Rick Porcello

Rick Porcello and his 4-seam fastball conundrum

Rob Bradford
April 24, 2015 - 9:40 am

There's a few things Rick Porcello would have done differently in his last start, a five-inning, 12-hit, eight-run outing against the Orioles last Sunday. The list was made almost immediately made after the loss. And at the top of it -- stop going away from his bread and butter, the two-seam, sinking fastball. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Porcello only threw his go-to pitch 20 times, relying more on his cutter (30), changeup (16) and curveball (18). Compare that to the 62 sinkers he threw in his first game as a Red Sox. And then there was the four-seamer. Porcello has broken out the rising fastball at a much higher rate than usual, partially explaining his uptick in strikeouts (7.58 per nine innings) and home runs allowed (5 in 19 innings). "I used it a lot to lefties. I think it'€™s one of those things where it'€™s a useful pitch but I'€™m not getting too far away from my identity as a pitcher, getting ground balls and being a sinkerballer," he explained. So, why did he feel the need to start relying on the four-seamer on a more regular basis? "I started throwing it last year just to get guys off my sinker. There'€™s one of two reasons I'€™ll throw it," Porcello said. "If I'€™m going to throw a fastball and I don'€™t want it to run back out over the middle of the plate to a right-handed hitter, or I don'€™t want a left-handed hitter to see my sinker I'€™ll use my four-seamer and then I still have my sinker, which they haven'€™t seen yet. Then it can be effective to throw a four-seamer and a sinker right after because they'€™re tracking the first one and it'€™s staying true, and then the next one isn'€™t. That is one reason to use it is to elevate in the strike zone, which is more effective to left-handed hitters. Some of the slap guys have a bat path where they stay on sinkers pretty well where a four-seam fastball kind of plays above the barrel. That'€™s the reasoning for it." Judging by Porcello's comments throughout the week, in terms of pitch selection, Friday night might look a whole lot more like that first game in Philadelphia then what the Orioles faced at Fenway Park. "There's a balance and there'€™s a fine line between throwing it the right amount and throwing it too much, you can get away from what I do best and what my strength is, which is throwing the sinker," Porcello noted. "The thing is I have the ability to throw a good four-seamer and generate some swings and misses. It'€™s just a matter of picking the right spots."