Sep 13, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton (53) pitches during the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles won 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
2) Zach Britton – Baltimore Orioles
ERA 1.92, FIP 2.01, WAR 2.0, K/9 10.83, SV 36, SVO 41, BABIP .308
It Factor: Rule Britton-ia, Britton-ia rules the saves!
I have to confess, this was a tough call. Britton enjoyed a stellar season, his best yet for the Orioles, was an AL All-Star and has a pretty solid claim to being the best in the league at what he does. His ERA, FIP, WAR and K/9 are all among the best in the Majors for a closer and there’s very little for me to poke holes at here, for a change.
OK, he had a somewhat off month in August, if you could call it that, posting a 3.27 ERA on the whole for the month. But then he followed it with a 1.86 in September and a big, fat 0 for 3 games in October. Britton’s dominance hasn’t gone unrecognized, as he was runner-up for Reliever of the Year Award for the second year running. His main weapon of choice? The sinker. With a mouth watering strikeout rate of 31.8%, his sinker is just about as nasty as you’ll see. On top of that, he only walked 5.5% of the batters he faced and his FIP-, as per Fangraphs, is the best in baseball. Automatic.
It wasn’t all so rosy for Britton though. Rewind to 2011 and Britton was Wade Miley without the hair; a middle to back end of the rotation starting pitcher with a straight average 11 wins, 11 losses and 4.61 ERA. When put in the pen, Britton was a different beast. His fastball played up from a 92 MPH average to 95, this year it was faster than ever flashing 96-97 MPH. His changeup was shelved entirely and his fastball control, mixed occasionally with his slider, became the poison.
His SV was doubtless affected by left hand muscle tightness in September, coupled with the same problem as the Red Sox in a lack of save opportunities being handed to him. Even so, Britton is an elite closer, an ace of the bullpen and one of the best in the business. Though much talk of having him reconverted to a starter was made this year, his dominance in the 9th inning is likely too great for the Orioles to pass up going forward.
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