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Darren O’Day’s 2017 season provided more value than disappointment for the Orioles

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Things weren’t perfect for O’Day this season, but there was plenty to be happy with throughout the year.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

By now, it feels like Darren O’Day has been a member of the Orioles bullpen for life. He’s reliable, consistent and although sometimes taken for granted, one of the better relief arms in the division.

This year was a tricky one in terms of tallying up his ultimate value out of the bullpen. The ERA (3.43) sat a bit higher than you’d like to see, but when you comb over the numbers and take a glance at the results of the overall matchups for most of the year, it’s clear that O’Day’s year was much more than just serviceable.

Month-by-month breakdown

There was a brief stretch in June where O’Day hit the disabled list, but the right-hander rebounded nicely from a 2016 season in which he tossed just 31 innings. Below, the breakdown of what each month held out of the ‘pen:

April: 10.1 innings, 10 hits, 7 BB, 7 K, 7 ER (6.10 ERA)

May: 11.0 innings, 6 hits, 3 BB, 18 K, 2 ER (1.64 ERA)

June: 6 innings, 3 hits, 4 BB, 8 K, 4 ER (6.00 ERA)

July: 9.1 innings, 9 hits, 3 BB, 15 K, 7 ER (6.75 ERA)

August: 14.2 innings, 7 hits, 5 BB, 16 K, 2 ER (1.23 ERA)

September: 9 innings, 6 hits, 2 BB, 13 K, 1 ER (1.00 ERA)

A really interesting breakdown there for multiple reasons, but the one that obviously stands out most is just how great O’Day was in the final two months of the year. That’s a superb effort down the stretch when the team was (for a while) in contention for a playoff spot.

He wasn’t perfect by any means, but these are far from discouraging numbers for a 34-year-old reliever in a very good bullpen. His value was evident throughout the season. And even though the runs did cross the dish in seemingly whopping totals at times, the effort was clearly a solid one.

Where it went well, where it didn’t

First, here’s a look at O’Day’s final numbers on the year:

2017: 60.1 IP, 41 H, 24 BB, 76 K, 1.07 WHIP, 3.43 ERA

We all watched his season from start to finish, so we generally have an idea of how it went when he was on the mound in 2017. But the numbers back up a few important thoughts that carry some weight as we head into an offseason in which O’Day will turn 35 years old.

First, how about those strikeout totals? If any of us doubt whether or not O’Day still has gas left in the tank, one look at those 76 Ks should quickly change that. He’s missing bats about as good as he ever has, something reflected in his K/9 ratio. His 2017 number of 11.3 matches the career-high he posted in 2015, the All-Star season when he finished with a 1.52 ERA. If there’s been a dip in his productivity, it certainly hasn’t been in the ability to induce swings and misses.

Where the spotlight can shine on disappointment — even though it was limited — is the walk category. His 3.6 BB/9 is down slightly from the 3.9 he posted in the injury-shortened 2016, but that’s still way too far up from the 2.2 rate he posted from 2012-2015. Contribute it to whatever you’d like, but the free pass issue has emerged dangerously over the past two seasons.

If you want to nitpick, you could take a look at his 1.3 HR/9 number and note that it, too, is up from ‘12-’15 by a fairly significant margin. That coincides with the idea that as he’s aged, his command has slipped and it’s a perfectly fair conclusion. Still, comparing him to other season-long options in his role, it’s safe to say O’Day provided plenty of positive value in the latter innings.

What’s next?

That’s a very fair question. We’ve already hit on the fact that O’Day will be 35 at the start of next season. He’s signed through 2019 and clearly has a locked-in role on the roster. For now, it’s simply a matter of how sharp of a decline, if any, is on the horizon for the next few seasons.

What’s most valuable is O’Day’s reliability. He’s a fan-favorite and much of his beloved status comes from the ability to take the ball and give a chance to win on a nightly basis.

The talent hasn’t left quite yet — moving forward, it’s simply a matter of if/when that happens.