Even though the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates are not playing in the World Series, their respective closers, Andrew Miller and Mark Melancon, were rewarded with the Reliever of the Year Awards for their efforts in 2015. 

According to MLB‘s PR on Twitter, Miller was named Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year, and Melancon captured the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year award. 

Even though the award is not specifically designed for closers, this marks the second consecutive season in which ninth-inning hurlers have captured the honor after Greg Holland (Kansas City Royals) and Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves) in 2014.     

Melancon’s 51 saves were the most in Major League Baseball, and his 76.2 innings pitched were the third most in the National League. Miller’s 14.59 strikeouts per nine innings pitched were second in MLB, trailing only the Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman. 

Part of Pittsburgh’s slow start this season was the result of Melancon posting a 5.23 ERA in 11 April appearances, but he quickly turned things around, allowing just one earned run from May through July. The Pirates took off after that, making the playoffs for the third consecutive season and winning 98 games for the first time since 1991. 

Speaking to Mark Newman of MLB.com, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talked about the evolution of Melancon in his three seasons with the team:

He’s a guy who has worked hard to continue to evolve every year he’s been involved in our bullpen. Whether it be different zones to attack, different pitch sequences, adding or subtracting pitches, working on his fielding — one of his goals was to win a Gold Glove [Award] — or his ability to control the running game. He continues to evolve and grow. … He is as intense a competitor on the mound as I’ve had.

Bryan Hoch of MLB.com provided an Instagram picture of the current and former Yankees closers after Miller won the trophy:

Speaking about capturing the honor, per Newman, Miller said his role as a relief-only pitcher starting in 2012 wasn’t something he initially planned on. 

“It wasn’t exactly where I wanted to go or how I wanted to end up here,” Miller said, “but it’s really been a lot of fun and I think I’ve thrived in it.”

Even though Rivera was retired for a season before Miller took over the ninth inning for New York, the southpaw was walking into a pressure-packed situation because every Yankee reliever will forever be compared to Rivera. 

Miller, despite missing one month of the season with forearm problems, put together a fantastic season for his debut in New York. 

Melancon and Miller may not have ended the season when they were hoping, but their teams can rest assured knowing the ninth inning is secure heading into 2016. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com.

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