Through the numbers that follow, the choice should be as obvious to you as it was to me. (All numbers that follow are in relief roles only – starting stats are excluded unless noted.)
Beginning with the most basic stats, veterans Josh Kinney and Rich Rundles tied at 56 appearances with the former also leading the Redbirds with 60 innings pitched in relief. While the ERAs of the nine primary relievers are listed, there are better measures of effectiveness, such as Fielding Independent Pitching or FIP. That is how the list below is ordered.
Kinney and Eduardo Sanchez both posted sub-2.00 ERAs and Salas' ERA was 3.79 due in a large part to an inexplicable six-run outing on August 19. Moving over to FIP, which is intended to eliminate everything a pitcher cannot control but still uses the same scale as ERA, the tables turn dramatically. Salas rises to the top by a considerable margin.
Not every reliever has to come in with runners on base, but his results in this category are at least as important as his own ERA. In limited opportunities, Samuel was perfect and Salas allowed just one of nine inherited runners to score to lead the Redbirds. It is also worth noting that during the months of May, June and July, Salas made an amazing 21 consecutive appearances without allowing a run of his own, either.
The next set of basic numbers includes strikeouts and walks. Salas fanned almost five batters for every free pass issued, a mark that stands head and shoulders above the other relievers. He also yielded just two opposing home runs all season. Samuel had the lowest opposing batting average among all the relievers at .190, but continues to endure big-time struggles with his control.
When Salas was not with the Redbirds, Kinney became the primary closer, converting just under 80 percent of his opportunities. Sanchez, already named as our Springfield Reliever of the Year for the second consecutive season, demonstrated a bit of his future promise by going a perfect 3-for-3. Salas also did not blow a save in 19 opportunities, a most impressive mark. His save total was third-highest in the Pacific Coast League in 2010.
A very important measure for a reliever is to retire his first batter faced. Once again, Salas was superior to the all the other Memphis relievers including in the playoffs, setting down almost 82 percent of his initial hitters all season long.
Finally, Salas was one of two Redbirds named to the 2010 Triple-A All-Star Game, along with starting pitcher Brandon Dickson.
Putting all this together, I think the choice is clear. Fernando Salas is The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com 2010 Memphis Redbirds Reliever of the Year.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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