Orioles reliever Zach Britton had a sensational 2016 campaign.
The 28-year-old LHP finished a perfect 47-for-47 in save situations and ended the season with a 0.54 ERA in 57 innings of work. Britton's 2016 season was one of the best in the history of relief pitching.
But when the Baseball Writers Association of America unveiled its ballot for the 2016 A.L. Cy Young award, Britton's name was nowhere to be found. Instead, the BBWAA tabbed three starting pitchers: Cleveland's Corey Kluber, Boston's Rick Porcello and Detroit's Justin Verlander as the top three finalists.
Manager Buck Showalter was one of the many dumbfounded by the decision. “It’s shocking,” Showalter said, via MASN's Roch Kubatko. “That’s a real poor reflection on the people who are evaluating him. God bless the three guys in front of him. They were doing it every fifth day and he’s doing it every day. I’m not so sure any of those guys could do what Zach does."
“This guy had maybe the best year in the history of relief pitching. He should have finished in the top three in MVP, OK? He should. There’s nobody in baseball who’s more valuable to their team than Zach Britton is to the Orioles."
Showalter himself is up for the A.L. Manager of the Year award, but Britton not being tabbed as one of the three finalists is the biggest news from the unveiling of the finalists.
Relievers are often left out off Cy Young award ballots because voters do not believe specialists, specifically one-inning specialists, to not play a big enough role in the entire 162-gamer season, in the same fashion as pitchers often being left off of MVP award ballots.
The last A.L. reliever to win the Cy Young award was Oakland's Dennis Eckersley, who saved 51 games in 1992, not only winning the Cy Young award, but the A.L. MVP award as well. Dodgers' closer Eric Gagne was the last ninth-inning specialist to win the award regardless of league, doing so in 2003.