Justin Verlander won the popular vote, which is worth about as much this week as it was last week.

There’s a system for these elections, and we all have to come together and accept Rick Porcello as our 2016 American League Cy Young winner. Hey, it’s not that bad.

Porcello had a Cy-worthy season, especially if you’re one of those who still believe a starting pitcher’s goal every time out is to try to win the game. Porcello had 22 of those much-derided but oh-so-valuable wins, and in his 20 starts from June 18 to the end of the season, his Boston Red Sox went 17-3.

If you’re looking for reasons the Red Sox won the AL East after two years finishing in last place, their ability to win nearly every game Porcello started for three-plus months figures prominently on the list.

And if you’re looking for reasons Porcello came out on top when the Cy Young Award was handed out Wednesday night, well, it’s hard not to look at the voting process. It’s hard to explain that while nearly half the voters put Verlander atop their ballot (14 of 30, as opposed to just eight for Porcello), most of the other half had him well down the list or out of the top five altogether.

If you’re going to take this year’s voting as a sign more voters believe in wins—Porcello and National League winner Max Scherzer led the two leagues in that much-maligned category—you have to acknowledge Porcello won mostly because a large majority of voters had him as their second choice.

Porcello won because he received 18 second-place votes, to only two for Verlander. With seven points for every first-place vote and four points for each second-place vote, Porcello had a commanding lead even before we get to the fact two writers both left Verlander off their five-pitcher ballot.

It’s a little curious the two who didn’t vote for Verlander (Fred Goodall of the Associated Press and Bill Chastain of MLB.com) both cover the Tampa Bay Rays, especially since in his only 2016 start against the Rays, Verlander allowed one earned run in seven innings. Maybe they were expecting a no-hitter, or maybe they were just impressed by Porcello going 5-0 in six starts against the Rays this year.

For the record, if Goodall and Chastain had put Verlander fourth or fifth, he still would have lost.

But hey, what’s a contested election without a bit of controversy in Florida?

And what’s a contested election in 2016 without celebrity involvement, with a little salty language mixed in? Kate Upton, Verlander’s fiancee, reacted to the vote with this tweet (Warning: NSFW language):

Verlander’s younger brother Ben, a minor league outfielder with the Detroit Tigers, tweeted the same chart Justin used before the results came out:

Justin himself is vacationing in Italy, which may be the reason he didn’t tweet a reaction himself. Besides that, he and Porcello were teammates for six seasons with the Tigers; don’t expect angry words between these two top candidates.

“Justin had a great year,” Porcello said on a conference call. “I learned a lot from him.”

They’re not alike as pitchers, with Verlander’s power showing in his big edge in strikeouts (254-189). Porcello relies more on his sinker and getting ground balls.

There are differences off the field, too, and not just because Verlander has become more of a celebrity himself. While Verlander can discuss his numbers and the relative merits of all the Cy Young candidates, Porcello said he barely thought about the award until the finalists were announced last week.

“I just figured whatever’s going to happen is going to happen,” Porcello said.

What happened was all those wins helped Porcello get a few first-place votes and a ton of second-place votes, and it ultimately helped him win an award Verlander took going away in 2011.

“I do believe there are a lot of things [about wins and losses] you can’t control, but I also believe there are a lot of things you can control,” Porcello said. “There’s a way to go out and pitch to win a game, and there’s a way to go out and pitch not to lose a game.”

He went on to talk about pitching aggressively, and how that can help a team play better defense and perhaps even get off the field and get back to scoring runs. Whether you agree with him or not, it’s clear Porcello (only 32 walks in 223 innings) pitched aggressively this season.

He pitched confidently, and he pitched like a winner. He pitched like a Cy Young winner, and regardless of whether you like the election process or agree with the result, he is a worthy winner.

As for anyone who wants to say Verlander was even more worthy, fine. But in this race, finishing second isn’t all that bad.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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