Today marks the midpoint in the series I must post to avoid banishment from the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (you all know how I hate ranking baseball players). Today, it’s the Richard M. Gossage Award, for the top reliever in each league, and again, there won’t be much controversy at the top of my ballots. Let’s dismiss with the formalities.
1. Fernando Rodney
2. Jake McGee
3. Greg Holland
I can’t imagine anyone not voting for Rodney, who pitched 74 2/3 innings (which may qualify for workhorse status in 2012) with an absurd 0.61 ERA. Rodney’s strikeout rate (27% of batters faced) was slightly better than in past seasons, and he’d been good at limiting homers in the past (though giving up just two this year is impressive), but he reinvented himself with control, walking just 5.7% of batters faced after walking at least 11% in each of the prior four seasons. For context:
Fernando Rodney, 2012 74 2/3 IP, 76 K, 16 BB, 2 HR, 0.60 ERA, 1.34 FIP
Dennis Eckersley, 1990 73 1/3 IP, 73 K, 5 BB, 2 HR, 0.61 ERA, 2.13 FIP
I’d still take Eckersley for the ridiculous control, but this was a season for the ages for Rodney.
McGee, Rodney’s Tampa teammate, was the only AL pitcher with a better FIP (1.81). He only pitched 55 1/3 innings, but struck out 34.4% of opposing batters, walked just 5.3% unintentionally, and gave up just three home runs. A closer of Rodney’s caliber isn’t worth much without a setup man like McGee, who hands him a lot of leads.
I ignored Kansas City’s Holland in my ballot last year and regretted it. In 2011, he led all AL relievers in ERA (1.80) and was fourth in FIP (2.21) and fWAR (2.0). In 2012, he pitched seven more innings (67), and while his ERA went up to 2.96 due to a spike of almost 100 points in his BABiP, his FIP held steady at 2.29, good for third among AL relievers, and he earned 2.2 fWAR due to the additional innings. I’ve made amends, and hope to be back on Holland’s Christmas card list this year.
1. Craig Kimbrel
2. Aroldis Chapman
3. David Hernandez
Craig Kimbrel will be on neither my five-man Walter Johnson Award ballot nor my ten-man Stan Musial Award ballot this year. This may not seem like a bold statement, but in a way, it is. If Kimbrel can’t make these ballots after completing one of the greatest relief seasons in baseball history, I’ll probably never include a reliever again (unless usage changes to the point where relievers are throwing 125+ innings).
In 62 2/3 innings in 2012, Kimbrel struck out 116 of the 231 batters he faced. More batters left the plate against Kimbrel shaking their heads or slamming their bats than those who took home run trots (three), jogged to first (14), reached base via hit (27), or all other outcomes combined. His ERA (1.01) actually includes some bad luck, as his FIP (0.78) suggests he was even better. Kimbrel is the first pitcher ever to strike out more than half the batters he faced in 50+ innings pitched.
If not for Kimbrel’s season, we’d likely be spewing similar superlatives on behalf of Aroldis Chapman, who was somehow even more dominant for stretches this year, but suffered two periods of mere excellence that brought his numbers (1.51 ERA, 1.55 FIP) behind Kimbrel’s.
Arizona’s Hernandez was another strikeout machine, whiffing 98 in 68 1/3 innings. His 2.50 ERA and 2.08 FIP were remarkable, but I’d be surprised to see him higher than third place on any Gossage Award ballot.
Up next, Walter Johnson and Stan Musial. I’ve made my AL picks, but both of those awards are up for grabs in the NL.