After 12 MLB seasons and 442 games, two-time All-Star relief pitcher Zack Britton is hanging up his cleats. The former Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees righty officially announced his retirement on Monday in an interview with the Athletic.
“I’ve done everything I wanted to do in the game, other than win a World Series,” Britton said, via Brittany Ghiroli. “I played a lot longer than I thought. A lot of it is luck, let’s be honest. There’s a lot of talented guys who don’t get to play for 12 years. So I’m very grateful for that. It was the journey, honestly, that was special. I was never great at being good at two things and now it’s time to be all-in on my family.”
Britton made his MLB debut with the Orioles in 2011 as a starting pitcher but struggled in that role through his first three seasons. He converted to the bullpen full-time in 2014 and immediately became one of the best relievers in the league.
Over the next four seasons, Britton pitched in 242 games, recording 135 saves with a 1.61 ERA and 1.003 WHIP. He was an All-Star twice during that span and had a major league record 0.54 ERA in 2016. Britton finished fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting and 11th in MVP voting that season.
A move to the Big Apple
With the Orioles declining, the Yankees decided to swoop in and acquire Britton via trade in July 2018. Though not in his usual closer role, Britton continued to thrive for the Yankees in late-inning situations.
He signed a three-year deal with an option before the 2019 season and had a 2.14 ERA across his first 105 innings with the Yankees through the 2020 season. Britton tossed only 19 innings in the MLB after the 2020 season, with his last appearance coming as a Yankee against the Orioles on Sept. 30, 2022. He threw six pitches, walking the only batter he faced.
Few in the 21st century have and will replicate the sort of success Zack Britton had as a reliever. Though his career is not exactly ending on his own terms, the seven-year run he had from 2014 to 2020 is quite impressive. During that span, Britton had a 17-8 record with a 1.84 ERA in 369 games. He notched 153 saves and allowed 11 earned runs per season.
Britton's success in the postseason also sets him above most relievers in his era. He recorded a pair of saves in his first playoff series with the Orioles in 2014 and was nearly flawless for the Yankees during their 2019 postseason run, tossing 5.2 scoreless innings in an ALCS loss to the Houston Astros.
It's unfortunate that Zack Britton did not get to finish his career the way he wanted to, but he put it best when saying that few ballplayers get to have as long and successful of a career as he did. Britton will take his career 3.13 ERA and be remembered in Baltimore and New York for some memorable outings.
He may miss the game, but the father of four will have plenty to keep him busy.