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Verlander, Cole join rare club of teammates

@SlangsOnSports
November 13, 2019

The pitching prowess in the American League this year was undeniable, especially in Houston. Justin Verlander won the 2019 AL Cy Young Award, finishing ahead of his Astros teammate, Gerrit Cole. If teammates finishing first and second in Cy Young Award voting sounds like a rarity, that’s because it is.

The pitching prowess in the American League this year was undeniable, especially in Houston. Justin Verlander won the 2019 AL Cy Young Award, finishing ahead of his Astros teammate, Gerrit Cole.

If teammates finishing first and second in Cy Young Award voting sounds like a rarity, that’s because it is. This is just the fifth time it’s happened, with just four sets of teammates. It had never happened with AL teammates until Verlander and Cole.

That stands to reason, given that we’ve come to expect that teammates who excel in the same year may “split the vote,” preventing either from winning an award. That phrase gets tossed around when we see two MVP Award candidates or Cy Young Award candidates on the same team. But that concern didn’t hold any weight this year -- Verlander and Cole did split the votes, but they split all the top votes. Verlander received 17 first-place votes and 13 second-place votes; Cole received 13 first-place votes and 17 second-place votes. No other AL pitcher got a top-two vote from any of the 30 voters.

Here’s a look at the five instances of teammates finishing first and second in Cy Young Award voting in the same year. The Cy Young Award winner is listed first in each pair.

2019 AL: Justin Verlander & Gerrit Cole, Astros

It was quite the year on the mound for this duo, which became the second set of teammates to notch 300-strikeout seasons in the same year, along with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling (more on them later). Both an ERA under 2.60, becoming the first pair of AL teammates to do that in qualified seasons since Derek Lowe and Pedro Martínez for the 2002 Red Sox.

Verlander had a 0.80 WHIP, the lowest among qualified pitchers in 2019. That’s also the third-lowest WHIP by any pitcher in a qualified season in the modern era (since 1900). He threw an MLB-high 223 innings. On Sept. 1 in Toronto, Verlander threw the third no-hitter of his career, striking out 14 in the outing.

Cole led the Majors with 326 strikeouts, with Verlander finishing in second with 300. In his first 11 starts, through May 22, Cole had a 4.11 ERA. In his final 22 starts -- from that point forward -- he had a 1.78 ERA, a .171 opponent batting average and notched 226 of his 326 strikeouts.

2002 NL: Randy Johnson & Curt Schilling, D-backs
Complete voting results

If you were to ask someone to guess a pair of pitchers to be on this list, odds are they’d guess these two within the first few tries. The D-backs traded for Schilling in July 2000, as Johnson was in the midst of four straight Cy Young awards from 1999 through 2002. For those final two, the second place finisher each time was Schilling, his teammate.

In 2002, both turned in 300-strikeout seasons — a feat that Verlander and Cole did this year as well, becoming just the second set of teammates to do so. Johnson had 334 strikeouts and a 2.32 ERA, which was enough to get all 32 first-place votes and 70 more vote points than Schilling, in second. Schilling's season was strong, too, with a 3.23 ERA, 316 strikeouts and an 0.97 WHIP.

2001 NL: Randy Johnson & Curt Schilling, D-backs
Complete voting results

Though it didn’t count for awards voting, the two combined to be World Series MVPs in 2001 when the D-backs beat the Yankees in seven games. The Cy Young votes had been sealed for more than a month at that point, but the impact the two had on the series is emblematic of the impact they had on the mound throughout the regular season as well. That year, Johnson had a 2.49 ERA and a whopping 372 strikeouts, third-most by a pitcher in a season in the modern era (since 1900). Schilling, on the other hand, had a 2.98 ERA and 293 strikeouts of his own. Not too shabby either. Johnson got 30 of 32 first-place votes, winning by 58 vote points overall.

1974 NL: Mike Marshall & Andy Messersmith, Dodgers
Complete voting results

The 1974 Dodgers went 102-60 en route to a World Series loss in five games to the A’s. The Dodgers were the only team to win 100 games that year, so it certainly follows logically that they were anchored in part by strong pitching. Two of their most important hurlers were reliever Mike Marshall and starter Andy Messersmith, who finished first and second in NL Cy Young voting that year.

Marshall appeared in 106 games, logged 208 1/3 innings and posted a 2.42 ERA with 21 saves. Both his appearances and innings totals set reliever records that still stand today. Another reliever milestone Marshall reached? He became the first — but no longer only — relief pitcher to win the Cy Young award. Marshall received 17 of 24 first-place votes and had 30 more vote points than his teammate Messersmith, who finished in second.

Messersmith’s season was a bit more traditional. In 292 1/3 innings across 39 starts, he had a 2.59 ERA and 221 strikeouts. He finished with 66 vote points to Marshall’s 96.

By the way, Marshall finished third that year in MVP voting, too.

1956 MLB: Don Newcombe & Sal Maglie*, Dodgers
Complete voting results

Unlike the teammates noted above, Newcombe and Maglie did not play the entire 1956 season together. But they did play most of it in Dodger blue together. Maglie has an asterisk by his name because the Dodgers acquired him in mid-May from the Indians, so he did not begin the season with Brooklyn. Maglie appeared in just two games, both in relief, for Cleveland before joining the Dodgers.

This was the first year of the Cy Young, which was a Major League-wide award, instead of separated for AL and NL, in its first 11 iterations. Newcombe was the Opening Day starter, the day one ace of the staff of the club that finished first in the NL for the second straight season, as reigning World Series champs. Newcombe posted a 3.06 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and received 10 of the 16 inaugural Cy Young votes.

Behind him in second place was his teammate Maglie, who had a 2.89 ERA on the year, including the two outings with the Indians. Though Maglie’s ERA was lower, he pitched just 196 innings to Newcombe’s 268.

Sarah Langs is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @SlangsOnSports.