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World Series: What To Expect From Rick Porcello

Dodgers
Oct 14, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello (22) reacts after striking out Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (1) during the eighth inning in game two of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Cora announced Wednesday evening that right-hander Rick Porcello would get the ball for the Red Sox in game 3 as the series shifts out west to Dodger Stadium. With Sale and Price locked as starters for both game one and two, games three and four were still a question mark for manager Alex Cora prior to game two.

The Red Sox starting pitching and bullpen management is not at all similar to the ways of the Brewers. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell played his hand perfectly in game 5 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium, forcing Roberts’ heavy righty lineup. The difference between the Brewers and the Red Sox is that Boston relies heavily on their starting pitching to give them a quality outing. Meaning at least 5 or 6 innings.

In the first two games of the World Series in Boston, Dave Roberts resorted to a lineup that consisted only of right-handed hitters. The Dodgers and Roberts are the only team in World Series history to do so. The Dodgers lineup forced Sale to work and got him out of the game before he could record an out in the 5th. Eight hits and four runs just weren’t enough.

Nathan Eovaldi was the setup man in game one, and quickly rolled through Kemp, Hernandez, and Puig in the 8th. The following night, in a close game, Eovaldi grabs the ball for the Sox in the 8th inning in a 4-2 ball game. Bellinger, Turner, and Pederson, all power guys, were set down in order. Now that Eovaldi had thrown back-to-back nights, the Red Sox were pretty much forced to turn to Porcello for the big game 3 in Los Angeles.

Challenges for Porcello

As most of us are expecting, Dave Roberts will add Pederson, Muncy, and possibly Bellinger in the starting lineup for game 3. Just as we’ve seen all year, the Dodgers have relied on the long ball. Muncy, Bellinger, and Pederson are the leaders in home runs for the Dodgers, in that order. Of course, Muncy leading the pack with his team-best 35 long balls. Another big factor for Muncy is his decision making and patience at the plate. He drew 79 walks this season that led to a team high .973 OPS.

Bellinger is known to chase pitches outside the zone from time to time, so Porcello knows he can be confident in his pitch choice when he’s ahead in the count. Bellinger had a rough time in both games one and two on the fastball up and in. The same could also go for Joc, although he has shown sides of discipline at the plate in 2018. Joc Pederson, to me, has always had that “swing for the fence” type of swing. So early on in his career, even this season, he struggled to work the count. He was eager to get a hold of one and resulted in an unfortunate out.

An average this season, Porcello throws his fastball about half of the time, which is pretty much average for most starting pitchers. As you can see, his fastball sits around 90 MPH, so there’s most likely some time of movement to it. This is where Porcello could find trouble, if his fastball flattens out over the middle of the plate, these Dodger bats won’t think twice about jumping on that pitch.

Due to this part of the series being played in a National League ballpark, the pitchers are forced to use the bat. When the bottom third comes up, whether it be guys like Puig, Barnes, or Taylor, it is vital for them to reach base any way possible. The same goes for the Red Sox. Having a guy on first or second with less than two outs, the pitcher coming up will look to bunt.

Season Handedness IP ERA TBF H 2B 3B R ER HR BB IBB HBP SO AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2018 vs L 90.1 – – – 384 84 14 3 46 43 15 25 0 5 96 .237 .299 .428 .313
2018 vs R 101.0 – – – 424 93 15 0 51 48 12 23 0 11 94 .239 .300 .372 .295

Manny Machado and Justin Turner are two of the more consistent and dangerous hitters in the Dodgers lineup. Porcello’s numbers are pretty similar this year when comparing facing RHB/LHB. A .237 average for lefties and a .239 average for righties when battling Porcello at the plate. Porcello is consistent for the most part and won’t cheat himself. He won’t lose counts very often and the long balls are held to a minimum. If anyone has the advantage here, it’s the left-handed batters. Porcello has allowed 3 more home runs to lefties compared to righties.

Porcello’s Arsenal

Just as the Boston offense has done all year, they have taken advantage with two strikes. The opposing pitcher believes his 0-2 feels good, but nothing will phase these big bats. The Dodgers must do the same with Porcello. The Dodgers did a great job with Chris Sale in Game one, forcing more than 90 pitches in just four innings. Patience is important. These 5 and 6 pitch walks go a long way in these series.

FB% SL% CB% CH%
50% (90.4) 24.3% (86.0) 14% (74.8) 11.7% (81.5)

Porcello doesn’t have much of anything special, a basic four-seam in the low 90’s and a slider that he resorts to nearly a quarter of the time. Porcello has yet to get through the 6th inning this postseason. If Porcello gives Alex Cora 5 innings of one or two run baseball, then he’s done his job. Cora knows that his bullpen will be reliable for the most part. I am assuming Nathan Eovaldi won’t be available for game 3 because he might be tabbed as the game 4 starter on Saturday night. Eovaldi appeared in both games this series, shutting down all six Dodger bats he faced.

Over 30% of the time, a batter will swing at a pitch outside of the zone from Porcello. This graph of pitch type shows Porcello’s pitch type and how often he is throwing that certain pitch. Similar to the slider, Porcello leans towards throwing his sinkerball as well. His sinker could also be used as a replacement for the changeup. The sinker can be thrown harder and with much more of a drop on it.

Look for Porcello to both his Slider and Sinker when he gets ahead in the count. The fastball won’t be used as of often in those situations due to the lack of velocity. When facing guys like Grandal, Muncy, and Chris Taylor, Rick Porcello will have a field day with his breaking pitches. As long as he keeps the ball off the plate, he has a great chance at forcing those guys to chase, and he knows that.

Round-Up

The two southpaws in the first two games in Boston were nothing short of exceptional. The Dodger bats did everything in their power to get them out of the game and scratched just four runs in game one and a mere two runs in game two. The Dodgers know just as well as anyone that two runs or even four runs won’t cut it against this high-powered Red Sox offense.

The young phenom Walker Buehler will toe the rubber for the Dodgers in game 3. His pitch decision making means so much because this Red Sox team has shown that not only can they hit with two strikes, but with two outs as well. Muncy, Joc, and Bellinger have the chance to throw their blows facing the experienced vet in Porcello.

Stay patient and force Porcello to work. He will only be as patient and discipline as the Dodgers are. Force him to play your game.

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Written by Tyler Hawk

Currently living in Central California. Life-long Dodgers and Chargers fan.

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