Baltimore Orioles: Can Zach Britton be as great in 2015?


Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Britton replaced Tommy Hunter in the middle of May of last season as the Orioles’ full time closer. He provided stability to a position which had lacked that almost since opening day. The Orioles wouldn’t have gotten as far as they did last season without him. His heavy sinker and sweeping slider fit perfectly in the closer role and at times he was dominate. However, going into last season it would have been impossible to predict such an impact season from the Orioles’ young left-hander.

Going into last spring training many were pondering what, if any, could be Zach Britton’s role with the Orioles. The young hurler debuted in 2011 under a lot of fanfare and had a promising rookie season, going 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA. However, he never could improve on those numbers and spent the next two season bouncing back and forth from AAA. By spring training of last year he was out-of-options, and his career with the Orioles seemed to be coming to an end.

At first, it looked as if the Orioles were just unwilling to give up on such raw talent, and were planning on hiding him in the bullpen in the hope he eventually figures it out. Fortunately for the Orioles, The move turned out to be the perfect solution for Britton. He flourished in the role. Instead of pacing himself through multiple innings or worrying about mixing in his off-speed pitches, Britton merely threw his devastating sinker down in the zone and let the results follow.

Britton finished the season with a 1.65 ERA and 37 saves, an astonishing season for a first season closer. However, his season wasn’t without flaw. In fact, in his last ten appearances he allowed 8 hits and 5 walks while only striking out 5. He also had a less than impressive postseason finishing with a 3.86 ERA in 6 appearances, including the disastrous game 1 of the ALCS where he walked 3 without recording an out.

There were times last year when it was impossible to imagine Zach Britton not continuing his success in 2015. However, there were other times later in the season where it looked like the league might be catching up with him. The numbers were never right between Andrew Miller and the Orioles. However, it would have been quite a luxury to have him around should Britton falter. Hopefully for the Orioles they see the dominate Britton again in 2015, because without him it will be difficult to duplicate the success of 2014.