A rollicking month of postseason baseball ended not a week ago, and the theme that defined it is already up for further scrutiny. Andrew Miller, Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman and a host of others made versatile and durable relief pitchers seem like the most valuable commodity with which to navigate October.

And then come the announcement of the three finalists for the American League Cy Young award: Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, Boston’s Rick Porcello and Detroit’s Justin Verlander.

Conspicuous by his absence: Baltimore closer Zach Britton.

Remember: The voting, conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America, is done at the end of the regular season. The postseason has no bearing so Cleveland’s Miller, in particular, didn’t enhance his case with a stellar October.

From the Orioles’ side, pure scorn.

“It’s shocking,” Baltimore Manager Buck Showalter told MASN.com. “That’s a real poor reflection on the people who are evaluating him. God bless the three guys in front of him. They were doing it every fifth day and he’s doing it every day. I’m not so sure any of those guys could do what Zach does. The guy had maybe the best year in the history of relief pitching.”

We’ll leave that last part alone and point out Britton’s obvious case: 47 of 47 in save opportunities, a 0.54 ERA that was the best in baseball among qualified relievers, 0.836 walks and hits per innings pitched that ranked fourth in the game, and a .161 average against that ranked sixth. He was outstanding.

“Think about this,” Showalter told Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com. “Not once this year did our team walk into the locker room after a game and have that challenge of losing the game in the ninth inning.”

So it’s a solid case. Yet here’s what I wrote in the final week of the season as a way of introducing my choice for AL Cy Young. (Note: Washington Post writers are not allowed to vote for postseason awards or the Hall of Fame, so this was just an exercise, not an actual vote.)

“A central issue any voter must grapple with in deciding who to support in the American League: Is a player who pitches a third of the innings (or fewer) as a front-line starter worthy of being called the best pitcher in the league in a given year?

“Or the same question cast for 2016: Can I support Britton, having a phenomenal season as Baltimore’s closer over one of several solid starting candidates?

“My answer is no, though I wouldn’t chastise someone for arguing the Britton’s innings come at the highest leverage moments, that he should get credit for allowing an earned run in just four of his 67 outings, that he’s the main reason the Orioles haven’t lost a single game they have led after eight innings. He has a great case.”

I feel exactly the same way now. My choice was Verlander in the final week of the season and it would be Verlander now. Quick resume update: second in the league in innings pitched, second in ERA, first in WHIP, first in strikeouts and strikeout percentage, first in strikeout-to-walk ratio, second in average against. That’s a solid case.

There is an argument that none of the three finalists –and to be clear, finalists just means the top three vote-getters – had historic seasons, and Britton did. That’s not a bad way to look at things. Take their “wins above replacement” (WAR), according to FanGraphs. Verlander and Porcello were both at 5.2, according to FanGraphs. Dating back a decade, American League starters have produced 35 seasons with a better WAR than the best in 2016. (Chris Sale of the White Sox also was at 5.2, with Kluber at 5.1.)

But Verlander and the rest of the starters didn’t pitch over the past decade. They pitched in 2016, when scoring was up slightly over recent years.

That this voting was released this week, when free agency opens and both Chapman and Jansen head into the market looking for what could be record-setting contracts for relievers, adds to the fun. But let’s not look at this slight of a very worthy relief pitcher as some sort of revolutionary development. Cy Young voters have, traditionally, valued starters over relievers, even as the idea of closers grew to be in vogue in the 1980s. The BBWAA has issued 109 Cy Young awards (11 across both leagues after the award was introduced in 1956, and 49 in both the AL and NL since). Of those, eight have gone to relievers. The only reliever to win since 1989: Eric Gagne of the Dodgers in 2003.

So even if how we think of relievers is evolving, this vote doesn’t appear to be part of that evolution. Relievers have always have had a tough path to the Cy Young award, and anecdotal evidence suggests that has actually increased as closers have become ninth-inning specialists. In his 69 appearances this year, Britton recorded more than three outs just six times. In fact, no Cy Young winner has thrown as few innings as Britton did this year (67).

Think back on those pre-Gagne Cy Young relievers: Mark Davis in 1989 (922/3 innings in 70 appearances), Steve Bedrosian in 1987 (89 in 65), Willie Hernandez in 1984 (1401/3 in 80), Rollie Fingers in 1981 (78 innings in 47 appearances in a strike-shortened season), Bruce Sutter in 1979 (1011/3 in 62), Sparkly Lyle in 1977 (137 in 72) and Mike Marshall in 1974 (a stunning 208 innings in 106 games, none of them starts).

The value of innings pitched has long been important, not as some sort of tabulation – that more is necessarily better – but that a starting pitcher simply has the opportunity to impact a higher percentage of his team’s innings than a reliever. Take Verlander and Britton, just as an example. Verlander threw 2272/3 innings this year, which represents 15.9 percent of Detroit’s entire staff. Britton threw 67 innings, or 4.7 percent of the Orioles’ entire staff.

There’s an interesting argument to be made about the pressure of those innings, about leverage and, as Showalter said, about the feeling the Orioles had when they held the lead after eight innings.

But that feeling, and the numbers that go with it, doesn’t give Britton an impenetrable argument as the best pitcher in the American League. What it does, at this point, is spur further discussion about the value and impact of relievers as we head into an offseason in which Jansen and Chapman are among the most coveted free agents on the market.