Each year, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance case ballots for several awards, acknowledging outstanding individual performances in the regular season. The Goose Gossage award is given to the top reliever, and I have the privilege of casting a ballot for the top performers in the NL.
1. John Axford 2-2, 1.95 ERA, 46 SV, 3.44 K/BB
Axford led the National League in saves with 46 (tied with Craig Kimbrel), and was 46 out of 48 in such opportunities and he didn’t allow a run in the month of September. Axford had been a rock from the start of the season and did not fade at the end. His 3.44 K/BB when combined with more than a strikeout per inning pitched tells us that he is taking care of business by himself and not putting his team at risk with walks or excessive batted balls.
2. Craig Kimbrel 4-3, 2.10 ERA, 46 SV, 14.8 K/9IP
Is there a more exciting young arm in the game than Craig Kimbrel ? I don’t think so. He is one of the few players that I will turn away from the game that I am watching to see pitch. Until the last week of the season, Kimbrel was my favorite for this award, but the rookie faded at the end and was unable to convert a pair of critical save situations. His K/BB ratio is as good as Axfords, but his strikeouts per 9 innings pitched is insanely good. If he is able to stay healthy, Kimbrel is the closer of the future, which is very good news for he Braves.
3. Tyler Clippard 3-0, 1.83 ERA, 0.838 WHIP
Why do the closers get all the awards ? In the modern game, setup guys are becoming increasingly important, and Clippard is one of the best. Like Jonny Venters in Atlanta, Clippard would be closing out games if not for Drew Storen. Clippard is a better than strikeout per inning and his 4 K/BB ratio tells is that he is not getting into trouble by the walk.
And please don’t tell anyone, but I did take a sneak peek at the league leaders in WPA over at fangraphs.com to help me feel better about this pick. Clippard was the league leader, followed by John Axford and then Jonny Venters. Don’t let that get around though, it will blow my cover as an anti-new-metric person.
4. Joel Hanrahan – 1-4, 1.83 ERA, 40 saves
Ahhh, this is a closer that feels more familiar to the Cardinal fan in me. Not a big strikeout guy, just shy of 1 per inning, so he’s putting more balls in play. Hanrahan was nails through the end of July, but mirrored his team’s August drop off. He was not the cause, just an unfortunate passenger on the the SS Bucco. Hanrahan is entering the prime of his career, so I look forward to seeing his name on this list next year, and many more after that.
5. Jonny Venters – 6-2, 1.84 ERA, 85 appearances
My second setup guy in the list. Venters pitches like a closer, and if not for the young phemom closing out games, he might be racking up saves instead of holding down the fort. Throw in the fact that he’s a lefty, that makes Atlanta’s late inning guys especially tough. Reminds me of a couple guys named Worrell and Dayley who did that in St. Louis in the mid to late 80s.