Baseball's award season is upon us and we finally have a vote that counts for something this year. We're proud members of the Baseball Blogger Alliance and they've been kind enough to give us ballots. The only thing the BBWAA ever gave us was a bread maker that I'm pretty sure they regifted. Today we'll be unveiling our AL Goose Gossage ballot for reliever of the year. Note: I completely ignored saves.
1. Matt Thornton
I didn't want to make my ballot a closer fest but they often are a team's best reliever even if they aren't used in the highest leverage situations. Thornton was my only non-closer who made either ballot. Statistically, he was easily the best pitcher you could have brought out of any American League bullpen. Strap on your nerd boots, we're going for a hike. Thornton led the AL with a 2.2 WAR for relievers and posted a 2.67/2.14/2.62 (ERA/FIP/xFIP) line. He also struck out 12.02 per 9 innings with his devastating fastball. He even had a normal .297 BABIP.
2. Neftali Feliz
I left Feliz off of my Willie Mays ballot for rookie of the year because he was a reliever. But he's a damn good one. He threw 69.1 innings of 2.73/2.96/3.68 ball for a 1.8 WAR. He got some help from his .234 BABIP but he also plays in a hitter's park. Feliz struck out 9.22 over 9 innings and, frankly, I'm surprised it wasn't higher. Feliz pitched so well out of the bullpen that he might have hurt his long term value. The Rangers might feel obligated to leave Feliz in a closer role instead of stretching him out and using him as a starter. I'm tempted to give Texas the benefit of the doubt though considering their usage of C.J. Wilson.
3. Rafael Soriano
It's a good thing Derwood hasn't been around lately because Mariano Rivera would have occupied this spot. Soriano and Rivera finished with the same WAR (1.7) and identical FIP (2.81) but the Tampa Bay closer struck out more over 9 innings, 8.23 to Mo's 6.75. Soriano's final regular season line was 1.73/2.81/3.81 which had to have been aided by his .212 BABIP. Soriano should buy Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton dinner for making the third spot on this ballot. Or, I guess, he can wait until he signs a ridiculous contract this winter.