With Opening Day just over a week away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2017 Orioles every day as they try to return to the postseason for the fourth time in six years.
RP Zach Britton
Opening Day age: 29
Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season
2016 stats: 2-1, 47 saves, 0.54 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1 HR, 67 IP
Why to be impressed: Going a perfect 47-for-47 was amazing enough, but Britton set major league records with 43 consecutive scoreless appearances and the lowest ERA ever for pitchers completing at least 50 innings. Using his sinker 91.7 percent of the time, the lefty had a ground-ball rate of 80 percent, which was 14.1 percent higher than second on the major league list among those finishing 60 innings.
Why to be concerned: Expressing concern about the best closer in baseball would be reaching when you look at Britton’s results over the last three years, but he’s bound to blow a save at some point and will need to shake off the disappointment quickly on a club with little margin for error. It’s worth noting that opponents’ .231 batting average on balls in play reflects a level of good luck that will be difficult to repeat.
2017 outlook: The 2016 AL Reliever of the Year could feature even better stuff this season and still not be able to duplicate perfection, making you appreciate what he was able to do last year. The oblique issue that slowed his start to spring training is worth keeping an eye on early in the season, but there’s just no reason to think Britton won’t remain one of the top relievers in baseball in 2017 if he stays healthy.
2017 not-so-scientific projections: 3-2, 45 saves, 1.51 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 3 HR, 64 IP