West Australian Liam Hendriks has become the first Major League Baseball player to win back-to-back Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year awards after receiving to honour for the 2021 season.
The Chicago White Sox pitcher has capped off a star-studded season by winning the American League Reliever of the Year for the second consecutive year. It follows Hendriks earning the same award in 2020 where he was playing with the Oakland Athletics.
Across the 2021 MLB season, the relief pitcher made 69 appearances for the White Sox and pitched a total of 71.0 innings for an 8-3 win-loss record and an ERA of 2.54, with 113 strikeouts, only giving up 45 hits and 20 earned runs.
However, what made Hendriks so reliable and so deadly on the mound was his ability to close out games for the American League Central Champions.
Across the season, the Perth local converted 38 saves – an American League-best – from 44 save opportunities with a league-best WHIP (among all relievers with at least 45 appearances) of 0.73. He had a strike percentage of 42.3 per cent, a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 16.14 – the best of his MLB career -, and kept opposition batters to an average of .171 when he was pitching.
Hendriks’ form across the year also saw him named to the 2021 MLB All-Star Game roster where he suited up for the American League All-Stars. It was the second time Hendriks had been named for an MLB All-Star Game after appearing in the showcase game in 2019.
The feat saw Hendriks become the first Australian to be selected for two MLB All-Star Games, as previously David Nilsson (Milwaukee, 1999) and Grant Balfour (Oakland, 2013) had made one appearance each in the event across their professional careers in the Majors.
In this year’s edition, the closer pitched one inning in the contest, and picked up the save in the process after entering the game at the bottom of the ninth inning and being able to keep the scoreline at 5-2 in his side’s favour at the conclusion of the encounter.
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Speaking to MLB Network following the news of his historic American League Reliever of the Year announcement, Hendriks said it was a honour to be receive an award named after Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, who is considered the greatest reliever of all time.
“It’s something special. Obviously anytime you get a chance to be brought up with Mariano [Rivera], regardless of the 600 saves, regardless of anything, his accolades, it’s aces across the board,” Hendriks said.
“Between the save total (652), between the blown save total (80) which is minute to begin with, to the playoff experience, to what he’s able to do and accomplish in the game.
“More importantly, what he’s able to accomplish off the field, it’s such a great legacy that he’s left behind and I’m just glad to be a little cog in hopefully moving the reliever game forward.”
Reflecting on the accomplishment itself, the 32-year-old said he had a large amount of belief that he could take his game to the next level, despite needing to adapt to an entirely new organisation following his off-season move from Oakland.
“This is huge, obviously last year, winning it was fantastic and amazing and everything I dreamt it could’ve been,” Hendriks mentioned.
“Coming into this year with it being a full season and new team, a new organisation, a new division, this wasn’t the end total that I was looking for at the start of the season. I was just looking to put together a good year and hopefully end with a ring.”
This season marked the first time since 2008 that the White Sox had topped the divisional standings. However, the team’s season was ended by the eventual World Series runners-up, the Houston Astros in the American League Divisional Series, losing three games to one in the five-game series.
“We didn’t end up with a ring but we’re well on the way to that, hopefully with the White Sox,” Hendriks affirmed.
“This is just a little piece of icing on the cake for me personally of what I was able to accomplish this year but we’ve got a lot of work to do for the off-season and hopefully we come out guns blaring in Spring Training.”
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