Evaluating Zach Britton’s Cy Young Chances

A common take that has been spreading around the internet is that Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton should be included in the American League Cy Young Award talks due his sheer dominance this season. Looking at traditional numbers Britton has been downright unhittable with 37 saves and a 0.54 ERA in 50 innings thus far in 2016.

He is a huge part of why the Orioles are only two games back of the AL East lead despite sub-par starting pitching. Britton’s Win Probability Added (WPA) is 4.52, which leads all pitchers despite Britton only throwing 50 innings. As a closer, most of Britton’s innings are high leverage, which helps boost his WPA number but its hard to argue Britton’s impact to his team.

As the reader may know, the author has an unhealthy obsession with relief pitching going as far as to create a metric to evaluate their impact. Taking a look at my RWAR figure puts Britton’s unbelievable season into even more context. As of Wednesday’s games Britton had a RWAR of 4.2, meaning he was worth four wins more than the average reliever this season. To put this in context using data going back to 2012, only two pitchers, 2013 Greg Holland and 2012 Fernando Rodney, finished the season with a RWAR above 4. Both pitcher finished the season at 4.6. However, the more impressive fact about Britton’s RWAR number is that the next highest valued reliever is Andrew Miller who comes in at 2.9, or over one whole win below Britton.

Now some people will question my RWAR figures as much as they question the WAR figures posted on FanGraphs but I think that it is hard to argue that WAR does help identify the best players in the game. Taking a look at the WAR leader-boards for pitchers, with some expected names atop the list.

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Despite missing a large portion of the season Kershaw still has the highest WAR among all pitchers in the MLB. By looking at the list, you can see that four of the top six pitchers by WAR pitch in the NL. Many people believe that there is no clear cut leader for the AL Cy Young award, and looking at this list that is not surprising.

Both Kluber and Quintana have their “traditional” flaws; like Kluber’s 3.15 ERA good for seventh in the AL and Quintana’s 9-9 win-loss record. Comparing traditional WAR to my RWAR figure, Britton ranks as the second most valuable pitcher in American League just a faction of a win behind Kluber. Based off of my research I think it is impossible to argue that Britton has not been among the best and most dominant pitchers in the American League. He definitely deserves be to in the Cy Young consideration.

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