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Omission of Justin Verlander proves MLB awards are flawed

Michael Dixon
Written by Michael Dixon

Detroit Tigers star Justin Verlander did not win the American League Cy Young Award. Verlander’s former teammate and current Boston Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello did.

As hard as it is to disagree with Kate Upton, we can understand how that happened. There’s no one stat that determines the Cy Young Award. If there was, it wouldn’t be decided on a vote. Personally, I think Verlander had a better season than Porcello. But the point here isn’t to argue one over the other.

The point is to ask a question that’s become all too common in baseball. What in the world were the voters thinking?

Verlander’s cause was hurt by the fact that two writers — Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall — left him completely off of their ballots.

Per Mark Feinsand of NY Daily News, Chastain’s ballot included Porcello, Zach Britton, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale and Masahiro Tanaka. Goodall, meanwhile, cast his votes for Porcello, Kluber and Britton as well as J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The inclusion of Britton makes this somewhat complicated. It’s nearly impossible to compare the numbers of starters and relievers. But even if we take for granted that Britton belonged on their ballots (which, he did), the votes of these two men are saying that Verlander was not one of the American League’s four-best starting pitchers in 2016.

Statistically speaking, that’s a hard argument to make.

Compared to those pitchers, he was first in games started, innings pitched, strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings, quality starts, quality start percentage and WHIP. Only Sanchez had a better ERA, and he threw 35.2 fewer innings.

Objectively, Verlander was the best starter on the Junior Circuit in 2016. A given stat may not back that up in the eye of any given beholder. But that many stats certainly do.

If nothing else, how does one say that four of those guys (plus Britton) were better than Verlander in 2016? What validates that argument?

Wins and losses?

The flaws in that stat are well documented. Plus, when Felix Hernandez won this very award in 2010, he did so with a 13-12 record, far inferior to Verlander’s 16-9 mark. Hernandez’s nearest competitors in 2010 were David Price (19-6) and C.C. Sabathia (21-7). King Felix’s other numbers were just better. To be fair, Verlander wasn’t as good in 2016 as Hernandez was in 2010. But none of the other American League’s best starters in 2016 were as good as Sabathia or especially Price in 2010.

There’s simply no justification for looking at Verlander’s season and saying that he wasn’t one of the American League’s best four or five starters. Far too many stats tell a much different story.

Voters have to be more willing to look at objective things — like statistics — when casting their votes. When the statistics overwhelmingly favor one person, completely omitting him is just baffling and really, unacceptable.

These are the people who cover baseball for a living. That means that, theoretically, they should be the most knowledgeable people on the subject. When the objective facts are so different than the voting, it shows that they’re not so knowledgeable. With that, it’s time to do one of two things. Either change the voting, or change the voters.

Porcello over Verlander is one thing. Verlander being completely omitted? That makes no sense at all.

About the author

Michael Dixon

Michael Dixon

Bay Area born and raised, I have extensive experience in both the print and online worlds. There are few things in this world I love doing more than talking sports.