Has Rick Porcello turned a corner?

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Rick Porcello had to battle just to keep his rotation spot this spring, but he’s currently showing some signs of a breakthrough.

Porcello allowed three hits and no walks over seven scoreless innings last night in a 3-0 victory over the Twins. While he still holds a mediocre 4.37 ERA for the year, he has a 2.84 ERA and 56/10 K/BB ratio in 57 innings over his last nine starts.

As Neil Weinberg of New English D points out, Porcello’s success goes well beyond ERA. The 24-year-old currently has career-bests in strikeout rate (7.59 K/9), walk rate (1.59 BB/9) and ground ball rate (56 percent). It makes for a pretty valuable combination.

He’s striking out more than 7 batters per 9, walking fewer than 2 batters per 9 and has a groundball rate above 50%. From 2000-2012, here is the list of pitchers who have finished a season with that mix: Halladay (4x), Carpenter (3x), and Hamels (1x). In 2013, the pitchers on that list are Felix Hernandez, Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello. That is some excellent company.

If we push the limits farther, to 7.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and 55% GB (which Porcello has) the list of pitchers since 2000 to accomplish that feat drops to zero. Nobody. We don’t have groundball data from before the early 2000s, so I can’t tell you how rare this is in MLB history, but since the data became available, it’s never been done.

Very interesting. While it’s easy to write this off as a hot streak given Porcello’s past results, it’s important to note that he has altered his pitching mix, adding in more curveballs and changeups than ever before. If he has truly taken a step forward as a pitcher, the Tigers’ rotation could be more dangerous than we already thought.

Video: Corey Dickerson breaks scoreless tie with walk-off home run

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Neither the Pirates nor the Tigers could manage any offense during Thursday afternoon’s game at PNC Park. That is, until outfielder Corey Dickerson launched a walk-off solo home run off of Alex Wilson with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Dickerson, 28, has been solid for the Pirates for the first month of the season. He’s batting .314/.348/.500 with a pair of home runs, 13 RBI, and 13 runs scored in 92 plate appearances. The Pirates acquired him from the Rays in late February in exchange for journeyman pitcher Daniel Hudson and Single-A infielder Tristan Gray.