IBWAA Rollie Fingers Award – Zach Britton

The IBWAA Rollie Fingers Award is given to the best relief pitcher in the American League.  In the history of this award, there has been no easier choice as to who should win the award:

1st – Zach Britton

All Britton did this year was have probably the best season a reliever has probably ever had in major league history.  His 2016 season was better than any year Mariano Rivera had.  It was better than Dennis Eckersley‘s 1992 Cy Young and MVP season for the Oakland Athletics.

Consider for a second that Pedro Martinez‘s dominant 200 season garnered him the second highest ERA+ ever recorded at 291.  This narrowly trailed Tim Keefe‘s 1880 season where he recorded a 293 ERA+.  Britton’s ERA+ this season is 827. No, that’s not a typo.  It is actually that high.  It should be noted that Britton does not have enough innings to qualify to have his ERA+ recorded as the highest ever.  Still, it speaks to just how dominant Britton was.

Among major league relievers, he has the lowest ERA (.054) and the highest WAR (4.3), and it wasn’t particularly close in either category. On the season, Britton made 69 appearnces going 2-1 with 47 saves, a 0.836 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 827 ERA+, and a 1.94 FIP.  This has now become the gold standard upon which all reliever seasons will be judged.

2nd – Brad Brach

Britton’s season completely overshadowed his own teammate’s incredible season.  The irony is Brach’s season  actually helped Britton put up some of the dominant numbers he put up this season by locking down the eighth inning.

In 2016, Brach made 71 appearances pitching 79.0 innings.  He wouldn’t lead the majors or the American League in holds because quite frankly, the Orioles starting rotation wasn’t good this season.  As a result, the Orioles starters would hand the bullpen either deficits or tie games to the bullpen.  Brach would do his job to turn these scenarios into victories.  In his 71 appearances, Brach earned a eye-popping 10 wins out of the bullpen.  For the season, he was 10-4 with two saves, 24 holds, a 2.05 ERA, 1.038 WHIP, 10.5 K/9, 216 ERA+, and a 2.92 FIP.  Overall, it was either him or Addison Reed as the best set-up man in the major leagues.  

3rd – Sam Dyson

Not only did Britton overshadow his teammate, he also overshadowed another dominant closer who had a breakout season.   Dyson had about as dominant a season you will see any closer have in baseball.  However, if he was looking to get noticed, he had his great season the wrong year.

In what has been Dyson’s first season as a closer, he has gone 3-2 with 38 saves, a 1.223 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 186 ERA+, and a 3.62 FIP.  For a Rangers team that won almost all of their games by a razor thin margin, Dyson’s job as the closer was made all the more important.  His 38 saves and 2.9 WAR would have been the best for a closer in the American League this season.  However, he happened to have this great year at the same time Britton had his otherworldly season.