MLB Power Rankings: The 20 Best Relievers from 2012
Gimme Some Mo!
2012 was the year of the bullpen. In some instances, a team’s success was completely contingent on the performance of their bullpen. On one hand, there was the Baltimore Orioles, who had one of the game’s best bullpen, aiding them to a wild card berth. On the other hand, there was the Milwaukee Brewers, who were one of the most underachieving teams, due to the team’s shaky bullpen.
I always thought bullpens matter more than what advanced statistics say. After all, on most occasions, the bullpen has the team’s fate in their hands. The Orioles’ bullpen is proof of that, seeing as they all had quality seasons, allowing them to outperform their run differential. Relievers might not mean more than starting pitchers or everyday players, but they do matter.
Having said all that, I compiled a list of the 20 best relievers in 2012. Making this list was a little weird, because the hammer of God, pictured above, was not included. I really hope Mariano Rivera can come back in 2013. There isn’t a better reliever in the history baseball.
I based my rankings on three things: innings, FIP, and strikeouts. I hate judging relievers by ERA due to the fact it can fluctuant so much. If a reliever has two games where they allowed three runs, it could take a month for them to even things out. Innings, FIP, and strikeouts are a good way to judge relievers because its things a pitcher can control.
Without further ado, here are the 20 best relievers from the 2012 season.
Tom Wilhelmsen (Seattle Mariners)
2012: 79 IP l 2.50 ERA l 2.89 FIP l 9.87 K/9 l 1.5 fWAR
Wilhelmsen might not be a household name, but it doesn't make him any less effective. Halfway through the season, the Mariners' reliever took over the closer duties permanently. Equipped with an upper-90s heater and a dirty 12-6 hook, Wilhelmsen is here to stay.
David Robertson (New York Yankees)
2012: 61 IP l 2.67 ERA l 2.48 ERA l 12.02 K/9 l 1.7 fWAR
Robertson has quietly been one of the best relievers in baseball, which is understandable considering he's been on a team with Mariano Rivera his whole career.
Jonathan Papelbon (Philadelphia Phillies)
2012: 70 IP l 2.44 ERA l 2.89 FIP l 11.83 K/9 l 1.4 fWAR
Although he might be one of the most overpaid players in all of baseball, Paps is still a solid bet to perform in the bullpen. It doesn't make him any less unbearable, though.
Ryan Cook (Oakland Athletics)
2012: 73 IP l 2.09 ERA l 2.89 ERA l 9.82 K/9 l 1.6 fWAR
Cook came out of nowhere in 2012, leading the way for the Athletics' bullpen. Although he had control issues early, he really found his way in the second half of the season.
Casey Janssen (Toronto Blue Jays)
2012: 63 IP l 2.54 ERA l 3.08 FIP l 9.47 K/9 l 1.2 fWAR
When Sergio Santos went down for Toronto, it was a unknown if they had a viable replacement. But after seeing what Janssen did in 2012, he should be the closer to start 2013.
David Hernandez (Arizona Diamondbacks)
2012: 68 IP l 2.50 ERA l 2.08 FIP l 12.91 K/9 l 2.1 fWAR
Unless you are a huge seamhead, you probably have never heard of David Hernandez, but that doesn't make him any less awesome. It's safe to say that he's probably the most underrated reliever in all of baseball.
Rafael Soriano (New York Yankees)
2012: 67 IP l 2.26 ERA l 3.32 FIP l 9.18 K/9 l 1.2 fWAR
What a clutch performance by Rafael Soriano this season. When Mo went down, the sky was falling in the Bronx, but Soriano reassembled it.
Jason Motte (St. Louis Cardinals)
2012: 72 IP l 2.75 ERA l 3.12 FIP l 10.75 K/9 l 1.1 fWAR
The beard alone makes Motte one of the best relievers in baseball.
Kelvin Herrera (Kansas City Royals)
2012: 84 IP l 2.35 ERA l 2.70 FIP l 8.22 K/9 l 1.9 fWAR
You know what's weird? The Royals have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball, with Herrera being a main part of it.
JJ Putz (Arizona Diamondbacks)
2012: 54 IP l 2.82 ERA l 2.38 FIP l 10.77 K/9 l 1.6 fWAR
JJ Putz rocks. That's all I got to say on that matter.
Joe Nathan (Texas Rangers)
2012: 64 IP l 2.80 ERA l 2.78 FIP l 10.91 K/9 l 1.8 fWAR
Seeing as Nathan was coming off Tommy John surgery, no one could have predicted the type of season he had in 2012.
Jake McGee (Tampa Bay Rays)
2012: 55 IP l 1.95 ERA l 1.81 FIP l 11.87 K/9 l 2.0 fWAR
Even though McGee isn't a household name, there aren't many relievers who are more dominant than him.
Sean Marshall (Cincinnati Reds)
2012: 61 IP l 2.51 ERA l 2.24 FIP l 10.92 K/9 l 1.8 fWAR
Out of the non-closers, Marshall has been the most effective and reliable reliever in the past few years. He's the type of set-up man all managers dream of.
Jim Johnson (Baltimore Orioles)
2012: 68 IP l 2.49 ERA l 3.25 FIP l 5.37 K/9 l 1.4 fWAR
Johnson might not have shown the dominance as some of these other pitchers, but his 51 saves represents Orioles' magic more than any other statistic.
Sergio Romo (San Francisco Giants)
2012: 55 IP l 1.79 ERA l 2.70 FIP l 10.25 K/9 l 1.2 fWAR
Romo's ranking is aided by his postseason dominance, and the awesome shirt that he is wearing in this picture.
Greg Holland (Kansas City Royals)
2012: 67 IP l 2.96 ERA l 2.29 FIP l 12.22 K/9 l 2.2 fWAR
Remember when I said the Royals had one of the best bullpens in baseball? Well, here's their golden boy.
Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles Dodgers)
2012: 65 IP l 2.34 ERA l 2.40 FIP l 13.71 K/9 l 1.7 fWAR
It's shame that heart issues prevented Jansen to finish the season. If healthy, he is easily one of the best.
Fernando Rodney (Tampa Bay Rays)
2012: 75 IP l 0.60 ERA l 2.13 FIP l 9.16 K/9 l 2.4 fWAR
Rodney's ERA set the record for a relief pitcher, yet he isn't the best we saw in 2012. The two pitchers in front of him are in a class by themselves.
Aroldis Chapman (Cincinnati Reds)
2012: 71 IP l 1.51 ERA l 1.55 FIP l 15.32 K/9 l 3.3 fWAR
Chapman is expected to join the Reds' rotation in 2013. If he can give the Reds 150 innings, he might strike out 275 batters. I'm almost kidding.
Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves)
2012: 63 IP l 1.01 ERA l 0.78 FIP l 16.66 K/9 l 3.6 fWAR
Kimbrel is as close to perfect as a pitcher could be. A 0.78 FIP is probably the most impressive statistic since Bonds' .609 on-base percentage.