Life of a Sportsaholic

This blog is intended to be insight into my life as an irrational, stats-driven, obsessive sports fan in Boston. I am a fan of all types of sports with an emphasis on Boston teams and am a proud UConn alum.

Tag: rick porcello (page 1 of 2)

Red Sox Opening Day

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. –Rogers Hornsby

The weather in Boston is going to be perfect for the 2:05pm first pitch of the Red Sox 2017 season today. The 50 degree sunshine will light up Fenway Park in anticipation of strong campaign for the hanging socks. The expectations are high and the mood is hopeful as the Red Sox begin their season at home for the first time since 2010 (a 9-7 win over the Yankees). Overall, the home opener has been kind to the Sox, winning 10 of the last 12 and going 69-47 in home openers since 1901. Today, the Red Sox will match up with inter-league foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

One can analyze this team and spring performances until blue in the face, but the only thing that matters is what happens between the lines when the games count. Reigning AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello toes the rubber this afternoon as a nod to his 2016 performance and then Wednesday, fans get officially introduced to the biggest addition to this Red Sox club, SP Chris Sale. The lineup will have a different feel from last year without David Ortiz, but they still could be a force in the AL.

Now, for the 2 words we have been waiting all winter to hear…Play Ball!

Rick “Cy Young” Porcello

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After a 9-15 forgettable 2015 season, it looked like the Red Sox signing of Rick Porcello was going to be a flop. Thankfully for the Red Sox and Porcello he finished 2015 stronger than he began and took that momentum right into a stellar 2016 season, guiding the Red Sox into a postseason birth with his 22-4 record and 3.15 ERA. On Wednesday night he received the highest individual pitching honor in baseball by being named the AL Cy Young award winner for 2016 joining an illustrious list of former Red Sox pitchers to win the award (Pedro Martinez (2x), Roger Clemens (3x), and Jim Lonborg).

It’s hard not to be happy for Porcello. He was rushed to the big leagues with the Detroit Tigers at the young age of 20 with the weight of the world on his shoulders and expectations through the roof. In the 2009 MLB Top 50 prospects list rated his upside potential as “Ace, All-Star, Cy Young candidate, you name it. He’s been compared to Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Roy Oswalt and Josh Beckett.” No pressure kid, just follow in the footsteps of some of the best pitchers of this generation. The pressure clearly impacted Porcello’s development and he never quite reached that level of success…until now.

With 8 seasons of experience under his belt and just entering his prime at age 27, Porcello has looked better than ever. He is finally living up to the expectations and thankfully for Red Sox fans, it’s happening here in Boston. No one knows what the future will hold, but this could very well be the beginning of a special run for Porcello and the next few years may just elevate him as one of the better pitchers in baseball. He’s not flashy and won’t blow 100 mph heat past you, but is experienced, smart, and knows how to win ballgames (at least this year).

Congrats to the real ace of the Red Sox staff, Rick Porcello!

Sidenote: That 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 Detroit Tigers rotation consisted of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello – three Cy Young Award winners and the 3 guys that got the highest vote counts in 2016. Scherzer won the NL Cy Young this year and Verlander finished just 5 points behind Porcello for the AL crown. In 2014, David Price joined the staff, making it now 4 Cy Young award winners on the same staff (they obvious weren’t all winners at the time). Is that the best rotation in the modern era? Maybe.

A Deeper Dive on Rick Porcello

Photo from NESN

Photo from NESN

The Red Sox unexpected defacto ace and game 1 starter Rick Porcello struggled against the Indians last night allowing 5 runs in 4.1 innings. It was a tough time to have one of his worst outings of an otherwise very impressive 22-win season. Most fans were surprised at the emergence of Porcello as a #1 pitcher in 2016, but he has always shown signs of greatness, just without any real consistency and the right guidance/experience to bring it into the forefront.

Porcello made his major-league debut at the young age of 20 with the Detroit Tigers. He was an impressive 14-9 in 31 starts that season with an ERA of 3.96. Not too shabby for a young kid being thrown into the majors. He was able to begin learning from veteran guys like Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson and showed real promise. Porcello spent the following 3 years trying to match the success of his rookie campaign, but his ERA didn’t cooperate and he finished those 3 seasons with an OK 34-33 record and a mediocre 4.75 ERA. The pressure to become a top tier pitcher didn’t help his development. Instead of time learning to pitch in the minors, Porcello was forced to learn against the best players in baseball every 5 days.

