Rick Porcello fulfilled a childhood dream when he signed with the New York Mets before the 2020 season. When the season finally started, he could not improve from the worst season of his career in 2019. Porcello finished with the highest ERA of his career and only recorded one win on the season.
Rick Porcello, Beautiful Front Door Two Seamers. 🚪🚪 pic.twitter.com/XwGsCWFW7c
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 16, 2020
Getting off to a slow start was the theme of Porcello’s rough season. Through his first six starts, Porcello allowed 40 hits in 28 innings, resulting in a 6.43 ERA. On the season, Porcello struggled in the first three innings of the game, where he had a 6.94 ERA, and batters hit .363 against him.
In Porcello’s final six starts, the struggles were not as prevalent. The batting average against him lowered to .272, and had a 4.94 ERA over 31 innings. Porcello put up his best start of the season with 10 strikeouts over seven innings against the Atlanta Braves in this stretch.
Porcello went back to throwing his sinker 43% of the time compared to 26% during the 2019 season. The biggest issue for Porcello was his inability to work inside to both sides of the plate consistently. Since Porcello relies on contact for his success, he has to keep hitters off-balance and uncomfortable. Too often, hitters controlled the outside part of the plate, which caused the high batting averages against him.
Numbers Can Deceive
Despite the high ERA, Porcello had a few factors going with and against him. The Mets defense is a nightmare for any contact pitcher, and it certainly hurt Porcello more than it helped him. Porcello’s home run rate was lower than it was during his Cy Young season in 2016. He also had the lowest exit velocity against him since the stat began being recorded in 2015.
A lot of these stats show that Porcello was better than the ERA dictated. The soft contact percentage was by far the highest at 25.8%, and the hard-hit rate at 29.5% was lower than it was in his Cy Young season. The most telling stats of his season are his 3.33 FIP and 76 FIP-.
Return to Flushing?
Overall, Porcello went 1-7 with a 5.64 ERA in 59 innings with 54 strikeouts in 12 starts. Despite the common stats working against him, Porcello’s sabermetrics and deeper stats show there could still be value in the veteran right-hander. The Mets are looking to revamp their rotation, which leaves serious doubt about him returning. If the Mets sure up their defense, Porcello could be a good value at the back of the rotation of a long reliever in the bullpen.
2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)
Sinker: 40 (55), The sinker was a pitch Porcello relied on heavily, but it was very hit or miss. Opposing hitters batted .324 against it.
Slider: 45 (50), Thrown 29% of the time, and had a 21.9% whiff rate.
Changeup: 55 (55), Porcello threw significantly more to left-handed hitters, 101 to lefties compared to 23 to righties.
4-Seam Fastball: 45 (45), Rarely used, but batters only hit .211 against it and had good horizontal movement.
Curveball: 30 (35), Porcello never quite got a good feel of his curve. Batters hit .417 against it, and its spin rate from 2810 to 2588.
Command: 45 (60), Porcello’s control was pinpoint when avoiding walks but not so much when avoiding barrels.
Overall: 40 (50), It was a rough year for Porcello, but I expect him to bounce back to league average wherever he lands in 2021.