Worthy candidates for AL, NL top relief honor
Winner from each league set to receive award before Game 2 of World Series
KANSAS CITY -- Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman combined for 1,253 career saves, or nearly as many as every Major League Baseball club converted this season (1,292).
The legendary right-handers also combined for 20 All-Star selections, 2,306 strikeouts, 1,808 games finished and the namesake awards that reward the best in their footsteps.
The Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award presented by The Hartford will be awarded on Wednesday before Game 2 of the World Series.
While there are no "nominees" for these awards, likely candidates could include Wade Davis of the Royals, Andrew Miller of the Yankees, Zach Britton of the Orioles and Cody Allen of the Indians in the AL, and Mark Melancon of the Pirates, Jeurys Familia of the Mets, Aroldis Chapman of the Reds and Trevor Rosenthal of the Cardinals in the NL.
The awards are voted on by a nine-member panel comprised of Rivera and Hoffman, as well as fellow legendary closers Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner. The group represents the four living relief pitchers in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and is inclusive of the top six all-time saves leaders.
As part of the balloting process, all nine voters will pick three relievers from each league based solely on regular-season performance; selections are not restricted to closers. From there, a 5-3-1 weighted point system is used to determine the winners.
These awards were first presented in 2014, to Greg Holland of Kansas City in the AL and Craig Kimbrel in the NL. This hardware replaced MLB's "Delivery Man of the Year Award," which was presented to one winner in all of MLB from 2005-13, and it continues a longstanding baseball tradition of honoring the game's top relief pitchers.
So who will it be? Here is a look at eight relievers who figure to get heavy consideration:
Wade Davis: He ranked first among all MLB relievers in ERA (0.94), opponents' batting average (.144), OPS against (.451) and wins (eight), and his 0.79 WHIP trailed only Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers. Davis, a first-time All-Star in 2015, assumed the closer role after Holland went out in late September, and immediately saved the AL Central title clincher.
Andrew Miller: His 36 saves tied him with Britton for third in the AL, and he led the AL in strikeouts per nine innings with 14.59. Only Davis topped Miller's 0.86 WHIP in the AL. The big left-hander partnered with Dellin Betances to form arguably the Majors' most intimidating late-relief combination.
Zach Britton: He was tied for third in the AL in saves, converting 36 of 40 chances for Baltimore. Britton, a runner-up for this award last year, had an especially stellar first half, appearing in his first Midsummer Classic and going on to post a 1.92 ERA that ranked fifth among AL relievers.
Cody Allen: The young Cleveland right-hander proved he can be a top-tier closer with 34 saves, ranking third in the AL with a 12.85 strikeouts-per-9-innings rate and with a .346 mark strikeouts per batters faced. Allen had eight saves of more than one inning pitched, leading all closers. He gave up only one earned run over his last 19 games, spanning 20 1/3 innings.
Mark Melancon: The Pirates' closer took a giant leap forward in 2015, leading the Majors with 51 saves (in 53 chances) and guiding the club to 98 wins, second-best in baseball. He set a career high with 78 appearances and went to his second All-Star Game, and his 0.93 WHIP ranked sixth in the NL.
Jeurys Familia: He finished third in the Majors with 43 saves, tying the Mets' single-season record set by Armando Benitez in 2001. Familia's 1.85 ERA was fourth-best in the NL and fourth-lowest in team history (minimum 60 innings).
Aroldis Chapman: For the fourth straight season, he was named to the All-Star team by player vote, making him the only Reds relief pitcher named to that many Midsummer Classics. In the ninth inning of the NL's 6-3 loss to the AL before hometown fans, Chapman struck out all three batters by throwing 12 of his 14 pitches at least 100 mph. A runner-up for this award last year, Chapman became the first Major Leaguer to produce at least 30 saves (33) and at least 100 strikeouts in four straight seasons.
Trevor Rosenthal: The postseason regular set the Cardinals' single-season saves record with 48, passing Smith -- one of the voters who will consider his work -- and Jason Isringhausen. Rosenthal, with stuff consistently in the high 90s, had a 23 2/3-innings scoreless streak from May 5 to July 2. The Cardinals' pitching staff led the Majors with a 2.94 team ERA, their lowest since 1964, and he contributed with a 2.10 ERA that ranked eighth among NL relievers.