Rick Porcello’s Shot at the Cy Young Award

You’ve probably read countless treatises on the reasons that Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, or Justin Verlander would be more deserving of the Cy Young Award this year.

Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, but Rick Porcello is probably going to win the award. It’s going to upset a lot of quantitative purists that adjust for everything. Pick your favourite value-added statistic, and Rick probably doesn’t quite win it, or there is an inherent flaw where you can take something away from him on the stats that he did lead (WHIP and BB allowed). The truth is that this year’s winner will reflect quantitative and qualitative considerations.

Consistency, volume, and increasing difficulty  

He, of the never-meltdown. Rick allowed five runs once, and never failed to give his team 5.0 IP in any start this year. Not to suggest that innings-eating alone should be rewarded — Wade Miley, take a bow — but Porcello has provided a quality start in every start since June 28 (with the exception of one 4 ER, 6.2IP appearance on July 24). Tim Britton captures it well in a recent article for the Providence Journal, noting that every other candidate has been shelled a few times, and Hamels not once, not twice, but fifce! I’m sure it was nice for the boys in the dugout to know that if they played reasonably well offensively, that there was a very good chance to win every time Porcello was on the mound, and with it, a good chance that losing streaks would be rare for the team. A casual observation, much as any season-ticket holder in Boston might note, is that Porcello made one of the worst pitchers’ parks into a graveyard. 13-1, with a 2.88 ERA in Fenway, is no easy task.

With a decent start Friday night, Porcello finished with 223 IP. Both Sale and Verlander just clipped that, but Porcello finished near the highest inning total of the candidates, so workload could also be a consideration.

It also got no easier as the game wore on as he was better each time through the order: .264, .230, .195, and .121. Yes, Kluber has managed to pitch to some of the best soft contact this season, but that alone is not going to win the award, and is a fringy measure that does not have full traction from the press.

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Porcello puts in the work, keeps his head down, and would appear to be pretty humble about it. Most people didn’t even notice him over there in Boston. Porcello perhaps did not need to contend with throwback jerseys, but making confetti of your uniform isn’t the spirit of the game, and may well have left a Windy City starter as another man out this year.

Punishing wins & The Contender Effect

While it may be in vogue to punish pitchers for having good teammates, making allowance for consistency, Porcello has still won 22 games. Say what you will, but most people want a winner. A winner in a big market, with big stories, and a big slugger, are good things all-around for the league. Too often pitchers are victimized for the fielders behind them, but what is rarely addressed is that a pitcher can sometimes deploy this to his advantage, and Porcello has certainly made the best use of his team in this regard.

Frequency bias in the awarding of the AL Cy Young

Major League Baseball’s penchant for sharing has been well documented. This is well covered by a certain Managing Editor with a man who hits and walks, and who has been oft-written as being the ‘best-hitting guy’ every year, but who will likely finish second because, gosh, he’d much rather share with a friend from Boston with a winning smile. The writers association hasn’t allowed a repeat AL Cy Young winner since Pedro in the 99 & 00 seasons, and what I will call a ‘gap’ winner since 04 & 06 with Johan Santana. In both those cases, first-place votes were unanimous, and that certainly won’t be the case with this year’s crop. Kluber is ‘too soon’ (2014) and Verlander is too, well, I don’t know what, but he won it in 2011. Since Detroit failed to make the playoffs, I suppose you could pull in the Contender Effect that leaks into the psyche of proletariat, and certainly to some extent, with the voters.

Conclusion

It’s not that Porcello is so much more deserving of the award, but rather, that nobody else has distanced themselves from the pack so as to make themselves most deserving. In addition, he’s made a timely run for it against other guys who have ‘been here before’ or have given other reasons to not vote for them. He’s had some luck, but he has also shone in two of the leading controllable areas — by limiting walks (first among starters) and hits (first among starters in WHIP). There are qualitative factors that will affect the outcome and for these reasons, I think we’ll be crowning someone that has not won the award yet and that’s good for the game.



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Fan of the Blue Jays and Portland Sea Dogs. Netron Rotisserie Baseball League co-owner, 2011- Pafko's Ultimate Rotisserie League owner, 2013- *PURL league champ 2015 (in third season as disperal/expansion owner)

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brad.vargas
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brad.vargas

I have no problem if Porcello wins the AL Cy Young award because of he has been at the top of most of the advanced pitching metrics for most of the season. He also led the conventional CY WIN category. I do have to question where you go your stats on his “…limiting walks (first among starters) and hits (first among starters in WHIP).” Josh Tomlin had fewer walks, walks per game and the lowest BB% (He started 29 games) and Verlander led the AL in WHIP. Porcello finished 2nd in both those categories. As I said I have no problem if Porcello wins the CY, but I do think Verlander had the best season for any AL pitcher, but not that much better to say he deserves it more than Porcello.