Looking at the makeup for the late innings in the O's bullpen

The signing of former Orioles right-hander Mychal Givens lengthened the current Orioles bullpen with the addition of another quality arm. In one sense he can pick up some of the slack that Jorge López left behind after his trade to the Minnesota Twins.

One possibility that could really benefit the team would be a scenario where Félix Bautista closes out games in the ninth with setup help in the eighth from left-hander Cionel Pérez. Pérez was such a surprise last year and got out both left- and right-handed hitters. It is unlikely the O’s would need just two pitchers for those innings, but in many wins last year before the López trade, Bautista did get into the game in the eighth and López in the ninth.

The ways clubs use bullpens these days, they pretty much look to match up from about the seventh inning on, maybe even starting with the sixth some nights. But having two dependable hurlers to handle those last two innings many nights in winnable games is one way to go.

The O’s could have some combo of Bautista, Pérez, Dillon Tate, Givens and Bryan Baker for those last nine or 10 or so outs. If DL Hall makes the team and/or winds up in the bullpen, we can add him to this mix. Or Keegan Akin, Joey Krehbiel or several other bullpen candidates/options.

But for now, pending any further moves, the Orioles look to be fortified pretty well for the late innings.

In addition to recording a 2.19 ERA and 15 saves, Bautista got out batters on both sides of the plate regularly, notching a .523 OPS against lefty batters and .541 versus right-handers. That is some strong stuff, and in this recent post, we pointed out just how dominant his splitter was in the 2022 season.

Pérez had a spectacular year after the Orioles added him via waivers from the Reds in November 2021. He posted a 1.40 ERA, - 0.29 in home games - with 1.162 WHIP. Among relievers with 55 or more innings, his ERA ranked second in the American League and fifth in the majors.

While he was used 28 times last year for two outs or fewer, perhaps his effectiveness against both lefties and righties leads to a more expanded chance in 2023. Lefties produced a .536 OPS against him and right-handers were at .587.

Baker was a bit of an unsung hero in the O’s 2022 bullpen after having thrown one big league inning leading into the season. Not bad for yet another ‘pen waiver pickup. He posted a 3.49 ERA with a 9.8 strikeout rate. Here is another strength: He also maintains the ability to get out left- and right-handed batters. Lefties had a .630 OPS against him, while right-handed hitters were at .609. In Baker, Bautista and Pérez the O’s have three back-end relievers who were good versus both last year.

Baker became the first Orioles rookie to pitch in 66 games since Givens had 66 appearances in 2016. He produced 1.4 WAR, per FanGraphs. And he recorded a 2.13 ERA in his final 40 appearances, compared to a 5.60 ERA in his first 26 games. He did not allow a run over his final 11 appearances covering 12 1/3 innings. Baker is another O’s ‘pen hurler who brings the heat. He touched 100.2 mph on Sept. 6 versus Toronto, the fastest pitch of his career.

Tate and Givens both had plenty of good moments last year, but their 2022 stats showed much better numbers versus righty batters. Tate posted a 3.05 ERA for the year, 0.991 WHIP and a strong 0.7 homer rate. But lefties got to him for an .814 OPS against. That number was .524 versus righties.

Givens had a 3.38 ERA and a 10.4 K rate between two teams last year. But for his career his OPS is .611 versus righty hitters and .774 against lefties. Givens has a career 2.72 ERA in the seventh inning, 3.10 in the eighth and 4.62 in the ninth inning.

No matter which way they go, the Orioles seem to have some quality options for the late innings in the 2023 season. 

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