That was Rick Porcello’s ERA in his first season with the Red Sox, which couldn’t have gone much worse after he signed a lucrative four-year, $82.5 million contract extension with the club in April 2015 before even throwing a pitch for Boston.
Fast forward to Wednesday, when Porcello’s payday felt more than justified: The 27-year-old (much to Kate Upton’s dismay) became the first Red Sox to win the American League Cy Young Award since 2000, a fitting recognition after his dazzling 2016 season.
So, what to make of Porcello’s roller coaster tenure in Boston? Is he more like the guy who went 9-15 in 2015 and gave up five or more runs in seven of his first 20 starts, or the guy who led the majors in wins this season at 22-4, posted a 3.15 ERA and went 13-1 at home?
All signs point to the latter, and no one would know better than Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
Dombrowski was with the Detroit Tigers when they drafted Porcello in 2009. And while it was Ben Cherington, not Dombrowski, who signed the right-hander to that contract extension in April 2015, Dombrowski has seen enough of Porcello to believe he’s finally living up to his potential.
“Rick is more of a two-seam, sinker-ball type of guy, with command of his pitches,” Dombrowski told Bleacher Report during an October interview. “It’s a better position than where he’s constantly using the four-seamer trying to overpower hitters. That’s what he was trying to do (in 2015). A lot of (times), people put those expectations on themselves because they think they need to do that in order to live up to big-dollar situations.”
Porcello himself said he felt much more comfortable this season, and he flourished by showcasing pinpoint command. He led Major League Baseball with a 5.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and while his 189 strikeouts ranked just 16th in MLB, his ability to pound the strike zone allowed him to get ahead in counts and limit hard contact. That control also helped him pitch deep into games: Porcello went seven full innings or more in 16 of his 33 starts this season.
Porcello didn’t exactly blow hitters away this year, and his disappointing postseason showing left a sour taste in Red Sox fans’ mouths. But the way he succeeded in 2016 should have Boston excited about Porcello’s outlook from now until 2019, when his contract expires.
The New Jersey native, who admitted he was his “own worst enemy” in 2015, was unflappable this season, serving as the rock in an otherwise volatile rotation. His comfort level only should improve in 2017 after two years of experience in the AL East, and he’ll still be in the prime of his career when he turns 28 in December.
Porcello honed his delivery and improved his control to find a stable formula for success that helped him prove his worth in Boston and then some. Fortunately for the Red Sox, he shows no signs of slowing down.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images
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