I have Boston right-hander Rick Porcello tabled as a prime bounce back candidate this season after suffering through a disappointing 2015 campaign where he posted a 4.92 ERA. Porcello actually compiled an elite 3.23 xFIP over the second half of last season, while also improving upon his strikeout rate (7.8 K/9).
The 27-year-old was victimized by an unsustainable .332 BABIP, which will likely regress closer to the mean this season. Porcello also posted a career-low 45.7% ground ball rate, and I expect that number to return closer to his historical results of 50.3% in 2010, 51.4% in 2011, 53.2% in 2012, 55.3% in 2013 and 49.0% in 2014.
Porcello is backed by a solid Boston bullpen that owns a 3.38 ERA and 0.98 WHIP this season, including a 3.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP at night. Meanwhile, Toronto sends 41-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the mound, who has become a glorified innings-eater with a declining skill set.
Indeed, Dickey’s 126 strikeouts in 2015 (5.3 K/9) was the lowest total for a pitcher with over 200 innings pitched. And, since being traded to the American League, Dickey’s once-elite ground ball rate has plummeted, from 55.1% in 2010 to 41.9% last year. And, despite being the beneficiary of a favorable BABIP (.257), Dickey still finished 2015 with a 4.48 FIP and 4.72 xFIP.
From a technical standpoint, Toronto is 1-4 in its last five meetings in this series and 2-5 in Dickey’s last seven starts against the Red Sox. The Blue Jays are also a money-burning 6-14 in Dickey’s last 20 American League East starts and 1-5 in their last six road games versus right-handed starters. With Boston standing at 10-4 in Porcello’s last fourteen outings against .499 or worse opposition, take the Red Sox at an excellent price and invest with confidence.
Oskeim Sports’ Free American League Sports Pick: Boston Red Sox (-116)