After a better, but not great 13-8, 4.32 ERA 2013 campaign, Porcello entered the 2014 season with something to prove and a contract to earn. He pitched well, finished the season with 3 shutouts (the only 3 of his career) and posted a very respectable 3.43 ERA. He helped the Tigers reach the postseason, but was the odd man out in the ALDS as the Tigers got swept by the Baltimore Orioles in 3 games. To be fair, he was beat out in the rotation by the ridiculous 1-2-3 of Cy Young Award winners*, current teammate David Price, Justin Verlander, and Max Scherzer. It’s pretty damn hard to break into that top 3. Interestingly, Porcello could become the 4th member of that 2014 Tigers rotation to win a AL Cy Young Award. *Interesting fact, Verlander, Price, and Scherzer won the AL Cy Young Award in 3 consecutive years (2011, 2012, 2013), but Price won his when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.

After the strong 2014 campaign and an overabundance of pitching, the Red Sox came calling and Porcello was traded for Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and minor-leaguer Gabe Speier. The Red Sox had Porcello under control for just one season ($12.5 million) and they wanted him locked up long-term, so offered him a huge 4 year/$82.5 million deal that would give him a base salary of $20 million a season. At the time, critics (myself included) destroyed the Red Sox for giving Porcello so much money, but the front office clearly saw the potential of a still young, but experienced MLB starter.

After spending his entire career in Detroit, the transition in 2015 was less than stellar. After a terrible 2/3 of the season an injury kept him out for most of August. Porcello returned much stronger and looked much more comfortable, as if he just needed the time to reset and adjust to Boston. His ERA dropped from 5.81 at the time of the injury to 4.92 at the end of the season in just 8 starts, putting him on the trajectory we all witnessed in 2016. Since his debut in 2009, expectations were that he would be a top of the rotation arm, so the only surprise is that it took him an extra 6 years to reach his potential. Now that he is comfortable and has learned how to pitch and not just throw, Porcello is an incredibly valuable member of the Red Sox rotation now and into the future. Even with 8 years of experience, Porcello is still just entering his prime years at age 27.

It has definitely been a long-game approach with Porcello in his career and now it is paying off. The Red Sox front office deserves credit for identifying his potential and giving him the time to grow into the role he currently holds at, or near, the top of the rotation. Last night aside, expect Rick Porcello to be a mainstay in the Red Sox rotation for years to come.

World Series Aspirations for the Red Sox

mlb-world-series-trophy

After a 3-year hiatus from postseason play, the Red Sox are back. They begin their postseason run tonight in Cleveland for game 1 of the ALDS after pulling away and securing the AL East crown in late September. The Indians are a formidable foe with former Red Sox manager Terry Francona at the helm and this should prove to be an interesting series, but the question I pose is much larger. Can the Red Sox win the World Series this year?

After the first month of the season, it looked as though the Red Sox offense could single-handedly win the World Series despite a struggling starting rotation, but as the year wore on, the two flipped a bit. The Red Sox starting pitching began to improve and the offense came back down to earth. The last month of the season, the Sox pitching staff had a 3.05 ERA and a strong 3.25 Ks/BB ratio, both season bests, while the Sox offense had the lowest average of the season, .267. In general I’m not worried about the offensive drop because they were still solid, but the uptick in pitching is critically important.

If we use the 2 wild card games as indicators of postseason play, pitching will be vital to success. Last night in the Mets vs. Giants game, both starters were dominate and allowed 0 ERs in a combined 16 innings. The night before in the Blue Jays vs. Orioles game, the starters allowed just 2 ERs a piece. Hits tend to be fewer and further between and runs come at a premium in the postseason, so a strong pitching staff is required to make a deep run. Timely hitting is of course crucial as well, but if your pitching rotation can’t put up 0s, then it will be very difficult to win consistently.

