2012 was certainly a good year for Baltimore Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson. In his first full year as the main Baltimore closer, Johnson definitely showed his capabilities to the baseball world.
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Backtracking to FanFest this past January, there was talk of Johnson being in the starting rotation. Before his Major League debut in 2006, Johnson had logged over 85 starts. During his 2005 season which was spent between Single A Frederick and Double A Bowie, he compiled a 12-9 record with a 3.35 ERA in 28 starts.
With that kind of background and the fact that the Baltimore rotation was less than stellar in 2011 (Ok, they were pretty horrific), one would completely understand moving him to the rotation. When asked about that, Johnson said he was up for the challenge no matter where he was used.
Yeah, I’d say he was.
Johnson finished the season with a league-highest 51 saves, a number that is also an Orioles season record, passing the 45 saves Randy Myers put up back in 1997 (the last year the Orioles went to the playoffs, mind you).
Johnson posted a record of 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA during the 2012 season and made his first All Star appearance, a performance in which he did not allow a hit or walk during his one inning of work. Johnson’s 51 saves were the most in a season of Major League Baseball since 2008, when Francisco Rodriguez, then an Angel, saved 62 games.
Although a bit shaky in the playoffs—perhaps from the grind of a long regular season—Johnson still saved both Baltimore wins against the New York Yankees during the American League Division Series.
The Orioles had had a bad run of closers since George Sherrill saved 51 total games between 2008 and 2009, before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Mike Gonzalez experiment never worked out at any point in time, and Kevin Gregg never panned out, either, leaving the ninth inning wide open for opposing offenses (and raising Oriole’s fans blood pressure in the process). Seriously though…most people have a beer or two while watching an Orioles game. My drink of choice usually switched to Maalox after the eighth inning.
Baltimore heads into the 2013 season confident that with Johnson in the bullpen, they have nothing to worry about when they need to protect a tight lead in the ninth inning.
by Andy Mindzak