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2014 Tony Awards: Reliever of the Year

2014 Tony Awards: Reliever of the Year
Trevor Frank (Photo: IBI)
October 22, 2014
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Today we continue the IBI postseason awards with the announcement of the Relief Pitcher of the Year.

The starting pitchers often get most of the focus, so this award gives an opportunity to showcase and recognize some of the top relief pitching performances over the course of the 2014 season. Because there are so many worthy relief pitcher candidates who had good seasons this year, to be nominated for the award a reliever had to have made at least 20 appearances. The top 10 performances are featured, though it is important to note that relievers such as Luke EubankJacob LeeBryan Price and Grant Sides were considered and just missed the cut.

To view the Tony Awards history from previous years, go here. Here are the 2014 Tony Awards so far:

Rookie of the Year:  Bobby Bradley
Defensive Player of the Year:  Tony Wolters
Biggest Disappointment:  Cody Anderson
Biggest Breakthrough:  Erik Gonzalez
Comeback Player of the Year:  Anthony Gallas

In the coming days the Pitcher of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and All-Tony Team will be announced.  Again, these awards are simply for fun to hand out at the end of the year.  Also, the Cleveland Indians in no way whatsoever had any input in these awards.

Onto the nominees…

Reliever of the Year Nominees

Austin Adams, RHP
42 G, 3-2, 6 SV, 2.50 ERA, 54.0 IP, 44 H, 16 R (15 ER), 4 HR, 16 BB, 52 K, .224 BAA, 1.11 WHIP

Adams put together his second straight strong season in the bullpen, this time mostly at Triple-A Columbus. He also made his Major League debut, though struggled in his six outings in Cleveland (7.0 IP, 9 H, 7 R/ER, 1 HR 1 BB, 4 K). He did not figure into any International League leaderboards, but among his peers in this listing was 5th in ERA, 6th in appearances, 9th in BAA, 3rd in BB/9 and 9th in K/9.

Shawn Armstrong, RHP
49 G, 6-2, 15 SV, 2.41 ERA, 56.0 IP, 43 H, 15 R/ER, 4 HR, 22 BB, 72 K, .213 BAA, 1.16 WHIP

Armstrong had a dominant season at the backend of the Double-A Akron bullpen ranking 5th in the Eastern League in saves and 3rd in games finished. He enjoyed a late season first time promotion to Triple-A Columbus where he made five appearances (5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R/ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 4 K) and should be his destination to start 2015. Among his peers in this listing he ranked 4th in ERA, 2nd in appearances, 7th in BAA, 7th in BB/9 and 4th in K/9.

Justin Brantley, RHP
25 G, 4-1, 2 SV, 1.31 ERA, 41.1 IP, 31 H, 7 R (6 ER), 3 HR, 15 BB, 47 K, .204 BAA, 1.11 WHIP

Brantley came out of nowhere to have an exceptional pro debut at Low-A Lake County. He was old for the league (23) and more advanced, but considering he was an undrafted free agent signing in January, his performance was outstanding. Among his peers in this listing he ranked 2nd in ERA, 8th in appearances, 4th in BAA, 6th in BB/9 and 6th in K/9.

J.P. Feyereisen, RHP
15 G, 3-0, 4 SV, 0.00 ERA, 17.0 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 0 HR, 1 BB, 24 K, .150 BAA, 0.59 WHIP

Feyereisen is another reliever who had a sensational pro debut, and did so at Short-A Mahoning Valley. He missed a little time in the middle of the season with a minor setback, but when he pitched he was electric and had a tantalizing pro debut that hopefully was but the appetizer to a fine career ahead of him. Among his peers he ranked 1st in ERA, 10th in appearances, 2nd in BAA, 1st in BB/9 and 2nd in K/9.

Trevor Frank, RHP
50 G, 5-4, 18 SV, 2.63 ERA, 54.2 IP, 40 H, 20 R (16 ER), 3 HR, 9 BB, 62 K, .205 BAA, 0.90 WHIP

Frank was the man in the Low-A Lake County bullpen this season as he locked down many wins and finished off several other games, ranking 3rd in the Midwest League in saves and 1st in games finished. Among his peers in this listing he ranked 7th in ERA, 1st in appearances, 5th in BAA, 2nd in BB/9 and 6th in K/9.

