So in 2014, will Jim Johnson pitch more like the 2012 closer that saved 51-of-54 or the 2013 version that saved 50 of 59?
Johnson said it will probably turn out to be somewhere in the middle.
“The actual truth is probably a combination between what you saw last year and this year,” he said Sunday in the Orioles clubhouse. “Last year was probably a tick up from what was expected and this year was maybe a tick down. So in between these two years I think is probably what to expect.”
Johnson went 3-8 this year with a 2.94 ERA. While he actually had a higher strikeout rate and better strikeout-to-walks ratio in 2013, he gave up just 7.2 hits per every nine innings last season and he gave up 9.2 hits per nine this season.
“(There were) ups and downs,” Johnson said. “I had a couple of bad weeks, but that is the world I live in. Trust me, I wish I was a little bit better a couple days, but I don’t regret anything. I prepared every day the same way, so there are no regrets, just unfortunate results a couple of times.”
Over the weekend, Johnson joined two exclusive lists. Johnson and Eric Gagne are the only relievers ever to post consecutive 50-save seasons. That duo plus Mariano Rivera are the only three men to have two 50-save seasons in major league history. No pitcher, even the great Rivera, has had three.
Johnson, Gagne, Francisco Rodriguez and John Smoltz are the only pitchers ever in MLB to record 100 saves over a consecutive two-season span.
“That is a lot of appearances,” Johnson said, downplaying the accomplishment. “I think the tide changed a couple of years ago (for the Orioles winning) and obviously I’d like to think I’m a part of that. I set the bar high for myself and that’s fine. I continue to want to do the job for the team. I think it is more indicative of the way the team plays than anything else.
“I want the ball. Saves are one thing, but wins are more important. That is what we get judged on. As long as we come to the ballpark every day expecting to win and wanting to win, those are the two main components you need to have.”
Here is an interesting stat: In his two 50-save seasons, Rivera saved 103-of-114 for 90.3 percent. In his two 50-save seasons, Johnson saved 101-of-113 for 89.3 percent.
O’s executive vice-president Dan Duquette recently confirmed he will tender Johnson a contract for 2014 and said he considers the right-hander a core piece of the O’s future.
Johnson appreciates the confidence the O’s brass has shown in him.
“Yeah. Obviously I want to be here and hope they want me here,” Johnson said. “I’d rather be part of the solution than part of the problem.
“I’m one of the original guys here, me, Nick (Markakis), Brian (Roberts) and Matty (Wieters). It wasn’t that way many years ago where we’d just sign a free agent for a couple of years and see you later.
“To be drafted by this organization and to get to this point where we finally put out winning seasons and raise expectations for the club, the city and the fans, to change that culture is very important,” Johnson said.
Brault note: Orioles minor league pitcher Steven Brault was rated as the 16th-best prospect in the New York-Penn League in the top 20 rankings released by Baseball America today. The left-hander went 1-2 with a 2.09 ERA for short-season, Single-A Aberdeen. Over 43 innings he allowed 35 hits with 12 walks, 38 strikeouts and a .227 average against.
The 21-year-old Brault was drafted in June in round 11 out of Div. II Regis University where he went 8-3 with a 2.63 ERA over 79 innings with 103 strikeouts.