MLB named Josh Hader and Aroldis Chapman as the AL and NL Relievers of the Year, electing for the most polarizing players over the best players and hosing an Oakland Athletics’ pitcher for the second year in a row.
A little trivia to start: since 2014, when MLB began awarding the Reliever of the Year honor, there have been seven players with at least 40 games pitched, 100 strikeouts and 25 saves, an ERA under 2.00 and a WHIP under 1.00. Four of the seven have won Reliever of the Year, and of the three that have not, two are Oakland Athletics: Blake Treinen last year, and Liam Hendriks now this year. The third – Kirby Yates of the San Diego Padres, who led the MLB in saves – was also passed over for NL Reliever of the Year.
For the second year in a row, an Oakland Athletics pitcher with a record-setting year was passed over for the AL Reliever of the Year award.
Last year it was Blake Treinen and this year it is Liam Hendriks, both losing out to more polarizing closers in the Seattle Mariners’ Edwin Diaz in 2018 and New York Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman in 2019.
Hendriks, who broke Rollie Fingers’ franchise record for strikeouts by a reliever with 125, was one of the finalists for the award, along with Chapman and Roberto Osuna.
(It is worth noting that while Liam Hendriks is a proponent of MLB’s Shred Hate Campaign and has been vocal about cyberbullying, meanwhile both Chapman and Osuna have been suspended for domestic violence. And MLB wonders why they are having an image problem).
Hendriks led all MLB relievers with 3.5 WAR and was top five among AL relievers in games (second with 75), innings pitched (second with 85), strikeouts (first with 125) and ERA (second with 1.80). He was also seventh in saves (25), despite spending only half the season as the A’s closer, and seventh in WHIP (0.96). He also only gave up five home runs, good for 10th-lowest in the AL.
For reference, Chapman had more saves (37) and gave up fewer home runs (three), but was behind Hendriks in every other stat.
This year’s result is eerily similar to last year’s, when Blake Treinen, who became the first pitcher with 30-or-more saves, 100-or-more strikeouts and an ERA under 1.00 in a season and who had the lowest ERA by a pitcher with at least 80 innings pitched (0.78).
Treinen lost to a deserving Edwin Diaz, who led the league in saves with 57 and had a lower WHIP at 0.79 (Treinen had 0.83) and more strikeouts with 124 (Treinen had 100).
The lack of recognition is nothing new for the A’s and their fans, but it is still disappointing, especially when deserving players lose out to players who are more known for their past success and for who they play for. And even worse when it’s people with pasts like Aroldis Chapman and Josh Hader.