If you were to have a discussion about who the best relievers in the game are you will likely end up talking about Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Joe Nathan, and a plethora of other closers. And, for the most part, you would likely be talking about one of the better relievers in the game. But when we focus solely on the save stat and closers we miss out on one of the best relievers in 2012 and over the past few seasons and his name is Matt Belisle.
It is obvious why Belisle constantly gets overlooked; he has two career saves and none since 2010. And it is quite a shame that relievers get overlooked for this reason.
So far this season Belisle has been the third most valuable reliever at 1.6 fWAR behind only Chapman and Kimbrel. He is third among all relievers in innings pitched at 48, his 0.19 HR/9 is fifth best among all qualified relievers, and his 1.50 BB/9 rate is the eight best mark among qualified relievers. What makes Belisle look even better is that he has pitched more than half of his innings at Coors Field.
Belisle is also sporting a 2.25 ERA, 2.21 FIP, and 2.91 xFIP. He keeps the ball on the ground with a 58.3% ground ball rate and his 1.50 BB/9 rate is actually inflated thanks to three intentional walks that Jim Tracy has forced him to make on opposing hitters. Oh, and his K/9 rate of 7.88 is not bad at all.
Over the past three seasons only Sean Marshall‘s 5.8 fWAR and Kimbrel’s 5.7 fWAR are better than Belisle’s 5.2 fWAR and only Tyler Clippard has pitched more innings than Belisle’s 212. Over that same time frame only Koji Uehara, Wilton Lopez, Rafael Betancourt, Edward Mujica, and Mariano Rivera have a better BB/9 than Belisle’s 1.61 mark which includes 11 of his 38 walks being unintentional. None of the above named relievers have over 180 innings pitched during that time frame.
If those numbers don’t make you a believer then take a look at Matt Belisle’s ERA+ since 2010 sitting at a remarkable 160 which is the best mark in all of baseball over that span with a minimum of 200 innings pitched. The next name on the list is Roy Halladay at 152 followed by Alexi Ogando and Justin Verlander at 150 each.
Matt Belisle does everything you want in a reliever and he does it pitching at least half of his games in the best hitter’s park in the game. Belisle gets strikeouts, often throws more than an inning at a time, never walks batters, rarely allows homeruns, and keeps the ball on the ground when it is put in play. Belisle may not get saves and may not be the flame-throwing reliever everyone enjoys watching but one thing is for sure and it is that Belisle’s name belongs in the discussion of best relievers in the game.
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and the Florida Marlins at ESPN’s SweetSpot site Marlins Daily. You can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert. Be sure to follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | Alexi Ogando, Aroldis Chapman, Colorado Rockies, Craig Kimbrel, Edward Mujica, Joe Nathan, Justin Verlander, Koji Uehara, Mariano Rivera, Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt, Roy Halladay, Sean Marshall, Tyler Clippard, Wilton Lopez