Pitcher of the Year

This was a slightly down year for pitching within the San Diego Padres system. While there were some great performances turned in, Lake Elsinore and Portland didn't have many contenders, as balloons were apparent in regards to individual ERA. Denis Savage and John Conniff had their work cut out for them in choosing Pitcher of the Year.

With a smattering of teams to choose the winner from, the elimination process began. Immediately, we both thought we would be picking the winner out of the San Antonio team.

While the Missions led the universe in shutouts, the numbers seemed to be deflated by the wind blowing in at their home park and some secondary stats that led to deception.

In fact, the starters throughout the system didn't overwhelm. It felt eerily similar to National League MVP race.

What was rationalized was the lack of consensus in any of our Pitcher of the Year series was telling.

Throwing darts at the board was an idea we tossed around to select the ultimate winner. Even pin the tail on the prospect. Rubber band guns and the last person standing? We left McGyver's tools behind and were truly stumped for some time.

Why not head to the reliever ranks? We did and scooped up Greg Burke and Gabe DeHoyos for the ride while also taking Mike DeMark and his two-league work too. In Fort Wayne, Jeremy Hefner hopped aboard with Wynn Pelzer – and you can't leave this train stop without Bryan Oland. There were a lot of interesting names in Eugene to consider but it didn't feel right to either of us so the bus never made it into the Pacific Northwest. Picking up Stiven Osuna and Chris Wilkes was easy, and with a full compliment of eight pitchers, we got down to serious business. has never chosen a reliever as its Pitcher of the Year. But half of the aforementioned names never made a start for their respective teams.

  • Greg Burke was phenomenal with more strikeouts than innings pitched.
  • Gabe DeHoyos had a masterful season, fanning 11.8 batters per nine innings.
  • Mike DeMark got better as the season progressed and was disgustingly good down the stretch.
  • Jeremy Hefner was as consistent as they come and allowed fewer hits than innings pitched.
  • Wynn Pelzer had a tremendous year and was stringent with runners on base.
  • Bryan Oland was a middle relief sensation, posting an ERA of 0.88 for the season.
  • Stiven Osuna was special, allowing two earned or less in all but one outing.
  • Chris Wilkes got a lot of ground balls and walked just five batters on the year.
  • Burke had one awful month and DeHoyos' walk totals were tough to dismiss, eliminating both from contention. Pelzer wasn't quite there from a stamina standpoint and Wilkes was a tad too hittable at times.

    With a final quartet of DeMark, Hefner, Oland and Osuna, the battle royal began.

    "Hefner allowed four or more runs four times all season," Conniff said disdainfully.

    "DeMark allowed 14 runs ALL season!" was Savage's retort. "Not to mention his 1.70 ERA across two leagues."

    "Third in the league in strikeouts and a quality start nearly every time out," Conniff added.

    "You want to protect the lead, right?" Savage mused. "Well, DeMark was the reliever you wanted on the mound."

    "Don't you value a starter more?"

    "I value the guy who protects the lead just as much. Have you seen the salaries of quality middle relievers these days?"

    "Hefner was a bulldog – taking them deep into games each time out. He saves bullpens with his ability to keep his pitch count low and runs off the board."

    "It's apparent we have our horses – I guess Osuna is out, eh?"

    "Seems that way, although he did have a fantastic year."

    "I agree wholeheartedly. I should mention that if Bryan Oland hadn't started the year in extended, I would be rooting for him to win it all – I gave a little more weight to Demark for the tougher leagues he pitched in."

    The conversation spanned four days before we settled on a winner. We researched, went back and talked to people, remembered all the times we saw each player pitch and finally met with a consensus.

    The winner of Pitcher of the Year award is right-hander Mike DeMark.

    "Sweet, thank you," DeMark said. "That is quite an honor. Unbelievable. Thank you.

    "I realy enjoy your website. It is amazing. My father is an avid subscriber and forum watcher. He will always call me and say, ‘Hey, you have to go on there and see the good stuff they are saying about you.'

    "You guys are on top of everything from the top to the bottom. That is what you do and you do it well."

    DeMark began the season in High-A Lake Elsinore – the same place he spent 2007. In the tough California League, the right-hander posted a 1-2 mark with a 2.17 ERA across 49.2 innings. He allowed just 35 hits, holding the opposition to a .196 average, while striking out 53.

    He was a starter's best friend through his ability to preserve victories. Of the 21 runners he inherited with the Storm, only six came around to score.

    "I think the inherited runners is really what we are designed for," DeMark said. "We are expected to hold the fort down and have that damage control in that situation."

    Moved up to Double-A, DeMark sported a 0.76 ERA across 23.2 innings – again striking out more batters than innings pitched.

    Right-handed hitters managed to bat a paltry .154 off him across two leagues and he compiled a 1.70 combined ERA. Little of his action came in garbage time – as DeMark's success meant he was called on when the pressure was high. And he performed.

    Previous winners of the award:

    2007 – Josh Geer
    2006 – Mike Ekstrom
    2005 – Jared Wells

    An exclusive interview with Pitcher of the Year Mike DeMark will follow on Tuesday.

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