Tap-In Question: Should the Cy Young officially be a starters-only award? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Tap-In Question: Should the Cy Young officially be a starters-only award?

Time to talk a little change of philosophy in the Tap Room today.

And, no, we’re not getting political. Not enough beer in this joint to make me do that.

It’s BBWAA awards time, and the Orioles’ Buck Showalter finished third for AL Manager of the Year on Tuesday. If I had a vote (I had AL MVP, instead), I probably would have given it to the winner, Cleveland’s Terry Francona, but Showalter and Texas’ Jeff Banister would have rounded out my ballot.

Tonight, the American League and National League Cy Young winners will be announced on MLB Network. The drama was removed for Orioles’ fans last week when it was revealed that closer Zach Britton did not crack the Top 3; the finalists were all starters, Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, Boston’s Rick Porcello and Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

Britton was left out despite turning in arguably the greatest season ever for a reliever. He converted all 47 of his save chances and posted a 0.54 ERA (just four earned runs) in 67 innings pitched. None of the finalists had an ERA below 3.00, but they all threw at least 215 innings – and that workload disparity is apparently what sunk Britton.

As I wrote in my monthly column for PressBox.com, if a reliever couldn’t win this year, it’s hard to believe that a reliever will ever win again. In the history of the award, relievers have won nine times, but not since Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer Eric Gagne in 2003. An AL reliever hasn’t won since Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley captured the Cy Young and MVP in 1992. The argument can be made that Britton had a better campaign this season than Eckersley 24 years ago.

Basically, the significance of a “closer” has been devalued recently. On several occasions this postseason, the philosophy of using your best reliever in the ninth inning was ignored. And oftentimes with outstanding results.

The BBWAA voters for Cy Young, in turn, showed that they believe the job of a starter is more difficult – or least more-award worthy – than that of a closer. In theory, I understand the concept that more innings pitched should be rewarded, especially if there is no dominant closer in the conversation.

But the fact is a reliever is never going to have more innings than a starter. So, if that’s the case, my thought is we should just take relievers completely out of the Cy Young mix officially.


It should be a starting pitchers’ award now. Period. And more attention should be put on the reliever awards given out by Major League Baseball (the AL Mariano Rivera and NL Trevor Hoffman awards). It’s probably too late now, but maybe those relief awards should be transferred to the BBWAA as well, so those can get equal spotlight with MVP, Cy Young, Rookie and Manager.

But I’m a writer and a BBWAA member. Maybe I’m too close to this. Maybe it’s a big deal about nothing. Maybe you don’t care about postseason awards at all.

I guess what I’m asking today is not whether you think Britton should have won the Cy Young. My question is whether the Cy Young Award should be delineated only for starters, since it’s obvious these two roles are not viewed equally – or close to equally.

Tap-In Question: Should the Cy Young Award officially be a starters-only honor?



  1. Bancells Moustache

    November 16, 2016 at 8:31 am

    I don’t think it should be a starters only award, but I do believe the reliever award should be a bit more glamorous. It’s good that relievers are recognized with something more than the Rolaids Fireman of the Year trophy, but with the way relievers affect the outcome of seasons these days they merit more prestige. The Cy Young could still be won by a reliever, much the same way ROTY and MVP can be had in the same season (all hail Fred Lynn!)
    I still maintain that the human element hurt Zach Britton, specifically the reaction to that last Boston series. That was nationally televised, biggest series of the year type drama and the Orioles never put him on the field (through no fault of his own). The Cy Young voters are just as susceptible to the sexy win as the rest of us and had Porcello, the eventual winner in my opinion, not looked masterful and instead Britton came out and mowed down Ortiz and company a few times, I don’t think we are having this conversation.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 16, 2016 at 8:42 am

      Maybe. But I’ve voted for it before and I don’t see one series toward the end of the season making a huge difference. I’m paying attention to that but I’m really dissecting stats for the whole season.

      • Bancells Moustache

        November 16, 2016 at 10:25 am

        For a Starter, I agree Dan. I just see a lot of parallels between this and the debate that always rages about whether a lineman or defender should win the Heisman trophy. For those non-skill position players, the onus is on them not just rack up numbers, but to show out when the lights are at their brightest. Alabama’s RB can pile up numbers against Vanderbilt and Kentucky and be in good shape, whereas Nebraska’s Defensive tackle needs to dominate the game against Texas or Ohio State in addition to a stellar season, regardless of whether or not that player clearly is the best player in College Football. That we Mark Ingram bestin Ndamukong Suh in 09, if your keeping score at home

    • Dan Connolly

      November 16, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      Solid points. But an offensive lineman has no shot of winning the Heisman though OL are often among the Top 5 players drafted. So they definitely are key. Just not in a glory position.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 16, 2016 at 11:08 am

    No it should be open to all pitchers.

    However if you goal is to win a Cy … become a starter. The cards are definitely stacked against relievers.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 16, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      My point is I think it is stacked now that we won’t see one win again.

  3. alameda

    November 16, 2016 at 11:22 am

    There should be a specific award for relievers on par with the Cy Young Award and the MVP. Further, IMHO, the MVP should be reserved for everyday players and should not be awarded to pitchers, and the Cy Young Award should be reserved for starting pitchers only. Sure, some pitchers utterly dominate some years, but the grind of playing every day or nearly every day vs. every 5th day or so justifies an award that excludes pitchers. Finally, with setup pitchers and specialized relievers becoming increasingly important in baseball, perhaps there should be *two* relief pitcher awards – one for closers, and one for non-closers. Just my humble opinion. 🙂

    • Dan Connolly

      November 16, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      I’m not sure I’m with ya on multiple reliever awards. That seems a bit much. But I’m with you on the sentiment.

      • alameda

        November 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm

        I understand; but remember that you heard it here first (some random post in 2016 on expanding awards in baseball) when in 10 years or so there are at least two awards for relief pitchers. Hahaha. 🙂

        There are multiple awards for hitting and fielding (gold gloves, Silver Slugger, Hank Aaron Award, etc.), so maybe there should (will?) be a couple more for pitching.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 16, 2016 at 3:46 pm

      Legacy duly noted.

  4. ZantiGM

    November 16, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Closer of the year award

    • Dan Connolly

      November 16, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      They exist. Just not given out by BBWAA.

  5. OsFanStuckInNY

    November 17, 2016 at 5:56 am

    Separate awards for relievers and starters. And have the players do the voting, please.

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