Baltimore’s bullpen, the Russian Roulette Relievers that they are, have blown an astounding 12 of 24 save opportunities this season. The team’s 50 percent save percentage stands well below both the American League (68 percent) and National League (66 percent) averages.
The team has shared the poverty as each of the eight pitchers who has had at least one save opportunity has a blown save, led by Jim Johnson (three blown saves in four opportunities), Michael Gonzalez (two blown saves in three opportunities), and Matt Albers (two blown saves in two opportunities).
As you might guess, bad bullpens are a consistent trait of last place teams. Every last place team with the exception of Washington has a save percentage below its respective league average:
Indians – 8 blown saves in 19 opportunities (58 percent)
The Orioles’ Off-Season Wish List continues to grow as the losses mount. Unfortunately, buying a bullpen is no easy task.
Consider the 2007 Orioles. The team invested more than $40 million in the bullpen (read all about it if you can bear to do so), which paid dividends for the first month or so of the season. Then the bottom fell out.
The Orioles lost leads in 120 of 162 games in 2007 and dropped 16 games in which they led after the seventh inning. Twenty one relievers were used (21!) and together compiled a 5.71 ERA, the second-worst in the major leagues and the fifth highest over the previous 51 seasons. And yes, 2007 was the year of 30-3.
One year earlier, Baltimore relievers had the second-highest ERA (5.27) in baseball and were worst for slugging percentage (.478) and home runs allowed (86).
So there’s a valid explanation for that stomach pain that takes over every time the bullpen gates open. It’s just another case of classical conditioning.
The Orioles may not be able to settle on a closer, but the bullpen theme song is a no brainer. Cue the Four Tops, because it’s the “same old song.”
Related reading: Quality starts not leading to quality outcomes in Baltimore