Relief pitching has been a puzzle that Baltimore has been unable to figure out for the past few seasons. This season has been no different than those of the past.
The starting pitching for the Orioles has been outstanding for the most part of the season but relievers have been a different situation. Thus far into the season, the pitching staff has given up 184 runs to their opponents. The bullpen has been responsible for 77 of them. The bullpen is ranked around 21st in the majors.
There have been nine reliever used by the team so far with the current rotation being made of Michael Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg, Koji Uehara, Jim Johnson, Clay Rapada, Jason Berken, and Jeremy Accardo. Chris Jakubauskas has been on the DL and Josh Rupe has been sent down to the minors.
Overall, the bullpen is 5-5 with a 5.09 ERA. They've given up 134 hits in 127.0 innings with 24 of those hits being for home runs—a major problem in the pen. They have given up more homers than any other bullpen. Relievers have recorded seven saves but are also responsible for six blown saves.
The two names that have received the most complaints on their performances have been: Kevin Gregg and Michael Gonzalez. Neither have had the confidence needed on the mound due to their lackluster pitching—garnering the disappointment of their coaches, teammates, and fans.
Gregg was named the closer this season by Buck Showalter due to having 37 saves and a 1.93 strike out to walk ratio last season. Something drastically changed this season. He has already blown two saves and has a record of 0-1 with an ERA of 3.52. His strike out to walk ratio has dropped to 1.00 with 12 of each being recorded. There has been one surrendered home run but six runs over 15.1 innings of work.
As a closer, he is coming in with a lead—a small one most of the time—and not having a clean outing. He is giving up too many runs to be productive in the role because there is no time left in the games for him to be saved when he takes the mound in the ninth and gives up the lead.
Bad performances from Gonzalez are nothing new to O's fans. Last season, he started off terrible but was able to do a little better towards the end, leaving some hope for the future. With a final record of 1-3 in 2010, all hopes were squashed as this season he's gone 0-1 and has an 8.53 ERA. He's allowed 19 hits—three for home runs—and 15 runs in only 12.2 innings pitched. He has given up at least one run in each of his last three appearances and in nine of his 15 this season.
While the two them have cast a shadow over anything good coming out of the pen, fan favorite Koji Uehara has continued to do his job well. He has a team leading 2.56 ERA and is 1-0 on the season. Despite giving up three home runs, Uehara has allowed only five runs in his 17.0 innings of work. He is posting a 3.80 strike out to walk ratio. Opposing hitters have a batting average of .178 with only 11 hits off of him and a .235 on base percentage.
Also doing well is Jim Johnson. His ERA is a little high at 4.09 but that does not reflect that fact he has a 2-1 record and a 4.00 strike out to walk ratio. He has surrendered three homers and 20 hits to make up his 10 runs but he also has 20 strike outs to his name. He has taken the mound and performed outstandingly when needed. He has been able to get the team out of problematic situations before handing the ball over to his fellow relievers. He has been able to come through for multiple innings as needed when the starters have not gone deep into the games.
Luckily, the starting pitching has surpassed most people's expectations and has been pitching quite well. In some part, that is to blame for the poor bullpen because they are lacking work, but once again, the main hope for the draft will be to find some relievers the team can count on in the future. With Rapada and Gonzalez being the lefties in the pen, another good lefty would be highly useful to replace the ever disappointing Gonzalez as well as a new closer.