And the winner is…
Mookie Betts can become first MVP winner for Red Sox since Dustin Pedroia in 2008. He would be second-youngest Sox MVP, behind only Fred Lynn. (Red Sox photo/Michael Ivins)
This is awards week in Major League Baseball, and two Red Sox players, right-fielder Mookie Betts and pitcher Rick Porcello, are finalists for the American League’s Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, respectively. The Cy Young will be announced Wednesday; the MVP will be announced the next night.
Betts is bidding to become the 11th Red Sox player, first since Dustin Pedroia in 2008, to win the MVP Award. Ted Williams is the only multiple winner in Red Sox history, Williams winning in 1946 and 1949. The only right fielder in Sox history to be named MVP is Jackie Jensen, in 1958.
Porcello has a chance to become the fourth pitcher in Sox history to win the Cy Young Award, first since Pedro Martinez won in consecutive years, 1999-2000. Jim Lonborg was Boston’s first Cy Young Award winner in 1967; Roger Clemens won the CY three times, in 1986, 1987 and 1991.
Betts, who turned 24 on Oct. 7, could become the second-youngest player in Sox history to be named MVP. He is 119 days older than Fred Lynn was when he won the MVP in 1975.
Check out the uncanny similarity between the numbers Betts posted in 2016 and those of Jacoby Ellsbury, who was still with the Red Sox in 2011 when he was MVP runner-up to Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander, who also won the Cy Young that season. A third Sox player, Nomar Garciaparra, also posted comparable numbers in 1997, when he was the American League Rookie of the Year.
Like Betts, Ellsbury won a Gold Glove. Garciaparra never did in his 14-year career.
The 2011 season became an outlier for Ellsbury, who was 27 that year. He has not hit for a .300 average since, has never driven in more than 70 runs, and has had just one other season in his 10-year career in which he reached double figures in home runs, 16 in 2014.
Garciaparra, who turned 24 in 1997 just 76 days before Betts reached the same age, hit a career-high 35 home runs in 1998, and won back-to-back batting titles in 1999 and 2000—his .372 average in ’00 the highest by a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio batted .381 in 1939. Except for 2001, when he played in just 21 games because of injury, Garciaparra never hit under .300 while with the Sox.
Rick Porcello’s ability to generate swings and misses, along with pinpoint control, is why he is a Cy Young contender and in rarefied company with Sox (Red Sox photo/Billie Weiss)
There is a compelling statistical comparison to be made for Porcello, too. Porcello went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA, striking out 189 and walking just 32. If you look at his walks, strikeouts, and hits per 9 innings, these are the only seasons in Sox history that are comparable across the board.
*ERA plus adjusts ERA to a player’s ballpark and to the league average.
Martinez’s 2000 season is in a class of its own, arguably the greatest single season by a pitcher in history. And there are other statistical categories that would generate a different list of outstanding performances by a Sox pitcher. But for a combination of swing-and-miss ability with pinpoint control, Porcello is in elite company.