In a bullpen, the closer is always the most important part. But you need a solid set-up man(or 2) as much as a closer. Without at least 1 good set-up man, you'll never get a chance to see your closer in the game with a lead. While the closers get all the glory, the set-up men are just as important. So here are the best in the game-
Hideki Okajima- First I'll post the stats for these guys for you to see what I'm talking about:
Great stats for a lefty in the A.L. East. Also add the fact that this is his first year pitching in the US. While Dice-K got all the hype, Okajima has been delivering on all fronts. His odd wind up helps alot. He keeps the ball behind his leg before releasing it. So it goes up and right at the hitter. That and the fact his pitches have alot of movement and you got a BAA of .182. He won't win ROY because he is a set-up man, but he should be in the conversation. He is one of the reasons the Red Sox only have to play a 7 inning game most of the time. With him and Papelbon lurking in that bullpen, the Red Sox have a scary 1-2 combo.
Scot Shields- The ideal set-up man.
The thing that makes Shields so great is he can really do anything. And he is willing to do anything to help the team. He could work in the middle of a game for 2 or 3 innings, he can obviously set-up, and he could even close. He could probably even start if they asked him to. This year, he has not been himself. But when you look at his career, you realize how dependable and flexible he is. Without him, the Angels bullpen would be nowhere near as good as it's been the past few years. He doesn't have overpowering stuff or a shutdown pitch, but he is a very smart pitcher with great location.
Rafael Betancourt- This guy is very underrated. One of the few underrated guys on the Indians.
This guy could be the reason the Indians are in first. Joe Borowski has an ERA over 5 and the Indians bullpen still isn't that great. But at times, this guy has carried the load. He is a hard thrower who can have ridiculous control. Notice the 58 Ks and only 6 BBs.And it ain't easy facing the tough line-ups in the A.L. Central. The thing that hurts him is he can't close if they needed him too. He is 0 for 3 in save chances this year. Not good.
Ryan Franklin- The most underrated guy in the most underrated bullpen.
Alot of people don't realize the fantastic 1-2 punch that Franklin and Isringhausen have been in that bulllpen. The reason why he is so underrated is because he is on the Cardinals(once again, that whole bullpen is very underrated), he used to be a starter, then a long-man, now he has set-up duty, and he has never been that good of a pitcher. The last 3 years before this year, his ERA is a combined 4.85. But this year he has been great(another pitching career saved by Dave Duncan). He doesn't strike out much(only 33 in 65.2 innings) but he gets the outs needed. Thats why he is underrated. The next guy isn't...
Joel Zumaya- Nothing fancy, just 100 mph fastballs.
The reason he hasn't done much is because he has been injuried for most of the year. The big concern with guys who throw 100 is control. And he can work on that. But if he gets his control......under control, he will be unhittable. You can't hit a 100 mph heater on the low outside corner. And his curveball is not even fair. He will be scary good for a long time, the Tigers just gotta limit his innnings. Can't overwork him. And with Todd Jones looking finished, he is the closer of the future.
Heath Bell- I already talked about him in my last blog(2 Bad Trades And Standing Pat Cause The Mets Missing The WS)
Has been a huge surprise for the Padres. He is now their Scott Linebrink. Which is the reason they were able to trade him. Once again, the ballpark helps him but he has still been solid. The thing that stands out for me is the fact that he has more Ks than Innings. Even when he struggled, he was never known to be a strikeout guy.
I wanted to include Joba of the Yanks in here, but he hasn't pitched enough yet. I know I'm forgeting alot, but I did this blog in a hurry. I'm done.