The Memphis bullpen kept the Redbirds in games all season long, so it should come as no surprise that there are multiple pitchers worthy of taking The Cardinal Nation’s Reliever of the Year award for the Triple-A club.
While three bullpen mainstays built great cases for the honor, one player stands tall above the rest — right-hander David Aardsma.
Of Memphis relievers who appeared in at least 10 games, Aardsma led them all with an impressive 1.29 ERA and a 4-0 record.
The only knock on the right-hander was his health. Aardsma missed two months - from mid-June to mid-August - with a groin injury that required surgery, and as a result threw only 35 innings across 33 contests.
In those 35 innings, the seasoned veteran allowed only 20 hits and five earned runs while recording 11 saves. The latter number ranked second on the squad despite all the missed time. Aardsma struck out 36 batters compared to 17 walks, and had a WHIP of 1.06.
At 32 years of age, Aardsma is much older than the typical minor league pitcher, and he used his experience to his advantage while putting together what is statistically one of the best seasons of his career.
Kiekhefer had an impressive 12-game stretch shortly after arriving in Memphis in May in which he did not give up a single earned run, but the lefty trailed off toward the end of the season, finishing with an ERA of 2.54 and a 2-3 record in 56 2/3 innings of work. Kiekhefer’s WHIP of 0.94 ranked as the best on the team among regular contributors.
Perhaps Kiekhefer’s most impressive statistic is his strikeout-to-walk ratio. The reliever struck out 52 batters while giving up only five walks for a ratio of 10.4.
Fornataro was the team’s saves leader, compiling an ERA of 2.57, a WHIP of 1.18 and 15 saves in 56 innings pitched. The right-hander’s saves helped his cause, but his less competitive WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.75 put him behind both Aardsma and Kiekhefer.
With Aardsma missing perhaps the Redbirds’ two most important months of the season, Kiekhefer very nearly stole the award away from the veteran, but ultimately Aardsma’s low ERA and high save-rate made up for his lack of longevity.
Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation’s 2014 Memphis Redbirds Reliever of the Year, David Aardsma.
Link to master article with all 2014 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selections as the Memphis Redbirds Starting Pitcher and Player of the Year.
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