Last season, Fernando Rodney put together a historically great season, producing the lowest ERA of any pitcher who threw more than 50 innings in a season. His was a season out of nowhere, on par with Roger Maris hitting 61 homers in 1961, Steve Stone winning a Cy Young award, or Fred Dunlap‘s insane 1884 season. Rodney’s record ERA+ of 641 managed to top Dennis Eckersley‘s 603 mark set in 1990, and appeared to be a number that may be atop the list for some time.
‘Some time’ may end up being a year. Mostly under the radar, Alex Torres is in the process of putting together a season that may not only surpass Rodney’s, but shatter his ERA+ mark. Originally brought up as an injury replacement, Torres has become perhaps the best reliever for the Rays this season, producing an otherworldly 0.30 ERA in his 30.1 innings this season. This mark has not been put together by only facing one batter and getting the out either – in ten of his eighteen appearances, Torres has gone beyond one inning in relief, including two separate four inning stints.
As Torres has continued his dominance, his role in the bullpen has increased in importance. Originally slotted as the mop up guy, Torres has managed to work his way into the seventh inning role, even occasionally spelling Joel Peralta in the eighth. Not coincidentally, since Torres has established himself in the bullpen, the Rays relief corps, which had struggled at the start of the season, have been much better.
Typically, middle relievers and setup men do not receive a lot of attention, even amongst their own fanbase. The hold is not really considered a glamorous statistic, unlike the over-emphasized save. It also does not help that setup men and middle relievers are generally considered akin to offensive linemen in football; if they are doing their job right, no one notices them. Yet, Torres may be about to shatter that perception as well.
Alex Torres is in the midst of a truly remarkable run for the Rays. If he can get 50 innings under his belt, and continue to pitch as he had thus far, it may even be a historical season.