WANTED: Closer who throws strikes, handles pressure

July 06, 2013 | Scott Tomko

As I was driving home from work, just hours after the Orioles devastating 3-2 loss to the Yankees, I tuned the radio to a nationally syndicated ESPN talk show. Apparently, an angry Oriole fan had recently called in, angrily voicing his criticism of  Jim Johnson, and calling for a new closer.

The host, thinking himself to be the wiser, more informed baseball fan, argued that Johnson, who is at the top of the league in saves, has, “in the big picture,” done a good job this year. So what, he blew the game tonight? So what, he blew the game against Cleveland a week ago? Yeah, he had a meltdown in May, but his June was overall pretty good.

The host, whose name I cared not to remember, is obviously not an Orioles fan, nor knows the truth about Jim Johnson.

Yes, he has led the AL in saves most of the year, but he also leads in blown saves. Furthermore, the saves he is recording most always come with  drama and near obliteration .

Remember during the last Yankee series, when he drilled a guy in the back and gave up multiple hits, before escaping by the skin of his teeth?  It seems to me that even most of the outs he records are balls hit hard.

I have a very simple theory about Jim Johnson: He either has a 1-2-3 inning, or, after any setback (a bloop hit, a walk, any baserunner), he precedes to implode and lose the game. He can no longer handle any pressure situation, and almost instantly loses his focus(and ability to throw strikes) when things get tight.

And, do you know when a team brings its closer in? WHEN THINGS ARE TIGHT!

If a closer cannot handle the pressure of a one run lead in the ninth inning, he should not be the closer! We all watch in horror as Johnson gets behind nearly every hitter, usually 2-0 or 3-1, then goes on to walk the batter or give up a rifle shot hit.

I hear all the pundits say “oh, it’s psycological, he just needs to get his confidence back.” Or how about “he saved 51 games last year, and he is on pace for that many again.”

Ladies and gentleman, it is 2013, and Jim Johnson does not have command. Just how many games is Buck going to let slip way until Jim finds his confidence?

By the way, does anyone recall Johnson’s performance in the playoffs last year?

If you do remember, and have continued to see his 2013 regression for what it truly is, you will know that there will be no playoffs this year with him saving games.


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