Ask around the water cooler and you will hear many fantasy experts express excitement with the Tigers' Rick Porcello for 2014. I'm not really sure what they are seeing, so I decided to write this Player Profile as much for me as for you. Did I miss something when I looked at Porcello in the offseason? Should he be someone you are targeting late in drafts that could produce a tidy return on your investment this season? Let's see if I can teach myself something.

Outwardly I didn't miss anything (do I ever? So modest), though as we know you have to dig deeper than the first level when breaking down players. Still, the first level shows a lot of similarity to years previous for Porcello.

Here are his yearly win totals: 14, 10, 14, 10 and 13 in 2013.
Nothing to see there.

His ERA must have taken a step forward, right? Well it was his best mark in four years but it still wasn't anything to write home about as it was about half a run worse than the league average. Here are his five seasonal marks: 3.96, 4.92, 4.75, 4.59 and 4.32 in 2013.
Nothing to see here.

His WHIP, that must be what everyone is excited about? Yes and no. Porcello did post the best WHIP of his career in 2013. Unfortunately his WHIP was only a couple of hundredths better than the league average of 1.30. Here are his five seasonal marks: 1.34, 1.39, 1.41, 1.53 and 1.28 in 2013. Some improvement is obviously evident, but nothing special is going on.

OK, please tell me that his K/9 mark grew substantially? Now we're finally talking. Here are his five seasonal marks: 4.69, 4.65, 5.14, 5.46 and 7.22 in 2013. Porcello did show substantial improvement last season, and I will get back to that in a moment. However though, his mark was still below the big league average of 7.57.

To review...

Porcello won 13 games. For his five year career he's averaged 12.2 wins a year.

Porcello had his best ERA in four seasons but his 4.32 ERA was well off the league average (3.86).

Porcello had the best WHIP of his career at 1.28 but that mark was only two hundredths better than the league average.

Porcello vastly outpaced his previous strikeout levels with a 7.22 mark even though that was still off the league average pace of 7.57.

I can get why people would be excited about Porcello if they compared the 2013 version to the man we saw in 2009-12, but the fact is that Porcello was nothing more than a replacement level arm in 2013. Let's move on to some second level analysis.

Porcello did flash the best K-rate of his career which was also augmented by the second best walk rate of his career. Those two numbers allowed him to add a full point to his career 2.37 K/BB ratio in 2013 as he ended the year at 3.38. That's not only a significant improvement, it also left him with an impressive mark. One of the keys to that improvement had to do with the pitches he tossed last season.

Porcello threw his sinking fastball 62 percent of the time in 2013. That was the lowest mark of his career (his career average is 68 percent).

Porcello threw his slider 6.3 percent of the time, less than half of his norm (13 percent).  ​

Porcello threw his change up 15.5 percent of the time, a career-high (career 12.2 percent).

The biggest change for Porcello though was his use of the curve ball that went from 6.7 for his career all the way up to 16.5 percent in 2013. That represented a major change in his approach. As I noted above the changes led to career bests in K/9 and K/BB, so the change seemed to work. The change in deployment of his pitches also led to a the best swing and miss mark of his career as 80.7 percent of swings that batters took actually made contact was a career best mark (his 8.6 percent swinging strike percentage was also a career best).

Another positive with all the changes he made in 2013 was that he held on to his significant ground ball rate. In fact, his 55.3 percent ground ball rate was his best mark of his career and it was the 3rd best mark in baseball in 2013 (Justin Masterson at 58 percent and A.J. Burnett at 56.5 were the only two who were better).

All of this is impressive for Porcello. There is no debating that he showed significant improvement in 2013 and that he's in line to have his best season in 2014. But what does that mean for his fantasy value? I'm interested in Porcello, but I'm not going to reach thinking some breakout effort is coming. We're still talking about a league average type starting in all four of the fantasy categories for starting pitchers in the fantasy game. If you want to target him as your 5/6 starter in a mixed league then have at it. At the same time, is there really going to be much difference between Porcello and guys like Wade Miley, Bronson Arroyo and Ricky Nolasco? Not likely. Give Porcello credit for the significant improvement he flashed but realize even with that step up in his game that his fantasy outlook hasn't improved that much from where it was prior to last season.

Searching for answers for the 2014 fantasy baseball season? Turn to a trusted source to enlighten you – Fantasy Alarm – and pick up your very own copy of the 2014 Fantasy Alarm Baseball Draft Guide. After reading the 200 pages of information you will be ready to dominate the competition in the coming season on your way to a fantasy baseball championship.

By Ray Flowers




Comments

RayFlowers 

Steve20 - You can look at 4-5 starts, but I usually try to take a holistic look.That's why 30+ outings are more reasonable for me to asses.

Steve 

I heard on a certain SiriusXM show this morning that his overall 2013 numbers were inflated due to some very poor early outings. Did you find that to be the case?


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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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