Porcello Pitching Like an Ace

April baseball is always full of surprises, good and bad. David Price turning into a very expensive pumpkin? Beyond bad. Rick Porcello pitching like an ace? Completely and utterly fantastic.

When the Red Sox signed Price to a seven-year, $217 million contract last winter, they gotRick Porcello Pitching like an ace one of baseball’s finest pitchers in return. In a rotation without a clear number one starter, he immediately became Boston’s undisputed ace.

Over the first month of the season, however, Price has been anything but. After getting knocked around again on Sunday, his ERA now stands at an unsightly 6.14—surely not what the Red Sox were hoping for when they made Price the “richest pitcher in baseball history” according to the Lowell Sun.

With Price scuffling, another pitcher has stepped in to lead Boston’s rotation. Enter Rick Porcello, Price’s former teammate in Detroit who now finds himself flanking the 2012 AL Cy Young winner yet again.

Only this time, the roles are reversed. Porcello has asserted himself as Boston’s top starter in his second year with the club while Price is still finding his groove..

Porcello was one of the American League’s best pitchers in April, winning all five of his starts while compiling a 2.76 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 6.00 K/B ratio. He completed at least six innings each time out, saving Boston’s battered bullpen in the process. More importantly, he was lights-out, holding opponents scoreless in In two of his outings and two-hitting the Blue Jays in a third.

Porcello pitching like an ace extends farther back than April, however. Porcello was arguably Boston’s best pitcher in the second half last year, posting a 3.49 ERA after Independence Day. He was even better down the stretch with a 3.14 ERA over his final eight starts.

Is Porcello Pitching the Best Games of His Career?

Between those last eight starts of 2015 and his first five of ’16, Porcello has put together the best run of his career. He’s the only pitcher in baseball to log at least six innings in each of his past 13 starts, over which he’s sported a 3.00 ERA and 5.47 K/BB ratio. Since coming off the Disabled List in late August, Porcello has looked like a completely different pitcher, striking out more than a batter per inning after averaging just 5.5 K/9 in his six seasons with Detroit.

Once a ground-baller who rarely struck anyone out, Porcello’s now a whiff-machine. He’s gone from middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater to staff ace almost overnight–a truly stunning transformation. He’s relying on his sinker again after getting away from it in the early part of 2015, mixing it with nasty change-ups and cutters. The result has been a whole new pitcher; Rick Porcello 2.0.

Of course, Porcello pitching like an ace for a month doesn’t mean he’s supplanted Price, at least not yet. Price is still the ace because he’s been one in the past and is getting paid like one, though that could change if both keep pitching as they have in April. Price has been snake-bitten early on and will likely surpass his rotation-mate before long, but Porcello should be a strong number-two going forward.

That’s what the Red Sox were hoping for when they signed him to that $82.5 million extension, wasn’t it?

Weak Red Sox Pitching Is All Too Familair

I took my friend Justin to his very first Red Sox game last Thursday where he saw David Price take on the Tampa Bay Rays. I told him that weak Red Sox pitching was no longer a problem since we signed Price last year, but as the game progressed into the third inning, Justin looked at me and rolled his eyes as we watched the Red Sox give up run after run. Weak Red Sox PitchingI rolled my eyes too as I started having flashbacks to last season.

Like many in the Red Sox nation, I was excited when we signed David Price. The 5-time all-star and 2012 Cy Young Award Winner was exactly the pitcher the Red Sox needed after a dismal 2015 season that saw a 4.31 collective ERA from the pitching staff. But Price’s meltdown against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 21st is making many in the Red Sox Nation think twice about whether the money he’s being paid ($217 million) is worth it.

The true panic set in Thursday afternoon when the Red Sox ace gave up eight runs in 3 and 2/3rd innings, a career high for Price. Even Tampa Bay’s Curt Casali, who went into the three-game series with a .198 lifetime batting average, hit three home runs in eight at-bats with a .625 batting average against the Red Sox, including one off of Price on Thursday. No one, however, was harder on David Price than himself. Price even posted the following on Twitter after the game: “Tough day yesterday but I WILL get better!! Stick with me #soxnation I’m determined to make all of you love me!! Price will have to work hard to bring his current ERA of 7.06 down to a more respectable level.

Weak Red Sox pitching has accounted for many of its losses this season. While Clay Buchholz pitched a solid game against Toronto on Patriot’s Day, he was in pieces against Baltimore on April 12, giving up 5 runs in 5 innings. Joe Kelly went on the DL after throwing a few pitches against Tampa Bay on April 19th, and Eduardo Rodriguez, who showed amazing skill as a rookie last year, is still on the DL and isn’t expected to return until May at the earliest.

While the Red Sox bats are starting to heat up, the pitching staff has to step it up to keep the opposition at bay or risk falling back into the cellar of the American League for a third straight year.