Britton's mother is a doctor; his father is a contractor.
Zach graduated from Weatherford High School in Weatherford, Texas. He was friends with local athletes Clayton Kershaw and future NFL QB Matt Stafford.
- In 2006, Britton got drafted by the Orioles (see Transactions below).
In 2007, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Zach as 14th-best prospect in the Orioles organization. In 2008, they had him at #21 in the Baltimore farm system. In the spring of 2009, they moved Britton up to 12th-best in the Baltimore organization.
They moved him all the way up to third best prospect in the Orioles farm system in the winter before 2010 spring training. And finally, they had Zach at second-best prospect in the Baltimore organization in the winter before 2011 spring camps opened.
In 2009, Zach was the Carolina League's pitcher of the year. He finished second in the league in ERA (2.70) and strikeouts (131 in 140 innings).
He got engaged in the offseason before 2010 spring training. And he got married in November 2011 in Newport Beach, California.
In 2010, the Orioles named Zach as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year after he was 10-7, 2.70 ERA between Bowie and Norfolk.
Zach's is the younger brother of Orioles minor league all-star second baseman Buck Britton.
Zach was starting to pick up on some things about being a father in June 2015. His son was also picking up a thing or two as well. Zander Britton, who was born on Oct. 7, 2014, has begun to notice, and mimic, certain actions of his parents. The infant has become pretty good at doing impressions of his parents, both facially and verbally.
While it warmed his heart to see his child's actions, it reminded the first-time father of an important lesson each time. "It all comes back to being a good example, because they pick up on things that you do," Britton said. Britton understands this, as did his father, Greg.
Zach was raised in Santa Clarita, Calif., before moving to Texas, where he played three years of baseball for Weatherford High School. Greg wasn't overly critical of his son in his baseball career, he was tough in other aspects. "He was definitely tough when it came to other things like anything off the field, how to treat people, and the way you were supposed to act. Stuff like that," Zach said.
Zach continues those principles he was taught today, as he is one of the friendliest and most well-mannered players in the Orioles' clubhouse. He generally speaks with media whenever asked, and he even strikes up unprovoked conversations with reporters.
As Zander continues to grow, Britton hopes that he can relay the same lessons to his son that he was taught from his father. He continues to learn new things about being a father with each day, but has a solid blueprint with which to work.
Zach celebrated his first Father's Day in 2015. He didn't make a big deal of it, but he did acknowledge some perks. "I feel like maybe guys don't get wrapped up in holidays as much, but it was nice to celebrate Father's Day. Actually being on the receiving end of some gifts," Zach said with a chuckle. (Smolensky - mlb.com - 6/19/15)
May 14, 2016: About 10 years ago, Zach signed his first professional contract. It was a dream spent playing in the dirt, playing around parks, laughing and learning and in love with a game that was fun.
On Saturday morning, only hours after combining to close out another Orioles victory—their sixth in a row—the All-Star reliever was at the nearby Fort Meade military base to join in Major League Baseball's inaugural Play Ball Weekend and to feel like a kid again.
"I've got to warn you that the next station might be boring," fellow pitcher Darren O'Day told boys and girls at the fielding skills station before they rotated over to the pitching station manned by Britton.
"I think Darren messed them up when they sent them over to me, so I was trying to fix them," Britton said before catching blazing fastballs from the wide-eyed kids. "No, it was a lot of fun. We're just trying to spread the love of the game through baseball. We want kids to enjoy it so hopefully they one day follow in our footsteps a little bit."
Britton taught them to step and throw, taking some close-range heaters, including one off the knee with a laugh. O'Day, ever the Florida Gator, taught them fielding by cupping his hand over his glove and asking: "You know what an alligator is, right?"
Among other perks like hot dogs and gear, these and many other kids were given tickets by the Orioles to attend that evening's scheduled home game against the Tigers.
"We're big supporters of the military and appreciate everything they do," Britton said. "At times it's nice to get everybody out here on a Saturday morning and play some baseball. We have children ourselves, so we're kind of doing this every single day and it's a lot of fun."
