The BBWAA needs to create an award for relief pitchers

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The Baseball Writers Association of America announced the top three finalists for its awards on Monday evening. One of the things that shocked most was Orioles closer Zach Britton not making the top-three for the American League Cy Young Award. Britton, of course, went 47-for-47 in save chances with a 0.54 ERA and a 74/18 K/BB ratio over 67 innings. The three starters who made the cut (Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber) weren’t super impressive, making Britton look even better.

Manager Buck Showalter was flummoxed by Britton’s exclusion. Via Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com:

Britton’s agent Scott Boras also wasn’t happy that his client was excluded:

There’s an easy fix to this, and that’s to create an award like the Cy Young Award, but for relievers. Many remember the Rolaids Relief Man Award, but that was discontinued after the 2012 season when Rolaids was acquired by Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical company. Unlike the Cy Young Award, however, the RRMA was simply based on stats and wasn’t a BBWAA award, so it was its own separate thing.

Starting in 2014, the Rolaids Relief Man Award was replaced by the Major League Baseball Reliever of the Year Award, which is specifically the Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year for American League relievers and the Trevor Hoffman Reliever of the Year for National League relievers. These awards are based on voting from a nine-member panel composed of Rivera and Hoffman, as well as Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco, and Billy Wagner. Again, it’s not BBWAA-affiliated, so it was its own separate thing. Winners were announced in late October to little fanfare.

The BBWAA needs to create a new award specifically for relievers and eliminate their eligibility from Cy Young balloting. Voting for it should occur at the same time as their other awards, and they should announce the top three finalists for it just as they did for awards today. They also need to give the award a name that isn’t clunky like “Major League Baseball Reliever of the Year Award” and doesn’t borrow the names of recently-retired players so as to avoid confusion. Personally, I dislike the use of player names for awards titles, but Cy Young is now synonymous with “best pitcher” so that’s not going to change, but let’s not go down that road with future awards. We could hearken back to the Rolaids award and call it the Fireman of the Year Award or the Stopper of the Year Award. I don’t know. Someone who gets paid to think of this stuff could do a better job coming up with a good name, probably.

When relievers have their own awards valued at a similar level as other awards, we can finally give ourselves a well-deserved break from the pointless annual arguments concerning whether or not a particular reliever should be included in Cy Young balloting.