In the world of baseball, Rick Porcello is a player known for his consistency and inconsistency. He’s been in starting rotations in the Majors since he was 20, and is the only pitcher in the American League to throw 150+ innings in each of the last 11 seasons. But within seasons, and year-to-year, he’s either winning a Cy Young (2016), or leading the AL in losses (2017). Like Forrest Gump’s mama always said, ‘you never know what you’re gonna get.’
The Red Sox starting rotation, the linchpin of their historic 2018 championship season, was their undoing this season. Porcello will finish the season with the worst ERA among MLB qualified starters and by far, the worst of the four main Sox starters (himself, Price, Rodriguez, and Sale). His frustration with his own performance this year is evident. It would seem like a no-brainer to say that he’s gone the second the Sox season ends on Sunday.
But despite how poorly he pitched this year, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Rick Porcello will not only be back with the Red Sox next year, but that he’ll have a better year.
Let’s work backwards through that claim.
My only real basis for saying that Rick Porcello will pitch better in 2020 than he did in 2019 is that, for whatever reason, he seems to do better in even seasons. In 2016, he went 22-4 with a career-best 3.15 ERA to win the American League Cy Young, pitching’s most prestigious award. In 2017, he led the American League in losses, going 11-17. He rebounded in 2018, playing a key role in the Red Sox winning a franchise-record 108 regular season games and their 9th World Series. This season, he’s 13-12 with a 5.56 ERA. It will be the first time in his major league career that he’ll finish a season with an ERA higher than 5.00; his previous career-worst ERA was 4.92 in both 2010 and 2015.
So overall, since coming to Boston, Porcello pitches better in even seasons. In both 2016 and 2018 ERAs were lower, his W-L records better, and he pitched more innings than he did in 2015, 2017, and 2019.
But there are real reasons that Porcello could be back next year. And while they might sound laughably simple on paper, in the world of baseball, they’re very legitimate and vital to a team’s success: he’s healthy enough to throw a baseball, and he can do so somewhat deep into games. And because he’s coming off such a poor season, he’ll be dirt-cheap and likely eager to take a deal to stay here, rather than venture out into the unfriendly waters of free-agency.
Unlike Chris Sale and David Price, who both spent a large chunk of the season on the Injured List, Porcello – knock on wood – has had a relatively healthy career and healthy season. He’s the only pitcher in the American League to throw 150+ innings in each of the last 11 seasons, and this is his 4th consecutive season and the 8th in his career in which he’s made at least 30 starts.
At this point, what the Red Sox need is a cadre of inexpensive pitchers who can stay off the IL and eat innings. With the futures of Sale, Price, and even Nathan Eovaldi in jeopardy, knowing that Porcello can physically take the mound and throw deep into games is an important bare-minimum level of consistency this team will need, even if it isn’t exactly good pitching. Quantity over quality is the mindset, and Porcello, who made 16 starts of 6 or more innings, and was 9-3 with a 3.09 ERA in those games, is the man for the job.
When you really think about it, signing Porcello to an inexpensive 1-year deal with options, is a no-brainer. It quickly fills a key role in the rotation, which frees up the front office to focus on more important decisions, like what to do about Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. The Red Sox have bigger fish to fry this winter; re-signing Rick Porcello just gets them cooking faster.
*Photo: Getty Images
*Stats: Baseball Reference, Red Sox Game Notes