Cardinals starter Michael Wacha went home with the NLCS MVP hardware, but perhaps it should have gone to Joe Kelly. Kelly started off the series by drilling shortstop Hanley Ramirez — one of the most productive players during the regular season, and a godsend to the Dodgers in the NLDS — in the ribs with a 95 MPH fastball. Tests later confirmed that Ramirez suffered a cracked rib, but he played through it for the rest of the series. He was ineffective, logging just two hits (both singles) in 19 trips to the plate.
Meanwhile, the Tigers watched a hobbled Miguel Cabrera play out the final two months of the regular season. At one point, he was in a position to take the lead in all three Triple Crown categories, but slowed by a groin injury, Chris Davis jumped far ahead in the home run race. Cabrera was able to muster just one home run in 86 plate appearances in the final month of the season. During the ALDS, he was exploited by Athletics pitching, which held him to no more than one hit per game. He hit just one home run and batted .250. In the ALCS, the Red Sox staff limited him to one or fewer hits in five of six games, and let him homer just once. Cabrera hit .273 in the series.
As both the ALCS and NLCS went six games, one has to wonder what kind of an impact a healthy Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera would have had on their teams’ respective fates. They will, unfortunately, watch the World Series from home as the Red Sox and Cardinals match up in the World Series, starting on Wednesday.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: