The American League's Best Pitcher Did Not Win the Cy Young Award
By now, you've more than likely seen the results from the 2016 American League Cy Young voting, and a bit surprisingly, Rick Porcello was the winner as voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA).
In case you aren't familiar with the process, the votes are due from the 30 voting writers in the BBWAA (two writers from each American League team) by the end of the regular season, so postseason results (rightfully so) have no impact on the award. Each voter casts votes for first to fifth place.
Outrage from the voting came fast and furious after last night's announcement, albeit from some biased sources.
He had the majority of 1st place votes and 2 writers didn't have him on their ballots?!! can you pick more out of touch people to vote?@MLB
— Kate Upton (@KateUpton) November 16, 2016
Just Win, Baby
In looking at various pitching metrics across the board, wins seemed to be a large driver in Porcello winning the award. Porcello led baseball with 22 victories, with Kluber winning 18 games and Verlander racking up 16 wins.
By the numbers, wins are pretty much the entire case for Porcello, because it's the only stat where he holds an advantage over Kluber and Verlander. Let's check out some of the numbers, with the leading mark among these three listed in bold.
|Wins||Innings||ERA||SIERA||Strikeout Rate||Hard-Hit Rate|
Not only do Porcello's numbers fall short everywhere but wins, but he is quite a distance behind in metrics like SIERA and strikeout rate.
Now, it's important to note that these statistics aren't the only ones you can use to measure a pitcher's effectiveness, but one that is an excellent resource for measuring skill is SIERA.
If you are unfamiliar, SIERA -- or Skill-Interactive ERA -- it tries to estimate what a pitcher's ERA should have been, using things like strikeout rate, walk rate, and ground-ball rate to estimate their approximate skill level. Fangraphs has an in-depth breakdown of the metric, if you're looking for more info. Just like ERA, the lower the SIERA, the better.
Using SIERA, Verlander and Kluber clearly had better seasons, and looking at the table as a whole, Verlander looks like the best pitcher. The only category Verlander didn't lead between these three (outside of wins) was hard-hit rate -- where he was a close second to Kluber. By nearly any measure, including the more traditional statistic of ERA, Verlander was the best in this group.
Left off the ballot
Despite the numerical evidence pointing to Verlander, two voters didn't even list him on their ballots, meaning they thought he was, at best, the sixth-best pitcher in the American League.
Congrats to Rick Porcello on winning the AL Cy Young. But it's hard to explain Justin Verlander being left off two ballots entirely.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 16, 2016
Both of those writers represented the Tampa Bay Rays. Between the top three, Porcello and Kluber appeared on all 30 ballots, but Verlander was only on 28. This played a big factor in Verlander coming up short, and it is the first time in American League history that a Cy Young winner did not receive the majority of first-place votes.
Had Verlander appeared third or higher on both Tampa Bay ballots, he would have won. It may or may not have mattered, but one of the beat writers submitted his ballot early, one week before the season ended. That early submission may or may not have influenced his vote at the end of the day, but certainly leaving him off altogether did.
Once Again a Bridesmaid, Not the Bride
Verlander's narrow loss is hard to explain, but it doesn't tarnish his greatness.
The second-place showing marks Verlander's fourth top-five Cy Young finish and third top-three finish, but he has won the award just once (in 2011, he won both the Cy Young Award and the AL MVP).
One final note that is pretty crazy -- if only the Tigers had been able to keep their 2012 roster together, we may have been crowning a different World Series champ this year.
2012 #Tigers had 3 leading vote-getters for this year's Cy Youngs (Scherzer, Porcello, Verlander), oh, and that year's Triple Crown winner. https://t.co/Yo9J0Wx0dX
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) November 17, 2016