MLB: 10 Setup Men Who Are Better Than Most Closers
The setup man.
An often unsung hero on a baseball club that is seldom heralded for his gritty performance as he paves the way for the more popular closer.
In a new era of pitching dominance in baseball, the role of a setup man is becoming more important than ever.
Here's a look at 10 setup men around baseball who are better than most closers.
Darren Oliver, Texas Rangers
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Who says a 40-year-old can't be a great reliever?
Not Darren Oliver.
The Rangers' setup man currently has a 2.45 ERA and 1.15 WHIP to go along with 28 strikeouts and just eight walks in 33 innings pitched.
Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals
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Tyler Clippard made his first All-Star appearance in this week's Midsummer Classic and got the win without even retiring a batter. Nonetheless, he has pitched extremely well for his Washington Nationals so far in 2011.
Clippard, the setup man for Nationals closer Drew Storen, is currently 1-0 with a 1.75 ERA and WHIP of just 0.86. He leads the NL in holds, with 23.
He's struck out 63 batters in 51.1 innings pitched and has been a dominant force out of the Washington bullpen.
Aaron Crow, Kansas City Royals
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Aaron Crow, the All-Star reliever for the Kansas City Royals, has been stellar through the first half of 2011.
He's currently 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He's struck out 44 in just 43.1 innings pitched, and is doing a great job of setting the table for Joakim Soria, KC's closer.
Jonny Venters, Atlanta Braves
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Jonny Venters and the man he sets up for in the bullpen, closer Craig Kimbrel, were able to take the mound in the 2011 All-Star Game, representing the amazing pitching staff in Atlanta.
Venters is 4-1 with a 1.46 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and 19 holds already this season.
Atlanta has one of the best bullpens in baseball, and Venters is a big reason why.
Koji Uehara, Baltimore Orioles
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The Baltimore Orioles, with all of their difficulties this season and their 36-52 record, have a great setup man in Koji Uehara.
Uehara is 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA and a WHIP of 0.75. He's struck out 52 hitters in just 40 innings pitched, and has only walked eight over that span.
If there's one bright spot at Camden Yards these days, it's Uehara.
Mike Adams, San Diego Padres
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The San Diego Padres may be 12 games out of first place in the NL West, but their bullpen is still one of the best in the league.
The man who specializes in shutting the door in the eighth inning to make way for closer Heath Bell is Mike Adams.
Adams is 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP. He's fanned 41 compared with just six walks in 41 innings pitched for San Diego this season.
Daniel Bard, Boston Red Sox
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A big reason why the Boston Red Sox have the best record in the American League is Daniel Bard, the setup man for Jonathan Papelbon.
Bard leads the league with 21 holds and is currently 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA, with a 0.80 WHIP.
Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers
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Francisco Rodriguez was a closer up until two days ago, when he was traded by the New York Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers.
How the Brewers will use Rodriguez remains to be seen, but assuming they stick with John Axford (23 saves, 2.53 ERA) as their closer, Rodriguez will probably become the setup man.
K-Rod set the all-time MLB record for saves in a single season, with 62 in 2008.
Though he doesn't have spectacular numbers so far in 2011 (23 saves, 3.16 ERA, 1.41 WHIP), he's capable of being a very formidable force out of the bullpen.
David Robertson, New York Yankees
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David Robertson got a chance to pitch in the All-Star game Tuesday night, an honor he earned by posting superb first-half numbers for the Yankees.
Robertson is 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. He's struck out 56 in only 35.1 innings pitched.
Being the setup man before the greatest closer of all time is not an easy task, but Robertson seems to have found his niche clearing the way for Mariano Rivera.
Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants
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Sergio Romo has been lights-out for the defending world champions so far in 2011 as he sets the stage for the famous bearded closer of the Giants, Brian Wilson.
Romo is 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA and a fantastic 0.78 WHIP. He has struck out 43 hitters and walked just four in 29.1 innings pitched.
That's unbelievable. He's projected to finish with 76 Ks to just seven (yes, seven) walks.
Setup Men Becoming More Important Than Ever
Sergio Romo, Brian Wilson's setup man, clowns around with the bearded closer.
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Since the advent of the specialized reliever late in the 20th century, the role of a setup man for a closer has never been more significant than it is in this new era of pitching dominance in baseball.
Setup men everywhere, now is the time to shine.