Yesterday, I looked at Justin Verlander and his year by year breakdown of non-quality starts; games he pitched in where he gave up four earned runs or more. Traditionally, a “quality start” happens when a pitcher goes at least six innings and gives up three earned runs or less. By contrast a “non-quality start” is where a pitcher crosses that three run plateau. The innings don’t matter, since the start isn’t quality…
There are some variables to consider that a few people had questions about. For example, what happens when a pitcher tosses seven innings of one run ball, his team is up 7-1. He goes out for the eighth, gets into trouble, gives up a grand slam, comes out, his closer saves the game and everyone wins, the final score being 7-5. Well even though the starter gave up five runs, would it be considered a non-quality start? Yes, of course. In the data I provided regarding Verlander, I look at how many poor starts the team ended up winning, which in a nutshell would solve this problem; yes, it was a non-quality start but the team ended up winning so it didn’t hurt as much. Remember, over the last three years, the Tigers still win exactly 50% of Verlander’s NQS.
The only other glaring issue with this data is that I don’t look at games in which the starter left with a lead that the bullpen blew. However, considering that it would still be a NQS regardless, you can also say that the starter could have helped the cause by not giving those runs up in the first place. That is a situation that could be left up to interpretation, so I simply left it out since the fact remains that we are looking at NQS and the broad question: Did the starter give up four runs or more and did the team still win?
So, enough rambling. You’ve come to see the data on Rick Porcello, the young ground ball specialist who many assume will be the pitcher who is hurt the most by Cabrera’s move to third base. Listen, I don’t care about that, you shouldn’t care about that. The difference in ground balls per game that Rick Porcello gives up, when compared to, say, the strikeout king, Verlander himself, is roughly three per game. Three.
In 2009, Porcello’s rookie season, he had 10 NQS in 31 starts. Five of those starts he gave up exactly four earned runs. The other five he gave up five or more runs. The Tigers only won two of those starts, a 20% clip.
In 2010 he had 11 NQS in his 27 starts. Four of those starts he gave up exactly four runs. It’s worth noting that of the other seven where he gave up five or more runs, he had a game where he gave up seven earned, and another where he gave up eight earned. In his rookie season he never gave up more than six earned runs. The Tigers only won three of those 11 NQS, a 27% clip.
In 2011 he had 10 NQS in his 31 starts, a mirror of his rookie season. Two of those starts he gave up exactly four runs, the other eight he gave up five or more. Again, he had a game where he gave up seven and another game where he gave up eight. The Tigers once again won two of those starts, a 20% clip. (It is worth noting that from July 3rd and on the team went 13-3 in games he started.)
So, what we see here is, if nothing else, a level of consistency with Porcello. He has a NQS once every three games. The Tigers only win about 20% of those games in which he gives up four runs or more.
The difference between Porcello and Verlander over the last three years is 30%. How much of that can we pin on them pitching to the score? How much can we pin on the team feeling more confident if Verlander is on the mound rather than Porcello? That’s all left to interpretation and can’t really be quantified. The bottom line is, if Porcello wants to get his ERA back under 4.00 this season (or for that matter, his ERA+ above 100 again), he will need to eliminate those couple games a year where he gives up seven runs or more.
Personally, and if you mind personal opinion I’m not sure why you’re reading a blog (wink, wink), I love Porcello. Did you know he’s still five months younger than the “phenom” Stephen Strasburg? Verlander’s first full season was in 2006, when he was 23 years old. Porcello is 23 this year and doesn’t turn 24 until after Christmas. He already had three full big league years under his belt before Verlander had his first. I’ll still remain optimistic about Porcello turning into a special pitcher for a few more years.
To round out the piece, here’s some traditional Bubble Gum Card Stats:
Some Nontraditional Stats to give us all a better view of his career: