October 5, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Eric O

2012 Review: Eric O'Flaherty

After a record-setting 2011, Eric O’Flaherty looked to maintain production somewhat close to that level.  After a rough start, he managed to match the previous season’s production the last five months.  Assuming the eighth inning role. the lefty is cementing himself as one of the best relievers in the game.

The only FIP component that wasn’t average was his GB rate, and it wasn’t even close.  At 66%, O’Flaherty was only surpassed by Brad Ziegler and Jamey Wright, among pitchers with at least 50 IP.  With a league-average HR/FB%, that huge GB% meant he only allowed three homers in 57.1 IP.  His sinker had a 75% GB rate, while his slider “only” came in around 51%.  Lefties could barely get the ball off the ground, inducing 78% grounders and no extra-base hits, compared to righties just above 60%.

Despite being a highly-successful reliever the past couple seasons, his K rate was about average, down just a bit to an even 20%.  His slider was tough, getting 38% whiffs on it, and his fastballs actually had pretty high whiff rates, 15% on the four-seamer and 19% on the sinker.  With the high whiff rate on the slider, EOF struck out lefties at a 25% clip, compared to righties at 17%.

His command was also fairly average, walking right around 8% of hitters and got ahead of hitters 62% of the time, both down from last season.  He pounds the zone with the fastball, throwing two-thirds strikes, while the slider was a strike (swinging or taken) only 55% of the time.  This is the one area where there was a negligible platoon split, especially after factoring out the intentional walks.

His home/road splits were screwy, as his walk and strikeout rate were worse on the road, but a 94% strand rate left his road ERA under 1.00 for the season.  With RISP, he was on lockdown, allowing a .474 OPS, below his overall .602 figure.  He only let himself get to two 3-0 counts and 13 3-1 counts out of the 230 hitters.

O’Flaherty is entering his final year of arbitration, likely due somewhere around $3.5-4M for next year.  I think it would be a good idea to extend the will-be 28-year-old for a few years, though relievers can be very fickle.  He has put together four straight good seasons, so I would think something like a 3-year, $15M deal, similar to Sean Marshall‘s extension, with a $5.5M team option tacked on would be a good deal for both sides.  It’s amazing to see how far he has come since his acquisition off the waiver wire from Seattle, becoming a worm-burner with much-improved command.  While his stuff isn’t as great as Craig Kimbrel or Jonny Venters, it’s still good and his ability to harness it has made him an elite setup man.

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