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.

Nelson Cruz hits 400th career home run

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Twins DH Nelson Cruz hit his 400th career home run, a solo home run in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game against the Royals. The blast padded the Twins’ lead to 8-6, and was also No. 40 on the season for Cruz.

Cruz, 39, is the 57th member of the 400-homer club. He was previously tied with Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline at 399. Cruz has hit 163 of his homers with the Mariners, 157 with the Rangers, and 40 each with the Orioles and Twins.

Cruz entered Sunday batting .300/.383/.624 with 104 RBI in 500 plate appearances. Pretty good production for the Twins from a slugger on a one-year, $14.3 million contract. The Twins hold a $12 million club option for 2020 as well.