In spite of a disappointing season overall for the Braves in 2009, there were several players who exceeded expectations, and lefty Eric O'Flaherty was certainly not least among them. I was an O'Flaherty fan from the time we claimed him off waivers, since he was young, had good stuff, and had a history of getting left-handed hitters out. That's a pretty good skill set for a bullpen's designated LOOGY, but even the most bullish predictions for O'Flaherty probably didn't see him replacing Will Ohman as a valuable all-purpose reliever who just happened to be left-handed.
O'Flaherty keeps the ball on the ground (1.98 GB/FB ratio), and misses enough bats to keep hitters honest. He absolutely embarrassed lefty hitters in 2009, to the tune of a .215/.270/.290 line, but he also held righties to a .676 OPS, making him much more than just a generic left-handed specialist. Credit Frank Wren for picking up a very handy bullpen piece for nothing more than a waiver claim, and be excited that O'Flaherty's services will cost the Braves just $400,000 again next year.
The bottom line: EOF joins Peter Moylan as perhaps the only two known quantities going forward to the 2010 bullpen. Since neither blows hitters away, they form an underrated tandem, but reliable middle- to late-inning relievers can be very difficult to come by.