Despite never getting to pitch in the Orioles’ all-too-brief postseason run, Zach Britton made it to the field prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night.
The two-time All-Star closer was named the 2016 recipient of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award after a historic season in which he converted all 47 of his save opportunities. The 28-year-old completed the third-longest stretch of consecutive saves to begin a season in major league history and posted a microscopic 0.54 ERA, the lowest by a qualified reliever since 1913.
Britton led the AL and was tied for second in the majors with his 47 saves.
“You’re only as good as the guys behind you on the field,” Britton said in a press conference at Wrigley Field on Saturday. “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 really went out of their way to put me in situations to be successful.”
Throwing his nasty sinker a whopping 91.7 percent of the time, Britton posted a career-high 80 percent ground-ball rate while also striking out 9.9 batters per nine innings. The lefty allowed just one home run and 18 walks over his 67 innings of work to help Baltimore qualify for the postseason for the third in the last five years.
Britton’s 120 career saves rank third on the Orioles’ all-time list behind only Gregg Olson (160) and Jim Johnson (122). In August, he moved past Tippy Martinez for the club record for saves by a left-handed pitcher. Since 2014, Britton leads the AL in saves and ranks second among qualified major league relievers with a 1.38 ERA.
Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen was named the 2016 Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award winner.
Both winners were selected by a panel of eight of the game’s all-time great relievers: Rivera, Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, John Franco, Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, and Billy Wagner. The reliever awards were introduced in 2014.