Relief pitchers grow on trees, or that is what some people think. Being a relief pitcher is tough work. Relief pitchers get brought into games in situations that leave them destined to fail, while being held accountable (thanks to the inherited runner statistics) for allowing runners, who weren’t their responsibility, to score. On most nights, relief pitchers need to get between one to three outs, but there are still some multiple inning types out there that have established tremendous value for themselves and their clubs. For the guys who only get one inning or are stuck in the middle, this is your day. This is a list of the top relievers in baseball at mid-season.
Top Five Shutdown Closers (95 percent or higher save percentage):
- Mariano Rivera, Yankees: 26/27, 1.55 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
- Joe Nathan, Rangers: 26/27, 1.56 ERA, 0.84 WHIP
- Jason Grilli, Pirates: 27/28, 1.77 ERA, 0.84 WHIP
- Grant Balfour, A’s: 18/18, 2.03 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
- Edward Mujica, Cardinals: 21/21, 2.20 ERA, 0.73 WHIP
- Aroldis Chapman, Reds: 15.09
- Jason Grilli, Pirates: 14.64
- Greg Holland, Royals: 14.59
- Andrew Miller, Red Sox: 14.28
- Charlie Furbush, Mariners: 13.50
- Shawn Kelley, Yankees: 13.34
- Koji Uehara, Red Sox: 13.09
- Oliver Perez, Mariners: 13.04
- Kenley Jansen, Dodgers: 12.95
- Ernesto Frieri, Angels: 12.87
- Jesse Crain, White Sox: 2.0
- Jason Grilli, Pirates: 1.9
- Mark Melancon, Pirates: 1.4
- Drew Smyly, Tigers: 1.3
- Greg Holland, Royals: 1.2
- Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals: 1.2
- Glen Perkins, Twins: 1.2
- Bobby Parnell, Mets: 1.2
- Ryan Cook, A’s: 1.1
- Robbie Ross, Rangers: 1.1
- Anthony Swarzak, Twins: 23 G, 52.2 IP, 3.08 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
- Drew Smyly, Tigers: 29 G, 49 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
- Tommy Hunter, Orioles: 31 G, 44.1 IP, 2.03 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
- Justin Wilson, Pirates: 29 G, 44.1 IP, 2.23 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
- Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks: 20 G, 42.2 IP, 2.32 ERA, 1.03 WHIP
Top Five vs. RH (based on AVG. against, min. 10 IP):
- Alex Torres, Rays: 14.1 IP, 20/5 K/BB, .065 AVG, 0.56 WHIP
- Neal Cotts, Rangers: 11.2 IP, 11/2 K/BB, .105 AVG, 0.51 WHIP
- Luke Hochevar, Royals: 16.1 IP, 21/5 K/BB, .115 AVG, 0.67 WHIP
- Tommy Hunter, Orioles: 22.1 IP, 23/5 K/BB, .118 AVG, 0.63 WHIP
- Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners: 18.1 IP, 15/7 K/BB, .119 AVG, 0.76 WHIP
Odd to see Torres and Cotts up so high here given that they are both left-handed.
Top Five vs. LH (based on AVG. against, min. 10 IP):
- Ernesto Frieri, Angels: 19 IP, 33/13 K/BB, .109 AVG., 1.05 WHIP
- Carlos Marmol, FREE AGENT/CUBS (YES, THAT GUY!!!): 13.1 IP, 20/8 K/BB, .119 AVG, 0.98 WHIP
- Koji Uehara, Red Sox: 18.2 IP, 27/6 K/BB, .125 AVG, 0.75 WHIP
- Luis Avilan, Braves: 16.1 IP, 12/4 K/BB, .127 AVG, 0.67 WHIP
- Kevin Gregg, Cubs: 14 IP, 16/5 K/BB, .133 AVG, 0.79 WHIP
All but Avilan are right-handed and Marmol has the reverse split that some teams should look out for when he clears waivers.
- Alex Torres, of the Rays, has a 0.39 ERA, a 0.57 WHIP, and a .080 average against while posting a 31/7 K:BB in 23 innings.
- Neal Cotts, of the Rangers, has a 0.41 ERA in 19 innings after posting a 5.06 ERA over 155 appearances with the Cubs and White Sox between 2006 and 2009 and not spending a single day in the majors from 2010 through 2012.
- From April 10th to June 27, Rex Brothers, of the Rockies, appeared in 32 games and tossed 30 straight scoreless innings. He has a 0.52 ERA this season, having allowed two runs all year.
How many of these relief pitchers will keep up this type of dominance? In such an unpredictable role, some of the same names on this list will be cursed by fans for blowing a single game. The joys of being a professional athlete.