Buy ‘Em or Dent ‘Em: Will Michael Wacha or Rick Porcello Rebound In New York?

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The Mets had been looking for starting pitching depth and they addressed that at the winter meetings, adding both Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha on one-year contracts.  Whether or not they will both be in the rotation this season remains to be seen, and you can argue if they even have enough upside to make them worth considering.  Who is the “better” option?  Are either of them worth targeting?  Let’s take a look:

Rick Porcello

Porcello brings innings (he’s thrown at least 162.2 innings every year since debuting in 2009) and control (2.09 career BB/9), but those two things don’t necessarily mean strong results.  He’s posted a 4.28 ERA or higher in four of the past five seasons, including a 5.52 in ’19, as he struggled with strikeouts (7.38 K/9) and home runs (1.60 HR/9 in ’19, 1.68 in ’17).  Once an elite groundball artist, that feels like a lifetime ago as he posted a 38.1% groundball rate in ’19 (45.7% or lower every year since 2015).

Moving from the American League to the National League should help, as he’ll get out of the AL East and regularly face less explosive lineups without the DH.  The move from Fenway Park to CitiField won’t hurt either, given these home ERA the past few years:

  • 2017 – 5.43
  • 2018 – 4.77
  • 2019 – 5.74

He needs to hope that the new locale helps to keep the ball in the ballpark, at least marginally, and even with the shift in leagues it’s not like he owns a signature swing and miss pitch (11.82% Whiff% on his slider was his best strikeout pitch last season).  There’s some value in hoping for a rebound, and for the back of your rotation he’s not a throwaway pick.  At the same time he is never going to be among the elite.

Michael Wacha

Injuries plagued him in 2019, and when you start looking at the underlying skills there’s reason to believe that he has the better chance of figuring things out:

  • 48.0% groundball rate (yet a 1.85 HR/9)
  • 3.33 BB/9 or better over the final four months (2.86 in the second half)
  • 22.07% Whiff% on his changeup gives him a true swing and miss pitch

He may never be an elite strikeout pitcher, but fewer walks and groundballs (both of which are to be expected) should lead to better results.  Wacha should be better than a 4.76 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, and even at a 7.50 K/9 he would hold value.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see what the Mets do with their rotation, with seemingly four options being locked in before these signings:

  1. Jacob deGrom
  2. Noah Syndergaard
  3. Marcus Stroman
  4. Steven Matz

Given the size of the guarantees it would appear that Porcello should be given the first shot, perhaps with Wacha and Matz fighting for the fifth starters role.  Injuries happen, though, and there’s always the potential for a trade.  Regardless, if you are going to be targeting one of the two Wacha appears to be the option with the higher upside of the two assuming he finds his way into the rotation.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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