DETROIT -- For the second time in five years, Justin Verlander lost a close vote for the American League Cy Young Award. This time, he finished second to a former teammate. Boston's Rick Porcello, part of Detroit's rotation from 2009 through 2014, won by one of the smallest margins in history despite Verlander receiving more first-place votes.
Verlander received 14 of 30 first-place votes by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in balloting announced Wednesday. Porcello received eight, but made up the gap with 18 second-place votes compared with two for Verlander. It marked the third time in history and first in the AL that a pitcher won the Cy Young Award without receiving the most first-place votes.
The five-point differential is the second closest of any election since ballots permitted voting for more than one pitcher in 1970. Verlander also finished second in the 2012 election to the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price, 153-149.
Two voters left Verlander off their ballot altogether, but he would've needed those votes to be one third and one fourth, or better, to make up the gap. Porcello and Cleveland's Corey Kluber, who finished third, were the only two pitchers listed on all 30 ballots, while 11 pitchers -- including Tigers teammate and AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer -- received at least one vote.
Two years after Verlander allowed more earned runs than any other pitcher in the American League, the 33-year-old built on his second-half resurgence from last year to post his best statistical season since he won Cy Young and MVP honors in 2011. Verlander led all Major League pitchers in Wins Above Replacement by the Baseball-Reference formula (6.6). The 16-game winner also led the AL in strikeouts while finishing just behind Toronto's Aaron Sanchez for the ERA title.
Compared to baseball-reference, the contest for best WAR by the Fangraphs formula was close and might have better reflected the closeness of the race. Verlander and Porcello tied for the league lead under that formula at 5.2, with Kluber at 5.1.
Just want to say thank you to all the @officialBBWAA who voted for me.
In the end, Verlander lost to a familiar face. Porcello was the Tigers' first-round pick in 2007 and cracked Detroit's rotation as a 20-year-old in 2009. He spent six seasons in the Tigers rotation. Another member of that rotation, Max Scherzer, won the 2016 National League Cy Young Award.
"Justin had a great year," Porcello said, "and I learned a lot from him playing with him in Detroit. Obviously I wish him well in the future.
"... He loves the game the way I love the game. He looks at numbers. I kind of just love being there and playing the game. We both have a strong passion for it. He had a heck of a year, obviously. You get into those top three guys and everybody's deserving of the award at that point."
The Tigers traded Porcello to the Red Sox after the 2014 season for Yoenis Cespedes, who spent four months in a Detroit uniform before being traded to the Mets. The top prospect the Tigers received in return was Fulmer, who won AL Rookie of the Year honors Tuesday.
Verlander was vying to become the 19th player in Major League history to win multiple Cy Young Awards. For now, Denny McLain remains the only Tiger to do it, winning in 1968 and 1969.
Esurance MLB Awards week concludes Friday on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8 p.m. ET with the MLB Awards. Categories include Best Major Leaguer, Hitter, Pitcher, Rookie, Executive and Manager.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.