As if Joey Gathright for JP Howell wasn't a big enough steal, the Rays pulled off the small trade of the year in 2007 when they got Grant Balfour from Milwaukee for much-maligned starter/reliever Seth McClung. Since the trade, Grant Balfour has run circles around McClung on the field. This year Grant Balfour had a tRA of 2.08 in the bigs and .80 in AAA Durham. Seth McClung, on the other hand, had a tRA of 4.61. Grant Balfour played a huge role in ensuring the Rays win games.
Grant Balfour had a WPA of 2.69. He did this without being on the team for the first 50 games. He was arguably one of the three best relievers in baseball. He was third in tRA for relievers with more than 50 IP. His rate stats illustrate his dominance. Despite throwing his fastball 91.63% of the time, he struck out 12.65 per 9 IP and gave up .46 HR/9. He did walk a few batters (3.70/9 IP), but his tremendous ability to miss bats kept him from getting burnt by it.
All in all, Balfour was great this year. He was the best pitcher on the staff. If he had been there all year, then I have little doubt he would have been the team MVP (at least in my eyes) and led us to a win or two more. The intense Aussie dominated this year, and I hope he comes close to matching it next year. One would think that would be tough since he is primarily a one-pitch pitcher. Jonathon Papelbon and Mariano Rivera, the two relievers that finished ahead of Balfour in tRA, are essentially one-pitch pitchers as well. Rivera throws his cutter 82% of the time, and Papelbon throws his fastball 82% of the time. So, if Balfour could work off his slider just a little bit more, then he might be able to sustain this kind of production into the future.