Jim Johnson returns to anchor the Baltimore Orioles bullpen as their closer in 2013. Last season was the first full season in which he was the team’s closing pitcher and he excelled, leading all of Major League Baseball in saves with 51. His 2.49 earned run average last season was the second lowest of his career. His hits per nine innings total (7.2) was just under his career high of 7.1. Both of those totals came during a stellar 2008 campaign in which he finished with a 2.23 earned run average in 54 appearances.
Johnson set a new career high in appearances last season with 71. His numbers have either improved or stayed consistently impressive throughout his career with the Orioles. He has been a heavy contributor to the pitching staff, logging a large number of innings and appearances each year since 2008. He had a couple outings with Baltimore during the 2006 and 2007 seasons as well.
It’s safe to say that there is something special about this pitcher. Without question, being consistently effective year after year is one of the most difficult things to accomplish in professional baseball. Johnson has proven he is up to the task. No matter what kind of off-speed pitches are in the repertoire, a good pitcher must have a good fastball. It is after all, thrown on average between 60 and 70 percent of the time during an outing.
The 6 foot 6 right-hander has a plus fastball that clocks in between 92 to 96 miles per hour with an incredible run on it. Some refer to it as his bowling ball fastball. It really is impressive to watch a pitcher throw a pitch at that velocity and have as much movement as Johnson gets on his fastball. Most importantly, he consistently locates that pitch for strikes.
That bowling ball fastball is his out pitch and as long as he has command of it, the Orioles can rest easy when they have a lead in the ninth inning. Another bonus to add on is the Orioles’ resigning of side arm reliever Darren O’Day. O’Day did a fantastic job last season bridging the gap to Johnson, and was without question Baltimore’s best pitcher in the post season. It will be fun to watch the Orioles in the late innings this season.