Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, Jim Johnson gave up a run to the Red Sox but still earned the save. Which was particularly significant because it was his 50th save of the season. Which means he's done something that very, very few other pitchers have done. Details, via Bill Baer:
Johnson joins Eric Gagne and Mariano Rivera as the only relievers to have a pair of 50-save campaigns. No one has more. Only eight other relievers even have a one. Like Gagne, Johnson got his 50-save seasons consecutively.
Johnson had an up-and-down year. At times, he looked like the dominant closer that breathed new life into an Orioles team last year. At other times, like the two-week stretch in May in which he posted a 21.60 ERA in six appearances, he appeared to be throwing beach balls from 60 feet, six inches. But all’s well that ends well, as he ends the season with a sub-3.00 ERA, having converted 11 consecutive save opportunities.
Yeah. Let's give some credit to Buck Showalter for not panicking, as I'm sure a fair number of people in Baltimore were screaming for Johnson's head during that rough patch in May. From the 29th of May through the end of the season, Johnson converted 35 of 40 save opportunities while posting a 1.75 ERA.
Of course, his save percentage wasn't nearly as good this year as last year. But his strikeout-to-walk ratio was actually better, as he bumped his strikeouts some. Superficially, the biggest difference this year was more hits allowed, but that was largely due to a dramatic turn of Johnson's luck. Last year he gave up a .252 batting average on balls in play; this year it was .330.
He's the same guy, though: a good-but-not-great closer, perfectly adequate for the job at hand. And again, I admire Buck Showalter and the rest of the management team for not overreacting to a few bad outings.
It's just too bad they weren't so patient with Pedro Strop.
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