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?

Boston Red Sox Should Be Happy the Month of May Is Over

The Boston Red Sox offense and pitching staff should be glad the second month of the regular season is over. With a dreadful 1-6 road trip to cap off the month— thanks in big part to an error by third baseman Pablo Sandoval to start the inning— they blew a 4-3 lead in the ninth on Sunday against the Texas Rangers.

The team finished with a 10-19 record in their 29 games. The pitching staff finished withBoston Red Sox a cumulative ERA of 4.12, which ranked tied for 21st in all of MLB with the Miami Marlins. The starters rank dead last in the majors with a 5.05 ERA and a 15-23 record through 51 games. The relievers are pretty respectable with a 3.50 ERA, which is 15th in MLB and 7th in the American League. The bullpen, however, blew three of nine save opportunities in the month of May and really had trouble in those close games in the past 30 days.

The offense really let the team down in May with only 2.8 runs per game during the 29-game stretch. The 82 run record puts them last in all of baseball, including fewer runs than the Philadelphia Phillies (94), New York Mets (95) and even the Miami Marlins (97). The team hit .237 for the month, which is the 7th worst average in the majors for the month and 3rd worst in the AL.

The hitting with runners in scoring position has been no better as the team is 2nd worst in the American League while hitting with a .221 clip in those situations. The team is 4th worst overall with runners on second and/or third. The month of May saw games where the Red Sox could not sniff a hit with RISP and it has nearly cost them the season. Luckily, the team is in the AL East and, with 111 games to go, only trails the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays by four games.

The strange thing about all these offensive struggles has been the lack of strikeouts the opponent’s have been piling up. In 51 games, the Red Sox are the second hardest team to strikeout with 327 total strikeouts, which averages out to about 6.4 each contest; the only team lower is the Kansas City Royals with 278.

What this stat tells me is that the Red Sox are running into a lot of outs by swinging early in the count, especially with a league-low .267 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). In comparison with the number above, the Royals’ BABIP ranks fourth with a .315.

If the Red Sox hope to even think about contending this season, then the team needs to start scoring runs when the pitchers keep them in games by hitting with runners in scoring position and making sure to get productive outs. It all starts with the months changing and a little home cooking in June as the team plays 15 of its 28 games at Fenway Park this month.