This winter the Orioles traded Jim Johnson and his 50 saves to the Oakland Athletics for infielder Jemile Weeks. After kicking the tires with Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney, the O’s opted to stay in house and hand the keys to the 9th inning to Tommy “Big Game” Hunter. How will he fare in the new role? Let’s dive in to the numbers.

Tommy Hunter vs. Jim Johnson in 2013

Ignoring the saves column, Tommy Hunter posted better statistics in the ERA and WHIP categories last season. He also appeared in 16 more innings than Johnson did. Of course, pitching in the ninth inning is a completely different beast than the eighth, where Hunter threw 39.1 innings last season.

Tommy Hunter vs. Jim Johnson last season

As we go a little deeper and get a little nerdier, we discover that Hunter allowed fewer hits per nine and walks per nine that Johnson did in 2013. The biggest criticism of Hunter is his tendency to give up the longball. Last season he allowed 1.1 homers per nine, half of his total from 2012. While that mark is higher than Johnson’s 0.6, Hunter allowed fewer homers per fly ball than Johnson. Both players posted similar WAR totals last season, though Hunter had an above average Win Probably Added, while Johnson’s total was below average in that category.

Johnson’s pitch to contact style is will likely be a better fit in the roomy Coliseum than it was in Camden Yards. Here are the pitches each reliever threw last season with their average velocities.

Tommy Hunter and Jim Johnson pitch repertoire

Hunter’s repertoire is more along the lines of a traditional closer’s. He’ll crank up the velocity on his four seam fastball, sometimes hitting triple digits, while mixing in a cutter, slider and occasional change. Jim Johnson depends on groundball outs which he gets with his sinker. When it works he’s incredibly effective, but it’s a risky way to go about closing a game.

The projection systems from FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus see similar seasons for Johnson and Hunter in 2014. JJ wins the ERA category in ZiPS and PECOTA, while Hunter takes the walks per nine, K per nine and WHIP.

Tommy Hunter and Jim Johnson 2014 Projections

There’s no question that Jim Johnson was a big reason for the Orioles success the past two seasons, but his loss likely won’t affect the Orioles as much as many people think.

Subscribe to Channel BSR on YouTube.

About The Author

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of and host of the BSR Podcast. He's a loyal Orioles, Ravens and Capitals fan who is obsessed with baseball, loves traveling, In-N-Out Burger and Walt Disney World.


  1. Zach,
    You’re forgetting one important detail. Hunter was given a huge advantage, which skews his statistics: He almost exclusively faced right-handed hitters. Johnson was asked to get all hitters out, lefties and righties. Big advantage Hunter.

    • You’re right. His platoon splits are definitely a concern. Probably something I should have included in this piece and worthy of discussing when talking about Hunter’s role in the 9th.

      Last season vs. RHB: 149 AB’s, 4.88 K/BB, .141/.190/.154 against
      Last season vs. LHB: 170 AB’s, 4.83 K/BB, .294/.322/.535 against

      Interesting that RHB’s had a .191 BABIP against while lefties had a .300 BABIP. I wonder if that will even out this season.


        Hunter’s had problems with lefties his entire career. Here are his career splits:
        vs. RHB:1083 AB’s, 4.10 K/BB, .247/.281/.402, BABIP: .265
        vs. LHB:1267 AB’s, 1.92 K/BB, .293/.343/.500, BABIP: .298

        It would appear that Hunter’s .191 BABIP vs. RHB last year is the anomaly, not the other way around. Hunter did have a clear improvement in K/BB ratio vs. LHB last year. Unfortunately, as avid O’s fans know, that improved control led to a barrage of homers vs. lefties.

        I’d be more hopeful about our bullpen going forward if I had any faith whatsoever in Showalter’s ability to be creative with his relievers. Sadly, that seems to be the way all managers are today.

  2. Umm, lefthanded batters faced Tommy 170 times while right handed batters faced him 149 times.

    Nice try!

  3. I hope Tommy does the same job that Johnson has done for us over the years but the very first pitch I saw him throw in Spring traing was a 450 ft jack to some guy on the Pirates….not a good sign!

  4. Has anyone officially named Tommy Hunter the closer? The answer is no, even though he is the heavy favorite. Can we get an article about O’Day and Webb’s chances of succeeding as well? Thanks!

    • Many teams don’t name closers. The Rays hadn’t for years prior to signing Balfour this offseason. I still expect it to be Hunter’s at the start of the season.

  5. Brilliant work. Tommy is my boy!

  6. He scares me to death,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,If he has difficulty I hope Buck doesn’t show his usual patience with him , it could really hurt this year…………….

  7. So far, so good…1 for 1.

  8. …And Jim Johnson surrendered 2 runs in the 9th in a 0-0 game in Oakland and got booed off the field.

  9. Chow man with pran. Chow and Ryu go Oriole game yestelday and watch Chow team, Oriole win game. Chow happy but Ryu almost get in fight with LedSock fan. When Todd Cruz hit home lun Ryu drop he beel on Ledsock fan. Fan say “Not cool DaddyO Bitch” to Ryu. Chow tell man Chow know kalate and prease back off Ryu and Chow. Peanut man come tell Chow shut up, sit down. Chow not happy Peanut man tell Chow shut up and sit but Chow know Oriole Peanut man cary gun and electlic shock stick cause they Oriole Seculity too. All end well, chow sit down, Ryu buy Chow Jim Traber tee shirt like jersey fol take up Ryu and big man Ledsock fan have beel on he Roger Clemen jersey.

  10. chow stick up for Ryu and hilp him no trouble get in. Red Socks fan where shirt clown no never hear of “CLEMENS”. Beer spilt on shirt favor for fat guy cuase shirt pink with holes anyway from too much wash machine. Red Socks fan quiet day long. Ortiz eat too much and old.

  11. Chow say it gleat now Orioles play ball. Ryu and chow rike big fans who lock the brack and olange jersy. Chow have lot Oriole jersey and one San Flancisco Giant jersy cause guy at frea malket sell Chow Giant jersey and say it Oriole. So chow have Bobby Murcer Giant jersey chow sell you. $35 for jersey. Chow only wear 15 time chow find out it Giant jersey not oriole.

    Filst pelson pay chow GET jersey.

Comments are closed.