CHICAGO -- Zach Britton of the Orioles and Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers were named winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award, respectively, in a ceremony by Major League Baseball and presenting sponsor The Hartford on Saturday before Game 4 of the 112th World Series at Wrigley Field. Both All-Star closers finished with 47 saves, and they led their team to the postseason.
Commissioner Rob Manfred and Doug Elliot, president of The Hartford, presented the honors along with the awards' namesake closers, Rivera and Hoffman. This has become a new tradition during each Fall Classic, as these Reliever of the Year Awards replaced the Delivery Man of the Year Award in 2014, which had been presented to one winner from 2005-13. The awards continue a longstanding baseball tradition of honoring the game's top bullpen arms.
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"Congratulations to Zach Britton and Kenley Jansen for their outstanding performances this season," Elliot said. "Zach and Kenley consistently deliver for their teams during the biggest moments of a game. At The Hartford, we are committed to doing the same for our customers by ensuring they prevail when the unexpected happens."
Britton, in his third season as the Orioles' closer and sixth overall in the big leagues, was virtually unbeatable in 2016. He led Baltimore to the AL Wild Card Game and became only the third pitcher to post an ERA below 1.00 (0.54) in a season with at least 40 saves.
"I think it's a credit to the teammates around me," Britton said. "Obviously you're only as good as the guys behind you on the field. Me relying on ground balls, obviously we have a great defense back there. So a lot of the credit goes to the teammates and putting me in situations to be successful, too. The coaching staff, everyone really went out of their way to make sure -- or put me in situations to be successful. That's really what it comes down to at the end of the day. You're only as good as the guys around you."
Britton converted all 47 save opportunities and posted a 2-1 record in 69 games. In 67 innings, the 28-year-old left-hander surrendered just 38 hits -- and only one home run -- and 18 walks, while striking out 74 batters. Opponents hit only .162 and slugged .209 against him.
"It's a privilege when you see youngsters do the type of job that they have done," Rivera said. "And that [decimal] point was right, in the right spot, you know? Talking about 0.54 ERA. That's amazing, you know. Zach, congratulations, man. You're on my team."
Jansen's 47 saves were second in the NL to the Mets' Jeurys Familia, but the Dodgers' closer was dominant in other facets of the role. He led the Majors with an 0.67 WHIP, had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the NL (104/35, 9.45), topped all MLB relievers with a .150 batting-average against, and helped the Dodgers to a fourth consecutive NL West title.
"Thank you so much for this tremendous honor," Jansen said via video. "I'm so sorry that I could not be there to receive the Trevor Hoffman Award from the man himself, a pitcher I respect and always admire. … Thank you for the legends and Hall of Famers to vote for me. To earn that respect from the greatest reliever of all time means a lot."
Jansen also finished the season with a franchise-record 189 saves. He anchored a bullpen that combined to set a franchise record with 590 2/3 innings pitched and 607 total appearances, both of which led the Majors. Now the big question will be whether he stays with the Dodgers as he prepares to enter free agency this offseason.
"I had a chance to speak with his manager, Dave Roberts," Hoffman said. "And he spoke, obviously, of his exploits as a pitcher this year, but he said he grew as a man as well. And I think that says a lot about the young man, and he's going to have many years to come. So [I'm] certainly proud of his efforts, and I wish he could have been here."
Balloting for the Rivera and Hoffman Awards was conducted among a panel of eight all-time great relievers. Rivera and Hoffman, both of whom spent their entire careers in the same league en route to the top of the all-time saves list, were joined by three Hall of Fame relievers -- Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter -- as well as Lee Smith, John Franco and Billy Wagner. The panel includes the six all-time saves leaders who are no longer active players.
The eight voters ranked the top three AL relief pitchers and the top three NL relief pitchers based solely on regular-season performance and using a 5-3-1 weighted point system.
The AL runners-up were left-hander Andrew Miller (70 games with the Yankees and Indians, 10-1 record, 1.45 ERA, 12 saves, 74 1/3 innings, 42 hits, 9 walks, 123 strikeouts, 0.69 WHIP), who won in 2015; and right-hander Roberto Osuna (72 games with the Blue Jays, 4-3 record, 2.68 ERA, 36 saves, 74 innings, 55 hits, 14 walks, 82 strikeouts, 0.93 WHIP).
The NL runners-up were right-hander Mark Melancon (75 games with the Pirates and Nationals, 2-2 record, 1.64 ERA, 47 saves, 71 1/3 innings, 52 hits, 12 walks, 65 strikeouts, 0.90 WHIP), who also won in 2015; and Familia (78 games with the Mets, 3-4 record, 2.55 ERA, 51 saves, 77 2/3 innings, 63 hits, 31 walks, 84 strikeouts). The inaugural winners in 2014 were Kimbrel, then of the Braves, and Greg Holland of the Royals.
"The thing that stands out to me is the unselfishness on the players' part to embrace the opportunity and know you're in a leverage situation that will impact the game maybe sooner than you're used to," Hoffman said. "Fortunately there are guys other than just [Andrew] Miller on [the Indians'] staff. The job [Bryan] Shaw has done this year and [Cody] Allen -- it's pretty amazing as a group what they've been able to accomplish."
"It's amazing," Rivera said. "Because you're talking about the playoffs, especially now in the World Series where there's no tomorrow. So those guys are aware of that. They need to do whatever they need to do to get it done. Both managers have done tremendous jobs."