May 29, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Jean Machi (63) fields a ground ball hit by St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (not pictured) during the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. San Francisco defeated St. Louis 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Top five most underrated relief pitchers

Today I would like to shed light on guys who have played stupendous baseball that has gone unnoticed. The following five underrated relief pitchers have been unheralded for their immense contributions for numerous reasons. But now I’d like to unravel that and give credit where credit is due.

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5.) Tony Watson (Pittsburgh Pirates): In 30 innings this year, the southpaw has pitched to the tune of a nifty 0.90 ERA and 2.22 FIP. This string of excellence Watson has put together is not all of a sudden like some may suppose. He’s been a reliable reliever out of the Pirates’ bullpen for four years now, and seeks to finally get the recognition he deserves this season.

Well, it’s not erroneous to think if he continues to perform at this rate, he’ll be in Minnesota for the 2014 All-Star Game. That said, he’s actually perceived as the Pirates’ third best bullpen commodity behind All-Stars Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli. The three relief pitchers forge one of the paramount pens in the major-leagues, and it’s only a matter of time before Melancon, Grilli, and Watson get together and form a “big three” of sorts.

Nevertheless, what Watson has done this year has been nothing short of incredible. He is quickly becoming one of the best lefties in the league, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be great for a long time.


4.) Will Smith (Milwaukee Brewers): Another lefty, coming in at number four is Milwaukee Brewers own Will Smith. His first full season in the Brewers’ bullpen has gone swimmingly — and that is sugarcoating it.  Smith’s been a model of consistency since arriving with the Brew Crew, posting a stellar 0.91 ERA and 2.11 FIP in 29 and 2/3 innings of work.

His slider has been virtually unhittable, and according to Pitch F/X, opposing hitters have only managed to salvage a paltry .252 OPS off the pitch. It’s always been a pitch he has had success with, but he’s going to it a lot more frequently — with good reason.

Anyway, he’s been unstoppable for the Brewers, and no one is complaining — sans other N.L. Central foes.


3.) Zach Duke (Milwaukee Brewers): The resurgence of Zach Duke is amazing, but it’s not nearly getting the attention that it should. The guy has been tremendous out of the Brewers’ bullpen, yet it’s gone somewhat unnoticed.

In 25 and 1/3 innings, the left-handed pitcher has compiled a terrific 1.42 ERA and 1.58 FIP. Duke has been so prosperous after a year in which he composed a dreadful 6.03 ERA between two clubs.

He’s been bouncing around since 2010, seeking to find a place and team he could call home. Well, it appears he may have found his new team for the foreseeable future.


2.) Dominic Leone (Seattle Mariners): I must say, Leone has been a very nice addition to my fantasy baseball team. The right-hander — yes, we finally come across a non-southpaw — has collected a sneaky 1.35 ERA and 2.86 FIP in 26 and 2/3 innings.

While his 91.6 LOB% (left on base percentage) and .266 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) are a bit disconcerting, his peripherals and minor-league track-record suggest he will be a staple in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen for a long time to come.

Leone is just 22 years of age, but approaches every game with the aplomb of a seasoned veteran. He’s been hitting his spots well, and mixing in his breaking ball (slider) successfully.


1.) Jean Machi (San Francisco Giants): I’ve been big on this guy since the beginning. The reason is he has a splitter that is compatible to the great Koji Uehara and Masahiro Tanaka.

The pitch, which he uses very often, has been a huge reason for why he’s flourished out of the first-place Giants’ bullpen. In 28 innings, the 32-year-old righty has churned an incredible 0.32 ERA and 2.08 FIP.

Among qualifying relievers, Machi has the lowest ERA in baseball, and has induced one of the highest ground ball percentages — courtesy of the splitter.

It’s been an absolute pleasure watching him this season, but it’s about time he gets the proper recognition for his contributions.

Tags: Dominic Leone Jean Machi Tony Watson Will Smith Zach Duke

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