MLB: Why the BBWAA Got the AL Cy Young Wrong This Year


The Baseball Writers Association of America awarded Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello with the 2016 American League Cy Young Award on Wednesday evening. They got it wrong this time, and here’s why.

Each year the Baseball Writers Association of America votes to determine the most prestigious awards in all of professional baseball, the Most Valuable Player Award, the Cy Young Award, the Manager of the Year Award and the Rookie of the Year Award, among others. More often than not, they probably get it right. But not last night, not by a long shot.

The American League Cy Young Award was awarded by the panel of writers to Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox, and before I get into why the writers flubbed this one, let me say that Porcello had a terrific season in 2016, just not a better one that his former Detroit Tigers teammate Justin Verlander.

Verlander was by far the better pitcher in 2016 across the American League, and he actually received more first place votes than Porcello did last night. In case you weren’t familiar, this is how the voting system works. Each voter picks his or her top five pitchers. The voting system rewards seven points for first-place votes, four points for second-place votes, three points for third-place votes, two points for fourth-place votes and one point for fifth-place votes.

Verlander was awarded 14 first-place votes by the BBWAA, while Porcello was awarded only eight first-place votes. The difference maker for Porcello was his 18 second-place votes, to Verlander’s two second place votes. More troubling was that had two BBWAA members not decided to leave Verlander off of their ballots altogether, he would have rightfully edged out Porcello in total points received.

So even though Verlander won the majority of the first-place votes, he still lost in the total points system. Didn’t we just get over something like this in the United States? Anyways, with no opinion regarding that matter, Verlander should have won the AL Cy Young last night. If you don’t beleive me, just ask Kate Upton.

Verlander pitched his way to a 16-9 record with a 3.04 ERA in 34 starts in 2016, while Porcello posted a 22-4 record with a 3.15 ERA for the Red Sox over the course of 32 starts. Porcello’s 22 wins and his 5.91 K/BB ratio led the league, but that’s about all he was better at than Verlander last season.

While Porcello led the league in K/BB ratio, Verlander led the league in strikeouts with 254 and WHIP with a 1.00. Verlander also led Porcello head-to-head in ERA (3.04, 2nd AL), innings pitched (227.2, 2nd AL), opposing batting average (.207, 2nd AL), strikeouts per nine (10.4, 3rd AL), and hits per nine (6.7, 2nd AL).

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In 22 of his 34 starts in 2016, Verlander allowed two or fewer runs and posted a 2.12 ERA over his final 13 starts of the season. Verlander would have likely won the ERA crown with an ERA somewhere in the 2.00s if not for a pair of poor starts against the Cleveland Indians in which he allowed seven earned runs in each of the losses.

Porcello also had a dominant stretch run, winning the AL Pitcher of the Month for September, posting a 2.60 ERA in his final 13 starts with opponents only hitting .202 against him.

Both pitchers had phenomenal seasons in 2016, but Verlander has the better season and should have won the award in the end. Porcello played on a first-place team that provided him with the most run support in the league, which helped raise his win total to the 22 wins that he finished with.

So how exactly did the BBWAA strike out in this year’s voting? The two writers that I mentioned earlier in the article that entirely left Verlander off of their ballots were ultimately the deciding factor.

Fred Goodall and Bill Chastain of the Tampa Bay chapter of the BBWAA decided that Verlander wasn’t good enough in 2016 for a single vote on their ballots. Somehow they felt that J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka were even better than Verlander. Who the hell is Fred Goodall anyways? Chris Archer doesn’t even know who the Tampa Bay area writer is.

Even Ian Browne of the Boston chapter of the BBWAA gave his first-place vote to Justin Verlander!

Look, I’m no stranger to my hometown finalist being slighted in the AL Cy Young voting, with Chris Sale being the staff ace of my beloved Chicago White Sox. I’m also no stranger to watching Justin Verlander dominate opposing hitters, unfortunately, so believe me when I say that I’m not sympathizing with the Tigers faithful. I just truly believe that the vote was wrong this time around.

Bill Chastain of had this to say about leaving Verlander off of his ballot:

"“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.”"

How seriously could you have taken your vote, Bill, when you admitted last night that you in fact submitted your ballot with a week remaining in the regular season, thinking that “nothing would change significantly”? Well, Verlander tossed 14.2 innings of one-run ball over that time, lowering his ERA 0.17 points, while Porcello’s ERA shot up .07 points.

The moment that Bill Chastain admitted that he submitted his ballot at least a week early was the moment that the BBWAA became accountable for the snub, with the carelessness of their voter selection. We’re talking about submitting your ballot early in one of the most prestigious awards in all of professional sports!

I get it, there’s human error in voting, and I don’t for a second believe that these aforementioned journalists should lose their jobs, or even their spots in the BBWAA voting for that matter. No matter how big of a hose we saw last night, we shouldn’t wish for someone to lose their career and their livelihood over not voting the way we want them to, like Kate Upton suggested last night in her Twitter rant. It’s easy for Kate to call for people’s source of providing for their families, when she’s in the financial position that she is in, but that’s a topic for another time and place.

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The BBWAA got this one wrong last night. Very wrong, in fact. But we all get it wrong sometimes, and not everyone is going to agree with us. Anyone who covers sports is going to have their days where they get absolutely pounded on social media, and we probably deserve it.

Let’s hope that the BBWAA and their panel of voters just learn from their mistake, and do their due diligence in the future so that they don’t have another major flub like they did last night, and let’s move on.