Yesterday FanSided MLB publicly announced our choices for American and National League Relievers of the Year. Braves closer, Craig Kimbrel took the honors on the NL side of the ledger and in doing so took home his second piece of hardware in our Network’s awards process. On the American League side of things, Detroit’s closer Jose Valverde won out over Mariano Rivera.
Kimbrel’s selection was a bit of a slam dunk and absolutely the right choice in my mind. He lead all MLB relievers in WAR (3.2), was second to Kenley Jansen in K/9 (14.84), and his FIP (1.52) just edged out Jonathan Papelbon. Not only was he dominant in the more advanced stats, he also tied with John Axford for the NL lead in saves (46) which garnered him plenty of support from folks who put more stock in the “basic” counting stats.
I’m not surprised that Valverde won the AL award as so many writers and fans still overvalue the importance of the “save,” but he was no where near the top of my ballot. He finished 19th among AL relievers in WAR, had a FIP of 4.01, and very uninspired BB/9 and SO/9 rates (4.2 and 8.6 respectively). Incidentally his SO/9 in 2011 was the worst in his 9 year career. He got the job done for the Tigers, but it was rarely an easy ride and often had me flashing back to the 1998 version of Rod Beck. The “Shooter,” you may recall, saved 51 games for the Chicago Cubs that year but seemed to make every single one of them an adventure. I love Valverde because of his antics and enthusiasm, and he’s certainly an effective reliever, but I don’t feel he is all that deserving of the award. Again, I get why so many selected him but that doesn’t change my own opinion. What is surprising to me is how poorly Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon did in the voting as he was, by my estimation, the best reliever in the AL and definitely in the top-3. Sadly my peers didn’t see things the same way.
Seedlings to Stars was responsible for voting on the AL half of the awards. This is how we each voted:
- My ballot had Jonathan Papelbon first followed by Yankees legend Mariano Rivera and Royals rookie Greg Holland.
- Nathaniel’s ballot had Papelbon 1st and Holland 3rd with the Yankees David Robertson in between.
- James followed an entirely different path with Jose Valverde, Mariano Rivera and Al Alburquerque making up his ballot in that order.