The O's are finally starting to play well, having swept the Red Sox for a 4 game winning streak and a 6-1 week. Instead of writing about who's improved, though, let's give some love to one of the guys who has been excellent the whole year: Darren O`Day.
The Orioles claimed O'Day off of waivers from the Rangers in November of 2011. It was a minor move that didn't raise any eyebrows, especially for a team that had just finished a 69-win campaign. O'Day was coming off of a 2011 season where he posted a 5.40 ERA in 16 innings for Texas, and spent more of the year in AAA than he did in the majors. In retrospect, it was a pretty iffy move by Texas to dump him so quickly, considering he posted ERAs of 1.94 and 2.03 in two 55+ inning seasons in 2009 and 2010. Luckily, their loss was our gain - O'Day snapped back into his '09-'10 form, and hasn't looked back since.
O'Day has never gotten a lot of love nationally. Never being the closer is probably the main culprit - the media loves saves, and he has 10 since coming to Baltimore. Since arriving, he's always been an 8th inning guy to set up Jim Johnson, Tommy Hunter, or Zach Britton. He's also never made an all-star game. It seems like every year there are a slew of guys who randomly put up a sub-2 ERA in a setup role, and inevitably a few of those players make the all-star team instead of O'Day. But those guys don't do it five out of six years, and that's what makes O'Day's career so remarkable.
I went to Baseball-Reference and decided to see how often a relief pitcher pitches this well for this long. I looked up relief pitchers who have pitched 350+ innings in their career, with a career ERA of less than 2.50. Over the entire history of baseball, here's the full list:
Other than the initial reaction of "Mariano Rivera isn't human," my second reaction was "that's some pretty great company to be in." Pitching in a role that's usually extremely volatile from year to year, O'Day has been consistently excellent (other than 2011) for a six-year stretch. That just doesn't happen very often.
This year, O'Day has made 24 appearances, given up no earned runs in 21 of them, and allowed a single earned run in the other three. Until allowing a solo shot a few games ago, his ERA was under one, and it currently sits at 1.17. In his Orioles career, he's thrown 220 innings with a 1.96 ERA, allowing an opposing OPS of .584. According to Baseball-Reference, he's been worth over two wins for each of the past 3 years, which is a lot for a relief pitcher. Fangraphs doesn't like him as much, putting him around 1 WAR each season mainly due to his low BABIP, something I feel is unfair and addressed in this bullpen preview before the season. I could keep posting more statistics but you get the point - Darren O'Day is a fantastic relief pitcher.
On sites like this we usually try to find something current and topical to write about - maybe a player who's having a breakout year, a guy who's been struggling, or a recent roster move. Because of that, the guys who are most consistent tend to get lost in the shuffle. We don't often write articles about a player who's done the exact same thing for four straight years, because there's nothing new to say. But today, Darren O'Day gets some love. He rides a Solowheel. He took this picture once. He's one of the most effective relievers of the past decade. He is awesome, and whenever his time in Baltimore is up, be it next year or a few years down the road, we'll miss him.