Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter’s Stellar Bullpen Management

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 30: Pitcher Mychal Givens
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 30: Pitcher Mychal Givens /

For the Baltimore Orioles to reach the MLB playoffs year in and year out, the one thing they must produce is a reliable bullpen that your manager can use well.

The past two seasons, including the Baltimore Orioles in 2016, prove that having a bullpen that can lock down the other team is one of the most important parts of being a playoff team. See the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose bullpen hasn’t allowed a hit in eight innings. But, you also have to have a skipper who knows how to use it.

In 2017, it is Chicago Cubs’ Manager Joe Maddon being ridiculed and lambasted for his inability to properly use his bullpen and his top closer, Wade Davis.

In 2016, it was the Baltimore Orioles own Buck Showalter who was the laughingstock of baseball for turning to Ubaldo Jimenez in extra innings of a tie game in the Wild Card Game against the Toronto Blue Jays and leaving his closer on the bench. It didn’t work.

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It didn’t work for Maddon last night either. Dusty Baker isn’t exactly a star at using his bullpen correctly.

Neither is Joe Girardi, although he has enough horses right now in his bullpen that it hasn’t made too much of a difference.

In 2016, the entire story of the playoffs was about the bullpen. With Aroldis Chapman being stretched to limits unseen, and Andrew Miller looming at any point of a game.

That doesn’t include the idea to use key starting pitchers like Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and others out of the bullpen, as has been the reality in recent years.

Knowing how to use the bullpen properly is an art. Some manager does it well, others, not so much.

Where does that leave the Orioles? In pretty good shape.

First, the Orioles usually have a good bullpen, and 2018 should be no exception. 2017 was derailed a bit due to the injuries to Zach Britton, which threw off the entire bullpen. It was also thrown off by the extreme ineptitude by the rotation.

Britton is one of the best closers in the business and showed that he could efficiently pitch when injured.

Brad Brach and Darren O’Day, along with Mychal Givens are all capable setup men. O’Day may be becoming more of a situational reliever, although he would be an expensive situational reliever.

The team also has Donnie Hart, who was pretty good in 2017, especially the second half of the year.

Miguel Castro impressed in the bullpen and could be a long reliever/situational pitcher if he is not in the rotation.

Richard Bleier had a fantastic season, and should not be overlooked. That’s seven guys.

Jimmy Yacabonis showed signs of his minor league success translating to the major leagues. Mike Wright may be best served as a fastball-throwing bullpen arm.

Chris Lee‘s future may be in the bullpen, although I doubt the Orioles give up on him as a starter. Tanner Scott could be a potential back-end bullpen piece down the road.

As for bullpen usage, Buck Showalter uses his bullpen in a reasonable, concerted manner.

Buck is not going to get his guys up if they aren’t going to pitch. He isn’t going to run his best relievers out every day until their arms nearly fall off (looking at you Joe Girardi).

Buck also has a few flaws. He tends to stick with his starters too long, showing the confidence they will work their way out of it.

He also tends to carry this habit with his bullpen use, although most of his relievers are good enough to make good in this confidence.

The Orioles are also a team who would be used to the high tension of the playoffs from a bullpen perspective. The team plays in a lot of close games, with very few blowouts.

The critical bullpen guys are used to coming in as early as the fifth inning due to an ineffective start.

Playoff teams show no qualms about running their top set up guy, such as Miller, David Robertson, Chris Devenski of the Houston Astros, or others out in the fifth inning to help keep the team in the game, or in the lead.

The Baltimore Orioles have a bullpen that is built for the postseason, and it is used in a way to keep it fresh for the postseason.

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Now, the team needs to focus on the rotation to make sure it is good enough to allow the bullpen to do their jobs.

No matter how good the bullpen, we all know it is all about the starting pitching with the Baltimore Orioles.