Baseball Picks It’s Aces
16 Nov, 2016
They worked side-by-side for five seasons with the Tigers, including a run of four consecutive trips to the postseason. Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander helped make Detroit a center of baseball’s universe, and now they are reunited forever in the Cy Young Award voting of 2016.
Scherzer, who just finished his second season with the Nationals, was an easy pick as the National League winner. But Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters had a tougher time determining the best pitcher in the American League.
Porcello, who was 22-4 in his second season with the Red Sox, edged Verlander, the career Tiger, in the second-closest vote since 1970. He won on the strength of his second-place votes, as Verlander beat him in first-place voters 14-8.
Scherzer says the three pitchers pushed each other to get better when they were together.
“Honestly I think all three of us being in the race shows what we had there for those five years, at least the time I was [there],” said Scherzer, who was acquired by Detroit from Arizona before the 2010 season. “We all looked out for each other and found a way to make each other better. I know for a fact that the conversations I had with Rickey, talking just pitching, talking about each other’s outings and critiquing each other, [helped us].”
When Verlander went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA to win the 2011 AL Cy Young Award and carry the Tigers to the ALCS, Scherzer and Porcello were both learning on the job. They won 29 games between them but it was a roller-coaster ride, resulting in a combined 4.58 ERA over their 64 starts.
Scherzer would turn the corner late in the 2012 season, his age-27 season. Porcello pitched at 27 this season, and he made it a breakout season.
“I’m very happy that Rick was able to win,” Scherzer said. “Where he’s come from and what he’s been able to achieve, being in the National League and seeing him over in the AL, rattling off win after win. It was pretty cool to watch him, to follow his career.”
Porcello compiled a 2.40 ERA, helping the Red Sox win an unexpected division title in the AL East. Verlander went 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA for the Tigers, leading the AL with 254 strikeouts.
Porcello narrowly beat Verlander in points awarded for voting — seven for first, four for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth — by a 137-132 margin. It marked the second near-miss for Verlander, who lost by four points to the Rays’ David Price — now Porcello’s teammate in Boston — in 2012.
With two BBWAA members from each AL city voting, Verlander had six more first-place votes than Porcello. While Porcello received the most second-place votes (18) and was named on all 30 ballots, Verlander received only two second-place votes and was left off two ballots entirely. Porcello would have won even if the two ballots that omitted Verlander had him in fourth or fifth place. Two third-place votes would have given Verlander a one-point win.
One of the two writers, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain explained his vote: “I took my vote very seriously and did extensive research, both studying numbers and talking to players. Based on those considerations, particularly players’ input, I came to the conclusion that Rick Porcello and Zach Britton were the top two pitchers in the American League, and several other worthy pitchers were in a tier behind them. Justin Verlander was in that group to be sure, but just behind Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, and Masahiro Tanaka.”
While attention was immediately focused on two voters who left Verlander off their ballots, the real difference was Porcello’s overwhelming advantage in second-place votes over Verlander.
The support given Kluber, Zach Britton and Sale, among others, shuffled Verlander to third, fourth or fifth on 12 of the 30 ballots while Porcello was third or below on only four ballots.
Porcello was only 20 when he was handed his spot in Jim Leyland’s rotation with the 2009 Tigers. He took his lumps as he learned to survive against Major League hitters and eventually was traded to the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes after the 2014 season, when the Tigers also lost Scherzer to the Nationals in free agency.
Like Scherzer, who won his first Cy Young Award for the Tigers in 2013, and 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, everything came together for Porcello in his age-27 season. He finished with a rush to help the Red Sox hang onto an unexpected title in the AL East, going 14-2 with a 2.58 ERA in his last 18 starts. He’s not considered a strikeout pitcher but had a ratio of 7.7 strikeouts to walks in that stretch.
“I knew I was having a good year pretty much right after the All-Star break,” Porcello said. “I honestly don’t remember what start it was. I felt like I had the weapons this year and the command to get out just about anybody I’d encounter, and any lineup. It was one of those things where I had nothing to worry about going into a start. It was just about staying consistent, controlling the tempo of the game and attacking guys.”
Porcello is only the fourth Red Sox pitcher to win the Cy Young. He joins Jim Lonborg (1967), Roger Clemens (1986, ’87 and ’91) and Pedro Martinez (1999, 2000) in achieving pitching’s highest distinction.
“Pretty incredible to be mentioned with [those guys],” Porcello said. “It definitely doesn’t feel right, right now. I grew up watching those guys. Those were my idols growing up. I have the utmost admiration for what they’ve done in the game. To be in that category, I can’t express my gratitude. It’s pretty humbling to be in that position, to mention my name with those guys. I’m thrilled.”
Scherzer, 32, was rewarded for continuing to improve as he heads toward his mid-30s. He received 25 of 30 first-place votes, easily finishing ahead of Cubs teammates Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks.
Scherzer was 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA for the Nationals. He led the NL in wins, starts (34), innings (228 1/3) and strikeouts (284). He tied the Major League record with 20 strikeouts against the Tigers on May 11.
This is the second Cy Young Award for Scherzer. He won an AL Cy Young Award for the Tigers in 2013.
That first Cy Young came in his age-28 season, when he improved the command of his fastball and began to realize his potential. After compiling a 4.06 ERA in his first 744 2/3 innings, Scherzer has gone 79-28 with a 2.87 ERA in his last 951 2/3 innings, delivering four consecutive solid seasons.
Scherzer ranked fifth in Cy Young Award voting in both 2014 and ’15.
Lester, who ranked second, received only one first-place vote but 16 second-place votes. Hendricks, who led the NL in ERA, was third. He had two second-place votes but only seven second-place votes.
While Madison Bumgarner ranked fourth in voting, the other two first-place votes went to Clayton Kershaw, who finished fifth. Also receiving votes were Johnny Cueto, the late Jose Fernandez, Noah Syndergaard, Arrieta and Tanner Roark.
The Indians’ Kluber finished third in AL voting, receiving three first-place votes, six seconds and 12 thirds. Britton, who was 47-for-47 in save situations and had a 0.54 ERA over 67 innings, received five first-place votes but finished fourth in the balloting.
Sale finished fifth, followed by J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Tanaka, Andrew Miller, Jose Quintana and Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer.
Esurance MLB Awards week concludes Friday on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8 p.m. ET with the MLB Awards. Categories include Best Major Leaguer, Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie, Executive and Manager.
The MLB Awards — following league-specific recognition by BBWAA voters, whose ballots are based on regular-season play — include candidates from both leagues (with postseason performance taken into consideration). MLB Awards are based on votes by retired players, broadcasters/reporters, team executives, Society of American Baseball Research members and fans, with each group accounting for 20 percent of the process.
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