Louis Head, RHP
46 G, 1-4, 12 SV, 2.70 ERA, 56.2 IP, 45 H, 19 R (17 ER), 3 HR, 23 BB, 73 K, .216 BAA, 1.20 WHIP

Head split the season between High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron and shined at both stops. He opened at Carolina and went 0-3 with a 2.21 ERA and 34:7 strikeout to walk ratio in 20.1 innings over 17 appearance before quickly moving up to Akron where he appeared in 29 games and went 1-1 with a 2.97 ERA and 39:16 walk to strikeout ratio in 36.1 innings. Among his peers in this listing he ranked 9th in ERA, 3rd in appearances, 6th in BAA, 8th in BB/9 and 4th in K/9.

Ben Heller, RHP
45 G, 5-1, 5 SV, 2.38 ERA, 53.0 IP, 27 H, 16 R (14 ER), 4 HR, 29 BB, 81 K, .148 BAA, 1.06 WHIP

Heller had a coming out party at Low-A Lake County earlier in the season where he appeared in 28 games and racked up a 2.43 ERA and astonishing 64:16 strikeout to walk ratio over 37.0 innings. After some early struggles at High-A Carolina in a midseason promotion he settled in and had a 2.25 ERA and 17:13 strikeout to walk ratio over 16.0 innings. Among his peers in this listing he ranked 3rd in ERA, 5th in appearances, 1st in BAA, 9th in BB/9 and 1st in K/9.

Yoiber Marquina, RHP
18 G, 3-1, 7 SV, 2.57 ERA, 21.0 IP, 19 H, 13 R (6 ER), 0 HR, 12 BB, 29 K, .235 BAA, 1.48 WHIP

Marquina is a conversion player as he was a catcher in the Indians system in 2013, but the Indians experimented with him on the mound in Instructional League last fall and liked what they saw so they went forward with the move to the mound. He has really come along well in a short time and finished 1st in the Arizona League in saves and 3rd in games finished (12). Among his peers in this listing he finished 6th in ERA, 9th in appearances, 10th in BAA, 10th in BB/9 and 3rd in K/9.

Josh Martin, RHP
39 G, 5-6, 3 SV, 2.84 ERA, 66.2 IP, 47 H, 23 R (21 ER), 4 HR, 21 BB, 69 K, .194 BAA, 1.02 WHIP

Martin had a really nice showing this season and looks to have found a home in the bullpen. The Indians gave him a late season promotion to Double-A Akron where he made one scoreless 2.0 inning appearance with them in the regular season and followed that up with two solid postseason outings covering 1.2 innings. Among his peers in this listing he ranked 10th in ERA, 7th in appearances, 3rd in BAA, 5th in BB/9 and 8th in K/9.

Tyler Sturdevant, RHP
46 G, 2-2, 8 SV, 2.65 ERA, 57.2 IP, 45 H, 18 R (17 ER), 4 HR, 17 BB, 54 K, .217 BAA, 1.08 WHIP

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Comeback Player of the Year piece, Sturdevant has been quite a story of perseverance in his baseball career. He missed all of 2013 recovering from shoulder surgery and did not show any rust this season as he pitched very well splitting time at Double-A Akron (24 G, 1.45 ERA, 31.0 IP, 9 BB, 30 K) and Triple-A Columbus (22 G, 26.2 IP, 8 BB, 24 K). Among his peers in this listing he ranked 8th in ERA, 3rd in appearances, 8th in BAA, 3rd in BB/9 and 10th in K/9.

And the Tony Award goes to….Trevor Frank

This might be a surprise to some as I am sure many thought that Shawn Armstrong would win this hands down, but in the end Armstrong was the runner up when you break down the performance for the pitchers. Another surprise might be that Heller was the second runner up just ahead of Feyereisen.

It was tough to just pick a winner outright so I had to come up with a formula that I felt spit out a fair result. I basically ranked every pitcher from 1-10 in seven categories: ERA, saves, appearances, innings pitched, batting average against, walks per nine innings and strikeouts per nine innings. I felt like these seven stats best represented the entire group. While I don’t view the “save” as an important stat some of these guys racked up a good amount of them while those who did not do so racked up a good amount of innings, so they balanced each other out. Also, those who made a lot of appearances, walked less batters, struck out more batters and allowed less hits fared better in the overall ranking.

