According to FanGraphs, Porcello went to his curveball 13.7 percent of the time compared to 12.4 percent with the cutter and 12.1 percent with the changeup. It marked only the second time in his career that his usage of all three pitches reached at least 12 percent, and he deployed them in a fashion that allowed him to exploit the vulnerabilities of individual hitters.
“Myself, [pitching coach] Carl [Willis], [bullpen coach] Dana LeVangie, we had conversations about attacking guys and kind of blending my mix of pitches in and attacking their weaknesses,” Porcello said. “That sounds like something you should always do, but when you have limited weapons to go into an at-bat with, there’s not a whole lot of different things you can do.”
Porcello also finally accepted who he is as a pitcher. Despite being the 14th-highest paid pitcher in baseball this year based on average annual value, he will never be a flame-throwing strikeout machine, a la classic aces Verlander and Scherzer. Instead, he’s a sinkerballer who induces enough grounders to kill a small ant farm.
“At the time, we knew what it would take to sign him, and we weren’t in a position to be able to do that. That made the difference for us,” Dombrowski, who reunited with Porcello after taking over as the Red Sox president of baseball operations in August 2015, said late in the season. “However, we always liked him. When we drafted him, we thought he was going to be a No. 1 starter at the big league level.”
Yes, the Red Sox gave him crazy run support. But Rick Porcello’s remarkable consistency proved good fortune wasn’t the only reason he won 22 games.
Yet Porcello was just another member of the band, never a front man, in a star-studded Detroit rotation that featured co-aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Porcello never seemed to get any better, either, his ERA plateauing from 2010-13 after a promising rookie year in 2009.
Porcello’s career ERA entering this season: 4.39.
If anyone truly believed in Porcello, 27, it was former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, who not only traded for him but also signed Alex Carter Authentic Womens Jersey him to a four-year, $82.5 million extension before he threw a pitch for Boston. But if Dombrowski can honestly say he always thought Porcello had ace potential, maybe he can explain why anyone should believe the right-hander’s breakthrough 2016 season wasn’t merely an outlier in a career spent in the shadows of more accomplished pitchers.
“He’s really improved as an overall pitcher,” Dombrowski said. “Just the ability to change speeds, I mean, his changeup, his curveball, he cuts the ball. He’s really got a better pulse of changing the [hitter’s] eyesight on various pitches. You Ameer Abdullah Authentic Womens Jersey really see the growth. I think he’s taken another step further from what he was in Detroit.”
Indeed, Porcello evolved into an honest-to-goodness five-pitch pitcher this season. Whereas he previously relied on his curveball in some years and his cutter in others to offset his signature sinker and his four-seam fastball, he threw those secondary pitches and his changeup with almost equal frequency this year.