Oftentimes judging a reliever’s performance off his ERA, especially in a small sample, is not a solid path to take in evaluating that pitcher. Take O’s right-hander Bryan Baker.
His ERA is 5.79 in four games to start the new season. But his batting average against is .200 and opponent batters have an OPS of just .544 versus Baker.
On Opening Day in Boston he gave up three runs over two-thirds of an inning. In three games since then, he has thrown four scoreless innings on one hit with no walks and four strikeouts.
Thanks to the help of third sacker Ramón Urías, who turned a nifty 5-3 double play, and his own strikeout of Isiah Kiner-Falefa on a 96 mph heater in the eighth inning here yesterday, he got three huge outs in the O’s 7-6 win over the New York Yankees.
The Orioles improved to 4-3 on the year, and to 46-24 all-time in home openers.
After the strikeout, Baker pounded his chest and screamed, and showing plenty of passion as more than 45,000 fans roared their approval. Baker agreed with an assessment today that there was a time in baseball when pitchers showing such emotion on the mound was considered not the thing to do. They were supposed to suppress their emotions, be stoic and not let the other team know their feelings. But that is not true anymore. In fact, manager Brandon Hyde and his staff encourage such displays. They want the players to be themselves on the field.
So Baker said that as he gets more experience in the game and the game has changed in this way, he’s happy to let his emotions be seen by everyone.
“I think it probably came out over time a little bit. Just probably an accumulation of all the sacrifices I put into getting as far as I have,” he said. “Kind of always comes out at certain times. Definitely used to be a bit more reserved, and then over the past few years it’s coming out a little bit more, for sure.”
And again, there was a time in baseball when pitchers were encouraged to not let the hitters see their emotions.
“That is exactly why it’s been different for me as time has gone. I used to be the same way,” said Baker. “That was the way I was taught. But now it’s kind of whatever you perform the best doing is kind of what comes out. We have to try to do our best at this level no matter what. For me, it’s more natural now. Not thinking about withholding any actions or anything. All my focus is on other things, so it kind of comes out. But there are other guys that look like they’re walking through the park out there, and that works for them. Everyone has their own style, but mine is just natural and emotion comes out in bigger spots.”
And pitchers know if a hitter takes them deep, a bat flip or some celebration could be coming.
“It’s celebrated for hitters, and they have more chances to do so with four or five at-bats per game," Baker said. "They have a good time. It’s all good, showing off the personalities. It’s good for the game.”
Baker and Félix Bautista locked down the Opening Day win for the Orioles in the late innings as Yankees hitters went a combined 0-for-5 with a walk, while striking out three times, hitting a popup and grounding into that huge double play. Baker and Bautista made clutch pitches and got clutch outs with the game hanging in the balance.
The O’s bullpen has a 4.20 ERA right now through seven games to rank 11th in the American League. The O’s ‘pen threw a combined 9 1/3 scoreless innings Monday and Tuesday, but has allowed five runs in seven frames the past two games.
They are trying to put up numbers while two men down, with Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens still on the injured list.
“Just trying to press forward with what we’ve got,” Baker said of the relievers' outlook for now. “Getting these early reps in the year and having us in all these different scenarios, it’s going to pay off in the long run. You know, coming out of spring I was confident in everyone’s ability, and I still am. It’s going to take some guys to maybe throw in spots they haven’t been in a lot before. Have our defense help us, too, behind us.”