Tonight’s game 1 starter is Rick Porcello, arguably the favorite to win the AL Cy Young in 2016. If he continues to pitch like he can, then the Red Sox have a good chance to walkaway from game 1 with a W and gain control of the series on the road. Opposing Porcello in game 1 is Trevor Bauer, who despite having a nice year, holds a 6.39 ERA in his last 6 starts in September and October. Which Bauer will show up? The 9-6, 3.73 ERA solid pitcher until September, or the run-allowing machine in September and October.

The answer to my ultimate question is yes, if the pitching staff can hold up and perform at a high level, the Red Sox can play for the World Series. The offense will likely be good enough to win, but it all hangs on the pitching staff. With Porcello in game 1 I feel pretty confident, but David Price in game 2 and Clay Buchholz in game 3 scare me a bit. Price and Buchholz can both be lights out or absolutely terrible. If the starters sway to the side of lights out, then book your ticket for a Cubs vs. Red Sox World Series. Wouldn’t that be something…

Wright Performs Like an Ace

steven wright sandy leon getty

The Red Sox have been searching for ace-like performances all season long. Rick Porcello has played the stopper role at times and David Price has occasionally looked strong, but Steven Wright has been the closest thing to an ace and he proved it Friday night. In his 4th complete game of the season, Wright shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers to set the tone for the 3-game set that ends the 11-game road trip.

Wright has been more hit-or-miss as of late (mostly hit…pun intended), but Friday night he reestablished his ability to dominate a baseball game. He struck out 9 and allowed just 3 hits against a very good Dodgers lineup. It was a performance the Red Sox very much needed and will continue to need as the postseason push wears on in August and September. If Wright can return to his more dominant form on a consistent basis, Porcello can continue his very strong season and David Price can at least pitch reasonably well most outings, the Red Sox have a legitimate chance.

The Red Sox are now 5-4 on this gruelling west coast road trip and with one more win this weekend, can secure a winning record as they come home next week. With lots of road games remaining on the schedule, winning series on the road is pivotal in determining if they will be playing on October.

Benintendi Only Bright Spot in Loss

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

All the hoopla and attention around the call-up of the Red Sox #1 prospect Andrew Benintendi couldn’t overshadow another low-scoring loss on Wednesday. Rick Porcello allowed 3 solo HRs throughout his complete game outing, but with the Red Sox offense going dormant, it wasn’t enough. The only offensive highlight was from the man himself, Benintendi, who picked up his first and second career MLB hits in his first start.

Neither hit was crushed, but on a night when the opposing pitching staff was shutting down the Red Sox monster offense, the hits were even more impressive. I’m sure it will take some time for Benintendi to get truly comfortable in the big leagues, but last night shows how confident he is in his ability. With tremendous pressure on him, he was composed in the batters box and looked mostly in control throughout the entire game. That is an incredibly important quality and will serve him well as he adjusts to the MLB grind.

Putting the nice Benintendi performance last night aside, this team is struggling right now. With wins by the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles last night, the Red Sox fall 3 games back of 1st in the AL East and 2 games back of 2nd place. There is a long way to go, but with most of the remaining schedule on the road, it will be a tough slog. For the first time in a very long time, the Red Sox are on the outside looking in at a postseason slot.

Another Injury in the Red Sox Bullpen

koji uehara injury getty

After 8 innings in yesterday’s Boston Red Sox game against the San Francisco Giants the Red Sox were cruising 4-0. Rick Porcello looked strong and John Farrell went to Koji Uehara to finish the team shutout. Just 7 pitches into his appearance, Uehara grabbed his chest and was taken out of the game. We later found out Uehara strained his pectoral and will be re-evaluated on Wednesday. Uehara becomes the 4th bullpen arm to go down to injury this year.

As of Wednesday morning, we don’t know what the future will be for Koji, but with Craig Kimbrel recovering from knee surgery, Carson Smith gone for the season with Tommy John surgery, and Junichi Tazawa working through a shoulder impingement, the acquisition of Brad Ziegler is even more important than ever. After being on the team for a week he is the defacto closer and will likely play a major role going forward.

If Uehara has to miss time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Kelly make another major league appearance, although this time out of the bullpen. He has been working as a reliever in the minors for potentially this situation, however I’m not sure if the Red Sox have any confidence in him making a major league impact.

Whether Koji is on the shelf for a while or not, the Red Sox need to fight through this period of injury and hopefully get Tazawa back soon and Kimbrel back in August. Once everyone is healthy, the Red Sox could have a strong back end of the bullpen come September.

