Rick Porcello has won the 2016 American League Comeback Player of the Year Award.
I’ll give you all a minute to get over your shock.
It’s pretty hard to argue against Porcello. His low point was pretty damn low. At one point not too early on in 2015 he was having a John Lackey 2011-style season, holding a 5.90 ERA in the first half as he was knocked all over—and out of—American League ballparks. He finished the year with a 4.93 ERA with his contract extension mocked by fans and pundits around the league. This year he won the Cy Young award. Pretty big difference there, I’d say.
Of course, that only makes him a breakout player. It’s the big 2014 season in Detroit that actually qualifies 2016 as a comeback. His 3.43 ERA in 2014 was, at the time, a breakout mark in its own right, though Porcello had given reason to believe that his past struggles were less a question of pitching than of defenses featuring the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners. It was that season and perhaps those peripherals that convinced the Red Sox to go after him in the first place, and while the Porcello who showed up in Boston has been rather different, suddenly racking up strikeouts to make up for a declining ground ball rate, that version of Porcello seems to be working out just fine now that the growing pains are behind him.
While Porcello is the obvious choice thanks to his superlative performance in 2016, Hanley Ramirez was certainly in the running as well for the Red Sox, going from a .249/.291/.426-hitting albatross in 2015 to a solid middle-of-the-order bat at .286/.361/.505 in 2016. Quite the year of redemption in Boston.