Relief pitchers are likely the toughest players to evaluate on a baseball team during any given season.
Standard pitching statistics come up far short in analyzing which relievers are succeeding in providing, well, relief. Wins have no correlation to a reliever’s performance and saves are only good for telling us which pitcher pitches last. That’s it. A low ERA is never negative but does not reflect how a reliever handles inherited runners.
Fan perspective and media coverage also skew how we judge relievers. A player’s reputation, “clutch” performances and playing in a big market will lead people to some false conclusion about which relievers are effective.
By looking at statistics that are more accurate in judging reliever performance, though, here are the 10 best relievers so far during the 2011 season.