Porcello Wins #11

AP Photo/Jim Mone

AP Photo/Jim Mone

If before the 2016 season you had told me the best pitcher on the Red Sox at the all-star break was Steven Wright and the most consistent starter after him was Rick Porcello, I would have guessed the Red Sox were in last place 13 games under .500. Instead, the Red Sox are in a virtual tie for 2nd place in the AL East (.002 percentage points ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays) just 2 games back of the division leading Baltimore Orioles with one game to go before the break. A big reason the Red Sox are in a great spot thus far is Rick Porcello.

On Saturday, Porcello once again proved his worth by pitching 7 very good innings and allowing just 1 run on a solo HR to pick up win #11. Of his 18 starts this season, Porcello has gone 6 or more innings in 15 of those starts and allowed more than 4 earned runs just once (5 earned on June 2nd vs the Baltimore Orioles). He has a very respectable 3.66 ERA with 92 Ks in 113 innings pitched. At 11-2, he has the 3rd best record in the AL and been one of 2 stable starters in the rotation all season (Wright being the other).

He isn’t flashy and won’t get a ton of attention, but Porcello is as responsible for the Red Sox success in 2016 as anyone else on the roster. Hopefully he can continue to produce a solid outing every 5 days in the 2nd half of the season and end with one of the best years of his career.

Sandy Leon Forces the Red Sox Hand

Boston Herald/John Wilcox

Boston Herald/John Wilcox

July 4th is the perfect day to sit back, relax and watch/listen to an afternoon Red Sox game. Yesterday the game started off a bit rocky for Rick Porcello, but the Red Sox offense picked him up and turned the game into a big win for the Red Sox. A big piece of the offense was from an unlikely offensive juggernaut: Sandy Leon. Every time his name was called, I kept saying to myself (and my wife) “I can’t believe he is doing this. Just unbelievable.” Leon went 4 for 5 with 3 doubles on America’s birthday to raise his average to .500. I wrote about Sandy’s incredible stretch in the batters box a few weeks ago thinking that any day his bat would go cold and we would see the return of the career .187 hitter we all expected to see when he was called up. That day hasn’t come and it has forced a major roster decision.

Leon has been so hot offensively he has taken significant playing time away from Christian Vazquez. Vazquez has struggled in the batters box and went from #1 catcher to back-up to Leon to now AAA catcher with veteran Ryan Hanigan returning from the DL today. Since the Red Sox were not going to hold 3 catchers on the MLB roster, Vazquez was the natural choice given that he can still be optioned to Pawtucket without passing through waivers. This decision is less an indictment on him, but rather a credit to Leon and his impressive stretch alongside a systematic need to maintain catching depth.

In the end, I don’t think Leon is a .500, .400, or even .300 hitter, but his story is great to watch. He has earned the starting catcher role, whether that continues to be with the Red Sox through the rest of the season or with another team thanks to a deadline deal. After all, his value has and likely never will be higher than right now.

Porcello Impressively Stops Red Sox Skid

Chris Szagola/AP Photo

Chris Szagola/AP Photo

Coming into Tuesday night’s game against the team in last place in the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Red Sox had lost 3 straight and 6 of the previous 10 games. The Rays crushed the Red Sox 13-7 on Monday night, leading to a closed door team meeting. The desperate need to stop the bleeding and right the ship fell on the shoulders of Rick Porcello on Tuesday night. He stepped-up and delivered a quality start and W, something Red Sox starters have failed to do lately.

Porcello allowed just 1 run over 6 strong innings while striking out 8 and walking 3 (all in the 4th inning). The run came when Porcello lost the strike zone in the 4th inning after a lead-off walk to Desmond Jennings and a single to Oswaldo Arcia, he then proceeded to walk Taylor Motter and Nick Franklin to bring in a run. Porcello then somehow, with no outs and the bases loaded, got a strikeout, flyout and strikeout to end the inning and limit the damage to just 1 run.

Normally a very good outing wouldn’t get a lot of attention, but given the circumstances, this game was critical to getting the Red Sox back on track. Porcello began the turnaround, now it’s on David Price to keep the momentum going in Wednesday afternoon’s 12:10pm getaway day game.

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