Orioles Bullpen Breakdown Through 19 Games

April 27, 2009 | Tom Clayton

Going into the 2009 season many experts and fans alike considered the Orioles bullpen to be a one of the teams greatest strengths; so far they were all very wrong.


The bullpen does have some quality talent but a lot of that talent is being misused by management.  The key to developing a successful bullpen is to place your pitchers in a position that best utilizes their strengths.


So far Dave Trembley has shown me nothing in his season and a half as Orioles manager that makes me believe he has the ability to adequately handle a pitching staff. Trembley’s quick hook for his starters puts a lot of unneeded stress on his bullpen.  I would leave pitchers like Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson on the mound until their arms fell off if it meant maintaining the health of the future cornerstones of my bullpen.  Towards the latter half of the 2008 season it was obvious Trembley had overworked his bullpen by its lack of effectiveness after the All-Star break.  This point was even further proven by the fact that Jim Johnson, George Sherrill, and Matt Albers were all shutdown with some type of arm injury by the end of last season.


The Orioles do have talent on the backend of the bullpen but it will likely need to supplement it with minor league talent and potential free agents to bridge the gap between the starters and the eight inning.


George Sherrill

0-1   5.19ERA    4SV   5SVO   8.2IP   5ER     3BB’s    7K’s    .306AVG Against

At the end of the day George Sherrill is best suited to be a left handed specialist not a fulltime closer.  While in Seattle Sherrill was dominant in this role; in 2007 he had a

2-0 record with an ERA of 2.36 and an opponent batting average of .179 against.  I understand Sherrill was an All-Star in 2008; a season in which he converted 31 of 37 save opportunities but overall Sherrill doesn’t have the stuff and is not efficient enough to be a fulltime closer.  Sherrill ended last season with a 4.73ERA and has an ERA over 5.00 so far in 2009.


Sherrill also showed that he doesn’t have the stamina to carry the workload of a fulltime closer.  After pitching 53.1 innings in 2008 which was 7.2 more then he has ever pitched in previous seasons he became wildly ineffective after the All-Star break and eventually ended the season on he DL after having inflammation in his pitching elbow.


I like George Sherrill a lot and believe that at 32 years of age he could be a great contributor to the Orioles bullpen in the future; just not in the capacity of a closer but as a left handed specialist, a role where he has proven to be dominant.


Jim Johnson

1-0   3.00ERA  9.0IP   3ER   10Hits  3BB’s   7K’s    .278AVG Against

Jim Johnson is without question the most talented pitcher in the Orioles bullpen.  Johnson proved this during a breakout 2008 in which Johnson went 2-4 with a 2.23ERA and an opponent batting average of .219. 


Johnson is a dominant setup man but has the ability to be a top tier closer in the major leagues.  Johnson is a reliever who has great confidence in his stuff and attacks hitters without fear.  Johnson pitches to contact and has a “heavy” fastball that opposing hitters struggle to drive.


At just 25 years old Johnson still has a ton of upside, a proposition that should put fear in opposing offenses.  Johnson could be one of the best closers in all of baseball and should obtain this role as the Orioles rebuilding process moves forward.


Chris Ray

0-0   6.00ERA   6.0IP   4ER   10Hits   3BB’s   8K’s   .357AVG Against

After a dominating 2006 season in which Ray went 4-4 with a 2.73 ERA, an opponent’s batting average of .193, and converted 33 saves in 38 opportunities Ray looked to have locked down the role of Orioles closer.  Unfortunately Chris had to have ligament replacement surgery in August of the following season and missed the entire 2008 campaign.


Ray is a power pitcher who has fanned 146 hitters in 155.1 inning pitched during his young career. Chris has great stuff that includes a plus fastball that sits in the high 90’s; he also has a slider and splitter in his repertoire.


Ray doesn’t seem to be showing any physical limitations coming off of ligament replacement surgery but has shown some rust after missing a season and a half.


If Ray can get back to the form he showed in 2006 he could be an above average setup man bridging the gap to Jim Johnson.  If the Orioles decide Johnson is not their closer of the future Ray could also be a quality closer with overpowering stuff.  Chris is turned 27 years old in January and would provide the Orioles with great value as setup man as the team heads into a promising future.


Danys Baez

1-1    3.48ERA   10.1IP     4ER   5Hits   10K’s   1BB’s    .139AVG Against

Early in the 2009 season Baez has been the most effective pitcher in the bullpen, and has done a wonderful job bridging the gap to the backend of the bullpen this season.  Danys had an exceptional game on Sunday when he pitched three perfect innings striking out three to earn his first victory since 2006 in the Orioles 8-5 victory over the Rangers.  His fastball was routinely hitting 95 and he was simply blowing away very talented Rangers hitters.


Baez signed a three year contract with the Orioles in November of 2006 and was expected to be the Orioles setup man.  Instead Baez struggled in first season as an Oriole going 0-6 with an ERA 6.44 in his 53 appearances.  Baez was forced to sit out the entire 2008 season after he had the same ligament reconstructive surgery as teammate Chris Ray in March of that year.


