Though I have little doubt he will be pinstriped and hugging Derek Jeter in 2006, I will take the high road with B.J. Ryan and thank him for his contributions to the Baltimore bullpen the last three years, when he became one of the most dominant lefties in baseball.
I also plead with Ryan to reconsider going to New York. The Yankees are littered with failures that had had success elsewhere and were screwed up by the move to New York. Please, B.J., get on the horn with Javier Vazquez and Jeff Weaver at least. Yeah, Mel Stottlemyre won't be there anymore, but that can't be all of it, can it? You're a country boy from Bossier City, Louisiana, and the bright lights of New York are just not for you. You know who could use a closer, B.J.? Atlanta! You could go down south AND be a winner. Or you could even stay with us. We love you like no one else ever could, buddy.
Ah, hell. He ain't comin' back.
If you've ever seen Cold Mountain, you may remember the scene where Inman (Jude Law) tells Veasey (Philip Seymour Hoffman), "I should've shot you when I had the chance!" I always really liked the delivery on that line. Anyway, we should've shot (traded) Julio when we had the chance.
ERA by month
All adding up to a 5.90 ERA and Julio's worst season yet.
You can argue that Williams was the second-best reliever in the bullpen this year, and he's certainly no lower than third. Ryan was easily the best, and then you have either Williams' 72 games or Ray's 41. I'll take Ray, but there is a lot to be said for what Todd Williams did this season.
Williams wasn't lights-out, he didn't dominate, he didn't strike many suckers out. What he did was take control of the job Steve Reed was supposed to do as 6th/7th inning righty, and, eventually, take control of the job Julio was supposed to do as the setup-man. I wouldn't expect a repeat performance, but I don't think it's terribly unlikely. If his sinker stops working, he'll be toast.
He comes out of the bullpen with "Paradise City" as his entrance music. He considered putting an umpire in the cobra clutch. He referenced the Dukes of Hazzard after he was suspended for flipping out on that heinous balk call. I like Kline.
I know a lot of you aren't at all happy with his performance this year, so you hate him, and I'm really not happy with it either. However, it's worth noting that he ended up with a 4.28 ERA, he only gave up 59 hits in 61 innings, and batters weren't going nuts off of him or anything, hitting just .257. Kline's 2005 troubles can be boiled down to two things: walks and home runs. Kline had never in his career given up more than eight homers in a season, and that was back in 1999 and 2000 when he was with Montreal. This year he gave up eleven. As for the walks, he returned more to his old BB rate than what led him to such a phenomenal 2004 with St. Louis, when he walked only 17 in 50 innings.
Kline got his act together over the final 19 games of the year, putting up a 1.80 ERA in August and a 2.25 ERA in September. You can argue that he was pitching junk innings, but by then all the innings were junk, and all the games were lost. He was decent in May and not terribly bad in June, but he was God awful in April and I don't think he ever really got over that. He was also terrible in July.
I think Kline can have a good 2006, and I know he wants to. Kline is a loudmouth and he's brash, but he also seems proud. Besides, he's only signed through 2006 anyway, and then he'll need to get a contract again somewhere. Expect him to show up in good shape and ready to go once spring rolls around.
The Orioles ended up using a bunch of retreads this season - Byrdak, Baldwin, DuBose, The Todd. Only Williams really worked out as anything useful. Byrdak posted a decent ERA (4.05) and a nice K-rate (31 in 26 2/3 IP). But he put 48 men on base in those 26 2/3 innings, including 21 given the free pass. That's a dangerously high 1.80 WHIP, and he's very lucky his ERA wasn't over 6. Byrdak has never been a good major league pitcher before, and he wasn't really this season either. But it's hard not to root for a guy that makes his way back to the bigs after being gone for five years. The lefty Todd in some ways, but not as good.
Barring the O's signing Billy Wagner or Flash Gordon (ewww), Chris Ray could very well be closing for the O's in 2006. It's a much more interesting idea than most I can think of, because Ray has the stuff to do it. He's got a fastball that he can blow by hitters, he doesn't walk many people, and he doesn't give up a bunch of hits. Ray can pitch. Whether or not he can close is another matter, because guys like Arthur Rhodes and David Riske have never been able to do it despite being excellent in setup roles prior to their closing auditions.
But Ray deserves a shot at least. He'll be 24 in January and never seemed intimidated by pitching in the majors in his rookie season. He came in and did his job. Sometimes he failed but it never seemed to weigh him down the next time he came back out. Even his short demotion back to the minors (what a move that was, too) didn't bother him, and when he came back up, he was still pitching well. He'll have his struggles, but I think he's as ready as he's ever going to be to try closing. In my opinion, if Ryan's gone, there's no need to mess around with someone high-priced when you might very well have a guy that can do the job for peanuts.
I forgot who it was that I was arguing with about Grimsley where I said he sucks and they were really looking forward to getting him back and predicting a lights-out performance from him, but I want to make a quick note to say I win that round. Grimsley was awful.
They finally freed Aaron Rakers late in the season, and over 13 2/3 innings he was solid. He struck out 11 and walked only three, had a 1.06 WHIP, and put up a 3.29 ERA. It's hard to judge based just on that, but when Rakers' splitter works, he's tough to hit and he can strike people out even with his weak fastball. If Rakers isn't on the Opening Day 2006 roster and it isn't a bad spring training that keeps him off, I'm going to go berserk.
DuBose is 30 next May and still stinks. He better start learning how to get lefties out at a high rate in a hurry, or else his career is never going to go anywhere.
I crapped on Baldwin a bunch, I guess, but it wasn't me meaning to crap on him. I was merely saying that if you can get good long relief or mop-up innings out of James Baldwin, that's awesome, but don't start thinking he should be in the rotation or pitching at the end of the game. Baldwin was solid in his two stints with the O's this year, but was hammered in eight games with the Rangers in-between. If he's back for '06 then so be it, if he's not then so be that. He's the kind of guy you can get rid of easy if he's not performing, and he's a cheap risk to take.
C'est la vie. Pretty horrible over his 30-game Oriole career, but not really much worse than Grimsley was replacing him.
Parrish only pitched in 14 games for the O's this season, but that short timeframe is easy to remember because of two things: John Parrish's short-lived porno moustache (if anyone has a photo of this, let me know, because I never found one, and it was brilliant) and of course, the way John Parrish pitches every batter like it's the potential final out in a 1-0 game in game seven of the World Series. Parrish pitching with a seven-run lead in the eighth inning is enough to give me a heart attack after two batters, I can't imagine if he ever really got high-leverage innings.