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How did we get here? O's bullpen, 2012-2014

How did we go from the August 2010 laughing stock of the American League to the 2014 American League Championship Series? A look at the roster evolution of the Orioles bullpen from 2012-2014 under Buck Showalter.

Andrew Miller. This is not your 2010 Orioles bullpen.
Andrew Miller. This is not your 2010 Orioles bullpen.
Gregory Shamus

So just how much has changed since 2010 in the roster construction? How did we get to this particular collection of players that has the O's just four wins from a World Series appearance? Let's take a look at just how we got to the current starting roster of the Orioles by tracing its roots in that 2010 roster that Buck inherited. This series concludes with a look at the bullpen from 2012-2014.


HWGH - Relievers

2012 Relievers

Brian Matusz started 12 games in 2012, and well, it didn't go well. By the end of his last start in early July, he had an ERA dangerously close to 6.00 and had pitched into the 7th inning just once. The decision was made to shift him to the bullpen, and he pitched to a 1.35 ERA with not a single inherited runner scoring. His first three post-season appearances in 2012 went fine, but that last one... anyway, he hasn't been quite as effective since, but he's been above league average. He's basically a LOOGY in the playoffs, but with the depth of the O's bullpen, that's OK.

Darren O'Day found his arm slot in beer-league baseball after getting cut from the University of Florida baseball team as a freshman. He may never actually touch 90 with his fastball, but it's good enough. His ERA+ has never been below 180 with the Orioles, and while he's worried us a tad with his performances in the last month, Darren O'Day is a huge reason why the O's are in the playoffs for a second time in three years.

Luis Ayala is probably better known for his extra-marital pick-up technique than any pitches he threw for the Orioles.  He actually pitched fairly well for the O's in 2012, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 160 ERA+. He was traded the first week of the 2013 season to Atlanta for Chris Jones. Yeah, me neither.

Matt Lindstrom posted a 2.72 ERA for the Orioles in 2012, and was traded for Joe Saunders, playoff hero. Thanks for your service, Matt.

Pedro Strop didn't wear his hat correctly, could throw really, really hard, and sometimes could even guess where it was going. He pitched 66 innings for the O's as the primary 8th inning reliever, and threw to a 173 ERA+. The wheels fell off in 2013, and he was shipped with Jake Arrieta to the Cubs for rental starter Scott Feldman, who didn't do much and left to be vastly overpaid by the Astros.

2013 Relievers

Francisco Rodriguez was a rental. From 203-2014, guess how many times his ERA+ has been under 180? Twice. How many times has it been under 100? Once. Guess when that was. Go ahead, guess. Thanks for not much, K-Rod.

Kevin Gausman was following the Jim Palmer "Start the kid in the bullpen" player development model for 2013. Expected to be a solid part of the rotation in 2015 after a pretty good second half in 2014, Gausman didn't have the greatest results in 2013, pitching to an ERA over 5.00. He lowered his ERA by almost two full points in 2014, and his effort in Game 2 of the 2014 ALDS is a big part of the O's sweeping the Tigers.

T.J. McFarland was almost adequate in 2013, and quite a bit better in 2014. His WHIP hasn't looked good yet, averaging almost three base runners every two innings, but his ERA fell to 2.66 in 2014. He wasn't named to the 2014 ALDS roster.

Tommy Hunter was a starter, and a pretty bad one. The O's and Tommy realized the former Junior Olympic national judo champion could throw darn near 100 mph out of the 'pen, so that's where he went. He was tried as closer to begin 2014, found wanting, and has been lights out the second half of 2014 as a power late-inning arm with a 1.61 ERA since August 1.

2014 Relievers

Andrew Miller was acquired from Boston for a pretty high price in LHP prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. E-Rod may end up winning a lot of games for Boston eventually, but Andrew Miller basically won Game 1 of the ALDS with his four-out performance in the 6th and 7th innings. He had an unbelievable 289 ERA+ in his time in Baltimore, with a 1.35 ERA. He's had key roles in 2 playoff wins. Flags Fly Forever.

Brad Brach was seemingly just a guy when he came to the O's from San Diego, but 2014 has been his best season yet. He's pitched to a 3.18 ERA, which is just fine for a middle reliever serving as an inning eater. His WHIP fell below 1.200 for the first time in his career, and he's been a useful arm for 62 innings this year.

Evan Meek appeared in just 23 games this year, and when you see his 5.79 ERA, you know why. One part of Buck's mastery of the bullpen is bad pitchers don't get to throw many innings. Evan Meek is living proof of that.

Ryan Webb made it into 51 games this year. I honestly had no clue it was that many. His 3.83 ERA was almost one point higher than last year with Miami, but guys like Webb throwing 49 innings means guys like O'Day and Hunter and Miller aren't being overused. Because when your 6th best reliever has an ERA under 4.00, you're doing OK.

Zach Britton looked destined to be a left-handed Jake Arrieta, and instead became one of the best closers in the American League. After three years as a mediocre-at-best starter, Britton was challenged by the O's pitching coaches to develop that one great pitch he has - a sinking fastball - and ride it to greatness. His 1.65 ERA and 233 ERA+ show his dominance, but the real testament to the trust Buck Showalter has in his closer was Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS. Showalter ordered an intentional walk in the 9th inning to put the winning run on. In a playoff game. Away.  And he told Zach (and the infielders) "We're going to walk this guy, the next guy's going to hit into a double play, and we're gonna go home." And Zach got his GIDP, and the O's start the 2014 ALCS at home tonight.