2011 ALDS: Previewing Rick Porcello

The official Vent About Game 3 thread
A case of deja vu for Yanks and Tigers
(Matt Harding / In Play! Magazine)

With their season on the line, the Yankees will face a local kid in tonight’s Game Four. Rick Porcello, a graduate of Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, already has three full big league seasons to his credit despite being a professional for just four years. He didn’t spend a single day in either Double-A or Triple-A before cracking the Tigers’ opening day rotation in 2009, and the lack of experience has shown a bit. Although this will be his first career playoff start, Porcello did pitch well (two runs in 5.2 IP) in Game 163 against the Twins as a rookie.


A true ground ball reliant pitcher (we’ll get to why in a bit), Porcello owns a 4.75 ERA with a 4.06 FIP and 4.02 xFIP in his career. The ERA is obviously poor, but the peripheral-based stats are almost exactly league average during his three-year career. He doesn’t miss bats (4.84 K/9 career) but he doesn’t walk anyone (2.38 BB/9 career), and obviously he gets a bunch of grounders (51.9% career). His 2011 performance is right in line with his career totals (5.14 K/9, 2.27 BB/9, and 51.4% grounders).

Still just 22 years old, Porcello has shown no home/road split during his career simply because he doesn’t give up enough fly balls for Comerica Park’s spacious outfielder to matter. Left-handers have hit him substantially better both this year and over his career though, and we’ll look at why right now.

Pitch Selection

(via Texas Leaguers and FanGraphs)

After taking Porcello in the first round of the 2007 draft, the Tigers sent him to High Class-A in 2008 and put him on a pitch count. In an effort to pitch deeper into games, the right-hander developed a two-seamer to get quick ground ball outs, and that’s been his approach ever since. Once a power pitcher with two swing-and-miss pitches in his four-seamer and slider, Porcello is now essentially a sinkerballer by choice.

Two two-pitch pitchers like Max Scherzer, Porcello uses a fastball-slider approach against righties and fastball-changeup against lefties. He uses his curve so infrequently that it’s not worth mentioning. At more than a full run worse than average (per 100 thrown), Porcello’s changeup is his worst pitch, and that’s why he struggles against lefties. He has to get them out with his fastball, the changeup just isn’t good enough to consistently rely on. All of his other pitches are right around league average, close enough that it’s not worth getting worked up over.

Pitching Pattern

(via FanGraphs)

The XX pitch is an undefined pitch by PitchFX, the system was unable to classify it. Perhaps it’s a slurve or cement-mixer changeup, something that doesn’t fit into one of the other pitch categories. A junk pitch. At 3-9% in the various counts, he throws a decent amount of them.

Like most sinkerballers, Porcello is very fastball heavy, even with two strikes. His first pitch strike percentage has increased every season of his career (61.4% in 2011 compared to the 59.4% league average), so he does a decent job of getting ahead of hitters. Not an extraordinary job though, the Yankees will be able to work the count a little bit more than they were against Justin Verlander, who seemed to be 0-1 then 0-2 on everybody. Porcello will let them put the ball in play and that’s a good thing, the Tigers have a shaky infield defense (especially at short and at first) and you want to force those guys to make the plays. If the sinker’s really working, it could be a long night for the offense. If not, Porcello will have to battle for every out. The latter has been true more often than the former in his career.

The official Vent About Game 3 thread
A case of deja vu for Yanks and Tigers
  • donttradecano

    pick a spot, sit fastball.

  • Tiny Tim

    We’ve gotta hit this guy and get at least 4-5 runs. AJ can put up a 5 or 6 inning 3 ER day but he won’t shut them down completely. Someone besides Robbie Cano and Brett Gardner has to step up.

    • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

      Posada has had a good series you know.

  • Mike

    bottom line . if Arod and Tex dont’ show up . . we lose

    • UncleArgyle

      Don’t hold your breathe. Tex has missed the last three postseasons.

      • forensic

        1 for his last 27 in the playoffs. He also hasn’t hit the Red Sox (closest thing to playoff atmosphere in the regular season) in a couple years.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          He had a 149 OPS+ against the Red Sox last year.

          • DERP

            Get your facts out of here.

          • forensic

            Because of some power, buoyed by 5 homers in two games. Still hit in the .230’s with a .340’s OBP even with those 5 homers. Course many of you guys think the 30 AB’s a season with a homer count for more and are more important than the 600 without one so I expected this.

            • Dave

              Agreed. Home runs should be taken out of the equation when evaluating hitters.

              • Dave

                I’m not too fond of triples either.

              • forensic

                Yeah, because that’s exactly what I said. Very nice argument…

          • MannyGeee

            Narrative >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Facts!!!!!!!!!!!

            • forensic

              Yeah, it’s only narrative that he hit .182 with a .299 OBP in the other 16 games against them outside of those two, one of which included facing a position player for a homer.

              You’re right, no facts there.

              • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

                If you take out all the good stuff, he’s terrible.

                • forensic

                  Again, exactly what I said.

                  For a site that constantly talks about SSS, you sure love to cite it when it fits your argument. 11% of games is not more important than 89% of them.

                  Just like tonight when one of Swisher, Tex, or A-Rod gets a hit I bet tons of people post some sarcastic comment about their lack of or inability to hit in the postseason, as if that one AB is more important than the large group before/after them.

                  • Now Batting

                    18 games is a small sample size. When you remove the two best games out of what is already a small sample size it’s going to effect the numbers dramatically.

                  • Mickey Mantle’s Outstanding Experience

                    You’re not saying that 89% of games is more important than 11%. You’re saying that a specific 89% where you cherry picked out the good 11% is more important than 100%.

  • DERP

    I kind of feel bad for this kid. Sounds like the Tigers kind of screwed him. Weren’t the Yankees going to take him if he fell to them at 30?

    • Rick in Boston

      Definitely. Three picks later, the Yankees picked Brackman. I guess the Giants could have nabbed him at 29 as he fit their pitcher-heavy profile pretty well.

  • theyankeewarrior

    Maybe he will get a strike-zone similar to the one CC got last night, and the Yanks will score 15 runs in 5 innings.

    This way, it doesn’t matter if AJ implodes in the 4th inning, because they’ll still make it back to NY.

    • Rockdog

      I think they have a good chance. And if we go home, with Nova pitching game 5, I like our chances. First, have to take care of business tonight.

      • theyankeewarrior

        I do too. I think they have a great shot at this.

        Just hope we get a decent zone tonight.

        And that the bats take some pressure off AJ while we’re down. Not just while we’re at home piling on middle relievers hanging breaking balls.

  • http://deleted Total Dominication

    They should crush this kid.

    • forensic

      Just like people said they should’ve crushed Scherzer in NY?

      • Kostas

        Have to agree. Remove the grand slam and assume a typical bases loaded response by the Yankees and game 1 ends more like 5-3 or 6-3.

        • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

          …assume a typical bases loaded response by the Yankees

          You mean a typical bases loaded response by the team that hit an AL best .337/.354/.601 with an MLB best 10 grand slams this year?

          • Rockdog

            I gotta agree with Dave (above) — the home runs shouldn’t count. And probably shouldn’t count the triples either.

          • Kostas

            I know you think you are “getting me” but the 10 grand slams are as relevant as their 98 wins. 3 of the 10 came in one game when it was a blow out.

            But you did support my comment of typical yankee response by posting their splits = typical response is to score 1 or 2 runs, not 3 or more.

            So thank you for supporting my statement before I had to resort to looking up the exact numbers.

            • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat

              Pretty sure that 2 of those 3 grand slams helped the Yankees come back from a 7-1 deficit.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              If you turn the ten grand slams into outs, they still had a .367 OBP with the bases loaded. That would still be the best in baseball.

              I don’t understand what you’re getting at here, it sounds like you’re trying to say the Yankees are a bad hitting team with the bases loaded when they obviously are not.

              • Kostas

                No, I am saying that this focus on how many runs the team scores when people talk about the offense not showing up is as relevant as batting averages- to use a comment towards me earlier in the year about Tex – “his average is not great but his RBI’S, OPS, SLUG..more than make up for the low BA.

                In that context, the Yankees hit well with bases loaded, no argument, but remove the grand slam which is not common and the offense has been average with many missed opportunities.

                • Rockdog

                  What you are doing is data mining to support your narrative. Tex this year did not hit for a high average, but did show power. And the power he showed is worth something.

                  The same applies for grand slams — true, they are not common, but you are removing (randomly) the best case outcome, and then saying that the results don’t look good. That is true, but you can’t just remove outcomes that you don’t like.

                  • Kostas

                    True, but you can remove abberations or make notations about abberations in data samples. Grand Slams fit that scenario because they are uncommon as an expected result. As I said below the end result is that a typical response to bases loaded scores 1-2 runs.

                    • Rockdog!

                      An event being uncommon does not by itself make it an abberation. By that definition, most hits would be an abberation (since even with the Yankees, 66% of the time with the bases loaded, they do not get a hit).

                      Even if you wanted to make it a little less restrictive, if you exclude HRs as a “rare abberation” you would probably also want to exclude triples, hit batters, and perhaps walks.

                      I know we all want the Yankees to score lots of runs when the bases are loaded, but the most common outcome is an out — just as it is for every other scenario and for every other team. To state the obvious: batters makes lots of outs.

                • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

                  Except it’s not average, which I said in the comment you replied too. Turn the ten grand slams into ten outs, and they’d still have the highest OBP in baseball at .367. Their .290 AVG would be 11th.

                  The MLB average with the bases loaded was .269 AVG, .304 OBP. They’re not “average with many missed opportunities.” Nothing close to it.

                  • Kostas

                    And the .290 average would produce typical response of 1-2 runs in those situations. So my wording makes this more complicated than it should be – well that and the blind assumption that I hate the Yankees because I don’t accept their failures.

              • Mickey Mantle’s Outstanding Experience

                But Mike, that means they make outs almost twice as often as they get on base. Therefore, their typical bases loaded response is to make an out.

                /Kostas logic

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          …assume a typical bases loaded response by the Yankees…

          The Yankees were, by far, the best hitting team with the bases loaded this year.


          If you don’t like grand slams for some reason, they still hit .290 with a .367 OBP with the bases loaded this year if you turn the ten grand slams into outs.

          • Rockdog

            And what if you take out the triples? (To be safe, might want to take out the doubles, too)

            • forensic

              Love the mature responses and debates…

              • Nuke LaDoosh

                meh, sometimes there is nothing more mature than having a sense of humor about life.

                • Rockdog


              • Dave

                Wouldn’t want to have any fun talking about a game. This is serious!

            • Nuke LaDoosh

              Let’s eliminate all Extra Base hits as well as well as hard hit singles.

              • Rockdog

                I think we should take out walks and hbs too, just to be fair.

          • Kostas

            Grand Slams are nice but they are not common enough in those situations. As I said above, the typical response is 1-2 runs, sometimes 3 but not 3 or more.

            So my original statement is thus factual and not irrational nonsense. But I get nature of the beast.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              As I said above, the typical response is 1-2 runs, sometimes 3 but not 3 or more.

              I have absolutely no idea what you mean by this. If you take out grand slams, it’s impossible to score more than three runs with the bases loaded.

              • Kostas

                Ya that didn’t come out right. The typical response is to score 1-2 runs. The second part was suppose to say sometimes 3 runs. The “but not more” was another thought for another response. This is what happens when your company still uses IE6 and it is unstable.

                • Graig not Craig

                  Does your logic run on IE6 as well? I propose you set your argument aside at this point and walk away. I just read this thread through like 3x and I still can’t figure out what you are trying to say. Fact: The Yankees are the best with the bases loaded. Fiction: Any other scheme to try and manipulate the numbers to say they are not. I hope they load them up numerous times tonight, and maybe crank out an uncommon grand salami.

