The finalists for Reliever of the Year have been announced in both the American League and the National League. On the Senior Circuit, the reigning winner of the award — lefty Josh Hader of our Milwaukee Brewers — will get the opportunity to convince voters that he is worthy of the honor for a second consecutive season.
Hader earned the Reliever of the Year honors last year while working in a true fireman role, typically covering multiple innings at any point in a ballgame. Injuries to Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress forced him into more of a traditional closer’s role for the Brewers this season, though he still worked multiple innings quite often. Hader was typically dominant while functioning within a different position in the ‘pen, posting a 2.62 ERA across 61 appearances and 75.2 innings pitched. He punched out 138 batters for a 47.8% strikeout rate, the fourth-highest total all-time among pitchers with at least 50 innings. He slashed his walk rate, too, down to 2.38 BB/9, contributing to a minuscule 0.81 WHIP.
Batters rarely put the ball in play against Hader — he yielded only 41 hits and a .155 opponents batting average — but on the rare occasions that someone did make contact against the southpaw, it was often loud. He gave up 15 homers on the year for a 1.78 HR/9 rate, helping lead to seven blown saves on the year. But he did finish with 37 successful saves on the year, which ranked second in the NL and set a new franchise record for a left-handed reliever. Hader converted another six holds along the way, too.
Other finalists for the award in the National League are Kirby Yates, who led all of baseball with 41 saves while posting a 1.19 ERA for the Padres, and old friend Will Smith, who authored a 2.76 earned run average and saved 34 games for the Giants. On the Junior Circuit, Liam Hendricks joins the two pitchers who blew saves in the final game of the ALCS — Roberto Osuna and Aroldis Chapman — as the candidates to win the award.
Voting for the awards will be conducted by a panel of eight all-time great relief pitchers, with each ranking the top three relief pitchers in both league based solely on regular season performance using a 5-3-1 weighted point system. Commissioner Manfred will present the honors along with the namesake closers — Trevor Hoffman in the NL and Mariano Rivera in the AL — on October 26th.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs