Cubs Quest To Fix The Starting Five


I don’t make a habit out of reporting on rumors and guesses made by reporters on Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge rumor nut and spend way too much time thinking about these rumors that 90% of the time, never happen. But to waste time writing about these rumors usually just sets yourself up for being wrong and waste a whole lot of time.1 But, I’m biting.

It is difficult to pin down exactly where this rumor came from, but it is being reported by many sources now (amazing how it just happens to catch fire like that, isn’t it?).

Now, like I said rumors are rumors and it is pointless to think this is actually even close, probable or possible. But, it allowed me the chance to write on the Cubs and their quest to fix their starting five. They want to get younger and better and moving Carlos Marmol for a young back-end starter like Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers is a fantastic next step. I’m guessing a Marmol for Porcello trade straight up wouldn’t happen (even if the Tigers are in dire need of a closer and the Cubs are looking for young pitching anywhere and everywhere). It would probably take the Cubs throwing in an organizational depth position player or relief pitcher and the Tigers to do the same but on a level below Triple-A. In essence, this would still be Marmol for Porcello.

If Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, the Cubs brain trust, can make this trade a reality, it would be exactly in the sabermetrics vein that they are accustomed to. Rick Porcello is still only 24 years old and has the body, 6′ 5″ 200 lbs, to be an innings eater with #3 upside and #5 floor. Just like the signing of Edwin Jackson, the addition of Rick Porcello is underrated because of his ability to be a consistent innings eater in the rotation. When you don’t have that injury free (impossible to predict) consistency then you get what the Chicago Cubs trotted out to the mound last season. An assortment of Triple-A starters and major league relievers trying to get through 5 innings against hitters they have no business facing.

Why would Porcello be a steal in a trade sending away the enigmatic closer Carlos Marmol? This is a guy that finished last season with a higher than average ERA of 4.59, just a shade above his 4.55 career ERA, and barely strikes out 100 batters a season. He does average about 175 innings a season though, which means he is only missing about 3-4 starts a year. He is the type of pitcher that shows the signs of being underrated though. BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) measures how often a ball that is put into play actually gets down for a recorded hit. The average in the MLB was .297 in 2012 and it almost always hovers around .300. Rick Porcello held a BABIP of .345, almost 50 points higher than the MLB average which means two things, he was extremely unlucky on bloop hits and he plays for a team that has extremely limited range in the field. No surprise for a team in the Tigers that features a 1B at 3B in Miguel Cabrera, an overweight first baseman in Prince Fielder and an outfield with the likes of Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch. Just to add to the BABIP point, Porcello has a “below” average percentage of base on balls with a 5.6 BB% compared to the league average of 8.4 BB%. Finally, Porcello has given up extra base hits on 7.6% of plate appearances over his career, exactly the league average. However, in 2012, Porcello gave up 9.1 XBH%, again likely because of bad luck and terrible range for his defenders.

Take ALL of that into account and combine that with Porcello being only 24 and increasing his fastball velocity to 92.3 MPH last season AND Porcello having a solid SO/BB of 2.43 despite having low strike out totals and being a ground ball pitcher. This is a player primed for a bounce back season if he is put in a situation with defenders that have better range. This may not be the Cubs this season, but it will be when he is contributing to a winning Cubs team, if the trade were to happen.

Remember, this rumor is probably not based in ANY fact except one guy hearing some reporter or front office guy say something about a guy named Carlos, but it is fun to speculate and then we get to take a deep look at a guy like Rick Porcello and who he really is. Feel free to do your own research and see if you think Porcello has the upside that I see or if you disagree. Baseball-reference and Fangraphs are fantastic sites to get a look at some in-depth stats, even if you’re just perusing for enjoyment. So, Theo, can you keep the quest going to get this starting five on the north-side of Chicago younger even though you don’t have any pitching coming up from the farm? Can’t wait to see if Rick Porcello dons the pinstripes or if Theo is able to find other young pitchers in the Porcello mold. Baseball season is upon us and the rumors will fly until opening day on March 31st. Then again until trade deadline day. I can’t wait.

  1. see – Chip Kelly to the Browns 

About the author: Colby Rogers

Colby is the Editor-in-Chief, Founder and Lead Contributor to Other League. Also a law student focusing on Labor & Employment law and intersections with law and sports. You can find him on Twitter via @Colby_OL.