By: Noah Wright
News broke today that Red Sox right hander Rick Porcello, tried to work out an extension with the club this off season. He was willing to take a discount, but nothing came to fruition. Porcello was acquired by Boston in the ‘14-’15 blockbuster trade that sent Rick to Boston, and Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit. His overall time in Boston has been well, average. In his 789 innings in a Sox uni, Porcello has a 4.19 ERA, 4.02 FIP, and 1.226 WHIP. He’s been susceptible to the long ball, giving up 1.3 HR/9, but has kept walks to a low 1.9 per 9 rate.
His 2015-2018 stats don’t look horrible, but when you take a closer look, they represent more of a #5 pitcher than a middle of the rotation guy. Porcello’s numbers are greatly helped by the fact he won the Cy Young in 2016. That season, the righty threw in 223 innings, had a very good 3.15 ERA, 1.009 WHIP, and solid 3.40 FIP. He walked just 1.3 batters per 9, and struck them out at a 7.6 per 9 rate. Overall, he led the league in K/BB ratio at 5.91. 2016 was very interesting for AL starters overall. The lowest qualifying ERA that year was 3.00 led by Aaron Sanchez. However, what made it more interesting was Porcello. This year was an outlier, and still is to Porcello’s career. Plus, he was the least deserving candidate for the award that year.
Justin Verlander should have won the Cy Young that year instead. In comparison, Verlander had the better ERA (3.04), a league leading WHIP (1.001), and led the league in strikeouts (254). Verlander also showed great control, walking only 2.3 batters per 9. This was all in 227 and two thirds innings. Sure his FIP was slightly higher than Porcello’s was (3.43) and he had given up 1.2 home runs per 9 innings that year, but Verlander had a much better BAA (.207 to .230), and had induced less hard contact than Porcello did.
Verlander may have deserved it the most, but there are plenty of other pitchers who received Cy Young votes, and deserved the award more than Porcello. One could have made a case for Orioles closer Zack (Zach) Britton. Britton currently holds the lowest single season ERA by a relief pitcher at a microscopic .54. He had given up just 1 home run in 67 innings, and was not scored upon from May 5th to August 22nd. Britton also finished with a 9.9 K/9 rate, 2.4 BB/9 rate, and a 1.94 FIP. Britton finished 4th in Cy Young voting that season.
Corey Kluber also has a strong case to win it over Porcello. Kluber had a very strong 2016, as he led the league with a 3.26 FIP. He had also led the league with a 144 ERA+. His ERA was also very good at just 3.14. Some of Kluber’s preferials were similar to Verlander’s as well. He had a 9.5 K/9 rate to go with a 2.4 BB/9 rate. His home run rate was also a low .9 rate.
There were also a handful of pitchers who pitched similarly to Porcello that landed much further down in voting. For example, Masahiro Tanaka had a 3.07 ERA, 3.51 FIP, and 1.077 WHIP in 199 and two third innings. His walk/9 rate was just .3 higher than Rick’s was, and his K/9 was also similar (7.4). Jose Quintana is another pitcher who put up similar numbers to Porcello in ‘16. Q finished that season with a 3.20 ERA, 3.56 FIP, and 1.163 WHIP in 208 innings. He had struck out batters at a 7.8 per 9 rate, and walked them at a decent 2.2 per 9 rate. Regardless, these two finished 9th and 10th in voting, even though both had similar overall numbers, and higher WAR’s than the ‘16 Cy Young winner.
All told, Rick Porcello didn’t really deserve a Cy Young award. He wasn’t even top 5 in AL pitcher bWAR that season. He finished 9th, just behind Cole Hamels (5.0 bWAR), and just in front of J.A. Happ (4.5 bWAR). In comparison, Verlander finished with a 7.2 bWAR. While there’s not much that can be done about it now, Rick Porcello will go down as another player who won a prestigious award over much more deserving candidates.