  • Mike Myers

    Justin Verlander lasted eight innings and Jose Valverde backed up his victory guarantee with a difficult save as Detroit beat the Yankees 5-4 to go up 2-1 in the series. According to this normalized strike zone plot, home plate umpire Gerry Davis gave Detroit 11 bogus strikes to the Yankees’ four, and deprived Detroit of four legitimate strikes to the Yankees’ eight, for an incredible Tiger bias of +11. “Don’t come running to me,” said a perfectly capable robot, sipping a pina colada on an exotic beach. “Enjoy your human element.”

    • MannyGeee

      meh… tides in the Human Element could turn tonight.

      AJ ‘could’ get calls on that curveball like Verlander got on his last night while Porcello’s misses the the calls on the corner by an inch a couple of times…

      we could be hearing the same arguement from the other side of the aisle. it is what it is

      • Mike Myers

        Dont take away my bitching. I have nothing with out it.

  • Kostas

    Against my better irrational judgement, I do think the Yankees have a better chance of winning tonight and the series than I did yesterday. However, I would not be surprised at all to see them get “scherzered” by Porcello.

    As much as the focus is on AJ and his erratic pitching, the game will not come down to AJ but to how the offense does against Porcello. If they can 5 spot him, minimum, they will win. Under 5 runs…. 2012.

    • UncleArgyle

      Yankees will need more than five runs to win tonight. I’m thinking at least 7. Unfortunately I don’t see this team scoring a touchdown with Tex and ARod already on vacation in the 4 and 5 hole.

  • theyankeewarrior

    I don’t care if he has a no hitter, it we have the lead after 5, AJ needs to leave the game.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      If it’s just after five it’s either Burnett or the new love affair of Ayala. They both suck but if Burnett actually got through the 5th with a lead I’d take him any day over Ayala.

      Sound like a perfect situation for Colon, why not use him? Oh…

  • Natron

    Porcello has NO CHANCE. Not against A.J, who has “no-hit” stuff.

  • Jose M. Vazquez..

    This team has trouble with pitchers who throw above 95 and pitchers they have not seen. Neither of these facts apply tonight. We need a good outing by AJ and some hitting from the middle of the order (they know who they are).

    • MannyGeee

      Where does Porcello’s FB hit typically?

      • forensic

        A little down from the top of the page it says 90.4 and 89.8.

      • MannyGeee

        nevermind. found it

        Per FanGraphs 89-90 FB this season with a mid 80s change and a mid 70s hook.

  • Bronx Byte

    Who would have believed that it would come down to reliance of Burnett pitching a good game to keep the Yankees alive in 2011 ?
    Girardi better have his quickest hook ready and the bullpen on high alert.
    Some timely hitting won’t hurt the cause either.

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      in all honesty…who would’ve believed the yanks would’ve made the post season with Colon and Garcia getting all these starts.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    I’m forever greatful to Porcello for taking down Youkilis last year like the punk rag doll he is.

    That being said, I hope the Yanks rip him a new arsehole tonight.

  • Beachbum

    I thought Tex’s swings and at bats have been looking better the last two games. Could be time for him to break out, particularly against a pitcher without a solid changeup offering.

    • http://www.thefatladyblog.com JoshTFL

      Agreed. The double earlier in the series and the line out yesterday, in particular, right?

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    gotta love the Red Sox fans commentary on the yanks losing. if i were a fan of the sox I would just crawl back into my hole and not come out until groundhogs day. that team is in shambles right now.

  • http://www.thefatladyblog.com JoshTFL

    People are going to look at Porcello’s last seven starts as an indication of his effectiveness tonight. However, he pitched against awful teams and couldn’t strike out more than four in any start. He’s cabbage just like AJ is cabbage. He’s out by the fourth.

    • Kostas

      That is what they were doing with Fister. It pisses me off that people dismiss the offensive complication that is the AL East. Most of these pitchers would not last in the AL East.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Except Ian Kennedy, he’d an ace anywhere.


        • Kostas

          Now that is funny. Well played.

    • MannyGeee

      EVERYTHING you said here is similar to what was said about Mister Fister. and we saw how that worked out.

