Ranking the top 10 setup men (cont.)
6) Ryan Madson, Phillies
A minor league starter, Madson emerged from several years of indecision regarding his role to become a dominant setup man for Brad Lidge last year as the Phillies closed in on their second-ever World Series title. This year, he's back at it, throwing peas past National League hitters in service of a Phillies team that stands a very good chance of returning to the Series.
7) Rafael Betancourt, Rockies
A former Red Sox minor leaguer, Betancourt was a scrap-heap find by the Indians in 2003. Over the next five seasons, he posted a 2.80 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 1.06 WHIP and 4.6 K/BB. A poor 2008 and the Indians' struggles this season took him off the radar, but in 11 appearances since being traded to the wild card-leading Rockies, he has yet to allow a run (and he's allowed just one in 15 appearances since returning from a groin injury in early July, posting a 0.66 ERA and 0.73 WHIP over that stretch).
8) George Sherrill, Dodgers
The Dodgers eighth-inning situation is a curious one. Sophomore Ramon Troncoso had it locked down for most of the year, boasting a 1.67 ERA on July 20 and ranking above Okajima in WXRL despite an unimpressive 1.71 K/BB. Since then, however, he's allowed 17 hits in just nine innings, posting an even 10.00 ERA and losing both his role and Joe Torre's trust (his last six appearances have all come in Dodger losses). Enter deadline acquisition George Sherrill, the former Mariners LOOGY and Orioles closer. Sherrill's peripherals haven't been especially impressive since he has donned Dodger blue, but he has yet to allow a run in 9 2/3 innings since the trade, bringing his season ERA down to 1.94.
9) Brad Ziegler, A's
Speaking of former closers, Ziegler opened the season as Oakland's closer, but lost the job not through any failure of his own (he only blew one save), but because of Andrew Bailey's undeniable dominance. What goes around comes around, as Ziegler did the same to Huston Street last year. Ziegler has since settled into the eighth inning, using his sidearming, groundballing magic to post a 1.11 ERA since June 20, that following a rookie season in which he set a major league record for shutout innings to start a career (39) and finished with a 1.06 ERA. What Ziegler's doing works.
10) Brandon Lyon, Tigers
Part of the miserable package the Diamondbacks got for Curt Schilling after the 2003 season, Lyon is hardly an intimidating pitcher given his career 5.7 K/9, 4.27 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, but the former Arizona closer just keeps finding himself in late-inning situations. His success thus far this year is entirely due to luck. He's walking more men than ever before, but getting by due to his opponents hitting an absurdly low .221 on balls in play. Still, it's hard to argue with the results. Since the calendar flipped to June, he's posted a 0.77 ERA, 0.8 WHIP, a solid (especially for him) 2.9 K/BB and hasn't allowed a single home run.
Follow Cliff Corcoran on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CliffCorcoran.
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