Baez is 32 and is a free agent after the season; I think there could be some value in bringing him back if he can continue his solid start.  The only caveat to his resigning is that he takes a pay cut from his current salary of $7.166 million.


Dennis Sarfate

0-0   7.27ERA   8.2ER    7ER   10 Hits    5BB’s    7K’s   .294AVG Against

Sarfate was acquired by the Orioles in the deal that sent Miguel Tejada to Houston.  Sarfate has been both a starter and reliever during his career but seems better suited coming out of the bullpen.


Sarfate has above average stuff including a fastball that can come close to touching three digits on the radar gun.  Although he has great talent Sarfate has below average control and struggles to keep runners off base. 


While Sarfate’s talent is undeniable he looks to have a marginal future as a major league pitcher.  Sarfate is simply to wild and allows too many base runners to be viable member of a bullpen on a contending team.


Sarfate is not a spring chicken at 28 and doesn’t look to have much of a shot of being in Baltimore once the team is back in contention.  If the light could go on for Sarfate and he began pounding the zone with his top level heater he could be a serviceable middle reliever.


Matt Albers

0-0    5.19ERA   8.2IP    5ER    13Hits    5BB’s    6K’s   .371AVG Against

Albers looked to be a high end long man out of the bullpen in 2008; a season in which he went 3-3 with and ERA of 3.49.  Like many of the other players in the Orioles bullpen Albers ended the season on the disabled list with a partially torn labrum.  Many executives in the warehouse wanted Albers to have surgery but Albers instead decided to opt to rehab the injury instead.  Alas this decision may have been a major mistake as Albers has been highly ineffective and has been hit hard early this season.


The Orioles acquired Albers in the Miguel Tejada trade during the 2007 off-season. 


Albers has a very live arm with a fastball that runs in the high 90’s and a curveball that is a real bender.  While both are considered plus pitches his fastball can be very straight at time and he has struggled to maintain control of his curveball.  Albers has a propensity to allow too many walks and home runs and his command is a major issue.


At 26, Albers could be a quality long man and spot starter who could provide a lot of versatility out of the bullpen.  My only concern is the health of his shoulder; in my opinion he should have opted for surgery.  Troy Patton another player the Orioles acquired in the Miguel Tejada trade had Labrum surgery and is back better then ever now. If Albers can stay healthy he could be a valuable asset in Baltimore for years to come.


Jamie Walker

0.0   0.00ERA   3.1IP   0ER   5Hits    0BB’s   3K’s    .385AVG Against

Jamie Walker has one job, get out left handed hitters; Walker has not done this job in the past two seasons.  He has allowed left handed hitters to hit .444 off of him this season a number that is terrible and that is putting it nicely.  Imagine that you were an accountant and you forgot who to multiply, who long would you keep your job?


Walker hasn’t been effective in two seasons; last year he went 1-3 with a 6.87ERA and an opponent’s batting average of .325.


Walker is in the final year of his contract that will pay him 4.5 million dollars this season.  At 37 Walker has zero value to the Orioles today and shouldn’t be in any of their plans for the future.


Brian Bass

0-0    7.20ERA    15.0IP    12ER   20Hits   5BB’s   14K’s   .317AVG Against

After looking ineffective in his first three starts Bass has become one of the bright spots in the bullpen of late.  In his last four appearances Bass has pitched 7.2 innings without allowing an earned run.


Acquired from Minnesota in 2008 Bass has limited stuff but posses’ excellent control.  To be effective at the major league level Brian must get good movement and change speeds well as he doesn’t have an overpowering fastball.


At 27 years old Bass could be in the Orioles future plans if he continues to develop and maintains his excellent control throughout the remainder of the 2009 season.  Brian could team with Albers to fill the role of long reliever and spot starter.  Bass is a player I really like and believe could fill a crucial role in the Orioles bullpen for years to come.


Radhames Liz

0-0   67.50ERA   1.1IP   10ER   8 Hits   2BB’s   1K    .667AVG Against

67.50ERA?  This number sounds like a joke but for Liz who was one of the Orioles top prospects just a few years ago this number is very much a reality.  In his fist appearance of the year he allowed five earned runs in one inning.  Liz’ second appearance of the 2009 season was even worse as he allowed six earned runs against Boston while retiring only one hitter.


Liz has been demoted back to Norfolk and it seems as if he will never pan out as a major league pitcher.  The last of the Orioles previous top pitching prospects that included Adam Loewen, Garrett Olson, and Hayden Penn it looks as if Liz will end his Orioles career in a similarly unceremonious fashion.


Liz will probably be remember more for the clicking sound his hand made when he threw his fastball than anything he did statistically.  Liz has plus stuff with a fastball that runs in the high 90’s but he tends to throw high in the zone.  Perhaps the most damning critique of Liz is the fact that he was petrified of pitching to contact and tended to allow a lot of free passes as a result.


Liz is only 25 but I have yet to see anything that makes me believe he has any value in the Orioles future plans.  Liz, once a top 10 prospect in the organization has been by passed by no less than five younger more talented hurler.