Mensching: Not likely Porcello would have helped sad Tigers

Kurt Mensching
Special to The Detroit News
Rick Porcello

If you're looking at yet another Tigers starting pitcher getting shelled and thinking it might be nice to have Rick Porcello in the rotation still, think again.

While it might be nice to be able to press the "undo" button on a trade in the past year, that's not the one you want to use it on. Things may not be pretty for Detroit, but their former sinkerballer isn't exactly prospering since being traded to Boston for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and reliever Alex Wilson last December.

Porcello has struggled through an up-and-down year for the Red Sox with more down than up. The result: a 5.79 ERA and 5-10 record through his first 18 starts. If he were to finish the season at that mark it would be the worst ERA he's posted in his career.

It's made all the worse when you consider that pitchers have actually been getting the better of hitters a little bit more each year. Porcello's ERA-minus -- a stat that adjusts a pitcher's ERA for league and ballpark differences, with 100 set as average (lower is better) -- is 145, per Fangraphs. That shows he's 45 percent worse than average.

And yes, that, too, is the worst of his career. Still, in the five-and-a-half seasons since his rookie year, he's only rated better than average once -- last year.

Yet again Porcello's peripheral stats tell you he should be better than the results he's getting. His fielding independent pitching (FIP) stat of 4.62 is more than a run better than his results, an old theme with Porcello. His strikeout rate climbed this year while he held the number of walks allowed steady. The real problem has been keeping the ball in the park.

In terms of wins above replacement (WAR), Porcello is on pace for a career worst with 0.2, per Fangraphs.

And oh, by the way, he signed an extension before even throwing a pitch for the Red Sox. It'll pay him more than $20 million per season for each of the next four years.

It might be too early to write Porcello off, but that's certainly not a deal that looks good for Boston in retrospect.

Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes, meanwhile, has put together a near All-Star-worthy season in Detroit. The Tigers are failing in the standings, but blame can't be placed on their 26-year-old left fielder, who has been worth 3.1 WAR to the Tigers.

Cespedes has put forth better-than-average numbers in hitting, baserunning and fielding so far this season.

His batting average has rebounded to a healthy .292 and he's getting on base at a .317 clip. That OBP is a little lower than average, but better than he's done the past two seasons.

He's hitting more line drives, and his isolated power -- the number of extra bases per hit -- has improved to .195, trailing only Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez in Detroit.

His weighted runs created (wRC) stat is 120, per Fangraphs, on a scale that sets 100 at average. So he's 20-percent better than average. Again, he trails only Cabrera and Martinez on the Tigers in that.

Cespedes also has also saved eight runs more than an average left fielder, per Baseball Info Solutions' defensive runs saved (DRS) stat.

Now add in the fact that Alex Wilson, with an ERA of 2.03 in 49 innings of relief work, is one of the few reliable Tigers bullpen members, and you've got a real lopsided deal in Detroit's favor.

Whatever you think of Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski's team building, you have to give him credit for the trades he has managed to pull off.

Dealing Porcello for Cespedes is one that goes in the win column.

But with his team falling out of contention, what can he get for Cespedes? That remains to be seen.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog ( He can be reached at