Prior to last night’s World Series Game Four at Wrigley Field, Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles was presented with the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the year award. Britton of course was virtually unbeatable in 2016, with a sub-1.00 ERA, and 47 saves. And in saying 47 saves, I mean of course 47 in a row. Britton didn’t blow a save in 2016.
This is a high honor for any reliever, however it was all but a given that Britton would get the honor. There are a lot of great bullpen guys out there (including Cleveland’s Miller), but nary any of them have ever come close to not blowing a save over the course of a season. But putting it like that unfairly removes it from a bit of important context; Britton didn’t blow a save while having 40+ chances.
When asked about the award, Britton was incredibly humble and credited his teammates around him for helping him win it (quote courtesy of Mark Newman, mlb.com):
I think it’s a credit to the teammates around me. Obviously you’re only as good as the guys behind you on the field. Me relying on ground balls, obviously we have a great defense back there. So a lot of the credit goes to the teammates and putting me in situations to be successful, too. The coaching staff, everyone really went out of their way to make sure — or put me in situations to be successful. That’s really what it comes down to at the end of the day. You’re only as good as the guys around you.
That speaks volumes about Britton, but also to what the Orioles are all about. There are very few individual achievemetns on this team. Everyone else’s success comes as a result of the team around them. And that’s how it should be on a team.
In 69 appearances, Britton also had a record of 2-1. He only gave up 38 hits and one homer. Britton is also thought of as someone who should be in the running for the Cy Young award, but that’s another story for another day. Whether or not relief pitchers should be eligible for that award is a matter of opinion. But needless to say Britton was THE BEST guy coming out of the bullpen for any team in baseball in 2016. You don’t win 47 games in a row and chalk it up to simply good luck. This award was well-deserved without any doubt.