Throughout any given day, random baseball things come into my head, and I spend the whole day thinking about them. Today, it was the 2016 American League Cy Young. How in the world did Rick Porcello win this award? I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some personal element to this. I was never a big fan of Rick Porcello when he was in Detroit. He had a great rookie season and a solid year in 2014, but for the most part, he was wildly inconsistent, and he didn't have a clutch bone in his body (his 4.73 career postseason ERA is a reflection of that) and don't get me wrong, Porcello was sensational in 2016 and a massive reason why the Red Sox won the AL East that season. But Cy Young? Really?
Despite receiving more first-place votes, Justin Verlander, the runner-up for the 2016 Cy Young (though it did bring us a legendary tweet courtesy of Kate Upton), was better across the board. Porcello had more wins than Verlander that season, but as many have established, wins are one of the least essential statistics for a pitcher. Porcello has a slight advantage in the FIP department, and he did lead all of baseball in strikeout to walk ratio. As I said, Porcello was tremendous in 2016, but Verlander was better than Porcello in each of the following categories
-Hits per 9 innings
-Strikeouts per 9 innings
Porcello was excellent in the second half that season, posting a 2.62 ERA post-All-Star break, but Verlander was better, as he posted a 1.96 ERA over the same span.
With the benefits of analytics and hindsight, there have been a lot of MVP and Cy Young winners who probably wouldn't have taken home the hardware if people had access to the data that we have today. At the same time, this is recent history. People's data in 2022 is the same data they used in 2016, and voters still got it wrong. Even though Verlander finished second, strong arguments could be made that Corey Kluber, who finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting in 2016, was more deserving than Porcello. As much as I'm sticking up for the starters, if there was ever a year in which a reliever deserved a Cy Young, it was 2016. Zack Britton (who in 2016 was Zach Britton) was a revelation in 2016. He was perfect in 47 save opportunities and went three months without surrendering a run.
I'm just perplexed as to how this happened. 2016 was admittedly a weak Cy Young year, but I feel like 2016 feels like a lifetime ago in baseball, even though it's only been six years. I can't imagine someone with Porcello's numbers would have taken home the Cy Young in the modern age. He had a rock-solid career, and he should by no means apologize for taking home some hardware, but his accomplishment remains baffling.