Some stats and some thoughts on struggling closer Jim Johnson

Of course, Jim Johnson is going to be the main topic of conversation for Orioles fans today - and he will be in this blog entry, too. But first, a few other points to make.

Of the five relievers the Orioles used last night, three gave up runs and a fourth let in an inherited runner. The batters went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. A runner was at second base in the last of the ninth with two outs, but the O’s couldn’t come up with the hit to produce the walk-off win.

The blame for that loss doesn’t fall on the shoulders of any one player.

But seeing Johnson struggle like this is strange, indeed. Is it simply a matter of his elevating a few pitches, as he did with the one Travis Hafner hit out to tie the game?

Over these last three appearances - all resulting in blown saves - Johnson has pitched a total of 2 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits, eight runs and two homers. In the last two games, he has thrown 56 pitches, just 28 for strikes.

In these last three, he has allowed nine hits over 14 at-bats for a batting average against of .643.

At the beginning of this homestand, Johnson was working on a club record 35 straight saves. Now he is 0-for-his-last three in save chances.

Last year, when Johnson made the All-Star team and finished seventh in the Cy Young award voting, he saved 51 of 54 games. So he has as many blown saves in one homestand as he had in one whole season. That is stunning.

Who would have thought the Orioles would go from having a starting pitcher crisis to one with their All-Star closer?

Johnson was so good for so long. Coming into the last six games, Johnson led all of Major League Baseball with 72 saves since Sept. 7, 2011. He had gone 72-for-75 in that stretch, for a save percentage of 96. Even with these three blown saves, he is 72-for-78 for a percentage of 92.3.

With his save last night, the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera is 75-for-83 in his career against the Orioles, the team he has his most saves against. That is a percentage of 90.3.

Johnson has a better save percentage against all teams since Sept. 7, 2011 - even with these three blown saves - than Rivera has in his career against an Orioles team that has been a bad team for most of those saves.

I am certainly not comparing Johnson to Rivera, who is the best closer of all time. I am just saying that you should look at those numbers for Johnson since late in the 2011 season when he became the club’s full-time closer.

The numbers are impressive, even with his struggles over the last six games. Buck Showalter is keenly aware of that track record and he won’t give the ball to anyone else in the ninth inning right now.

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