Zach Britton: On His Way to a Historic Season
Zach Britton is leading the American League with 18 saves this season and has been perfect in the 9th inning since the beginning of May. Is he on his way to a historic season?
Last night, it only took Orioles closer Zach Britton 8 pitches to pick up his American League leading 19th save. This was Britton’s 26th appearance of the season and his scoreless inning of work lowered his ERA to a remarkable 1.03, which is 3rd best among all closers in the American League.
After coming off an impressive 2015 campaign, where Britton posted a 1.92 ERA and recorded 36 saves, the Orioles had high expectations for the 28 year old coming into the season. By June 9th of 2015, Britton had amassed 16 saves with an 1.82 ERA, fast forward 1 year and he has surpassed his save total by 3 and maintains a much lower ERA (1.03). Although his strikeout rate has declined slightly from last season, where his K/9 rate went from 10.8 (2015) to 9.6 (2016), he has been more efficient with lower BB/9 and HR/9 rates this season.
While Britton does not quite get the media attention that he deserves, like some of the other top closers in the game, he is certainly getting the attention of opposing batters. With his signature sinker that averages 96-MPH, Britton has held opposing batters to a measly .125 average and a .172 on-base percentage, which are both the lowest for all MLB pitchers. His sinker has forced 48 of the 93 batters he has faced this season to ground out (51%), to put this in perspective, fellow top notch closers Wade Davis and Craig Kimbrel have ground ball rates of under 20%.
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Over his last 15 appearances, Britton has been perfect, allowing no runs and only 5 hits. Throughout this span from May 5th to June 9th he has tallied 13 saves, opposing batters are hitting .094 and Britton is averaging only 9.5 pitches per appearance. If these numbers were not impressive enough, during Francisco Rodriguez’s historic 62 save season in 2008 his longest streak without giving up a run was 11 appearances compared to Britton’s current 15 streak.
With the Orioles on pace to win at least 90 games this season, Zach Britton will have plenty more save opportunities then he has in his past two seasons. If he can continue his unstoppable performance this season, Britton may be in line for a 50 save season, which has only been done by Jim Johnson in Baltimore Orioles history.