Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Robertson, Kimbrel offered relief in '11

At the conclusion of every season, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) are asked to submit their ballots for the top awards across baseball. Each of these awards is named in honor of a player that epitomized the role in Major League Baseball. Over the next couple of weeks, I will release my ballots for each award and I will post the official announcements from the BBA with the combined votes of all member blogs.

Here is the list of awards that have been announced and the others that will be announced in the coming days:

Goose Gossage Award for Top Relief Pitcher
American League
1. David Robertson-RHP-New York Yankees
(4-0), 1.08 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, 100 K, 2.8 WAR, 34 Holds
Robertson pitches in the toughest division in baseball and he pitches in a park that is known for being a hitters park. All of that seems to stack up against Mr. Robertson but he put together an outstanding season for the pinstripes. The Yankees went out and signed Rafael Soriano to a huge money contract to be the set-up man for Mariano Rivera. Throughout the season, Robertson was the more reliable option as a set-up man and he led the American League in holds (. The numbers do not lie for Robertson and he was the near the top of the American League leader board in many of the statistical categories. He had a 1.08 ERA (1st), 13.50 K/9 (1st), and a 4.26 Win Probability Added (1st). He was a decent option for the  Yankees in the past and he entered the elite reliever category in 2011.

2. Jonathan Papelbon-RHP-Boston Red Sox
(4-1), 2.94 ERA, 0.933 WHIP 87 K, 3.0 WAR, 31 Saves
In many other years, this award would be given to Papelbon for his outstanding work as a closer for a top tier team. Papelbon had a very good season and some might make the argument that he deserved the award. His candidacy is strengthened by the use of sabermetric statistics. He finished first in FIP (1.53), xFIP (2.16), and fWAR (3.0) during the 2011 season. Everyone might remember him walking off the mound as a defeated pitcher on the last day of the season but it takes nothing away from what he accomplished over the course of 162 games.

3. Mariano Rivera-RHP-New York Yankees
(1-2), 1.91 ERA, 0.897 WHIP, 60 K, 2.4 WAR, 44 Saves
On September 19th in a make-up game with the Minnesota Twins, Rivera broke the all-time saves record by recording his 602nd save for his career. He was already regarded by many as the greatest relief pitcher of all-time and this record only solidified his place in history. At 41-years old, Rivera was also able to put together a solid season in 2011. He racked up 44 saves and posted a 1.91 ERA in 61.1 IP.

National League
1. Craig Kimbrel-RHP-Atlanta Braves
(4-3), 2.10 ERA, 1.039 WHIP, 127 K, 3.2 WAR, 46 saves
This is the second time that Kimbrel has been featured on the top of one of my ballots. At the end of last week, I selected him as my choice for the Willie Mays Award winner for the top rookie in the National League. Thought his job as closer for the Atlanta Braves was much more than a rookie effort. He ranked first among relievers in K/9 among pitchers with over 70 IP. He was also first in the NL in FIP (1.52) and xFIP (1.94). His fWAR of 3.2 topped all relief pitchers in baseball to put him at the head of the class. His streak of 38 consecutive appearances with out allowing a run was also something to take note of in 2011. The rookie record for saves is a nice accomplishment but the Braves hope he can continue his success from the mound and avoid a sophomore slump.

2. Sean Marshall-LHP-Chicago Cubs
(6-6), 2.26 ERA, 1.097 WHIP, 79 K, 2.8 WAR, 34 holds
Marshall fought through a tough season for the Cubs and showed that he could be an excellent late inning option out of the bullpen. By seasons end, he would rank second in the NL in fWAR (2.8) and his 0.12 HR/9 rate is off the charts. His only home run allowed all season came in a blow out win (11-4) for the Cubs in mid-May. Out of NL relief pitchers with a minimum of 55 IP, he ranked second to Kimbrel in FIP and xFIP for the season. There were some rough outings that caused his loss total to pile up by the end of the season but he still deserves the number two spot in the National League.

3. Tyler Clippard-RHP-Washington Nationals
(3-0), 1.83 ERA, 0.838 WHIP, 104 K, 1.2 WAR, 38 holds
The Nationals have put together a good core of relief pitchers with the arms of Clippard and Drew Storen. These two men are quite the one-two punch at the end of games for the up-and-coming Nationals. Clippard was a top notch relief option in 2011. He finished second in ERA (1.83) among relief pitchers who tossed over 70 innings in the National League. Compared to that same group of players he also ranked third in K/9. He also sat atop the list for win probability added for relief arms in the NL.

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