The stat sheet tells a story that is critical of Orioles closer Jim Johnson. He has been excellent closing games this year with a two- or three-run lead, but has struggled when he enters the game with just a one-run advantage.
Pitching with a one-run lead, Johnson has saved nine of 16 games for a 56.3 percent success rate. Pitching when ahead by two or more runs, he has saved 30 of 32 for a 93.8 percent success rate.
That doesn’t even tell the whole story. Johnson recorded saves in his first five chances this year when coming on with a lead of just one run. But he is only 4-for-11 in save chances in those situations since and went 0-for-3 on the road trip, including suffering blown saves the last two games with a one-run lead.
There is not much positive about 4-for-11 and, as Buck Showalter might say, it’s not good enough. It is surprising to me that Johnson is struggling so badly, but he is and it has put his manager in the spotlight as fans wonder if he is going to make a change there. A change with a player that has been dependable, a leader and a real key behind an organization’s rise from losing team to playoff team.
Johnson has given his manager many reasons to be loyal toward him, but now the results have to be testing that loyalty more than ever.
Of the pitchers with the top 10 save totals in the American League, Johnson ranks ninth in save percentage.
96.7 - Grant Balfour, Oakland
94.7 - Joe Nathan, Texas
94.1 - Greg Holland, Kansas City
90.3 - Glen Perkins, Minnesota
87.5 - Mariano Rivera, New York
86.7 - Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles
84.8 - Addison Reed, Chicago
82.8 - Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle
81.3 - Jim Johnson, Baltimore
79.4 - Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay
Isn’t it interesting that the closers for the Orioles and the Rays are struggling so badly and each team still is very much in playoff contention?
When it comes to playing in the ninth inning with a lead, the Orioles have gone from the best team in the AL last year to the worst.
After going an amazing 75-1 last season when leading after eight innings, they are 56-9 this year. Just one other AL team even has more than four of these losses and that is Los Angeles at 46-5.
There are nine AL teams and 12 in the National League that have three or fewer losses in 2013 when leading after eight innings. To say the least, this is not a good stat for the Orioles.
The Orioles face Colorado over the weekend. The Rockies are 57-65 overall, 21-38 on the road and they’ve lost nine of their last 10 away from home. But Colorado just won five of six on a homestand where they scored 42 runs and swept three from Pittsburgh.
A viewpoint from Boston: The author of this story from the New England Sports Network feels the third place Orioles might be a bigger threat to Boston’s chances to win the AL East than the second-place Rays.