Baseball is all about rankings. Sometimes, it’s how players fare in awards races, how many fans voted for them for the All-Star Game, or where each team ended up on the latest MLB Power Rankings.
The fact of the matter is, everyone wants to be considered great. Those who go the extra mile can become elite, but usually, if you round into the top 10, you’ve done something right.
We’ve already covered the top 10 starting pitchers right now, so it would be best to complete the bridge and move on to relievers, starting with No. 10 and working our way to the best in the league.
Of course, since relievers are much more volatile, these rankings might be based on different numbers than the top 10 starters.
10. Edwin Diaz – RHP – New York Mets
I open up my list with a rather controversial pick in Mets’ right-hander Edwin Diaz. Diaz was coming off a season in which he dazzled for the Seattle Mariners –– but struggled mightily with the Mets in 2019.
However, the guy is still electric and I’d tend to believe 2019 was more of an anomaly than his 2018 season.
Although it’ll be tough to replicate a season where he posted a SIERA of 1.49 and a strikeout rate of 44.3 percent, he’s definitely closer to that pitcher than the one we saw get battered at times in Queens last season.
9. Nick Anderson – RHP – Tampa Bay Rays
Anderson burst onto the scene in 2019 as a rookie with the Miami Marlins and became a hot commodity on the trade market. The Tampa Bay Rays were the lucky team that was able to acquire him, and he was just about untouchable. In 23 games with Tampa Bay, Anderson posted a 214 ERA+, a 1.62 FIP, and a 1.19 xFIP.
On top of that, he struck out 52.6 percent of batters he faced after Aug. 1, which was 4.8 percent better than second-place Chad Green.
He also has a dominant pitch mix of an electric fastball and a sharp curveball, with his best pitch being the latter of the two, as he had a -0.62 xFIP and a .166 xwOBA when throwing it.
Nick Anderson's curveball in super slow motion pic.twitter.com/hqcm1hYQ77
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) October 3, 2019
8. Taylor Rogers – LHP – Minnesota Twins
Rogers quietly dominated for a lackluster Twins team in 2018. Entering 2019, it was a real test to see if he could replicate the success. His ERA and xFIP both dropped, and his strikeout rate jumped 3.5 percent. He also has one of the deadliest sliders in the sport, sporting a 1.94 xFIP and a .199 xwOBA in his 465-pitch sample size.
7. Chad Green – RHP – New York Yankees
Green had a down season in 2019, but that can be attributed to his increased role as an opener (“opened” 15 games a season ago). However, his elite talent is still being shown on a nightly basis.
If it weren’t for Dellin Betances, Chad Green would be the best reliever the Yankees have had the past four years. His ability is just so mind-boggling, even though he’s thrown his four-seam fastball at a 70.1 percent clip since getting called up in 2016. However, since 2017, Chad Green ranks fourth amongst relievers in FIP (2.52), 10th in strikeout rate (34.5 percent) and fifth in SIERA at 2.49.
Green is amazing, and a down 2019 isn’t enough to bounce him from the top 10.
6. Ken Giles – RHP – Toronto Blue Jays
Lost in the shuffle the past few seasons due to inflated ERA numbers is Blue Jays right-hander, Ken Giles. Giles will always be remembered as the guy who punched himself in the face after allowing a mammoth home run to Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez.
Gary Sanchez delivered the knockout punch, then Ken Giles delivered his own. pic.twitter.com/SP5MOqmPxt
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) May 2, 2018
However, Giles is a much better pitcher than that, and it’s time we start recognizing that. Since Giles entered the league in 2014, he ranks fourth among all relievers with a 2.37 FIP and ranked fourth among relievers with a 39.9 strikeout percentage in 2019.
Giles is a bulldog, and it’s only a matter of time before he is back to anchor a bullpen for a legit title contender.
5. Roberto Osuna – RHP – Houston Astros
Say what you want about Roberto Osuna as a person, but he is still an unbelievable talent. While his rate numbers aren’t eye-popping (28.8 strikeout rate is tied for 40th since 2017), he still is one of the best at generating results from that closer’s position.
Since the start of the 2017 season, Osuna ranks third in FIP (2.47), tied for third in FIP- (56), and has had tremendous success at keeping the ball in the ballpark with a 7.8 percent HR/FB rate (tied for eighth).
He’s run into his fair share of issues off of the field, but the fact remains that he’s one of the game’s premier relievers and has been for a few years now.
4. Aroldis Chapman – LHP – New York Yankees
The one red flag with Chapman is that, because of how frequently he was used with the Cubs in 2016, he breaks down earlier in the season. That can be shown in his injury history the past few years, or how frequently his fastball dips below triple digits, causing him to rely more on his slider.
He’s got tremendous stuff, so he can get away with that no problem. But, as a guy who relies on being effectively wild, one can only grow concerned that his decline might be drastic (see 2019 Craig Kimbrel).
All in all, Chapman still ranked fifth in reliever FIP (2.28), while also tying for fourth in FIP- (49). But, I still have my questions, mainly because his strikeout rate tanked in 2019, dropping 7.7 percent from his 43.9 in 2018.
3. Josh Hader – LHP – Milwaukee Brewers
Much like Roberto Osuna, you can say whatever you want about the person Josh Hader is. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the best pitchers in the MLB –– and we should take into account the type of player he is when assessing him.
And the player is other-worldly.
In 2019, Hader ranked first in strikeout rate (47.8 percent), first in SIERA (1.78), and third in xFIP (2.36). He’s what they call a “max effort” pitcher, as he puts his entire body into each pitch, thus creating deception.
#Brewers win! Josh Hader shuts it down in the 9th to move us into a tie for the top NL Wild Card spot! #ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/elWuN7kF0Q
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 22, 2019
2. Dellin Betances – RHP – Free Agent
The only thing keeping me from putting Betances at No. 1 is the fact he missed all of 2019 (aside from one outing), and who knows when he’ll return in 2020? And, when he does return, how can we know he’s going to be the same pitcher he was pre-injury?
After all, he did injure his Achilles.
But, from what we have on him, Betances is nothing short of brilliant. His 2.30 career FIP is fifth all-time amongst relievers, his 54 FIP- ranks third all-time, and his 40.2 percent strikeout rate ranks fourth all-time.
He’s must-watch whenever he takes the mound, and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see him for most of 2019.
1. Kirby Yates – RHP – San Diego Padres
The fact that this man didn’t win Reliever of the Year for the National League is an utter joke because Kirby Yates was unbelievable a season ago.
Yates finished first with a 1.19 ERA, first with a 1.30 FIP, first with a 29 FIP-, second with a 3.4 fWAR, and third with a 41.6 percent strikeout rate.
He was just brilliant in 2019, and Yates deserves recognition as the game’s best reliever.