Fort Meade is of particular interest to Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who has given thousands of tickets to the facility for use by its population. This is the third-largest Army installation in America, and the U.S. Cyber Command post since 2009, but its workforce (54,406) goes well beyond all that. It is home to members of all U.S. military branches and their families—and lots of budding ballplayers.
"America would not be the same without baseball, and Fort Meade would not be the same without the Orioles," said Col. Brian Foley, garrison commander of Fort Meade and essentially the mayor of a good-sized city." (M Newman - MLB.com - May 14, 2016)
"It's incredible watching Zach pitch," said Orioles starter Chris Tillman. "I'm not just saying that because he's my teammate. He's got some of the best stuff I think I've seen in baseball. His sinker, it's ridiculous. I don't know how anyone can put a good swing on it. He takes a lot of pride in it and it's fun to watch." (Ghiroli - MLB.com - 6/15/16)
June 18, 2016: Over the past year and eight months, Britton's relationship with his dad, Greg, has evolved. And it's not because Zach has transformed into one of the league's most dependable closers. It's watching Zach interact with his own son that brings him more joy than anything. Since Zander Britton was born in 2014, Zach's relationship with his dad is no longer just father and son.
"I relate to [Zach] differently a little bit because now he's a dad, so I can relate to him as a father to a father," Greg said. And Zach has developed a greater appreciation for all the years his dad put up with him when he was growing up. When the Orioles traveled to Texas for a series with the Rangers in mid-April, he had dinner with his dad, who lives in the area.
At one point during the meal, Zander grew anxious. He was tired of sitting in his seat. He wanted to run around and unleash some of his energy. But this was dinnertime, so Zach leaned over to his son and told him he needed to behave himself. Then he shared a look with his own dad. Greg just nodded.
"There are so many things at the time when you are growing up, you're always like, 'Why is he doing this to me or that?" the closer said. "You understand that it's for a reason. I think in hindsight, you appreciate it a lot more as you get older."
When Zach was younger, his father used baseball as his disciplinary tool. All he had to do was ask Zach if he wanted to play baseball that weekend. "Everything got in line," Greg said. "No problems."
"Everything you do now revolves around him," Zach said. "It just completely changes everything about your life. Everything that you thought was important isn't a focal point anymore. It's been awesome." To some degree, Zander has become a focal point for Greg as well. When Greg gets a chance to visit with Zach, he conceded he'd go to Zander first . "Our sons were always the focus," Greg said. "Now we've got grandkids, and you can't help it that they're like little magnets."
And with Zach's wife, Courtney, due again this November 2016, Greg will have another grandchild to cherish and see Zach mentor. "What I really like—and it's with all my sons—is watching them being a dad," Greg said. It's really satisfying to me. Zach is an excellent father." (R Baillargeon - MLB.com - June 18, 2016)
Zach says he was a "reckless" kid. His freshman year of high school, while still living in California, he broke his collarbone, fractured his skull, and separated a shoulder diving for a ball—in practice. The freshman baseball field was at a park with big light standards that stood in foul ground and had unprotected concrete bases. Britton went after a foul ball, lost track of where he was, and crashed head-first. He was knocked out and woke up in an ambulance, spending two days in intensive care. "I was crazy at that time, going all-out no matter the situation," he said. "Thankfully, I grew out of that." (Adler - MLB.com - 10/3/16)
Britton has always prided himself on his hitting. Signing out of high school was a tough decision for him in part because he knew he was giving up his hitting career. He knows his Major League hitting stats by heart, and they're pretty good: as a rookie in 2011, when he was still a starting pitcher, Britton led AL pitchers in hits, going 5-for-8. He even hit a home run off the Braves' Brandon Beachy at Turner Field. Chipper Jones was playing third base, and as Britton was running around the bag, Jones told him, "Hey, man, slow down and enjoy it." (Adler - MLB.com - 10/3/16)
In 2016, Britton won the AL Reliever of the Year award with 47 saves.
August 23, 2018: Many players have chosen a fun nickname to sport on the back of their uniform this weekend in celebration of Major League Baseball's annual Players' Weekend, but Yankees reliever Zach Britton took advantage of the opportunity to honor his family. In his first news conference after being acquired by New York from the Orioles on July 24, Britton said that he is part Dominican, joking that he may not necessarily look the part and is unable to speak Spanish.
