The 2008 MLB All-Underrated Team: Bullpen

Dylan SharekCorrespondent INovember 12, 2008

If there's one thing chicks don't dig, it's relief pitchers.  

Closers aside, the only respect relievers usually get is from their managers and the people they back up.  It's a sad situation as a solid relief corps can mean the difference between a playoff spot and a long winter. (Ahem, Mets fans.)

Today, I round out the 2008 Major League Baseball All-Underrated Team's pitching staff by finding those underappreciated and unrecognized mop-up men, long relievers, lefty specialists, seventh-inning guys, setup men, and closers.


Joel Hanrahan, RP, Washington Nationals

For a pitching staff as dismal as Washington's, Hanrahan is a ray of hope. A converted starter, Hanrahan worked exclusively out of the pen in 2008 and ate up 84 innings as Nationals starters attempted and, more often than not, failed to work six solid innings.

While Hanrahan's ERA may not sparkle (3.95), his versatility and ability to miss bats (over one strikeout per inning) makes him invaluable.  

Towards the end of the season, Hanrahan took the closer reigns after Jon Rauch and Luis Ayala were dealt.  He'll look to retain the role next year.


Craig Breslow, RP, Minnesota Twins

Craig Breslow doesn't like to stay in one place for too long.  In three years, he's played for four teams.  And while Breslow hasn't exactly lit up (insert city name here)'s skies with his pitching in the past, he's been far from horrible.

Given the chance to pitch consistently in 2008, the lefty specialist K'ed batters with solid regularity and kept opponents off the scoreboard, while sporting a 1.91 ERA through 47 innings.  In doing so, he earned himself a roster spot in 2009.


Taylor Buchholz, RP, Colorado Rockies

Once pegged as the top prospect in the Houston Astros organization by Baseball America, Buchholz stumbled during his first call up in 2006 as a starter, posting a 5.89 ERA and going 6-10.  

He was acquired by the Rockies in 2007 as part of the Willy Taveras deal, but once again faltered in a starting role.  Buchholz was quickly moved to the pen and saw nearly all his stats improve.

In 2008, Buchholz flourished, cementing his status as the Rockies' setup man with a 2.17 ERA through 66.3 innings.  With Brian Fuentes leaving via free agency, he is quite possibly the Rockies' closer in the wings if he can beat out Manny Corpas and newly acquired Huston Street.

Brad Ziegler, RP, Oakland Athletics
Ziegler is God.  Seriously, he might be.  The 28-year-old sidearmer came out of nowhere in 2008 to pitch 39 scoreless innings to start his career, decimating a record that had stood since 1907.  There was little fanfare for the accomplishment and Ziegler quietly finished 3-0 with 11 saves and a 1.06 ERA through 60 innings.
Ziegler's stellar rookie season was overshadowed by his teammate Joey Devine's arguably better one.  In an affirmation that Oakland's 2008 season was almost completely forgettable, Ziegler received only one American League Rookie of the Year vote for all his efforts.


Joakim Soria, RP, Kansas City Royals

Soria was acquired through the Rule Five Draft from the San Diego Padres in 2006 and wasted no time proving himself.  During his 2007 rookie campaign, Soria struck out 75 through 69 innings, while notching 17 saves.  He did not receive a single Rookie of the Year nod.

In 2008, "The Mexicutioner" bested those numbers by saving 42 games, striking out 66 in 67 innings, and posting a 1.60 ERA.  He earned an All-Star spot ("Who the heck is this pitching? Anyone?  Anyone?") and helped the Royals out of the AL Central's basement for the first time in five years.

Soria is arguably the best player that nobody has heard of.  In a perfect world, he would have garnered at least one R.O.Y vote in 2007, and at least one vote in this year's Cy Young or M.V.P. race.  Call me crazy!


Honorable Mentions

John Grabow (Pittsburgh), Jim Johnson (Baltimore), Matt Thornton (Chicago), Joe "I'm Possibly the Most Consistent Closer In the Game" Nathan (Minnesota)

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