Will Ohman Takes a Turn as Baltimore Orioles Closer
By Tommy Rancel //
In early April, R.J. Anderson asked the question, who would replace the injured Mike Gonzalez as the Baltimore Orioles’ closer? It is now early June and we find ourselves asking the same question. Through ineffectiveness (Jim Johnson) and injury (Alfredo Simon), the Orioles are still looking for a steady replacement for Gonzalez. With their projected closer’s status still in limbo, the Orioles have turned to Will Ohman at the end of games.
The title of Orioles’ closer is more of a figurative title than a literal one. Baltimore has won just 15 of its first 51 games. In save situations, the team has converted only nine out of 20 opportunities. That said, if you are lacking in saves, Ohman could provide a cheap fix without much cost. The veteran lefty is available on waivers in nearly every fantasy league.
A lefty-one-out-guy (LOOGY) by trade, Ohman will be tested in the closer’s role for the first time in his eight-year career. Although he has been tagged with the lefty specialist label, Ohman has been serviceable against both left-handed and right-handed batters. His career OPS against lefties is a very good .637. His OPS against righties is higher at .752, but still far from the extreme splits of some other lefty relievers.
On the surface, Ohman has been a great find for Baltimore in 2010. In 26 appearances, he has allowed just two earned runs (1.08 ERA). He has more strikeouts (18) than innings pitched (16.2), and has stranded every batter to reach base against him (100% LOB%). In fact, both of his earned runs have come off solo home runs by right-handed batters.
In addition to the favorable ERA and strikeout rate, Ohman is keeping the ball on the ground. His 43.6% groundball rate is the second-highest total of his career (52.7% in 2005). Groundballs are great because they can never go for home runs and usually limit the damage to a base hit.
A 1.08 ERA and a strikeout per nine innings rate (K/9) of 9.72 are very attractive. But buyer beware. Using our favorite defense-independent metrics, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), we can see Ohman has been the beneficiary of some good luck.
Ohman’s FIP of 3.96 suggests he’s been much closer to average than his 1.08 ERA tells us. This is because his walks per nine innings rate (BB/9) of 4.32 is unimpressive, and not unexpected given his career 4.43 BB/9. With a left-on-base percentage of 100% sure to regress, those free passes will come back to hurt Ohman at some point.
Meanwhile, if we look at Ohman’s 3.71 xFIP, which measures the same metrics as FIP except with a normalized home run rate, we see that his FIP is slightly elevated due to his home run rate of 1.08 home runs per nine innings.
Even with regression to the mean, Ohman is likely to settle as a league-average reliever. With the closer position his for the time being, he could rack up 5-10 saves over the next few weeks. Even if he relinquishes the job, Ohman is likely to rack up some holds over the season, which could be valuable if your league counts the stat.
Facing more right-handed batters may elevate his lower than normal ERA, but if you need some cheap saves (and possibly holds) plus some strikeouts to pad your team’s total, Ohman is worth a flier in extremely deep mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
For more on Will Ohman and other potential waiver wire fixes, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Tools.