Red Sox starter Rick Porcello and Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon were announced as the winners of the Comeback Player of the Year Awards for their respective leagues, Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday.
Porcello, 27, had mostly struggled as a starter in his first seven seasons in the majors, culminating with a career-worst 4.92 ERA in 2015. The right-hander bounced back in 2016, putting up a 22-4 record with a 3.15 ERA and a 189/32 K/BB ratio in 223 innings en route to winning the American League Cy Young Award. That came with a bit of controversy.
Rendon, 26, looked like he would be a perennial MVP candidate after a strong showing in 2014. However, he struggled to a .707 OPS and battled injuries in 2015, limiting him to 80 games. This past season, Rendon hit .270/.348/.450 with 20 home runs, 85 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 647 plate appearances. It’s a nice turnaround for a player the Nationals will soon have to consider signing to a contract extension.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.