Time For Orioles To Remove Jim Johnson From Closer’s Role

Jim JohnsonThe Orioles officially have a closer problem. On Sunday in Toronto, Jim Johnson blew his fourth save in his last five chances. Over his last six games, Johnson has allowed 13 hits, 12 earned runs and three walks in five innings pitch. That’s a 21.60 ERA for you math wizards out there.

He’s falling behind hitters and struggling to keep the sinker down in the zone. Last week I examined his high release point and blamed it for his location issues, but right now I’m less certain about Johnson’s issues being mechanical. Perhaps the blown saves have started to wear on him mentally.

Buck Showalter assured fans that he would go to Johnson if a save opportunity presented itself on Monday against the Nationals. After watching him throw 37 pitches on Sunday and 14 pitches the night before, I don’t think he’ll keep that promise.

Even if Johnson was well rested, I believe it’s time for Showalter and the O’s to take a look at their other options for the closer’s role and allow JJ to work through his issues in the seventh or eighth. But who should the Birds’ skipper call on to replace the 2012 saves leader?

It’s not like the bullpen has been particularly effective of late. They allowed 16 earned runs in 14 innings pitched in their four games north of the border and have posted a 7.93 ERA over their last 12 games. Right now the Orioles are just hoping they’ll get to a save situation with those type of numbers.

Athletics GM Billy Beane famously discussed why closers have the most overrated role in all of sports. ”Whitey Herzog had a lot of success with a closer by committee,” Beane told Jim Caple of the late ESPN Page 2. “Although now that I think back on it, I’m not sure they called it ‘closer by committee’ back then. I think then it was just called ‘using your bullpen wisely.’ Then closers became ‘specialists.’”

Each of the Orioles options to replace Johnson have some sort of flaw whether minor or glaring. Their best options are Darren O’Day (.140 batting average against vs. right handed batters, .333 BAA vs. LHB), Tommy Hunter (5 homers allowed over 29 innings pitched) or Brian Matusz (I question the mental makeup for the role).

I’d like to see Johnson out of that role and watch the Orioles implement the Beane approach for the time being. If JJ can improve his mechanics, build back his confidence and hit his spots again, then the job is his. If not, time for closer by committee.

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com and Host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @zamwi or send him an email:zach@baltimoresportsreport.com.

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com 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.

15 Comments

  1. Willo

    May 27, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Maybe it’s time to see how the “Beard” looks in Orioles orange and black? Brian Wilson is 31 and would definitely be a nice side show that would be an attention getter and a fan draw.

    • 9inchnails

      May 28, 2013 at 11:40 am

      The beard? Another Spy psuedo?

  2. MGW

    May 27, 2013 at 9:00 am

    There are 25 guys on the team. While I usually agree with most of Buck’s moves, his insistence to put the other 24 guys in a bad spot to appease one guy is the wrong message in my book.

    Johnson has got to get his head right and it cannot be the detriment of the other 24.

    • 9inchnails

      May 28, 2013 at 11:39 am

      Detriment of the other 24? How about the slugs at the end of the lineup or Jones going after every curve ball in the dirt with two outs, Hardy, 3 feet off the plate? You dance with who bought you and JJ bought us to the dance. Give him a day or two of rest.

      • MGW

        May 28, 2013 at 2:20 pm

        Nails – Not saying to toss him aside, but just give him a little mental vacation. Put him in a few 8-2 games and let him get himself straightened out.

        By no means am I saying he’s done or I’ve given up on him. Just need to get him right before putting him in again with the game on the line.

  3. David

    May 27, 2013 at 9:07 am

    If closing by committee is such a good idea, how come the idea only surfaces when the closer isn’t effective? Beane is right about the old days, but the game has shifted to a format where you get six innings from a starter if you’re lucky. That means your bullpen has more responsibility than ever before. Having someone strong at the back is a good idea. Some argue that the key inning in a game may arrive earlier, but the reason the ninth is most important is because it’s the end. If you give up runs in the seventh you can come back, in the eight you can comeback. Give up runs in the ninth and it’s over. Get a closer.

  4. spy

    May 27, 2013 at 9:20 am

    How about getting a few quality starting pitchers who actually go seven innings , this team is sorely lacking quality pitchers who can eat up innings,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,it may be the only thing keeping them from a world series appearance,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,when will this ownership wise up and put some money where it counts , until it does it will just frustrate the fans who know the potential this team has , this team could be the real deal if Peter the Great allows it to happen……………………….

    • 9inchnails

      May 28, 2013 at 11:42 am

      Damn, quote me here. I agree with Spy! We are grooming 6 inning pitchers. Pulling Hammel after 107 pitches, hell Palmer averaged 135 pitches his entire career. We babay pitchers too much. The only pitcher that needs to be babied in Baltimore is a pitcher of Natty Boh, 11pm on a Sunday night when we have to work the next day!

      • spy

        May 29, 2013 at 9:47 am

        Great response from a great man……………………

  5. MGW

    May 27, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Now we know the winning formula.

    Zach and spy both have the “reverse jinx” thing going.

    Zach says positive things and it blows up.

    spy says negative things and it blows up.

    Winning formula. Keep it up, boys!

  6. MGW

    May 27, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    I see where the “rich Orioles” and all of their “MASN money” have been once again identified as one of the lower half of revenue producing teams.

    That Angelos is one shrewd dude. He hides money from the other 29 owners who willingly turn over supplemental draft picks to him and his club to help make them a better team.

    LMAO.

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/05/what-are-competitive-balance-draft-picks-worth.html

    • spy

      May 28, 2013 at 10:25 am

      I don’t believe this value includes MASN money,,,,,,,,,,,in any event Peter the Great will not bring quality pitching to the O’s , remember Mike Musina , any pitcher that proves to be a number one guy will not be kept in town , it goes against his grain which also means the O’s will never win a world series with Angelos at the helm…………………….his retirement fund is doing just fine this way,,,,,,,,,,,,,,the fans be screwed once again , ………………wake up please wake up………………..

      • MGW

        May 28, 2013 at 11:14 am

        Oh, OK, got it.

        The competitive draft for lower revenue generating teams doesn’t include TV money, the biggest contributor to revenue generation.

        The Forbes studies done each year doesn’t include revenue from TV either.

        Got it. Wasn’t sure about that.

        • spy

          May 29, 2013 at 9:52 am

          Of course it includes TV money but I don’t believe it includes income from enterprises that are separate from the baseball club,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,MASN is a stand alone enterprise and does not have to be included in any transactiopn that involves the O’s,,,,,actually it was formed to stay in the Angelos family after they sold the O’s…………………….it does not change the fact Peter the Great will not pay for a quality pitcher………………….

        • spy

          May 29, 2013 at 10:02 am

          For your info MGW , the value of the yankees if you include the YES network and their other corp enterprise is over five billion dollars,,,,,,,yes five billion dollars , these numbers are not reflected in the value of the stand alone team,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,same with the O’s , these values do not include MASN,,,,,,,,,sorry , but the O’s have more money then you think…………..Angelos still won’t bring in a quality pitcher , get over it , please…………….