Usually, there is a direct correlation between a baseball team’s bullpen performances and their overall win-loss record. For the Baltimore Orioles this year, it’s been an actual hit-or-miss situation with great efforts by the bullpen staff and plenty of blown saves reflected in the O’s losing record going into July.
The Orioles need a solid bullpen to lock down key wins heading into the second half of the season.
For many years, the role of a relief pitcher was ambiguously defined as starting pitchers finding themselves relegated to the bullpen due to poor outings. In modern baseball, the part of the bullpen pitching staff has advanced to the point that they are a critical element in locking down victories or finding ways to win key games in the latter innings.
The Baltimore Orioles, like many other MLB teams, have found a way to distinguish between two distinct bullpen personalities: the middle relief or “mop up” crew and the closers. Closers like Mariano Rivera and the like get the headlines for big saves; however, the role of the mop-up pitcher has taken on a new role as starting pitchers are exiting games earlier and earlier due to pitch count concerns.
The O’s have multiple pitchers assigned to the mop-up role, including Keegan Akin. With 18 appearances this season, Akin has posted a 1-1 record with one recorded game hold and no saves. Akin has seen duty in 42.1 innings so far this year and has a higher 2.53 ERA for relief pitchers, but with 36 strikeouts, he posts a lowly .82 WHIP rate.
Serving in the mop-up role alongside Akin is fellow reliever Bryan Baker. Baker has a really high ERA right now of 5.60 and an overall 2-3 record in-game changes. Baker posts an equally high 1.54 WHIP and has not yet closed out a game for a save this season.
Bullpen Birds: Checking in on the Baltimore Orioles pen
Rookie, big man Felix Bautista, is building a case for staying in the Orioles bullpen for years to come. In his first season in the majors, Bautista already has a winning 3-2 record so far in 30-game appearances with two saves and seven-game holds. Bautista has a 1.59 ERA and a much more respectable 1.06 WHIP.
The key mop-up reliever is veteran Joey Krehbiel, who posts a 2-3 record but has five-game holds under his belt in 2022. Krehbiel has a bit high 2.66 ERA for middle relievers but only gives up an average of 1.10 WHIP when inserted into the waning innings of games.
The closer role has clearly become the province of Jorge Lopez. With a 3-3 record and 11 saves, Lopez has been the mainstay closer for the Baltimore Orioles this season. Lopez posts a paltry .79 ERA and an equally impressive .84 WHIP which means he is often times able to get the job done and put a W into the Orioles record books.
Baltimore Orioles newcomer Nick Vespi has been an exciting addition to the closer role in the past few weeks, and even though he doesn’t have any saves, Vespi does have a 2-0 overall record with five-game holds.
With a .75 WHIP, Vespi and his sliders have made fast work of opposing batters while trying to close out games. Vespi joins fellow closer Dillon Tate whose 0-3 record tends to overshadow his nine holds and a save this season.