Rick Porcello is one of those guys whose ERA estimators (xFIP, SIERA) are always lower than his actual ERA. Prior to 2013, no one really cared because his estimators were basically 4.00 or higher. But last year his estimators fell dramatically; his xFIP was 3.19 and his SIERA was 3.39 while his ERA was 4.32. This presents a couple of questions. First, what caused the drop in xFIP/SIERA? Is it sustainable? If so, is it possible his ERA follows the same downward trend that his estimators did?
The first question, what caused the drop in his xFIP/SIERA, is pretty easy to answer. SIERA is primarily calculated with strikeout rate, walk rate and ground ball rate. xFIP is primarily calculated with the three true outcomes, strikeouts, walks and home runs. Porcello’s walk rate and ground ball rate have been consistently above average. In the last four years the league average walk rate ranged from 7.4% to 8%, and Porcello’s walk rate in that span was 5.7%. The league average ground ball rate ranged from 44.4% to 45.1%, and Porcello’s ground ball rate was 52.5%. It was his paltry strikeout rate that was holding his estimators back. From 2010-2012, the league average strikeout rate ranged from 17.6% to 18.7%, and Porcello’s strikeout rate was only 13%. But Porcello’s strikeout rate spiked up to 19.3% last year, and his ground ball and walk rates remained above average.
So is his improved strikeout rate, and by extension are his ERA estimators, sustainable? If so, I would expect to see something like a change in his pitch mix or a spike in velocity. And I’d also like to see his strikeout rate improve, or at least remain above average, later in the year. Read the rest of this entry »