The Importance of a Good Closer
By Mike Franz
Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Throughout the 60 years of Orioles baseball, Baltimore knows the importance of a good closer. From Stu Miller and Tippy Martinez to Gregg Olson and, most recently, Jim Johnson, the Orioles have had an abundance of solid closers. Now in the 60th year of the ball club’s existence, Zach Britton can be added to that list.
Last year, Britton played in eight games (seven games as a starter) and posted a 4.95 ERA with only 18 strikeouts to his name. With control issues at the age of 25, people were wondering in the off season whether Britton would find a role on the 2014 Orioles team.
Showalter made the decision to move Britton to the bullpen to begin the year. Once there he thrived as one of the more consistent middle relievers on the team. However, because of inconsistency from Tommy Hunter early in the season, Britton tried his hand at closer. Luckily for both Britton and the Orioles, it was a match made in Heaven.
Now at the end of the season, Britton is fourth in the American League for most saves with 37. He has only blown four save opportunities on the year with two of them being because of errors made by the infielders.
The left-hander has a 1.65 ERA on the season with opponents batting a measly .178 when facing him. Also, his strikeouts went up from 18 last season to 62 this year.
Just four days away from Game 1 of the ALDS, Britton will be faced with the challenge of shutting down the Tigers. He will also be expected to perform well with thoughts of his wife in his head as they are expecting their first child within the next week or so.
Britton has had some great outings on the mound in the ninth inning this year, but none would be sweeter than striking out Miguel Cabrera in Game 3 of the series to complete the sweep of Detroit and advance to the ALCS. Perhaps that dream is a tad too optimistic, but just like the 1989 Orioles said, “Why Not?”