Rick Porcello and Rick O'Connell, forever linked by the Spear of Osiris. What am I talking about? Why am I so obsessed with paralleling film and sport? Don't ask questions to which the answer is...well, pointless. Just bear with me.
Rick O'Connell, of course, is the protagonist of The Mummy franchise. Rick Porcello, on the other hand, is the lead actor in this year's offseason for the Detroit Tigers. What Rick Porcello really is, is another matter entirely. Rick Porcello is the Spear of Osiris.
All through The Mummy Returns, Rick and his group are in possession of a random, golden scepter for which its purpose is largely unknown. Other than the fact that it's made of solid gold, a point Jonathan goes through great lengths to point out, it's true purpose is a complete mystery and is, for the most part, completely overlooked and ignored.
It's true power? Nothing big really, other than being the Spear of Osiris and the only weapon capable of destroying Dwyane "The Rock" Johnson's CGI-cousin, the Scorpion King.
The point is, the Tigers also do not realize what they truly have in Rick Porcello. Is he a shiny, golden scepter with more of a superficial purpose than practical use, or is he the key to everything?
Personally, I think he's the key to unlocking a World Series for the Detroit Tigers, and here's why:
HOW TO GET THE BEST VALUE FOR RICK PORCELLO
I just wrote an article about how I think the Tigers should hang on to Porcello and not be too eager to bypass his potential, but like the great Jim Moriarty, "I'm sooooo changeable!"
One of many flaws, in fact. But, let me explain why I've changed my tune: I'm all on board with defense. I only want Porcello gone if it signals a complete overhaul of the middle infield. Over the past two seasons, Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante have a combined 11 defensive runs saved (DRS).
For the uninitiated, DRS is a new sabremetric stat which encompasses a player's all-around defensive value. It is the best stat in determining a player's TRUE value on defense. Eleven runs over two seasons? For two players?
For comparison's sake, a "great" defender saves between eight-10 runs with his defense per season, while a Gold Glover is more in the range of 15 plus. Obviously, the performances of Peralta and Infante leave a lot of room for improvement.
It’s important not to let other, particular Sabermetric stats convince you that Jhonny Peralta is a stellar defensive player. Take, for example, ultimate zone rating (UZR) and revised zone rating (RZR). RZR can be simplified as the amount of balls hit into a player’s zone that are converted into outs by the player.
Peralta leads the league in this category, at .850, but all this really says is that he converts balls hit into his zone. It doesn’t take into account that his zone is very small and typically, does not get to many balls.
The out of zone plays made (OOZ) stat further details his athletic struggles. Peralta, since 2011, has 104 plays made outside of his zone (a zone is basically a representation of a particular player’s range at his position), whereas an elite defender like JJ Hardy has made 159 out of zone plays.
To simplify, Jhonny Peralta is the Denzel Washington of shortstops: He’s great at what he does, that basic role he is so accustomed to doing, but once he’s asked to extend beyond his comfort zone he rarely accepts the challenge, nor does he succeed. Jhonny Peralta ranging to his right, deep behind third base on a dive, and throwing a rope to first for the out is the equivalent of Denzel Washington playing the role of weak-willed subservient with a possible accent from anywhere. It's just not in his repertoire.
How do the Tigers improve? Speak of the Devil, introducing JJ Hardy. Hardy, since 2011, has saved 26 runs defensively, compared to Peralta’s one.
Hardy also bring a good balance of offense and defense as he consistently puts up 20-30 HRs, albeit without stellar averages, typically in the .260 range. Lots of pop and great defense will be just what the Tigers need.
Trade Proposal: Rick Porcello to the Orioles for JJ Hardy, straight swap.
FINISH OFF THE DEFENSIVE MAKEOVER
As I stated at the beginning, I’m only in favor of moving Porcello if it represents a culture change on the defensive side. Adding JJ Hardy isn’t enough.
Success in baseball is very dependent upon having a strong backbone, being rock-solid up the middle. Alex Avila, JJ Hardy, Omar Infante, and Austin Jackson is good, but the Tigers need to make it better. Insert, Brendan Ryan from the Mariners.
I’ve documented that Peralta and Infante have combined to save only 11 runs defensive over the past two seasons.
Hardy and Ryan? 71. That’s a difference of 60 runs saved over two seasons. That’s a devouring number. Ryan also has converted 155 out of zone balls into outs, very similar to Hardy’s 159.
Unfortunately, Ryan batted below .200 last season, but this level of defense is undeniable. Ryan’s hollow bat will be more than covered in what will be a terrifying lineup with the return of Victor Martinez and the addition of Torii Hunter. One weak spot will hardly derail this train.
All the Tigers would need to do is place Cabrera and Fielder a bit closer to the lines in order to defend against doubles and triples, and let the tandem of Hardy and Ryan clean up everything else. Creating a backbone with these four players would give the Tigers the strongest defense up the middle in the league.
DISREGARD OUTFIELD PLATOON ADDITION, FOCUS ON LEFTY SPECIALIST
Is it really not that obvious that Avisail Garcia will be called up once again this September? Why are there all these rumors about adding a right-handed bat to platoon with Andy Dirks in the outfield, when that player will become useless upon Garcia’s call-up? The Tigers should not be wasting resources on an obsolete addition.
What should they be doing? Lefty specialist out of the bullpen. Notice how I didn’t say a LHP out of the pen. Right handers can neutralize left-handed hitters just as effectively, if they are the proper type of pitcher.
If Porcello is shipped, Smyly will assume the fifth starter role, leaving an empty spot in the pen.
Ideal addition? Eric O’Flaherty. But, seeing as how he recently put up the only season in MLB history with at least 70 appearances and an ERA below 1.00 I don’t think the Braves will be eager to ship him off.
But, obviously, there are other options. Ernesto Frieri of the Angels, Alberto Cabrera of the Cubs, and Joel Hanrahan of the Pirates are all RHP who held lefties to a BAA below .140. Those are stellar numbers.
Hanrahan will take the most to acquire, and I’ve heard the Tigers aren’t interested in him. Cabrera would require the least amount of compensation but could provide the biggest boost.
My personal choice? Re-acquire Charlie Furbush. I know, I know, how gross is trading back for a player you dealt only two seasons ago?
It's like going back to that girl who cheated on you because you know you just will never do any better. It's a kick in the groin. But, in sports, you have to have short-term memory loss. Put your pride aside, make like Leonard Shelby without the tattoos, and sack up.
Furbush allowed only 14 total bases to LH hitters while maintaining a .147 BAA. His ERA against lefties was 0.79. Bring. Him. Back.
Trade Proposal: Jhonny Peralta, Brennan Boesch, and Casey Crosby to the Mariners for Brendan Ryan and Charlie Furbush.
WHAT IT LEAVES
Even if the Tigers don't add a lefty to the bullpen, that addition may still come from inside the clubhouse. Adam Wilk shined in his final 10 starts at AAA Toledo last season, posting a 1.71 ERA with about one K per inning.
He's reportedly added a lot of polish to his breaking ball and may even challenge Smyly for that last spot in the rotation this spring. He'll likely lose out, but I think he'll be ready for a bullpen role and should be given a shot to do so.
Omar Infante remains the odd-man out, with Jeff Kobernus ready to assume the utility man role, and he could be used to fetch a prospect. Plenty of teams are looking for productive second baseman.
In the end, I doubt the true meaning of Rick Porcello's value to the Tigers is written on a wall in hieroglyphics somewhere, but Detroit will be wise to maximize Porcello's value and use him to begin an overhaul on the defensive side of the ball.
Pitching and defense wins championships, and these moves would make the Tigers the most well-rounded team in baseball.