55 saves in a row converted for Zach Britton. Last time he blew a save was September 20, 2015. Pres still owned his house, Kyrie Irving was still happy to be in Cleveland, and Michael Phelps hadn’t wasted all of our time racing a CGI shark yet. Britton’s 55th save in row to close out yesterday’s 9-7 win over Houston broke a tie with Tom Gordon for second all time in MLB history, and put him atop the American League record books for longest save streak. He’s still well short of the MLB record, 84 by Eric Gagne. Gagne’s streak was insane, lasting from August 28, 2002 to July 3rd, 2004, but let’s not forget that Gagne did admit to using HGH doing his career….soooooo in my eyes, Britton is the all time leader. Britton’s stretch has been a bit long because of the two trips to the DL he has made this season. His save on Sunday was only his 6th of the season, and first since April 14th.
His 2017 season hasn’t been great my any means- he didn’t look healthy, even before he went on the DL. And basically all his numbers are up. In his 16 games pitched in this season, Britton has given up more earned runs (5) than he did in his 69 games last year (4). One good sign that I’ve seen from Britton since he’s come back? 22 ground balls and 4 fly balls. Compare that to the 18 ground balls and 10 fly balls from the beginning of the season to his DL trips. I thought his game yesterday was some of the best stuff we’ve seen from his this season.
It’s absolutely unreal what Britton has been able to do during this streak, especially when you look back at his 2016 season where 47 of the 55 saves happened. If Britton blew one save and the Orioles lost that game, they’d have missed out on the playoffs (and the whole Buck-Britton thing never even happens). 20 of his 47 saves came against division foes last year as well. Britton got the job done better than almost anyone in a single season, and he was rewarded with an insanely low finish in the Cy Young voting, fourth place.
Think about the names of the best closers ever, Mariano Rivera, Billy Wager, Trevor Hoffman, K Rod, John Franco, Dennis Eckersley, and Rollie Fingers. None of those guys got close to where Britton is at. None of those guys are in the top 5 longest streaks of all time. I’m not saying he is better than any of those guys (he is), but I’m saying this recent stretch of his may be better than anything Mariano Rivera ever did in a season, especially his 2016 year.
The big question now is not how long the streak will go on, but it’s where the streak will continue. There are swirling rumors of Britton being dangled at the trade deadline to a team who needs a dominant closer. Even coming off injuries this season, he is a hot commodity under team control. The Cubs, Astros, and Dodgers have all been linked to Britton in the last few days.
I was in favor of trading Britton after his year last year, just because his stock would have never been higher. Because of his DL stint I don’t think you will see the Orioles get back a haul like the Yankees got for Aroldis Chapman, or Andrew Miller last year. Especially because he has yet to work in back-to-back games since April 13th and 14th. Would they get a decent slew of prospects? Yes. But I’m not expecting anyone of the Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres talent, but I think they could get a handful of guys who can add some depth to the farm system. Britton was asked about the rumors, and he mentioned that if this was his last save as an Oriole in Camden Yards than it was a cool way to go out in front of the fans and all.
If it was his last save with the cartoon bird as his logo, he’s been great to watch (as a reliever, not a starter), and I hope he goes somewhere in the NL so I don’t have to see the Birds flailing at that devastating sinker. Congrats Zach on your American League record, now add a few more to that this week, and showcase that arm!