In 1956, Baseball Commissioner Ford C. Frick initiated the Cy Young Award to recognize the best pitcher in baseball each year. For the first eleven years, the Award was given to only one player from all of baseball. In 1956, after Frick left office, the Award was expanded to include the best pitchers from each league.
Cy Young pitched for 22 years, from 1890 until 1911. He began his career with the Cleveland Spiders of the original National League before there were two leagues, and was assigned to the St. Louis Perfectos, also in the National League, before the 1899 season.
He was with the Perfectos in 1899 and 1900 before jumping to the Boston Americans in the new American League in 1901. He stayed with the Americans until 1908, the year they became the Red Sox, when he was traded to the Cleveland Naps, also an American League Team. In 1911, he was released by the Naps part way through the season and signed as a Free Agent with the Boston Rustlers, later the Braves. He finished the year there and retired after the season.
In his career, he won the most games in the history of baseball, 511, and also lost the most, 316. He started the most games, 815, had the most complete games, 749, and the most innings pitched, 7,356, of any pitcher in history. Baseball was, of course, a much different game in those days.
The winner of the Award is selected by a vote of fifteen members of the Baseball Writers Association of America one from each team, in each league. Each voter selects five pitchers, ranking them from 1-5, and the winner is determined by a weighted score for each player depending upon where they are ranked.
This week, sixty years after the first Cy Young was given, Rick Porcello became the fourth Red Sox pitcher to receive the Award. In one of the closest votes ever, he beat out Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber. Verlander, with a 16-9 record and a 3.04 ERA this year had previously won the Award in 2011. Kluber was 18-9 this year with a 3.14 ERA and had won the Award in 2014.
Porcello, of course, won 22 and lost just 4, including winning eight of his last nine decisions, down the stretch, this year. He had a 3.15 ERA, and had averaged just 1.3 walks per nine innings and 6 2/3 innings per start for 33 starts while being a major reason the Sox won the Eastern Division before losing to the Indians in the Division Series.
After the debacle that was 2015, his first year with the Red Sox, when Porcello won just 9 and lost 15 for a .375 win/loss percentage, he reached the potential he had shown when with the Detroit Tigers, pitching behind Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and even David Price. Only one pitcher in American League history has ever won a Cy Young Award after having a lower win/loss percentage the previous year. Jim Palmer, the Orioles Hall of Famer, won the Award in 1975 with a 23-11 record after posting a 7-12 record for a
.368 win/loss percentage in 1974. He had won the Award with a 22-9 record, in 1973, the year before his terrible 1974 record and won it again in 1976 with a 22-13 record.
While with Detroit, from 2009 to 2014, Porcello had won 10 or more games every year and has now won 107 and lost 82 and has started 27 or more games every year for eight years. At age 27, he should have many productive years ahead of him and he is under contract with the Sox until he becomes eligible for Free Agency in 2020. The $95.+ million dollar, five year contract he signed with the Sox looks like a much better deal now than it did in 2015.
The first winner, in 1956, was Don Newcombe of the then Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Braves Warren Spahn won it the next year to become the first left hander to win the Award. The first Red Sox pitcher to win the Award was Jim Lonborg, who won in 1967, the first year there were two awards given, with a 22-9 record and a 3.16 ERA. Roger Clemens won it when with the Red Sox three times, in 1986 with a 24-4 record, 1987, 20-9 and 1991, 18-10. Pedro Martinez won it with the Sox in 1990, with a 23-4 record and again in 2000, with an 18-6 record.
Clemens won the Award seven times in his career, the most in history. In addition to his wins with the Sox, he won it with Blue Jays in 1997 and 1998, with the Yankees in 2001 and with the Astros, in the National League, in 2004. Randy Johnson, The Big Unit, won it five times and Jim Carlton and Greg Maddux won it four times each.
The 2015 Cy Young winners were Jake Arrieta, of the Chicago Cubs in the National League with a 22-6 record and Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros, 20-8.
There has been much controversy over the years since the Cy Young began, over whether a pitcher should also be eligible for the MVP Award, since there is a specific Award for pitchers. Over the years, there have been 10 instances when the Cy Young winner also won the MVP Award, the latest being Justin Verlander who won both in 2011 with Detroit when he won both with a record of 24-5.
Other winners of both Awards, in the same year, in the American League were Denny McLain, of Detroit, in 1968, Vida Blue, Oakland, 1971, Rollie Fingers, Milwaukee, 1981, Willie Hernandez, Detroit, 1984, Clemens, Boston, 1986, and Dennis Eckersley, Oakland, 1992. There have been only three multiple winners in the National League, all from the Dodgers, Newcombe of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956, Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1963 and Clayton Kershaw, L. A. Dodgers, 2014.
The Award has only been shared in one year, 1969, in the American League, when Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar, 23-11, and Detroit’s Denny McLain, 24-9, tied in the vote with 42% each and were named Co-winners. A tie has never occurred in National League voting.
Rick Porcello has proven that he is as good as the Red Sox hoped he would be when they signed him as a Free Agent. Now, if David Price can regain the form that he showed prior to his first year in Boston, the Sox will have gone from a pitching staff with no Ace to one with two. The future for the Red Sox looks a lot better than it did a year ago and Rick Porcello will be a big part of that future.
(From Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash from first to home to win the 1946 World Series to Mark ‘The Bird’ Fidrych’s meteoric rise and fall, my latest book contains 50 essays about major events and players in baseball, both historical and contemporary. It’s available on Amazon, Kindle and Independent Book Stores or signed by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)