Britton's maternal grandmother is from the Dominican Republic, and her maiden name is Anglada, which he chose to be printed across the back of his uniform in a four-game set against his former team at Camden Yards to recognize his grandmother and all of his Dominican family. (Mandy Bell - MLB.com)
Zach learned of the trade rumors connecting him to the Yankees during a July 24 game at Camden Yards, a deal that was consummated just before midnight. That did not leave nearly enough time for proper goodbyes to the Orioles personnel who had been a large part of his life for more than a decade.
Britton rekindled some of those relationships prior to a series opener, as Britton briefly popped into the home clubhouse to exchange pleasantries before making an unfamiliar walk to the visiting digs on the third-base side. Pitching against his former club proved to be just as odd.
"It was weird," Britton said after recording the final three outs of a 7-5, 10-inning win, serving up a Chris Davis homer but nailing down his first save as a Yankee. "Obviously it was nice to get a save, but definitely weird facing the guys who I've been with for so long."
Britton's connections to the O's won't be quickly severed and that his thoughts during the day had drifted to his April 3, 2011 big league debut, as well as the Orioles' playoff runs, and some of his 139 saves in a Baltimore uniform.
An All-Star in 2015 and 2016, Britton particularly wanted to make time to see some of the O's front office and training staff. Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he was certain Britton would be received positively, and he was, doffing his cap when a video thanking Britton for his service was played early in the game.
"We have great fans, very knowledgeable, and they know what Zach did here and has done here and will continue to do for quite a while in his career," Showalter said. "He's in a good place. He's strong as a horse. He's healthy. He's going to be a real weapon for them as they go forward. I don't think anybody looks forward to seeing Zach come in against them." (Hoch - mlb.com - 8/24/18)
Three Quick Questions
Album you listened to on repeat growing up?
"When I was younger, my dad used to rebuild classic cars, so I was always in the garage watching him. He listened to AC/DC on repeat. Even now, when I work out in the offseason, that's go-to thing for me," Zack said.
Last book you read?
"The Dichotomy of Leadership," by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
Any hidden talent or hobbies?
"When I didn't have kids, I used to draw in the offseason. I don't know how good I was, but it was something where I'd take self-classes on-line," Britton said. (Yankees Magazine - Sept. 2019)
ZACK WITH A "K"
The "Zachs" of the world just lost one of their brightest baseball-playing stars. Yankees reliever Zach Britton will now be known as Zack Britton, swapping out the "H" for a "K." Because, hey, pitchers could always use more Ks.
The news was originally reported by YES Network researcher James Smyth, but the pitcher took to Twitter to confirm the change. (Cut4-MLB-Feb. 7, 2019)
Please note: It's Zack, not Zach Britton. For the first eight years in the big leagues, Britton's name was always spelled with an 'H' despite his contracts all spelling his legal name—Zack—correctly.
So, in 2019, after signing a three-year contract with the Yankees, the team used the wrong spelling on the legally binding document. That meant it was finally time to get rid of the "stage name," as he called it. "Breaking News: I will be going by my legal name 'Zack' instead of my stage name 'Zach'. everyone continue to breathe normally...."
"My wife [Courtney] is an attorney, and she's like, 'Legally, we need to have them change it,'" Britton said. "I'm like, 'Ugh, I don't want to go through this process again.' So I called my agent and said they need to change my name, my legal name is with a 'K.' Just like a minor thing. Then I talked to the Yankees and they were like, 'Why were you going with an H?'" (Clair - mlb.com - 5/17/2020)
June 2006: Britton signed with the Orioles, via scout Jim Richardson, for a bonus of $435,000 after being picked in the third round, out of Weatherford High School in Weatherford, Texas. He passed up a scholarship to Texas A&M.
February 5, 2016: The Orioles and Britton avoided arbitration agreeing to a one-year contract worth $6.75 million.
January 13, 2017: Zach and the O's again avoided arbitration, settling on a one-year deal at $11.4 million.
Jan 12, 2018: Zach and the O's avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal at $12 million.
