Atlanta Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel made it two in a row, taking home the title of National League Reliever of the Year just days after he claimed FanSided’s NL Rookie of the Year award. Kimbrel’s numbers are hard to argue with, and it showed in the voting. The right-hander ran away with the honor, as two other closers, Milwaukee’s John Axford and Joel Hanrahan of the Pirates, finished in second and third place.
Kimbrel was about as dominant as they come during his first full season as the Braves finisher. According to Fan Graphs, Kimbrel led all Major League relievers in WAR (3.2) and FIP (1.52). Combining these advanced statistics with his ridiculous strikeout total (127) makes it easy to understand why Kimbrel received such a large portion of the vote.
Axford led the back end of the Brewers pen in 2011, maintaining a 1.95 ERA while striking out 86 batters over his 73.2 innings of work. Axford was able to register 46 saves for Milwaukee, and his success has carried over into postseason play. Over his four playoff appearances, Axford has only surrendered a single run on three hits in five innings. The right-hander has struck out seven batters over that span.
While Hanrahan and the Pirates didn’t make the postseason, the closer was a large part of Pittsburgh’s early resurgence in 2011. Hanrahan tallied 40 saves for the Buccos, holding a 1.83 earned run average over his 68.2 innings pitched. Though his strikeout totals were not as lofty as Kimbrel or Axford’s, Hanrahan’s ability to limit hits and walks led to his miniscule WHIP of 1.05.
Here’s a complete list of NL relievers receiving votes and their totals.
The way the voting is tallied is as follows: first place votes – 5 points, second place votes – 3 points, third place votes – 1 point.
1. Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves (92)
2. John Axford – Milwaukee Brewers (59)
3. Joel Hanrahan – Pittsburgh Pirates (28)
4. J.J. Putz – Arizona Diamondbacks (18)
5. Sean Marshall – Chicago Cubs (8)
7. Jonny Venters – Atlanta Braves (7)
8. Antonio Bastardo – Philadelphia Phillies (3)
9. Kenley Jansen – LA Dodgers (3)
10. Ryan Madson – Philadelphia Phillies (3)
11. David Hernandez – Arizona Diamondbacks (1)
11. Eric O’Flaherty – Atlanta Braves (1)
12. Jason Motte – St. Louis Cardinals (1)
13. Sergio Romo – San Francisco Giants (1)
Other end of the year voting: