The Cy Young votes for 2016 are in, and they’re sort of weird.
Starting in the American League, where Rick Porcello won his first career Cy Young award after an impressive season in Boston. Porcello finished 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA, 189 strikeouts, 223 innings thrown, and a league-best 5.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio. There’s no denying he was fabulous for the Red Sox, but his win comes with a bit of controversy: Justin Verlander might have been a better pitcher.
The Detroit Tigers star was on a much worse team and managed to post a 16-9 record with 254 strikeouts and a 3.04 ERA. Verlander’s numbers in comparison, are mostly better. Verlander had more strikeouts (254/189), a better WHIP (1.00/1.01), more innings pitched (227.2/223.0), and a better average against (.207/.230). Verlander allowed more home runs (30/23) and didn’t post as good of a walk rate (1.3/2.3), but his win ratio was lampooned by receiving only 4.3 run supports per game, more than three runs less than Porcello’s 7.6 per game. Put Verlander on the Red Sox with their offense, and he easily wins 20 games.
Most of BWAA’s writers agreed that Verlander was the best pitcher, as the Tigers’ ace received the most first-place votes. However, two voters left him off the ballot entirely, giving room for Porcello to snatch up the award. Verlander’s 132 votes were just shy of Porcello’s 137.
Porcello had an exceptional, Cy Young-worthy season, but Verlander deserved the trophy. And Verlander’s fiancé, Kate Upton, reacted with disgust at the news.
It’s also weird to see the Orioles’ Zach Britton — a reliever — somehow get more votes (5) than Indians starter Corey Kluber (3). Britton was a great reliever, but I don’t want to live in a world where a pitcher who throws 67 innings is more valuable than a 200+ inning ace.
On the National League side, Max Scherzer picked up his second Cy Young Trophy. The 32-year-old was fantastic, racking up a 20-7 record with a 2.96 ERA, leading the NL in wins, innings (228.1) and strikeouts (284) but fans in Chicago should be slightly ticked off with how their pitchers were treated in voting.
Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks finished third (two first-place votes) in NL Cy Young voting. The 26-year-old was Greg Maddux 2.0 in 2016, posting a 16-8 record with a 2.13 ERA aa 0.979 WHIP. His pinpoint control was off the charts. Hendricks had a ridiculous 23-start run where he allowed three runs or fewer. He had a rare season in terms of unlikely production. Voters were more generous towards Hendricks’ teammate Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA, in 202 2/3 innings), who finished second in voting with a nearly 80% win percentage.
Also of note, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw received more first place votes than Lester and tied with Hendricks, despite making 21 starts. Kershaw was fantastic in those starts, going 12-4 with a 1.69 ERA, but there’s an argument to be made to whether he should have even qualified with such a low total. Beating out Jose Fernandez — who won more games than Kershaw and bested him in many categories, going 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA and 253 Ks in 29 starts — also doesn’t seem right. Kershaw might be the game’s best pitcher, but his sample size wasn’t sufficient to get so many votes.
Cy Young voting is always a crapshoot but wins turned out to be the most important stat. There wasn’t a clear-cut candidate in any of the races, but Verlander — and to a smaller degree, Hendricks — got shafted due to their win total. That’s no dig at Porcello and Scherzer, but the 2016 Cy Young winners may not have been the best pitchers in the AL and NL.