To follow up on the National League All-Star Pitching Staff, here is the 2008 American League All-Star Pitching Staff.
These pitchers have to deal with the highly potent lineups in the AL thanks largely to the DH, yet they still managed to post impressive records, ERAs, and strikeouts.
Just like the NL, the list is compiled of five starters, four relief pitchers including the closer, and the pitcher chosen for the Cy Young Award.
2.54 ERA 22-3 in 31 games, four complete games, 170 strikeouts
Cliff Lee surprised not only players in the American League, but all of baseball with his dominating season, especially after going 5-8 the season before.
Lee has an arsenal of pitches. He throws a four seam, two seam, and a cut fastball, as well as a circle change and a slider. He isn't a big strikeout pitcher, but his pitches induce a lot of ground balls which allows him to be economical.
Cliff was the starting pitcher for the AL in the 2008 All-Star game and pitched two shutout innings.
2.78 ERA 20-11 in 34 games, nine complete games, 206 strikeouts
Roy Halladay, or as he is more commonly known "Doc" Halladay has been dominating the AL for the past several years. He is known for going deep into games and driving opposing hitters crazy.
Halladay throws a four and two seam fastball that tops out in the mid 90s, along with a curve, cutter, and change up. He has recently changed his approach to become more like a ground ball pitcher, which is also a reason he has so many complete games.
3.37 ERA 20-9 in 34 games, 150 strikeouts
Mike Mussina reinvented himself in 2008. At 39, he found a way to get hitters out without throwing in the 90s.
Moose has always been a finesse guy, but his ability to harness his four and two seam fastball in the high 80s, mixed in with a slider, curve, splitter, and change up which he throws in the low 60s, keep hitters completely off balance.
Mussina started pitching hitters inside again, which helped him to be so effective. He's not a big strikeout guy, but he finds away to get guys out. Moose was overlooked for the 2008 All-Star game and he became the oldest pitcher to win 20 games for the first time at 39.
2.90 ERA 18-3 in 29 games, 154 strikeouts
Matsuzaka has made the transition from Japan to the U.S. almost seamlessly. In his second year in the majors, he has made adjustments and is still fooling hitters with his barrage of pitches.
Dice-K features a four and two seam fastball, as well as a cut fastball, a slider, curve, fork ball, and screwball like change up. His funky delivery style also makes him very hard for hitters to figure out.
Despite his tendency to put people on base, he manages to get out of innings with minimal or no damage. He was solid for Boston this year especially with Josh Beckett not pitching like himself.
4.07 ERA 18-10 in 34 games, one complete game, 231 strikeouts.
AJ Burnett led the AL with 231 strikeouts in 2008. Despite his high ERA and giving up 19 home runs, Burnett was not only a force for Toronto's starting rotation, but in the AL.
After coming off Tommy John surgery in 2003, some scouts have said that Burnett has lost some of his velocity, but he still manages to top out his fastball in the upper 90s. He is basically a two-pitch pitcher and mixes his fastball with a curve ball. He also features a sinker and change up which he rarely uses, but in recent years he has been working to improve.
Burnett has opted out of his contract with Toronto and is looking for someone to pay him some serious cash for his abilities.
Any guy that can rack up 231 strikeouts in the AL and secure at least 18 victories for his team is likely to have several GMs fighting over him this winter.
2.22 ERA 6-1 in 64 games, three saves, 92 strikeouts
J.P. Howell was a big part of Tampa Bay's success in 2008. Typically characterized as a "soft thrower", Howell has a sinking fastball that he usually throws in the mid-80's, but can reach 90 mph on occasion. He also throws a knuckle curve, change up, and cutter which break away from hitters.
This lefty proved himself worthy of bridging the gap to the closers by pitching 89 innings and striking out 90 hitters. He also induces a lot of ground ball outs due to his sinking pitches, which allows him to eat up innings for his team.
2.70 ERA 6-4 in 64 games, four saves, 64 strikeouts
Scot Shields has served as the primary set up to K-Rod for the Angels for the past couple of years. What makes him so valuable is his versatility as a pitcher. He has had success as a long reliever, middle reliever, set-up guy, and even closer on occasion.
Shields is known for having a "rubber arm" which means he can throw several innings if necessary without experiencing the same fatigue most pitchers feel. His flexibility and durability are what makes him such a valuable part of a bullpen.
1.54 ERA 6-2 in 51 games, four saves, 82 strikeouts
Grant Balfour was another valuable piece in the Tampa Bay bullpen. His fastball tops out in the mid 90s, and he mixes it with a sinker and a slider. He's a unique type of right handed pitcher that is very successful at getting left handed batters out.
He does tend to land himself on the DL more often than not, but he didn't let that stand in his way this season. He only walked 24 batters and gave up just two home runs in 58 innings pitched.
Balfour was also a big part of Tampa Bay's post season success, especially with Troy Percival not active for most of the playoffs. It's always a perk for a team when they have a right-handed pitcher that is effective against both right and left handed batters.
Mariano Rivera & Francisco Rodriguez
Mo: 1.40 ERA 6-5 in 64 games, 39 saves (out of 40 opportunities), 77 strikeouts
K Rod: 2.24 ERA 2-3 in 76 games, 62 saves (out of 69 opportunities), 77 strikeouts
OK, I know that there is technically only supposed to be one name under the title of closer, but I just couldn't bring myself to choose between the two. Both players have proved that they are the go-to pitchers when the game is on the line even though their styles are completely different.
Mariano Rivera has made his living on one pitch and one pitch only—the cutter.
Hitters will tell you that even though they know what's coming they still can't make the adjustment and hit the ball out of the infield or at all.
At 39, Mo hasn't lost any of his velocity. He throws his cutter along with a four and two seam fastball anywhere between 91-97mph. Mo had a phenomenal 2008 season and went 16 consecutive innings before allowing a run. He has proved time and time again that sticking with his strength is what makes him such a dominating force throughout all of baseball.
K-Rod is a force in his own right. In 2008, he set the record for most saves in a season with 62. What sets K-Rod a part from other closers is that he uses his breaking ball as his out pitch even though he throws his fastball in the mid 90s.
What makes his breaking ball so good is he throws it two different ways—his hard curve breaks down almost into the dirt while his more traditional curve appears that it is going to be a ball and then comes back into the strike zone. To get out left-handed hitters, K-Rod utilizes his circle change up.
K-Rod is so effective because he utilizes all of his pitches really well. While he does tend to throw a lot of wild pitches because of the way his pitches dive into the dirt, he is wildly effective, and is sure to be on the list for many general managers this winter.
Cy Young Award
Lee dominated the AL with his 22 wins. I actually got to see him match up against Chien-Ming Wang last May at Yankee Stadium and the guy is every bit as good as his stats would suggest. After coming off of a losing season in 2007, he more than bounced back and proved to be the comeback kid of the AL pitchers for 2008.
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