MLB Awards 2010: B/R's AL Relief Man of the Year: Tampa Bay Rays' Rafael Soriano

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIINovember 3, 2010

MLB Awards 2010: B/R's AL Relief Man of the Year: Tampa Bay Rays' Rafael Soriano

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 10:  Pitcher Rafael Soriano #29 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws against the Texas Rangers during game 4 of the ALDS at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 10, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Every year, managers, coaches and writers from around Major League Baseball award honors and trophies to the players—and every year, they screw up.

    So Bleacher Report's Featured Columnists decided to do it ourselves. Instead of just complaining about the awards as they are announced as we would normally do on our own, we teamed up to hold our own mock awards vote.

    On Monday, we kicked off Week 2 of our four-week-long results series with our picks for AL Comeback Player of the Year, then we followed that up yesterday with their counterparts in the NL. Today, we look at the best relievers in the American League.

    The top five vote-getters are featured here with commentary from people who chose them. The full list of votes is at the end.

    So read on, see how we did and be sure to let us know what we got wrong!

No. 5: Matt Thornton, White Sox

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 13:  American League All-Star Matt Thornton #37 of the Chicago White Sox throws a picth during the 81st MLB All-Star Game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 13, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
    Michael Buckner/Getty Images

    Featured writer: Lewie Pollis

    Matt Thornton led all Junior Circuit relievers in FIP (2.14) and strikeout rate (12.0 K/9). FanGraphs’ WAR also says Thornton was the most valuable reliever in the league; his work in the late innings gave the White Sox 2.2 extra wins. But the most amazing thing about Thornton’s season isn’t what he did, but how he did it. 

    Thornton threw his fastball more than 90 percent of the time—the highest proportion of any pitcher with over 60 innings. As of September 17, when he was behind in the count, he had thrown a fastball every single time.

    Batters know what’s coming, and they still swing and miss 28.8 percent of the time—the second-best mark in the league. If that’s not dominance, I don’t know what is.

No. 4: Neftali Feliz, Rangers

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Neftali Feliz #30 of the Texas Rangers throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in the ninth inning of Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Tex
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Featured writer: Jeremiah Graves

    Neftali Feliz is good. Like, we’re talking scary good. 

    As a rookie late last season, Feliz converted from a starter—and a pretty good one at that—to a middle reliever to help the Rangers down the stretch. In 2010, he began the season in the bullpen in the same role, but within a month old he’d already become the Rangers’ closer.

    The 22-year-old handled the pressure of such a high-profile role on a contending ballclub well as, he saved 40 games whilst posting a 2.73 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and striking out 71 batters in 69.1 innings of work. The club may revert him back to a starter next season, but this year he was the best reliever in the American League.

No. 3: Mariano Rivera, Yankees

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Elsa
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Featured writer: Dmitriy Ioselevich

    You could make the argument that Rivera is the easy choice for this award. After all, he’s already won the award five times, including last year. But in 2010 he may have earned himself a sixth.

    The man who will eventually go down as the best closer in baseball history (if he’s not already), had another superb campaign in the Bronx. Though he only recorded 33 saves, sixth in the AL, his peripherals were through the roof.

    A 0.83 WHIP that was second in the league among qualifying relievers. A microscopic 1.80 ERA (fifth in the AL) and an adjusted ERA of 238 that led everyone. His WAR (wins above replacement player, 3.0) and RAR (runs better than replacement level, 19) were also league-leading among AL closers.

No. 2: Joakim Soria, Royals

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    ST. PETERSBURG - APRIL 30:  Reliever Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on April 30, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Featured writer: Evan Bruschini

    As much as 2010 was the Year of the Pitcher, it was even more so “Year of the Relief Pitcher,” as 16 different firemen posted sub-2.00 ERAs in more than 45 games pitched. 

    The most notable among those was an otherwise quiet closer by the name of Joakim Soria. Despite playing for Kansas City, Soria has been a diamond in the rough, causing some to think the man they call “Mexecutioner” could be the next Mariano Rivera.

    This season was just the latest example of the way Soria dominates. He posted a 1.78 ERA to go with a 1.051 WHIP, and although neither were career nor league bests, his 3.8 WAR, 1.2 higher than that of Tampa Bay’s Rafael Soriano or Cleveland’s Chris Perez is what puts him over the top.

No. 1: Rafael Soriano, Rays

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Relief pitcher Rafael Soriano #29 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates his save against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 15, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Featured writer: Dan Hartel

    Rafael Soriano of the Tampa Bay Rays led all American League relievers this year with 45 saves. His 1.73 ERA ranked fourth among AL relievers and third among closers, and his otherworldly 0.80 WHIP was just second behind Rays teammate Joaquin Benoit, and first among closers. 

    Batters hit just .170 against Soriano, also second in the AL to only Joaquin Benoit, and first among closers. he also managed to strike out 71 batters, sixth among all AL relievers and second in closers (only Jonathon Papelbon had more).

    And, Soriano did all of this in the AL East, perhaps the best division in baseball. He was a combined 9-for-9 in save opportunities against the Yankees and Red Sox, posting a 0.77 WHIP and 1.38 ERA in 13 total appearances against the two division rivals. 

    When you take into account the eight blown saves by Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, and the five by Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, the three blown saves Soriano committed in 2010 can be viewed as one of the biggest factors contributing to the Rays’ division championship.

Full Results

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 09:  Pitcher Rafael Soriano #29 of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after a 6-3 win against the Texas Rangers during game 3 of the ALDS at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Ge
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    1. Rafael Soriano, Rays—113 (20)

    2. Joakim Soria, Royals—75 (7)

    3. Mariano Rivera, Yankees—30 (1)

    4. Neftali Feliz, Rangers—29 (1)

    5. Matt Thornton, White Sox—6

    T6. Andrew Bailey, Athletics—5

    T6. Joaquin Benoit, Rays—5 (1)

    7. Daniel Bard, Red Sox—4

    8. Chris Perez, Indians—1

Schedule of Results

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    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 26:  The Philly Phanatic performs during game four of the 2008 MLB World Series on October 26, 2008 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
    AL Gold Gloves October 25
    NL Gold Gloves October 26
    AL Silver Sluggers October 27
    NL Silver Sluggers October 28
    AL Comeback Player of the Year November 1
    NL Comeback Player of the Year November 2
    AL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year November 3
    NL Rolaids Relief Man of the Year November 4
    AL Rookie of the Year November 8
    NL Rookie of the Year November 9
    AL Manager of the Year November 10
    NL Manager of the Year November 11
    AL Cy Young November 15
    NL Cy Young November 16
    AL Most Valuable Player November 17
    NL Most Valuable Player November 18
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