With Tommy Hunter spending some time on the disabled list due to a strained groin, the Orioles have had Zach Britton take over as closer.
Two questions arise.
When Tommy Hunter comes back, will he go back to being closer?
Is Zach Britton the best choice as closer?
First off, let’s look at Hunter. His injury is not terribly serious and should only keep him out for a short period of time. While healthy this season until now, Hunter has not impressed. His 11 saves are tied for third in the American League, which isn’t too shabby, but his 6.06 ERA and 1.84 WHIP are atrocious. In his 16.1 innings of work this year, he has allowed 25 hits and has also blown three save chances.
Hunter was given the closer role based on his fantastic 2013 season, in which he posted a 2.81 ERA in 86.1 innings pitched. It seemed like a decent option with the O’s shipping Jim Johnson to Oakland (which now looks like a smart move, incidentally). Hunter looked like a viable candidate based on his 2013 numbers.
Now, Zach Britton has emerged as a solid replacement for Hunter, and potentially moving forward once Hunter is reinstated. Britton has posted great numbers this year: a 0.65 ERA in 27.2 IP, three saves in three chances, and a 0.87 WHIP.
The other possible option is Darren O’Day. O’Day has been nothing but amazing since coming to the Orioles after the 2011 season. He has been the one arm out of the bullpen that Buck Showalter can count on time and again to get the job done. This year has been no exception, as O’Day has an ERA of 0.90 in 20 innings of work, and his WHIP of 0.95 also shows just how effective he has been.
Personally, I say leave Britton as the closer for the time being. While I feel both could get the job done, keeping O’Day along with lefty Brian Matusz in that set-up role will go a long way in bridging the gap up to the ninth inning. When Hunter returns he can be another strong right-handed arm out of the pen like he was last year, but for now, the closer’s job is Britton’s.