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Tommy Hunter lost his spot as the Orioles closer, but was still an important bullpen piece

The gif-able, quotable big man lost his grip on the closer's role, but won the hearts of Orioles fans.

Kevin C. Cox

When all is said and done, Tommy Hunter had an all around decent 2014. He finished the year 3-2 with a 2.97 ERA,1.10 WHIP, 11 saves and 12 holds. His performance amounted to a bWAR of .6 and an fWAR of .8. Not bad for 60.2 innings of work. So why does his 2014 seem like something less? Ah, yes...the blown saves.

Hunter had received a handful of save opportunities in 2013 as Jim Johnson struggled and after the incumbent was traded, speculation mounted that the job would be Hunter's to lose in Spring Training. After the ugly business with Grant Balfour, word emerged from the Warehouse that, yes, Buck and Dan Duquette were comfortable going into Spring Training with Tommy Hunter as their closer and Hunter emerged from Sarasota as the pen's top dog.

He opened the season with a tense save against the Red Sox (a hit, a hit batsman, long fly outs) reminiscent of the classic heart stopping closers of Orioles lore and that's pretty much how his brief tenure as closer progressed. Hunter would end up with two clean save opportunities out of fourteen before yielding the closer role to Zach Britton at the end of May. Ultimately, Hunter saved eleven games in seventeen opportunities, a rate of 67%. It's remarkably close to the 65% he notched in six 2013 opportunities.

Hunter has been viewed as a right handed Brian Matusz, but while lefties slugged .535 against him in 2013, his slugging splits evened out in 2014 to the tune of .357/364. Hunter has seemed to have troubles leading off an inning. The big man allowed an .822 OPS with no outs and no one on in 2014 (.799 in 2013). Compare this to a .318 number for Britton.

This is not to say that Hunter's without his uses. In a much improved second half, Hunter cut his walks by half and reduced a respectable first half WHIP of 1.32 to .86. In fact, by run expectancy wins, Hunter was one of the best relievers to log an inning for the O's in 2014. His .95 slotted in neatly behind Zach Britton and Darren O'Day (though if you add up Andrew Miller's time with both the Orioles and the Red Sox, his 1.72 would have bumped Hunter back to fourth). If you go in for even more new fangled reliever stats, Hunter was worth .02 context neutral wins, equivalent to the performance of Preston Guilmet. So, for Hunter is it a question of ability or usage? Have you acquired his taste in pitching?

Hunter was paid $3 million in his second year of arbitration and will probably be paid $4.4 million this season according to MLB Trade Rumors projections. Does that sound about right for a decent/average righty out of the bullpen?