Nominees held the fort

Nominees held the fort

With balloting in full swing for the sixth annual This Year in Baseball Awards, fans across the globe have weighed in with their say on the year's top manager, rookie and single-game performance.

Votes have also been cast for the year's top starting pitcher and closer. And so, in the spirit of equal opportunity to those who make their living on the mound, we're opening up the ballots for Setup Man of the Year.

Let's face it: Setup men simply don't get enough acclaim. They don't enjoy the status accorded to a closer, and they aren't judged by a flashy stat like the save. But a dominant setup man can be just as important to a team as a dominant closer. After all, the outcome of a game is often determined in the seventh or eighth inning, when these unheralded relievers are often called upon face the heart of the opposing lineup with a small lead on the line.

So let's give credit where credit is due. Here are the 10 nominees vying for the title of Setup Man of the Year:

Heath Bell, San Diego Padres: Bell dominated in his breakout 2007 season, leading all full-time relievers with 102 strikeouts and 93 2/3 innings pitched. He posted a 2.02 ERA while allowing opponents to bat just .185.

Joaquin Benoit, Texas Rangers: Benoit was a steadying force for a Texas bullpen that was in flux for much of the year. The right-hander posted six saves and seven wins, and tied for sixth among full-time relievers with 87 strikeouts.

Rafael Betancourt, Cleveland Indians: Betancourt recorded 80 strikeouts against just nine walks in 2007, displaying a rare combination of power and control that enabled him to lead all setup men with a 0.76 WHIP while posting an equally dominant 1.47 ERA.

Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers: Showcasing his overpowering stuff, Broxton ranked second among full-time relievers with 99 strikeouts and fifth with 32 holds. The Dodgers' closer-in-training proved he could shoulder a heavy load, tying for third in the Majors with 83 appearances.

Joba Chamberlain, New York Yankees: Although he was a late addition to the Yankees' bullpen, Chamberlain made a monumental impact in the Bronx. He allowed just one earned run in 24 innings for an unbelievable 0.38 ERA while ringing up 34 strikeouts against only six walks.

Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays: Although he posted a terrific 2.35 ERA in 2007, Janssen made his biggest contribution to the Toronto bullpen with his versatility. The righty pitched two or more innings in eight of his 70 appearances and picked up the ninth-inning slack with six saves.

Brandon Lyon, Arizona Diamondbacks: Lyon was a rock at the back end of Arizona's bullpen, leading the Majors with 35 holds and notching six wins. He played a crucial part in the team's playoff run, posting a 1.50 ERA over 12 September appearances.

Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs: It was a rare occurrence when Marmol entered a game and didn't blow away the competition. The flamethrower posted a miniscule 1.43 ERA, allowed opponents to bat just .169 and sported an outstanding 12.46 K/9 ratio.

Pat Neshek, Minnesota Twins: Neshek shut down left-handed and right-handed batters alike, allowing just 44 hits in 70 1/3 innings for a .183 average against. The sidewinder posted more than a strikeout per inning and picked up a seven wins along the way.

Hideki Okajima, Boston Red Sox: Batters never really caught on to Okajima's funky stuff, as the Japanese southpaw posted a .202 average against and a 2.22 ERA. In 69 innings, Okajima fanned 63 batters, walked only 17 and chipped in five saves.

Remember that you can vote as many times as you like, and be sure to check back on Oct. 25, when balloting begins for the next category: Play of the Year.

Tim Ott is a fantasy reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.