  • Darren

    The biggest question is how tight the Yankees are going to be. If they’re loose, including AJ, I think they win and we all feel good about Game 5. If they freeze up, winter starts tomorrow.

    Hopefully none of them are reading this site for inspriation and support.

    • Nixk

      There ya go. “Tightness” will decide this one!

      • MannyGeee


      • Darren

        Der, obviously in a game like last night, tightness has nothing to do with it. Verlander completely overmatched the lineup and I don’t see how that was gonna change. Not much you can do against 100 mph heat and a wicked curve. And CC looked tired plus the ump didnt help at all.

        But yeah, I think tightness comes into play tonight. With AJ, for sure, dont you? He obviously has the physical stuff, so if he can mentally keep it cool, he should be able to provide a good performance.

        And the lineup “should” hit Porcello. If they can also relax, avoid looking for the dinger (hi Swish, hi tex!) that “should” mean good results.

        If you don’t understand how much an impact mindset, emotion and confidence has on the final results of a game, you don’t have the first clue about baseball.

  • Kostas

    Fun irrelevant stuff – Since Joe refuses to use him.

    Estimates of how much time the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera has spent doing various baseball-related activities during his 17-year career:


    Total NYY game time with Rivera on roster
    334 days, 18 hours, 29 min

    Time spent waiting in bullpen or clubhouse
    325 days, 11 hours, 46 min

    Air travel
    64 days, 12 hours, 20 min

    Standing on mound between pitches
    3 days, 10 hours, 9 min

    Bullpen warmup
    2 days, 12 hours, 12 min

    Actually pitching
    8 hours 50 minutes

    Sources: WSJ research, Kayak.com, Stats LLC; Note: Postseason excluded

  • matthaggs

    Tex looks hopeless. I know it won’t happen and it’s probably a dumb idea but I’ll say it anyway…Posada at 1B and Jesus at DH?

    Just hate leaving a potential nuclear weapon on the bench without a single swing(reminds me a tiny (very tiny) bit of Rivera in ’95).

    • MannyGeee

      with AJ pitching, it would not hurt to have the better glove in the IF. dont gamble on offense at the expense of defense in the playoffs.

  • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

    My God, I hope Porcello doesn’t have one of those “He’s pitching the game of his life” type games like Bonderman did five years ago. If the Yankees can’t hit this guy they don’t deserve to move on to the next round, plain and simple. This team has too much talent to be in this spot.

    • Alibaba

      Exactly. We need to hit Porcello. Joe G has a rested bullpen. He should yank AJ at the first sign of trouble. Here is to hoping that AJ repeats his 1009 WS performance.

      • http://bleedingyankeeblue.com Jesse

        2009, but I get your point. A.J’s all we got at this point.

    • Russell NY

      Exactly. They don’t deserve it. It would make getting knocked out of the playoffs so much more unbearable if the Yanks were playing sound baseball. But they are crap right now, and good for the Tigers if they beat our underachievers.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    so wouldn’t have been better to have AJ pitch yesterday and have CC go today?

    /water’d under the bridge

  • duzzi23

    I think people are not giving Porcello any credit just like they did with Scherzer and look how that turned out. If Aj pitches a gem it would be a miracle. Porcello pitched damn good in that due or die 163 game vs Minnesota and if his sinker is on i can see our lefty batters rolling that sinker into weak grounders. Plus Porcello has 0 pressure all the pressure is on us tonight lets see how we respond. I hope Aj pitches good and we get enough offense to win.

  • Russell NY

    Cmon Yankees, lets pull out this miracle win tonight so we can go at the stadium with our ace!

  • RJ

    Well the Yanks should be able to score, if Joey Bunts doesnt leave AJ in a pitch to long we have a shot. Porcello will give up runs.

    Hughes is rested and could be good for up to 3 innings. Man it would be nice to have Bartolo, available tonight, can Ayala slip and fall or something. I think Colon could go 2-3 out of the pen if need be, maybe he gets added for the ALCS.

  • http://www.motorcyclist.com YamahaMotorcycles

    yes we can! hope and change! hahaha…Tex ain’t gonna show boys! You guys sure are optimistic!