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Orioles closer Jim Johnson goes from perfect to struggling

May 21, 2013, 11:19 AM EDT

Baltimore Orioles' Johnson pitches against the Boston Red Sox during a MLB spring training baseball game in Sarasota, Florida

Jim Johnson being nearly flawless in the closer role played a huge part in the Orioles’ unexpected success last season, but suddenly he’s really struggling.

Johnson converted 35 straight saves from July 30, 2012 to May 13, 2013, during which time he threw 44 innings with a 0.61 ERA. That streak came to an end last Tuesday, as Johnson blew a save against the Padres. His next appearance came Saturday and he blew a save against the Rays. And then his next appearance came last night and he blow a save against the Yankees.

So, to recap: 35 consecutive save chances converted while allowing a grand total of four runs in 44 innings, followed by three consecutive blown saves while allowing eight runs in 2.1 innings. Johnson didn’t seem to have an explanation for his sudden struggles, but manager Buck Showalter indicated to Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com that he’s in no danger of losing the closer gig.

  1. thomas844 - May 21, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    Wow, Rodney, Kimbrel, Chapman, and now Johnson have had their share of struggles this year. Goes to show that no closer is invincible (well, except maybe Mariano).

    • cur68 - May 21, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      Kaufman Stadium Warning Track > Mo . . . but that’s about it.

    • artthoumad - May 21, 2013 at 11:59 AM

      The only people “struggling” in the group you mentioned are Johnson and Rodney. Johnson is giving up too many hits and Rodney is walking too many. Kimbrel and Chapman were amazing last year and it would be hard to duplicate what they did too. But aside from Sunday (Chapman’s blown save), both of them are doing fairly well.

      • thomas844 - May 21, 2013 at 1:23 PM

        You’re correct, Chapman and Kimbrel are both doing well this year but both seem to be a notch below what they were last year. We got so used to seeing their dominance that anything else seems like a disappointment. Chapman had blown two saves in a row before yesterday’s save against the Mets as well as a loss to the Marlins earlier in the year (during a tied game, not a save situation), and Kimbrel has already given up as many homers and almost as many earned runs as he did all of last year.

    • historiophiliac - May 21, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      Also, V-Wiggles.

  2. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 21, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    I think it was a tweet from ESPN’s Mark Simon, but Rivera has never blown three save chances in a row, ever…

  3. pisano - May 21, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    “The great Rivera” ….. that pretty much covers it.

  4. tycobbfromfangraphs - May 21, 2013 at 12:18 PM

    I hate you Jim Johnson

    • frenchysplatediscipline - May 21, 2013 at 12:33 PM

      see?

  5. paperlions - May 21, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    Oriole’s record in:

    1-run games: 6-6

    Extra-inning games: 2-2

    Did they lose half of tWtW they had last year?

    • jwbiii - May 21, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      And they blew the lead after being ahead after seven, for the second time in three games.

  6. mybrunoblog - May 21, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    Someone tell Calcaterra that maybe it’s time for a “the league is catching up to him” post.

  7. dowhatifeellike - May 21, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    It was clear last night that JJ’s mechanics are off. He threw one good pitch the entire inning and couldn’t locate anything.

  8. scoutsaysweitersisabust - May 21, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    He’ll be fine. He typically goes through a rough patch like this once every two and a half years or so. Right now his mechanics are off, he’s forcing his pitches, and his head seems to be out of it a bit. Just goes to show you how really amazing it has been to see Mariano Rivera be so near perfect for so long. Although I am still not fully convinced he isn’t a robot alien sent here to spy on us before the pending invasion. I for one welcome our robot overloads.

  9. beachnbaseball - May 21, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    Buck should have put Matusz in. NY was sending up 3 LH bats.

    But Buck goes by the book and Johnson is his closer so, darn it, Johnson’s gonna close!

  10. ILoveBaseball - May 21, 2013 at 6:18 PM

    So I looked at all closers since 2010 and took the top 30 by saves.
    If you sort this group on strikeouts per 9 guess who’s last? OK it’s actually Matt Capps but second from the bottom is Jim Johnson at 6.03. I know his K rate is up this year but I wonder how good this guy really is as a closer. In today’s high strikeout era I’m not sure anyone can survive for long as a closer with a K-Rate “ability” near 6.
    Johnson is a groundball pitcher but no one survives long in the majors with that as his only trademark ability.

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