July 24, 2018: The Orioles sent Zach Britton to the Yankees, who sent RHP Cody Carroll, RHP Dillon Tate and LHP Josh Rogers to the O's.
Oct 29, 2018: Zach chose free agency.
Jan 5, 2019: The Yankees agreed to a deal with Britton that will keep him in pinstripes for at least the next two seasons. Britton's new pact with the Bombers is a three-year deal that will average $13 million each season, with an opt-out clause after 2020 if the team does not exercise its option for the 2022 campaign. If Britton departs after two years, he would have earned $26 million; completing the full four years would net him $53 million.
- Oct 31, 2020: The Yankees exercised an option that will keep Britton in their bullpen through 2022.
“Very excited to continue the pursuit of a championship with the Yankees,” Britton said on Twitter.
Britton, who will turn 33 in December, had a unique clause in his contract that required the Yankees to pick up a $14 million option for 2022. Had they not, he could have elected free agency, forgoing his $13 million salary for 2021.
|Home:||Santa Clarita, CA||Team:||YANKEES|
|Birth City:||Weatherford, TX|
|Draft:||Orioles #3 - 2006 - Out of high school (TX)|
The lefthanded Britton has an excellent 93-98 mph two-seam, heavy-sinking FASTBALL. Zach has a late-breaking 86-89 mph SLIDER for use against lefthanded hitters, but only used the pitch twice all of 2017. He has improved his 82-85 mph CURVEBALL. (Spring 2017)
Zack explained how he throws his exceptional sinker: "It's not a two-seam grip, it's an actual sinker grip which I learned from Scott McGregor, our pitching coach in Aberdeen," Britton said. "I kind of throw it with a type of curveball grip, which gives it a little more sink and gets more ground balls."
Britton's sinker is getting comparisons to Mariano Rivera's cutter. (Spring 2017)
2016 Season Pitch Usage: Sinker 92% of the time; Slider .1% of the time; and Curve 7.9% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: Brach used the Sinker more than ever—94.7% of the time. He used his Curveball only 5% of the time (a total of 29 pitches).
2018 Season Pitch Usage: Fourseam 1.5%; Sinker 91.4% of the time and his Curve 7.1% of the time. Average velocity: Fourseam 95.3, Sinker 95 mph and Curve 81.5 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: Sinker 85.1% of the time and his Curve 14.9% of the time. Average velocity: Sinker 94.8 mph and Curve 81.2 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: Sinker 83% of the time and his Curve 17% of the time. Average velocity: Sinker 94.8 mph and Curve 80.5 mph.
Britton has an impressive knowledge of the game and a very good mound presence.
Zack learned the sinker by accident. Former Orioles pitcher-turned-coach Calvin Maduro tried to introduce Britton to a cut-fastball at Class A Aberdeen back in 2007. He tried to throw it in a bullpen session, but his catcher said it was dropping instead of cutting.
Britton kept working on it, but said it was a "glorified changeup." But when he started using it in game action, batters swung at it in the dirt, and he started throwing it harder and more often when he got to the Class A Frederick Keys.
He gets a whole lot of ground balls with his sinker, pitching down in the zone. He doesn't get a lot of strikeouts because batters are hitting the top of the ball on both his sinker and his slider. Batters struggle to lift his sinker in the air.
Zach needs better command. He really doesn't throw enough strikes. Neither he nor his catcher knows where the ball is going. "The fastball has great life. Not good life, great life," Norfolk pitching coach Mike Griffin said during 2011 spring training. "And it's late and it's hard."
2014/15 Improvements: Entering the 2014 season, Britton was seemingly on the verge of unemployment. After eight seasons as a starter in the Orioles' system, including parts of three with the big league team, he was unable to gain a hold on a regular job. In 40 Major League innings in 2013, he'd whiffed an unfathomably low 18 batters, giving him the third-lowest strikeout rate of any pitcher with who had appeared as often that season. And he'd been only moderately better in 103 Triple-A innings. At 26, he was out of options and nearly out of time, at least with the Orioles.
Just over 16 months later, Britton was still in Baltimore, and he no longer had to worry about job security. Though he's rarely mentioned in the top echelon of closers like Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel, Britton has transformed from a struggling starter to one of the most dominant relievers in the big leagues—and perhaps the most unique.
