It seems as though a spring of Derek Lowe whispering sweet nothings has done Rick Porcello a whole lot of good this season so far.
Flashing back to 2017 is a tough ride for Porcello, as he had almost as many losses as he did wins from his 2016 CY Young season. Rick came in with a cool 11-17, and it was clear nothing much was working in his favor. The Red Sox, although a contending team, did not provide Porcello his usual run support, which in turn lead to a collapse in performance on the mound. By the time that the bats ended up pulling through, it was clear that Porcello was a ghost of his consistent self the year before. Porcello by the end of the year was locating that devastating sinker straight down the pipe, and ended the season with an ERA of 4.65 and leading the league in home runs with 38. Needless to say, a couple got away from the big man. This year could be different though.
What Has Changed
— Red Sox (@RedSox) April 13, 2018
Here we are in 2018, and the Rick Porcello you knew last year is a ghost. Why do I say that? Although Porcello (3-0) is never going to be that lights-out pitcher at the top of your order, having him third in the rotation is comforting. Porcello has seemed to relocate his sinker back to where it belongs, in those tight corners of the zone the ump loves to give you. Although not all of those sinkers having been painting the corners, when Porcello misses his spots it seems as though he’s getting the outs he needs in the field. What is crucial to Porcello’s arsenal is something that he has no control over. In 2016 the Red Sox had a team that could put runs on the board, and it seems to be happening this year whenever Porcello straps in.
Red Sox Run Support
While on the mound this season the Red Sox have been able to provide 19 runs in three games. In the last 34 starts that Porcello has had with 3+ runs of breathing room, he has gone 29-0. With a bolstered lineup, it seems as if the Red Sox may be able to provide Porcello with support a majority of the time he’s on the bump. Is it smart to rely on the Red Sox to put up 3+ runs every single game Porcello starts after the drought of last season? No, probably not. But it does appear that this 2018 Red Sox lineup has production throughout. The games that a major bat isn’t producing, the lower part of the order is picking up that slack.
For example, in Porcello’s Yankees home start, Sandy Leon started a second inning flurry of four runs. This early game production is something that Porcello will need to be a sustainable asset for Boston. It is clear that the Red Sox hitters who will be relied on for production later in the year aren’t fully here yet. But I doubt Benintendi will bat .231 all season. We didn’t pay J.D Martinez what we did in confidence that .227 was his ceiling. April baseball is deceiving.
So instead of grinding your teeth a bit when you see that Rick Porcello is starting like you did last year, I think it’s time to have confidence in the former Cy Young winner. So is Porcello back? With 162 games on the docket, this season is a long and winding road to make assumptions. But Porcello has two seasons in Boston with 180+ strikeouts. The only difference between the two seasons is the support he was getting in 2017 v. 2016. So my answer is simple. IF the Red Sox provide Rick Porcello 3+ run support by the third inning each game he goes out, he will end the season with 20 wins.