By Joel Norman of Sports Heaven
*Note from the Editor: Stats compiled before games played on Aug. 24
The stats tell the whole story with Zach Britton.
0.53 ERA. 0.80 WHIP. 38 saves. 61 strikeouts.
Britton is so filthy that he hasn’t given up a run in 43 consecutive appearances.
Britton has only given up three runs this season. Three. The scary part is that they all came in April. Britton has a 0.00 ERA since the beginning of May.
Britton is a shoe-in to win the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award. No question about that.
What about a more significant piece of hardware? Could Zach Britton win the American League Cy Young Award?
According to ESPN, only two players stand in Britton’s way. Two starting pitchers.
ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor puts Rick Porcello and J.A. Happ ahead of Britton. Porcello and Happ have virtually the same stat line; Porcello is 17-3 with a 3.22 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and 137 strikeouts while Happ is 17-3 with a 3.05 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, and 133 strikeouts. Both are their respective teams’ ace.
Both have been great, but history is against them. No AL pitcher has won the Cy Young with an ERA over 3.00 since C.C. Sabathia in 2007 with a 3.21 ERA.
History is also against Britton. No reliever has won the AL Cy Young since Dennis Eckersley in 1992. That year, Eckersley was excellent, but not as good as Britton. Eckersley recorded 51 saves, posted a 1.91 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP, and 93 strikeouts.
Britton could easily top Eckersley’s save total. With 37 games remaining in the season (before game action on August 24), Britton needs 14 saves to top Eckersley’s total.
The best case against Britton winning the Cy Young is that he isn’t a starter. Starting pitcher’s pitch far more innings than relievers, thus face the same hitters multiple times in a game. It’s a mind game. Starting pitchers can’t use the same approach against a hitter in the second or third battle. If he does, the batter will take him deep.
Porcello and Happ have pitched 152.1 and 151.6 innings, respectively. Britton, though appearing 54 games, has only pitched 51.1 innings.
Britton failed as a starter. In the three seasons and 46 games that he tried to be one, he posted a 4.86 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP. As a reliever: a 1.41 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP.
Despite this, he shouldn’t be disregarded as a Cy Young candidate. Britton’s 2016 season is on pace to be the greatest year that any reliever has ever put together. He’ll likely give up a few more runs before the season ends, but if Britton’s ERA remains below 1.00 at the end of the season, he should win the Cy Young. Porcello and Happ have been great, but not unhittable. Britton has been untouchable.