- Zach Britton (Baltimore Orioles)
Unlike Rosenthal, Zach Britton flourished in his first year as a closer. In three years with the O’s as a starter, Britton started 46 games, won 18, gave up 20 more hits than innings pitched, and had an ERA of 4.77. Not fantastic, right? Well, in 2014, Britton transitioned from spot starter to closer, and he thrived.
The 4.77 career ERA of Britton now seems like a thing of the past after his 1.65 ERA performance this past year. Thirty-seven saves is how the year looked for Britton, with only four saves blown. Britton doesn’t get many strikeouts, but that doesn’t really bother anyone other than his fantasy owners.
He throws a wicked two-seam fastball, and that’s about it. In his first three years, he pretty much split time between a two-seam, a four-seam, a changeup, and a slider, but 2014 was all about the two-seam for Britton. He threw 1,050 pitches last year, and 938 of them were two-seamers; that is an average of over 91%. Britton’s fastball had a value of 18.4, making it the most valuable pitch by any closer.
Due to the trickiness of Britton’s two-seam fastball, no one can seem to get it off the ground. Britton had a ground ball percentage of 75.3% in 2014 (which was the highest among all pitchers), and a fly ball percentage of 11.9% (which was the lowest among all pitchers).
The way Britton can force hitters do what he wants is not easy to teach; and if he doesn’t hang too many up in the zone, expect him to be higher on this list next year.