Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor

Photo credit: Kelly O’Connor

Rick Porcello was coming off the best season of his career when the Red Sox acquired him from the Detroit Tigers in December of last year. With a less-than-stellar pitching market, Boston used Yoenis Cespedes — the spoils of the Jon Lester trade — to bring the young, but experienced, 25-year old into the fold.

Porcello was undoubtedly part of the 2015 Red Sox product, but the team took his tenure in Boston a step further when they inked the New Jersey native to a 4-year, $86.5 million contract. Before Porcello even through a pitch in a Red Sox uniform, his $20 million annual average salary was the 14th highest for a starting pitcher in MLB history.

At the time, nearly all of Porcello’s stats suggested that he was a front of the rotation starter in the making. He was never expected — or at least shouldn’t have been expected — to replace Jon Lester, but help supplement the loss together with Clay Buchholz. Out of all of the additions to the Red Sox stripped down and rebuilt rotation, Porcello looked to be a pitcher that could add some stability to Boston’s questionable staff.

So far, however, Porcello has not come as advertised. We have yet to see the budding top tier starter that we thought the team was adding, but instead, a speed bump in a rotation that’s otherwise leveling off. Porcello’s rapidly declining ERA, which has dropped from 4.92 to 3.43 over the past 5 years, is currently at a career worst 5.26. Likewise, his fielding independent pitching presently grades at a career wost 4.25.

Perhaps the most glaring decline in Porcello’s performance are his batted ball numbers. Porcello came to Boston touting a career ground ball percentage of 52% and a strike out per nine of 5.4. But this season the right-hander has flip-flopped those career tendencies, resulting in a career low 43% ground ball rating and a career high 7.17 K/9. Subsequently, Porcello has watched his fly ball percentage balloon to a 36.6%; about nine points above his career norm. As a residual effect, Porcello has already allowed 11 home runs this season — just seven less than his 2014 and 2013 total of 18.

At just 27-years old, there’s obviously still time for Porcello to figure things out and be the starter the Red Sox invested a truck load of cash in. In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to put a label on Porcello after just 12 starts; especially when you consider that he took 180 trips to the mound prior to joining Boston. Porcello has a history of succeeding when he uses a formula that works, which for him means keeping the ball on the ground. Such a formula is something new pitching coach Carl Willis should be helping him get back to.

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