In case you missed it, his top 10 was: 10. Joakim Soria, 9. Heath Bell, 8. John Axford, 7. Ryan Madson, 6. Andrew Bailey, 5. Jonathan Papelbon, 4. Joaquin Benoit, 3. Craig Kimbrel, 2. Mike Adams, 1. Mariano Rivera. There is little to dispute about Rivera, simply because of the "body of work" element. There is nobody out there that comes close to the consistency Rivera shows on a year in and year out basis. The rest of the list is up for grabs. I admire Kenny for not putting stock in saves and holds, which I agree are overrated when evaluating how good a relief pitcher is. A guy like Adams belongs on the list. He was 5-4, 1.47 ERA, 73 2/3 IP, 12 ER, 14 BB, 74 K, 0.787 WHIP for SD/Tex in 2011.
I have no problem rewarding set-up men by putting them on this list but others should be ackowledged as well. David Robertson (4-0, 1.08, 66 2/3, 8, 35, 100, 1.125), Johnny Venters (6-2, 1.84, 88, 18, 43, 96, 1.091) and Tyler Clippard (3-0, 1.83, 88 1/3, 18, 26, 104, 0.838) are not on the list and a case could be made that all performed better than Benoit (4-3, 2.95, 61, 20, 17, 63, 1.049). Now, part of the criteria is "body of work" which considers their reputation as well as their past. I'm sure Benoit got credit for his 2010 season (1-2, 1.34, 60 1/3, 9, 11, 75, 0.68) and that also explains Soria being on the list coming off a bad season and Bailey being on the list coming off a season shortened because of an injury. But, how is Brian Wilson left off the list? Wilson struggled in 2011, just like Soria, but was perhaps the most dominant reliever in 2010 (3-3, 1.81, 74 2/3, 15, 26. 93, 1.179, + 44 saves).
Another omission was probably made to make a point. Jose Valverde (2-4, 2.24, 72 1/3, 18, 34, 69, 1.189 + 46/46 in save opportunities) was left off the list to prove that the save statistic is overrated. It is in many accounts, but numbers-wise, his season was as good, if not better, than his teammate Benoit's. Factor in that he didn't blow a save the entire season and he has to be on this list.
I totally understand how this list will be a matter of opinion as mine will vary with yours and that of others. My list will consider all the facts such as body of work, history, past season stats as well as what should be expected for 2012. The relievers mentioned are, in my opinion, the 15 top relievers in the game today. With that being said, here is how I would rank them.
15. Joakim Soria, 14. Joaquim Benoit, 13. Ryan Madson, 12. Andrew Bailey, 11. Heath Bell, 10. Jonny Venters, 9. Brian Wilson, 8. Tyler Clippard, 7. Jose Valverde, 6. David Robertson, 5. Jonathan Papelbon, 4. Mike Adams, 3. Craig Kimbrel, 2. John Axford, 1. Mariano Rivera.
I'm curious to see what other opinions are out there among the best relievers in the game today. If you leave your top ten in the comment section of this blog, perhaps we can have a discussion. And if I get enough responses, I will tally up the results in a poll.