When the BBWAA released it’s finalists for the AL Cy Young Award yesterday and Zach Britton wasn’t on the list, I began thinking about how my reaction column here on BSR would look. It’s clear that the baseball writers feel that the Cy Young Award shouldn’t be given to a relief pitcher, even if his season was historically one of the best of all time. Maybe I’d center my article on that.
Britton won the Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year Award, a prize that I don’t think many Orioles fans even knew existed until a week or so ago. Should I spend my time discussing the unwritten rules of Cy Young voting and how stupid they are?
Nah. Not feeling the negativity.
Buck Showalter had some pretty strong comments after the list of finalists were made public. “This guy had maybe the best year in the history of relief pitching,” the O’s skipper opined on Monday evening. “He should have finished in the top three in MVP, OK? He should. There’s nobody in baseball who’s more valuable to their team than.”
Those comments combined with the fact that Showalter refused to go to Britton in a tie game on the road during the AL Wild Card would make for a fun column — but nah, I’m already sick of that topic.
Then I remembered that it’s election day here in the good ol’ US of A. Every single one of my Facebook friends has been pissed for what seems like the last two years and they’re only going to be more angry tonight — regardless of the result. So I thought to myself, what makes me happy? What kind of pick me up does the world need on this, the grumpiest of days?
What I think we all really need is to dive deep into Baseball Reference and smile at some amazing stats and fun facts. So today, Zach Britton’s incredible season is at the center of my attention. Nothing makes this nerdy baseball fans happier than some glorious spreadsheet data.
- No pitcher in baseball who threw at least 40 innings had an ERA under 1.12, except for Britton who finished the season with a 0.54 over 67 IP.
- Since 1988, only 10 pitchers have thrown at least 40 innings in a season and had an ERA under 1.00. Britton has the lowest ERA of that group.
- Since 1969 (when the save became a stat), only three pitchers have recorded at least 40 saves and an ERA under 1.00, Dennis Eckersley in 1990, Fernando Rodney in 2012 and Zach Britton in 2016.
- Britton was one of just two pitchers who threw at least 40 innings and limited opponents to a batting average under .200 this season. Kenley Jansen was the other.
- Between May 5 – August 22, Britton appeared in 43 games, threw 41.1 innings pitched and didn’t allow an earned run.
- 80% of balls put in play against Britton this season were on the ground.
- Britton allowed just one home run this season, the fewest among any pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched (four others tied).
- Of the 1,033 pitches Britton threw this season, 950 of them were sinkers (91.97 percent).
- Britton’s 827 ERA+ in 2016 is the highest in MLB history (minimum 40 IP). No player has ever even exceeded 641.
2016 was a truly incredible year for Britton. One that I thought was at least worthy of a top three finish in the Cy Young voting. Don’t let that or the election coverage get ya down today though. Just enjoy the fun facts and keep on a smile on your face.