• Sep

    Frobby: Save percentage by Orioles' closers, 1998-2013

    by frobby

    Here are the save rates for the Orioles' closers for each year from 1998 to the present. For each year, I'm showing whichever pitcher led the Orioles in saves. In some years, the "closer" actually was changed 2 or 3 times during the season.

    2013: 83% (Johnson, 45-9)
    2012: 94% (Johnson, 51-3)
    2011: 76% (Gregg, 22-7)
    2010: 81% (Simon, 17-4)
    2009: 87% (Sherrill, 20-3)
    2008: 84% (Sherrill, 31-6)
    2007: 80% (Ray, 16-4)
    2006: 87% (Ray, 33-5)
    2005: 88% (Ryan, 36-5)
    2004: 85% (Julio, 22-4)
    2003: 82% (Julio, 36-8)
    2002: 81% (Julio, 25-6)
    2001: 85% (Groom, 11-2)
    2000: 73% (Timlin, 11-4)
    1999: 75% (Timlin, 27-9)
    1998: 85% (Benitez, 22-4)

    The overall total for those players comes to 83.8%, compared to the 83.3% Jim Johnson is carrying right now.

    So what is my point? No, I am not trying to argue that Johnson has had a good year, or even an average one. The Orioles have been a below average team with a below average bullpen for most of that 16-year period, so "average for an Orioles closer" is not a satisfactory standard to use. I'm just pointing out that we have seen worse -- a lot worse -- and that JJ's "terrrible" year is more like below average. And his two-year average of 89% is better than any save percentage an Oriole closer has put up in a single year in the last 16 years.

    Another thing worth noting is just how many times JJ is being asked to come in for a save situation. 108 times in two years -- that is a huge number. Mariano Rivera never had 108 save chances in a two-year period, nor did Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, John Franco or Billy Wagner (for anyone who can't figure it out, those are the top 5 in career saves). So far as I've been able to determine, the only pitchers who ever had a higher two-year total are K-Rod (115 in 2007-08 or 111 in 2008-09) and Eric Gagne (111 in 2002-03). And of course, JJ's season is not over; he easily could surpass 111 before this year ends. That's a lot of pitching in pressure situations.

    At the end of the day, I'm not excusing JJ for his poor save percentage this year. But, I disagree with those who criticize Buck for sticking with him this year, or who want to see him banished. For me, he's a very good relief pitcher who had a below average year in terms of when he gave up his runs (after all, his 3.08 ERA is pretty solid), but who is pretty likely to bounce back next year. So far as I'm concerned, the only issue with bringing JJ back in 2014 is his likely salary. Putting that aside, I'd be perfectly comfortable going into 2014 with JJ as Plan A for our closer.

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