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: Zack Greinke homers off of Clayton Kershaw

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Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke continued to swing a good stick, belting his third homer of the season on Monday night against the Dodgers. With the game tied 3-3 in the second inning, Greinke lined a 1-1 Clayton Kershaw fastball over the fence in left field for a solo homer.

Greinke is the third pitcher to homer off of Kershaw, joining Madison Bumgarner and Tyson Ross. He’s No. 4 if you count Brandon Woodruff‘s home run in Game 1 of the NLCS last year. Greinke now has three homers on the season, setting a career-high. He’s batting .314/.351/.686 with six RBI, seven runs scored, and a stolen base along with the trio of dingers. Absurd numbers from a pitcher.