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The Red Sox Won't Be Able To Separate Themselves From The Pack Until Rick Porcello Gets It Going

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox

One of the biggest reasons why I love Boston so much is because of how passionate the sports fans are. Most of the time, it’s great. Sometimes, it’s not so great.

I love that fans live and die on every single game, every single PITCH, even when the Red Sox play 162 games. There’s no doubt that Rick Porcello is having a rough year. You know that, I know that, and Rick certainly knows that. But, man. Some of the reactions that I see on Twitter when he doesn’t perform well have been puzzling to say the least. Some fans want him in the bullpen when Eduardo Rodriguez comes back. Hell, some fans don’t even want him on the team at all. You know he just won the Cy Young award last year, right? Shit.

I’m not saying you can’t be down on the guy. You should be, because he’s better than this. The problem is that I don’t think that fans are acknowledging that he’s better than this. There’s too much “2016 was a fluke” talk for my liking. I don’t mind the “what have you done for me lately?” approach to evaluating players, because that’s more than fair. But what about giving a guy the benefit of the doubt for the future? If he sucks right now, let ‘em know he sucks. I guess I’m just confused about the lack of confidence that he’ll turn it around.

Statistically, Porcello has been outperformed by everybody else in the rotation. Chris Sale has been better. Rodriguez has been better. Drew Pomeranz has been better. Even David Price, for as much shit as he’s gotten, has been better. A pitcher’s record hardly tells the whole story, but Porcello dropped to 4-10 last night and the Red Sox are 7-10 when he takes the mound. That’s a far cry from last year when Porcello finished the year with a 22-4 record, and the Red Sox were 25-8 in the games that he started.

Porcello has allowed the most hits by any pitcher in baseball by a pretty wide margin. After allowing six more hits last night, which isn’t bad, Porcello has now allowed 138 hits, while Clayton Richard and Kevin Gausman are tied for second most with 117 hits allowed. The question we’ve been asking every five days has been, what’s wrong with Rick Porcello? A few weeks ago, I looked at his sinker since, you know, he’s a sinkerball pitcher, and the updated numbers here are that opponents are hitting .373 with a 1.057 OPS against his sinker. That’s major problem number one.

What’s major problem number two? He’s leaving the ball up and when he does, it’s getting crushed. When Porcello has thrown a pitch — any pitch at all — in the upper half of the strike zone, opponents are hitting .338 with a .937 OPS. When Porcello has thrown a pitch in the lower third of the strike zone, opponents are hitting .237 with a .647 OPS. He’s still having success when he keeps the ball down, but it’s been a disaster when he hasn’t.

I’ve seen some fans speculate on whether or not Porcello is hurt. I don’t think he’s hurt. Velocity is usually a good indicator of that, and last year when Porcello won the Cy Young award, his fastball averaged 92.40 MPH, while his fastball is averaging 92.85 MPH this year. His problem is that his sinker isn’t sinking, and he’s leaving way too many pitches up in the zone that are getting smoked. These should be correctable issues, which is why I still am holding out hope that he can turn it around in the second half.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Red Sox had a .758 winning percentage when Porcello pitched last year. This year, it’s .412, yet the team is still in a virtual tie for first place. Not that Porcello will magically revert to what he was in 2016, but he’s better than what he has been this year, and a gradual return to form in the second half can be the biggest difference maker for the Red Sox in 2017.

Final score: Twins 4, Red Sox 1

Radio plug: I’ll be talking Red Sox with Zolak and Bertrand today from 11am to noon on 98.5 The Sports Hub. LISTEN LIVE HERE.