MLB might as well just switch time zones, because it's going to be Mountain Time for a while to come. Orioles closer Félix Bautista was named the winner of the 2023 Mariano Rivera Award, known more as the AL Reliever of the Year award, on Wednesday, and he did so unanimously.
Despite his season being cut short by a UCL injury that ended up requiring surgery, Bautista received three fifth-place votes for the AL Cy Young earlier in the offseason and now wins the AL Reliever of the Year in just his second season in the major leagues.
Orioles closer Félix Bautista wins Reliever of the Year award in the AL
After he took over as closer following the trade of Jorge López, Bautista posted even better numbers in 2023. Most notably, his ERA went from 2.19 to 1.48, his save count went from 15 to 33, his WHIP went from 0.929 to 0.918, and his average strikeouts per nine went from 12.1 to 16.2, a ridiculously good number.
Bautista's 16.2 strikeouts per nine led the majors in 2023 and is the third-best mark in AL history among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched. Only Aroldis Chapman's 16.3 strikeouts per nine in 2018 and Craig Kimbrel's 16.4 in 2017 are higher than Bautista's mark.
Among major league relievers, Bautista topped the leaderboards in strikeouts per nine and FIP while ranking second in opponent OPS with a .460 total. Opponents hit .144 against him, putting him in 3rd, while his 1.48 ERA ranks him fifth overall.
Bautista, who is a finalist for a spot on the 2023 All-MLB team, lights up the advanced statistics as well. He ranks in the 100th percentile in expected ERA, expected batting average, whiff percentage, and strikeout percentage. Simply put, no one is better than him in those categories. Oh, he also ranks in the 99th percentile in fastball velocity.
While the ending to both Bautista and the Orioles' season was rather sour, he was a big reason why the Orioles were as good as they ended up being in 2023. While we won't see him on the mound for a while, we can still appreciate the utter dominance he showed when he was on the mound.