Game 2012.95: White Sox at Tigers

50-44, 2nd place, .5 games behind CWS.

Wow, what a game last night. Other than a very poorly located 2-0 fastball, Verlander pitched a gem. The most incredible pitch of the night came in the 8th when a 100 mph 0-1 fastball literally sawed Gordon Beckham’s bat in half, on a check swing no less. Last night’s game was just what we expected, and needed, from JV. Valverde had a 1, 2, 3 ninth, but he came perilously close to walking Adam Dunn, and then needed a tremendous diving catch by Berry to get the third out (check out the emotion after the catch; I love it).  Also, all four of the Tigers’ runs came with 2 out, and the Tigers were 6-13 with RISP.

Ricky P takes the ball at 4:05 Eastern with a chance to pitch the Tigers into first place. Most of us would rank Porcello’s season this year as disappointing, perhaps even very disappointing, but I think a closer look at the numbers reveals that he’s actually progressing, and maybe even rapidly so.

First of all, let’s look at his peripherals. His walks per 9 are slightly up, but so are his Ks per 9. His 2.20 K/BB ratio is the best of his career. Also, his HR/9 has come down every year since 2009. His current 4.66 ERA is better than 2010 and 2011, and while his 2009 ERA was 3.96, that was due to a ridiculously low BABIP, as his 4.77 2009 FIP (see below) demonstrates. In most measurable categories, he’s improving.

So now let’s look as his sabermetric numbers. Porcello leads (not in a good way) the majors with a .358 BABIP against (Scherzer is .346 against, 2nd worst in the majors). I think that some of this can be blamed on poor fielding (we’ve discussed how few balls the Tigers infield gets to but know that JVs .238 BABIP is the 2nd best in the majors; Weaver’s is .233; imagine what JV could do with a better fielding infield). But in any event, a lot of BABIP can be attributed to the whimsical nature of chance. 52% of the batted balls against him are ground balls, which is a fantastic number, even for a sinker baller. His FIP (which is ERA without fielding factors) is a respectable 3.81 (which is above his career FIP average), and his SIERA (an even fancier play on ERA) is a career best 4.13. So can the BABIP explain it all? Or is it something else?

Taking a look at his batted ball stats shows that his line drive rate is up to 23.7%, which is almost 30% higher than his career average coming into the season. Batters are squaring up on him like crazy. And to be honest, I can’t figure out why. His velocity is up this year over his career numbers, and his pitch selection is in line with his usual numbers. So unless he’s tipping his pitches, the BABIP is going to regress way down, and Porcello will have an above average, maybe even a fantastic, 2nd half. (And I’d like to take back my prediction that he’s gonna get shelled today; candidly, I had not looked at all the numbers until now. Sorry Ricky P. You’re my boy.)

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Opposing Porcello this afternoon is AL ERA leader Chris Sale. The lefty (RABURN ALERT) is 11-2 with a 2.11 ERA. Over his past 10 starts his ERA is 1.61 and his WHIP is .89. We’re going to need Porcello’s A game and some clutch hits from our righty BOOBs to wake up in 1st place tomorrow. The Tigers did “rough up” sale for 3 runs and 5 hits over 5 innings back on April 15th in his 2nd start of the year.

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– The Tigers are 15-7, and are averaging 5.6 runs per game, since Toby Harrah was brought up to make Lloyd McLendon feel uncomfortable.

We’ll do a trade rumor update manana.

Today’s Ridiculous 2 Hole Lineup:

1. Jackson, CF
2. Raburn, LF
3. Cabrera, 3B
4. Fielder, 1B
5. Young, DH
6. Peralta, SS
7. Boesch, RF
8. Laird, C
9. Worth, 2B