The last Orioles pitcher to win the Cy Young Award was Steve Stone in 1980. The last reliever to win the award was Eric Gagne in 2003. Zach Britton could possibly break both of those glass ceilings with how amazing he is pitching this season.
On the season, Britton is a perfect 33/33 in save opportunities with a 0.60 ERA, which is the best among AL relievers, a 1.6 WAR, 1.90 FIP, 0.76 WHIP and just three earned runs allowed.
#Orioles Zach Britton ERA by month this season:
April – 2.70
May – 0.00
June – 0.00
July – 0.00
August – 0.00
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) August 4, 2016
When it comes to Cy Young talk regarding relievers, it is best to tread lightly especially because there are so many good starting pitchers in baseball today. However, Britton may benefit from a wide range of starters either underperforming or just any other variable that can keep regular contender out of the mix this season, like injury for example.
ESPN has a very unique tool on their website that predicts who will win the Cy Young Award on the year. This is how it is described to work:
In The Neyer/James Guide To Pitchers — co-authored by Bill James and ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer presents a method, based on past results, to predict Cy Young balloting. This page provides an in-season snapshot of the Cy Young “race,” as figured by the following formula: Cy Young Points (CYP) = ((5*IP/9)-ER) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + Shutouts + ((W*6)-(L*2)) + VB
All jokes aside, it is a pretty fun tool to reference. Right now, it has Zach Britton as the most likely to win the American League Cy Young followed by his own teammate, Chris Tillman.
Take this for what you will but I think it opens up people’s mind to the fact that a reliever is just as likely to win the award as a starter.
For those of you that do not know, the Cy Young Award is to be presented to the best pitcher from each league for the previous season. Most people associate this with getting to 20 wins when that really has nothing to do with the award itself; it is just a coincidence that most winners have 20 wins on the season.
Side note: pitcher wins are the worst and should be abolished, but that is an argument for another day.
As for Britton being the best pitcher in the American League, that is a very good argument to make and there are a good amount of stats that back it up. Not to mention, he has one of the best pitches in all of baseball: a 96-98 MPH sinker.
Do I personally think Britton gets the award this season? As an Orioles fan, I hope he does but as a baseball fan I think it is a tossup at this point. You can argue stats all day but when it comes down to it, the vote is determined by a group of baseball writers who let personal bias, hatred of stats and other dumb reasons get in the way of denying a deserving player of an award. For example, Mike Trout only has one MVP award despite leading the league in WAR every year going back to 2012. Once again, another argument for another day.
Britton definitely has a very solid chance to win the award, though. No starting pitcher is really lighting up the stat boards with blow away numbers this season in the AL. There is an argument to be made for guys like Corey Kluber, Chris Sale and even Aaron Sanchez but there are counterarguments for all of those players as well that are pretty solid.
For now, though, let us just all bask in the greatness that is Zach Britton and I will help you do so with some stats to help his case for Cy Young winner in 2016.
- 33 consecutive saves to start the season; the most by a LHP in MLB history
- 35 consecutive saves with the Orioles, tying Jim Johnson‘s record
- Has not had an ERA above 2.50 since May 25, 2015
In the modern era (since 1988), only 11 other relievers have longer consecutive scoreless appearances (27.1 IP). Mariano Rivera‘s longest streak was 24.2 IP (courtesy: Zach Wilt, Baseball Reference Play Index)
Has pitched in 120 games during save situations. His 1.50 ERA ranks fourth all-time among relievers appearing in at least 100 save opportunities (courtesy, once again: Zach Wilt, Baseball Reference Play Index)
- 3rd most saves all time in Orioles history (106)
- Since becoming a reliever, he has finished every season with a WHIP below one
- 65.2 IP in 2015, 2.5 WAR; 45.2 IP this season, 2.6 WAR