In a down year for the Angels that saw them watching at home in October yet again, Mike Mayers was a bright spot in an otherwise shaky bullpen.
Mayers entered 2020 with a 7.03 ERA in parts of four major league seasons with the Cardinals, and was an unheralded waiver claim last November. But he ended up being the best pitcher on the Angels on a per-inning basis.
The right-hander had a 2.10 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 30 innings. Mayers’ 2.19 FIP was third-best in the majors, and his 35.5-percent strikeout rate ranked sixth.
He was effective against both sides, too. Right-handers hit .235/.328/.353 against Mayers, but amazingly he held lefties to just 6-for-60, hitting .100/.143/.167 with an eye-popping 42.9-percent strikeout rate.
The one big change for Mayers was adding a cutter to the repertoire, throwing it nearly a quarter of the time. Batters were just 5-for-32 (.156) in at-bats that ended on his cutter, including a 43.8-percent put-away rate.
Mayers was so dominant that in one stretch, from Sept. 6-17, he retired 25 straight batters, including 11 strikeouts. The only thing keeping Mayers from a hidden perfect game was two batters who reached on errors just before those 25 straight outs.
That was part of a nine-game hot streak in which Mayers allowed no hits in 13⅔ innings, with only two walks and 17 strikeouts. He didn’t allow a run in 14 straight relief appearances, over 19 innings, until finally allowing a pair of runs in his last game, during the season’s final weekend.
Perhaps Mayers was tired, as his ace relief work was essential to the Angels’ last-ditch contention efforts for an elusive postseason berth. He pitched 13 games in a 21-day stretch in September, including pitching on four consecutive days once, and two separate three-day stretches.
For his efforts, Mayers was named the American League reliever of the month for September. He was a great find, and could potentially be a key part of the Angels bullpen for the next few years.
Stats: 2.10 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 2 saves, 43 strikeouts, 30 IP, 0.9 WAR
Game of the year
In the middle of his hitless September stretch, Mayers entered a tie game against Texas in the eighth inning. He retired all six batters he faced with three strikeouts, including whiffing Joey Gallo to end it. The Angels took the lead in the bottom of the eighth, so essentially Mayers saved his own win.
It was one of three straight two-inning appearances for Mayers, who allowed no hits and no runs in those games. He was dominant.
Mayers has three years, 20 days of major league service time available, and is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time. The average of the three models used by Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors projects a $1.033 million salary for Mayers in 2021.