When I totaled the ranks in all of these categories, Frank had the best (lowest) score at 27 followed by Armstrong (30), Heller (33), Feyereisen (34), Head (36) and Sturdevant (38). While the method I used to come to this conclusion surely can be debated, what is tough to argue is how well Frank pitched this season. He led the organization in appearances and saves and had the best BB/9 (1.5) of all the relievers along with a darn good K/9 (10.2). That’s an impressive K/BB ratio for an arm in the backend of the bullpen, and his consistency and ability to pitch in high leverage situations has him as one of the organization’s best up and coming pen arms in the system.

Feyereisen was sensational as he ranked in the top two in several categories, but ultimately his low amount of appearances (10th) and innings (10th) made it hard to really consider him for the award since he basically only had about one-third the appearances and innings as the other pitchers. Even still, he’s a guy I am excited about going forward and can’t wait to see what he does next season at Low-A Lake County.

And I didn’t forget about Armstrong. His comeback performance this season provides a huge boost to the potential depth relief corps at Triple-A Columbus next year. The Indians are in big need of a dominant late inning right-handed pen arm, and he might be the answer later next season if given the chance.

This was just a sound group overall with very little that separated all of them. More importantly, the Indians look like they are continuing to pump out some good relief prospects - an issue they had 4-6 years ago.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

Jim Piascik
October 23, 2014 - 12:22 PM EDT
Welcome to a completely unplanned Yoiber Marquina day at IBI. Haha
October 23, 2014 - 12:17 AM EDT
Tejeda just missed as well as the other aforementioned pitchers. These are awards are entirely performance/stat-based, so ultimately the entire outcome is factored in regardless of whether they had one big blowup.
Jake D.
October 22, 2014 - 11:20 PM EDT
No honorable mention for Enosil Tejeda? I know he gave up quite a few hits, but he still averaged 9.7 strikeouts per 9 innings this year. Plus, a lot of his numbers were spiked by a horrific outing at the end of the season where he gave up 7 runs. Other than that he was a key member of the Akron bullpen this year with a 4-1 record, a 2.14 ERA and 6 saves in 43 outings prior to his 7-run appearance against the Seawolves at the end of August.
October 22, 2014 - 3:15 PM EDT
Hopefully some of these guys actually pan out and the tribe gives them a fair shot. The only recent homegrown talents are Allen, Putnam, and Rondon (arguments can be made for Crockett and Hagadone) and the tribe gave up on two of them!

We need to give guys like Adams, Price, and Lee a chance so this doesn't happen again. No more waiting on guys like Axford and Lowe to produce.
October 22, 2014 - 2:29 PM EDT

I thought Armstrong had this wrapped up when I saw the topic
October 22, 2014 - 12:00 PM EDT
Frank is one of the lower valued guys on this list. Kind of reminds me of Preston Guilmet when he was here. Guilmet performed every year and was always older but moved slower than others viewed to have higher upside. Sort of the same outlook for Frank. Senior sign, top 10 round pick, very good performer but lower value.
October 22, 2014 - 11:50 AM EDT
Good choice and impressive performance, but do the Indians believe he is a legit BP spec? I ask, because so far they have assigned T.Frank very conservatively. He was an older SR, top 10 rounds draft pick and could have gone straight to LC based on College success. It's strange that he hasn't pitched in A+ yet. They did promote Heller, but not Frank. Does that mean they like him more or not value Frank as much?
October 22, 2014 - 11:27 AM EDT
It's really encouraging to see a reliever pile up that many strikeouts while maintaining a WHIP under 1, especially since he had the same sort of dominance (K/9 >10 and WHIP < 1) last season at MV. It seems like most of the Indians backend relief prospects have come with BB/9's in the 4-5 range. Next season will be a better test to see how legit his stuff is compared to just exploiting younger hitters.
Hea Check
October 22, 2014 - 10:59 AM EDT
I can go with Frank - but think Heller put together a hell(er) of a season. His walks hurt him though and considering how few hits he gave up per innings pitched he got "unlucky" in the runs scored department. If things had shook out a little differently, he would have ended up with a much much lower ERA. I mean 53 IP and only 27 Hits!!!! 81 K's too. If he shaves off a few walks, could be something special.

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