It's one thing to get grounders, as Britton did as a starter and still does now. It's another thing to have the highest groundball rate on record (dating back to 2002, when batted ball records were first kept), and yet another thing to pair it with a skyrocketing strikeout rate of 29 percent (as of August 21, 2015), up from last year's 21.8 percent and way up from 9.8 in 2013. Groundball pitchers just don't miss bats like that, except Britton does, and it comes just two years after a tremendously disappointing season threatened to derail his career.
So how did a middling starter turn into a reliever, becoming among the best in baseball? Much like Wade Davis, Britton's move from the rotation allowed him to make two adjustments. First, the ability to go all-out for an inning at a time rather than needing to pace himself for an entire start allowed Britton's velocity to skyrocket, jumping from 92-93 mph as a starter to 96.71 mph in 2015, fifth-highest on the leaderboards among the 151 pitchers who have thrown it at least 100 times (as of August 21).
Second, the move let him streamline his repertoire, abandoning his four-seam fastball, changeup and slider in favor of a sinking two-seamer that he now throws 90.7 percent of the time. No other non-knuckleballer with at least 40 innings has thrown any one pitch even 80 percent of the time.
That's when Britton moved from a middle relief role into the closer's spot. In 2015, Britton has not only improved his strikeout rate, but also reduced his walk rate (8.1 to 5.2 percent), despite having a higher ERA in part due to worse batted ball luck (BABIP up from .215 to .304), as of Aug. 21, 2015 What that means is that Britton has an incredible 79.2 percent of his plate appearances end in either a strikeout or a grounder. That's up from 72.9 the previous year and easily the best mark in baseball, by far.
How has Britton managed that kind of rise? By throwing fewer strikes, believe it or not, with that two-seamer that looks like a strike right up until it doesn't. Britton has thrown fewer pitches in the zone (down to 44.0 percent from 44.8 percent), but hitters are swinging at more balls outside the zone (up to 41 percent from 34.1 percent), and thus making more bad contact (making contact on 49.4 percent of swings outside the zone, up from 42.6.)
It's hard to get by in baseball with just one pitch. It's even harder to excel. In Britton's case, being an extremely rare lefthanded sinkerball with elite velocity helps. It's helped him succeed in a way that just about no one else has. (Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com.)
July 10, 2016: Britton recorded his 100th save. He is tied with Stu Miller for fourth place on the team's all-time save list.
August 3, 2016: Britton’s 33rd save in as many chances to begin the 2016 season represented the longest season-opening save streak by a lefthanded pitcher in baseball history, passing Detroit Tigers lefty Willie Hernandez’s mark of 32 in 1984, according to STATS, LLC.
It also tied him for the seventh-longest saves streak in baseball history to start a season, and gave him 106 career saves, which is the most by an Orioles left-handed closer. (Jon Meoli - The Baltimore Sun)
August 24, 2016: Though the Nationals couldn't steal a win from Zach and the Orioles, they did steal the closer's Major League-record streak of consecutive scoreless appearances, ending the lefty's run at 43.
Britton finished off a 10-8 Baltimore victory at Nationals Park but allowed a run on two hits. The closer entered with one out in the bottom of the ninth following a Daniel Murphy grand slam that cut the Orioles' lead to three runs. He allowed a single to Bryce Harper and an RBI double to Anthony Rendon, and just like that, the streak was over.
April 14, 2017: Zack converted his 54th consecutive save in Baltimore's 6-4 victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, tying an AL record. Tom Gordon of the Red Sox also converted 54 straight save chances from 1998-1999. The Major League record is 84 consecutive saves by the Dodgers' Eric Gagne from 2002-2004.
Britton's save in the game wasn't uneventful—he gave up a run on three hits before closing out Toronto. But he continued his run of late-inning dominance after posting a 0.54 ERA with 47 saves last season. His consecutive saves streak began at Camden Yards on Oct. 1, 2015, when he also closed out the Blue Jays in another 6-4 final.
Britton has 125 saves since 2014, and was selected as an American League All-Star in each of the past two seasons.
