Eric O’Flaherty in 2012 continued his reign as one of the best setup relievers in the NL, eventually being promoted to 8th-inning guy once it became clear that Jonny Venters wasn’t his usual dominant self. How good has the unassuming EOF been over the last four seasons? Here are baseball-reference rankings of NL relievers who have pitched in the NL in each season from 2009-2012, and accumulated at least 200 total appearances in that time:

Huston Street 6.755
Eric O’Flaherty 6.697
Sergio Romo 6.642

Sean Marshall 7.1
Rafael Betancourt 6.4
Tyler Clippard 6.4
Eric O’Flaherty 6.2
Sergio Romo 5.7

Eric O’Flaherty 1.95
Sergio Romo 2.21
Jeremy Affeldt 2.73

O’Flaherty succeeds despite the lack of an overpowering fastball (which hovers at 91) by delivering the ball consistently at knee-to-shin level, inducing a lot of GBs and very few XBHs. He took worm-burning to new…umm…heights in 2012, getting an even three groundball outs for every flyout, versus a league average of 1.16 GO/AO. The average NL player getting 550 PAs against Braves-era O’Flaherty would tally just 17 doubles and 5 HRs.

After arriving in Atlanta as a three-pitch pitcher (fastball, slider, changeup), EOF since 2011 has nearly ditched the change, throwing about 40 of them in 2011, and around 30 this season. He more or less has his approach down to a science, and he’s quietly but firmly attained a comfort level with his role that few non-closers enjoy. I look forward to taking him for granted again in 2013.