Orioles 2012 Reflections: No Bull about this Pen


This is the 6th of 12 posts on the season past, and is a personal reflection upon some of the really stupid and few really smart things I wrote since last winter. It is the 2nd of six postings of what went well about which we can all celebrate considering the season past.

Regarding Relievers and the Closer Role

Oct 10, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Jim Johnson (43) pitches during the ninth inning of game three of the 2012 ALDS against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Yankees won 3-2 in twelve innings. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

It seems totally ridiculous to us now to imagine that just 9-10 months ago it was uncertain as to who would fill the role as the primary closer. We might even forget that there was talk of Jim Johnson being moved to the starting rotation … an idea not without merit, particularly at that time. However, it was decided that he would remain in the bullpen. Even then, the closer role was not granted him until very near the start of the season. I never understood the dithering on this … though maybe there was zero dithering inside Buck Showalter. He is the manager of all the players, and he truly cannot always publically tip his hand about what he strongly believes.

I wrote on 2/5/12 – This year, if Johnson is not moved to closer (which seems very unlikely that he will not be), I cannot imagine who else should be the primary person to most often hope to see at the end of the game.  And any reliever nicknamed “Captain Chaos” should not be allowed in any game after the 7th inning!

Indeed, Johnson was the closer and set a record with 51 saves out of 54 chances. I was not surprised he had an exceedingly strong season, though predicting 51 saves would have really been a wild forecast! And sure enough, Kevin Gregg seldom saw a game after the 7th inning, nor was he called upon in any game that was tight. He was relegated to lesser duties, and though he was no star, it was not as bad as some times in the past.

And I wrote again on 3/7 about relievers (giving them a 4 out of a possible 5 on a scale I was using in that article) – Johnson should be steady as the most oft-used end-of-game reliever. I have high hopes for Strop and many others … though the one caveat for giving a “4” here is that the relievers do need the starters to go deeper into games.

Jul 3, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Pedro Strop (47) during the game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Baltimore defeated Seattle 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Pedro Strop had a great year, even though it mostly seemed to leave him during the final weeks of the season. Maybe it did. Maybe it was a matter of too many innings early in the year. But really, the Birds would not have gotten as far as they did without him. He’s a keeper. And again, I’m not surprised the bullpen was good, but nobody could have foreseen just how great it was on most occasions. A lockdown pen is such an asset for a team, and I believe it is a place where a team can get a lot of bang for the bucks invested.

And then I wrote on 4/11 – Will Kevin Gregg be worthy of a spot on the roster?  And will he be able to calm the rather universal dislike from Orioles fans? I am not hopeful for this to be a positive – believing that if it was going to happen, it would have happened by now. It is pretty clear that the Orioles can’t even give him away. I’d love to be so, so wrong on this one; but I do not anticipate having to write a retraction someday.

Well, that day has come where I write something, and no, I don’t have to write a retraction. As an Orioles fan for a time soon approaching 50 years, one of the most maddening experiences has been watching Gregg pitch in a close game. I stopped hating the guy this year, but the Orioles have so many better options … actually, they always did. This was a terrible investment from before day one.

An article for the future is to analyze what hopes we can have for a bullpen repeat from 2012.

Twitter:  @OSayOrioles