Rick Porcello only is two years removed from taking home his first Cy Young Award, and since then he’s made some adjustments on the bump.
Going into Monday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, Porcello had collected 150 strikeouts — just 31 shy from his 2017 season total and 39 fewer than his season-high during his 2016 Cy Young campaign. What’s even more impressive about his strikeout totals is that he now is striking out batters at a higher rate than Indians ace Corey Kluber, per WEEI’s Rob Bradford.
So, what’s changed for the right-hander?
“How I attack guys is probably the biggest adjustment that I’ve made. I’m throwing more off-speed stuff. I throw a lot more four-seamers to lefties. In ’15 and ’16 I threw more two-seamers, especially early in the count,” Porcello said, via Bradford. “The end result of all of that for starting pitchers similar to myself who don’t have Chris Sale/wipeout-type stuff the pitch-mix is huge. If you try and pitch deep into games, primarily with your fastball, it might keep your pitch count low but you might be giving up a bunch of runs, particularly home runs. I think I’ve tried to make the adjustments I have felt that are necessary to make.”
As it stands, Porcello is 15-5 with a 4.04 ERA through 25 starts this season. He’s gone at least six innings in 18 outings, including a complete-game one-hitter against the New York Yankees on Aug. 3. The 29-year-old noted the job of the starter is different, so in order to give his team a chance to win, he’s been hurling more off-speed pitches.
“The responsibility of a starting pitcher now is a little bit different. The games where you go out there and you go seven or eight innings and you give up five runs, those games don’t matter anymore. Nobody is putting value into pitching eight innings to save the bullpen even if you take a loss,” Porcello said. “We’re in a situation where we have to win every night and that’s why I have thrown so many off-speed pitches and thrown more to the swing and miss rather than the contact I have in the past.
“I’m trying to keep as many runners off base and runs off the board as possible,” he added. “If they don’t put the ball in play there is no opportunity to create anything.”
If his strikeout numbers are any indication, Porcello certainly is keeping runners off the base paths.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images