team, the one that decides if Boston will boast a good rotation, or a deadly one.
Header photo by Brian Fluharty — USA TODAY Sports