July 23, 2017: In the Orioles’ 9-7 win over Houston, Britton converted his 55th straight save to break the AL record for most consecutive saves (Tom Gordon, 54). The streak that began Oct. 1, 2015.
The MLB record is a staggering 84 in a row by the Dodgers Eric Gagne that went from Aug. 28, 2002 to July 3, 2004. (Steve Melewski -MASN)
Zach had been dominant for nearly two full years, but every streak eventually comes to an end. His American League-record saves streak of 60 was snapped on August 23, 2017, in the Orioles' 8-7, 12-inning walk-off win against the A's.
The Orioles closer had ranked second on the all-time consecutive saves list, trailing only Eric Gagne, who had converted 84 for the Dodgers in 2002-2004.
"I don't know [what I think about the streak]. Maybe I'll think about it tomorrow," Britton said. "But I was pretty disappointed. Just wasn't very good at all today."
"It was unbelievable," Manny Machado said of Britton's streak. "Something I'm going to tell my kids I was a part of that, a part of his history. He's done a hell of a job the last two years since he's become the closer. That's why he's one of the best in the game. I'm lucky and blessed I get to watch him and play behind him when he goes out there and gets on that mound."
Britton then followed the game-tying run with a walk to Khris Davis that prompted Showalter to pull him with one out in the ninth.
"[The rarity of pulling Britton in the middle of an inning is] another reminder of how great he's been and will be again," Showalter said. "There's a part of me that's kind of glad he's got it behind him and we won the game. That's a heck of a thing to have to live up to every time you cock your arm. And he's special. Like I said, it's been an honor to watch him pitch. And I get to keep doing it." (Bell - mlb.com - 8/23/17)
Statcast fact: Opponents slugged just .269 against Britton's sinker from 2015-2017, the lowest mark allowed by any pitcher who ended at least 250 at-bats with a sinker during that span. Opponents have managed just five homers in 553 at-bats against his sinker since the start of 2015.
Best pitch: Zach Britton's sinker. How he throws it: Britton's trademark pitch was something he picked up in 2007 with Class A Aberdeen while trying to learn a cutter, discovering that he had natural sink on it. He'd occasionally use it early in his big league career, then focused on commanding it while altering the pressure of his grip. Britton said that he used to grip the ball tight like a changeup, then found that his velocity jumped after he started holding it "nice and easy" like a four-seam fastball.
How he uses it: Constantly. Britton has thrown one non-sinker since 2014, a high four-seam fastball to Mike Trout. The sinker use stemmed from a preseason chat with former pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti in 2014, who suggested that Britton could excel as a one-pitch pitcher. There has been no reason to mess with success. From Sept. 20, 2015 to Aug. 23, 2017, Britton converted an AL record 60 straight saves.
As of the start of the 2021 season, Britton had a career record of 35-25 with a 3.04 ERA, having allowed 37 home runs and 528 hits in 622 innings; he had 153 saves in 170 opportunities (90%).
August 2009: As a safety precaution, the Orioles shut down Britton early with shoulder fatigue when he hit 140 innings.
August 5-23, 2011: Zach was on the D.L. with inflammation in his left shoulder.
March-June 6, 2012: Britton was not able to pitch much during spring training because of persistent left shoulder inflammation. He started the season on the D.L. An MRI did not show any big problems, no tears or anything. But something in there was causing inflammation.
March 21: Zach received two rounds of platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy, a new and increasingly popular procedure that he hopes will help heal the inflammation in his left shoulder that has plagued him since August. The procedure consists of putting the patient's blood through a centrifuge to isolate platelets and growth factors. Those are then injected back into the injured area to accelerate both healing and tissue growth.
The procedure was recommended by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Florida.
April 16-May 2, 2017: Zach was on the DL with a forearm strain.
May 5-July 5, 2017: Zach went right back on the DL with a left forearm strain.
September 22-end of 2017 season: Zach had a stem-cell injection in his left knee, a move that ended his season.
December 19, 2017-June 11, 2018: Britton ruptured his right Achilles tendon and surgery was required.
- Aug. 20-Sept 1, 2020: Britton was placed on injured list with a hamstring issue.