I was playing around with some statistical leaderboards today, and I thought I'd present who I believe were the ten best relief pitchers in 2009, according to my new stat, True ERA.
True ERA takes FIP, xFIP, and tRA, three "luck adjusted ERA-type stats," into account.
Most of these names are familiar, but there are a few surprises...
One of four non-closers on this list, Masset had a stellar year in 2009 to rise from obscurity. He posted a 2.37 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 3.18 True ERA.
A hard thrower with a mid-90s fastball, Masset has three tremendous secondary pitches: a cutter, curveball, and splitter. With that variety and quality, it's no wonder he gives hitters fits.
Soria owned a 2.24 ERA, 2.74 FIP, and 30 saves in 2009, and he comes in at ninth place on my list with a 3.07 True ERA.
A rare four-pitch reliever, this righty's curveball is possibly the best pitch in the majors right now and was the most effective curve of 2009.
The former Rule V draftee should continue to be a rare bright spot for Kansas City in the coming years.
After the Mets went out and spent a ton of money and players to get Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz, it was little-known holdover Feliciano who was the team's best reliever in 2009.
He had a 3.03 ERA and 3.55 FIP on the year, with a sparkling 2.97 True ERA.
Feliciano's fastball only goes 85-89 mph, but it sinks more than almost any other fastball in the majors. His slider is extremely tough on lefties. With these two tremendous pitches, it's very difficult for batters, particularly lefties, to make hard contact off the Mets reliever—if they make contact at all.
Another non-closer, Thornton certainly has the power typically associated with the ninth inning, bringing his fastball at 95.7 mph on average.
His slider is even more effective than the fastball, and the two pitches helped give the White Sox lefty a 2.93 True ERA in 2009.
Nobody's done it this good for this long as Rivera, While his 1.76 ERA overstates his 2009 performance a bit, his FIP and True ERA both stand at a still-stellar 2.89, good for sixth on this list.
There's no indication Rivera and his famous cutter are about to lose their effectiveness anytime soon.
Bell's first season as a closer couldn't have gone better, as he racked up 42 saves for San Diego while posting a 2.71 ERA and 2.87 True ERA.
Bell's high-riding mid-90s heater gets all the attention, but he's also got a pretty mean curve and slider. Pitcher's park or not, he's a tremendous reliever.
Bailey came out of nowhere to post a 1.84 ERA and log 26 saves for the A's en route to the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year award.
His True ERA of 2.79 shows that success is for real.
Bailey throws a filthy cutter and vicious spike curveball that have led to excellent results for him since he moves to the bullpen in Double-A in midseason 2008. His cross-body delivery makes it near-impossible for batters to figure out which of the two pitches is coming...before it's too late.
He may not have the fame of Rivera because he plays in Minnesota, but Nathan is the same type of premier closer. A three-pitch righty with a 94-mph fastball, excellent slider, and bendy curve, Nathan has posted K/BB ratio's greater than 4/1 for five straight years.
It was another great year in 2009: 2.10 ERA, 47 saves, and a 2.43 True ERA, a .36 jump from Bailey for third place.
My A's are the only team with multiple players on this list, but that's just what the numbers say, not a bias I have.
Wuertz ranked as 2009's best non-closing reliever, and his slider is right up there with Soria's curve and Tim Lincecum's changeup as the deadliest pitch in baseball. Even though he throws it 65 percent of the time, batters miss the slider on about half of their swings.
Wuertz's True ERA of 2.30 actually outdistanced his already stellar 2.63 ERA.
One of baseball's heaviest relievers was also its best in 2009.
Armed with a fastball that averaged 97.7 mph in 2009, as well as an 88.5 mph hard slider, Broxton struck out 114 batters in 76 innings of pure power pitching.
The righty amassed 36 saves, a 2.61 ERA, and a 2.03 True ERA that rated as easily the best in the game, beating Wuertz by a wide .27 margin.