Oct 3, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton (53) pitches during the ninth inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore Orioles defeated New York Yankees 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
How does Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton rank among relief pitchers in the American League? And what chances does he have to garner year-end awards related to 2015 bullpen performance? This question is discussed in an MLB.com article by Mark Newman.
The old “Delivery Man of the Year Award” went the way of all flesh after 2013. This single award for all of MLB is now replaced by an honor in each league: the “Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award” and the “Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award.” The article goes on to discuss the nine-member panel that includes the namesakes of the awards and how the voting is determined.
The winners are to be announced at the second game of the World Series next week. Greg Holland of the Royals was the initial winner in 2014.
So how does Britton stack up against other AL relievers, and who are his competition?
The article identifies the presumed top contenders by saying …
"“While there are no official ‘nominees’ for these awards, likely candidates could include Britton along with Cody Allen of the Indians, Wade Davis of the Royals and Andrew Miller of the Yankees…”"
Without doubt, Britton had an outstanding season in 2015. Seldom is a closer as dependable as Zach has been over the past two seasons. The sinker at times is practically unhittable. And it was a frequent sight to see hitters go back to the bench shaking their heads at what just happened to them at the plate … appearing to wonder how in the world it is physically possible to get a pitch to drop and move that much at that velocity.
In fact, an unusual percentage of the hits that do get registered against Britton are of the “cheap” variety — those that are topped and serve as swinging bunts travelling 20 feet into an infield “no-man’s land.” Multiple times we witnessed this happening even twice or more in an inning, which is very frustrating. Britton’s stuff was almost too good, creating unusual scenarios.
Let’s graph some numbers relative to Britton’s performance as compared to the aforementioned three names, along with my personal choice as the best bullpen arm in the game — Dellin Betances. Of course, a problem with relief statistics is that one or two dreadful performances can significantly skew the numbers to look worse than they are. For example, Betances had one game where he allowed four runs against the Phillies. If you take that out, his ERA drops from 1.50 to 1.08!
Any way you look at it, this is an impressive list of relief pitchers. Selecting a clear winner is very difficult. Remember also that it is not simply a matter of picking the best closer, though that is usually where the best relief pitchers labor.
My guess is that most Orioles fans would presume that Britton would have far and away better numbers than anyone else, except perhaps for Andrew Miller.
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Cody Allen could be removed, though he is clearly a very good pitcher. Betances probably is not a factor because of Miller being there. We knew the two of them were going to be a good one-two punch, and indeed it was a huge factor for the Yankees’ successes over the season (the final choke notwithstanding). Miller had exactly 100 strike outs in his 61 innings. That is pretty unique.
But on statistics alone, the actual best numbers probably are those of Wade Davis. Yes, he is helped by where he pitches. Even so, the 0.94 ERA, a crazy low WHIP of 0.787, and the lowest batting average against of .144 … that’s all very special.
Britton is a late innings beast, without doubt, and is one of only a couple truly bright spots for the Baltimore Orioles 2015 season. As Buck says, “I’m glad he’s on our side.”