Pitcher Preview: Rick Porcello vs Mike Pelfrey

Al Messerschmidt

The Tigers seemingly have a glut of starting pitching. Porcello has been the subject of trade rumors over the last few months.

There is an impression that Detroit's 24-year old right hander 20-YEAR OLD PHENOM didn't live up to expectations in 2012. While that's certainly true in certain aspects (4.59 ERA, lackluster strikeout rate of 13.7%, .310/.353/.455 triple slash), Rick Porcello still had his most valuable season to date. Just 22% of balls in play were fly balls, his command is good (5.6% walk rate), and at the end of the season he was worth 2.9 wins above replacement. That placed him fourth among Tigers starters in 2012, behind Justin Verlander (7.0), Max Scherzer (4.5), and Doug Fister (3.5)

In Minnesota Porcello would have been number one. But no point rubbing salt in old wounds.

Looking at Porcello's history, his slider had been one of his more effective pitches before becoming worthless (for all intents and purposes) in 2012. Pitch values will fluxtuate from season to season, but whether you look at FanGraphs own value or the value via Pitchfx the story is the same: that slider sucked.

One of Porcello's biggest issues in being a consistent pitcher last season was his lack of success against left-handed hitters. While he managed to keep righties under control (.322 OBA, .403 SLG), lefties roughed him up (.388 OBA, .503 SLG).

For the Twins, our own Mike Pelfrey might be a bigger mystery than the guy toeing the rubber for Detroit. The guy had Tommy John surgery less than 12 months ago and is somehow taking the hill as one of our rotation. We don't need to look outside of the organization to see how this stacks up against the norm. Joe Nathan tried to come back roughly one year after undergoing surgery, but was so terrible he lost the starter's job and even hit the disabled list before coming back in June and at least resembling a shadow of his former self. Kyle Gibson might be a bit closer to Pelfrey's timetable but also had the luxury of working himself back through the minor leagues, where the pressure was more personal than professional. Scott Baker missed all of 2012 and won't be back to the majors for the Cubs for a couple of months.

That's the real question, for me: how is Pelfrey going to stay healthy? Ignoring the results of his spring training, he looked rough. At times he had trouble locating his fastball, much less his off-speed stuff. And if you don't ignore the results, then you'll notice he was basically allowing two base runners per inning.

This afternoon there is one thing I'll be watching for Pelfrey: location. How far and how often does Joe Mauer's glove (or Ryan Doumit's, since I'm not sure who's starting) have to really jump in order to find the pitch? How flat are his breaking balls?

That's it for now. I'll see you for the game thread in a little bit.

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