- 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 Matt Stafford (a future NFL QB).
During the spring of 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).
- Britton has great makeup.
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 Britton 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. We really enjoy it."
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. "So their team coming out here and trying to get our youth enthused and encouraged and playing baseball, such a wonderful sport and such a part of our nation, and getting these kids engaged early on in their lives is a wonderful thing." (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, Orioles closer Zach 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.
Sure, Greg enjoys watching his youngest son strike out Major League hitters with a 96-mph sinker. But it's watching Zach interact with his own son that brings him more joy than anything. Since Zander Britton was born during the Orioles playoff run in October 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." Zander is too young to understand baseball, but when Zach leaves the clubhouse after a game, his son is the first person he goes to.
"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." That hasn't detracted from Greg and Zach's relationship, though. In fact, it's improved it, since the O's closer can relate to his dad in a way he never could before Zander.
And with Zach's wife, Courtney, due again this November, 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 a very good dad. He's 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)
Oct 29, 2016: Britton won 2016 AL Reliever of the Year award with 47 saves.
- 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 1 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..
|Birth City:||Panorama, CA|
|Draft:||Orioles #3 - 2006 - Out of high school (TX)|
The lefthanded Britton has an excellent 88-92 mph two-seam, heavy-sinking FASTBALL (the best sinker in all of the Minor Leagues in 2010); a 91-94 mph four-seam fastball that he uses on the inside corner to righthanded hitters; and a powerful late-breaking 86-89 mph SLIDER for use against lefthanded hitters. He has improved his CHANGEUP to get righthanded batters out. He uses it to get quick outs rather than strikeouts.
His slider is his strikeout pitch, when it is on. And by 2016, it was just about the only pitch he needed.
Zach 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 Hall of Famer 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.
- Britton has an impressive knowledge of the game and a very good mound presence.
- Zach 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 sesson, 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 1/3 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.
But "starter moves to bullpen, starts throwing his one above average pitch harder, and succeeds" was last year's story. 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, two scenarios that rarely end well for the hitter. That's up from 72.9 last year, and it's easily the best mark in baseball, by quite a bit.
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 sinkerballer 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 left-handed 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 in the process. 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.
October 2016: Zach Britton of the Orioles and Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers were named winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award.
As of the start of the 2017 season, Britton had a career record of 27-21 with a 3.24 ERA, having allowed 30 home runs and 410 hits in 463 innings; he had 120 saves in 128 opportunities (94%).
- 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.
On 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 to Britton by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., who told Britton to look at this as a six-week process or more, depending on how his body heals.
Britton was reinstated from the D.L. on June 6 and sent to Norfolk (IL).