Thursday, January 26, 2012

“A Call to the ‘Pen”

As 2012 approaches it looks like the Orioles bullpen is pretty much set. Last year the O’s bullpen was not terrible, but not great either. Yes, they did have a 4.18 ERA, but some players did shine however, especially pitchers Jim Johnson and current Texas Ranger Koji Uehara. Johnson appeared in 69 games for the O’s last season and had the highest WAR for any pitcher in the bullpen of the O’s, 1.6, and he also finished with a 2.67 ERA. The latter had a 1.72 ERA with the O’s as well as having 11.87 K/9.

With 2012 come new goals and new faces. Like I mentioned earlier, Uehara is no longer on the Orioles after being traded on July 30th to Texas for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. Some new faces include Tsuyoshi Wada, Dana Eveland and Darren O’Day.

The Orioles have a lot of options for the bullpen with this season and these are who I predict to be the main contributors (in no particular order):

- Tsuyoshi Wada
- Brad Bergesen
- Tommy Hunter
- Darren O’Day
- Alfredo Simon
- Pedro Strop
- Kevin Gregg (pictured at the top)
- Jim Johnson

A few of the pitchers above do have some starting experience and will provide value as swingman, especially Wada, Bergesen, Hunter, and Simon.

Even though a lot of people predict Wada will be in the rotation, I expect him to be in the bullpen for the majority of the year. With the crossover from Japan to the Majors, I expect it to put a little wear-and-tear on Wada’s arm. He almost reminds me of Koji Uehara, who started off in the rotation, but ended up in the bullpen due to injury.

Relievers Pedro Strop and Darren O’Day will provide decent value for the O’s in the middle-to-late innings of the game, especially the 6th and 7th innings. Bill James predicts Strop to finish with 30 innings in 2012, with a 3.90 ERA and a 9.60 K/9 and a 4.5 BB/9. The key for Strop will be to limit his walks and to be able to control his off-speed pitches, such as his slider and his splitter. O’Day‘s main concern is staying healthy. In 2011, O’Day hit the Disabled List twice- the 60-Day DL with a torn labrum in his left hip, and the 15-Day DL once with right shoulder inflammation. His best two seasons came with the Rangers in 2009 and 2010, where he had 1.94 and 2.03 ERA. He also had 0.95 and 0.88 WHIP.

As for the back-end up the bullpen, Kevin Gregg should set-up Jim Johnson. Yes, Kevin Gregg is a so-called “proven closer”, but even though he’s saved over 20 games the past 5 years, he still does not have good numbers. As a closer, the lowest ERA he has had was 3.41 in ’08 with the Marlins. He also has spotty command at best. Last season he walked 6.03 hitters per nine.

Johnson should definitely be the closer for the Orioles. Like I said earlier, Johnson was arguably the Orioles best reliever last season and has chance to put up similar numbers this year. In an earlier post, Jeff mentioned why Johnson would be a better reliever than starter (here is the link:

All in all, the Orioles bullpen will most likely not drastically improve, but there is a chance for a few different pitchers to establish themselves as solid relievers for the Orioles in the next few years. Hopefully they will not have as much weight on them as they did last year.


  1. I think Koji wants back, and the O's want him back, but other teams are willing to give up more players than us to get him back. Tough situation.

  2. That is a good point Jon. I did forget to mention our interest in Koji. Apparently Texas is getting pretty legitimate offers for him though.