Should Tommy Hunter be the Orioles’ closer?


(Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports)

Things aren’t going well for Orioles’ closer Tommy Hunter. For the second time in three nights Hunter had two outs in the ninth before giving up the lead, this time back-to-back home runs by Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.


Source: FanGraphs

“It [stinks], man. It’s not fun to lose,” said Hunter after the game. “That’s my take on it. I don’t like getting beat.”

Hunter started April strong, tallying six saves in nine games with six strikeouts and just one walk. He allowed just three earned runs in to start the season (112 innings) but has given up at least one run in his past four appearances and six in his last two outings, ballooning his ERA to 6.60 on the year. 

Hunter, a right-handed pitcher, has struggled to get both lefties and right-handers out this season.

2014 G PA AB BB SO BA OBP SLG
vs RHB 16 38 34 2 9 0.382 0.432 0.618
vs LHB 15 33 29 3 5 0.345 0.394 0.621
Source: Baseball-Reference

Perhaps that’s due to not having complete command of the strike zone. This season both the percentage of pitches in the zone have dropped (45.6 percent were in the strike zone) as has the percentage of strikes that are swung at and missed (6.7 percent SwStr%).

Plus, he isn’t fooling anyone. Hitters are swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone but are making more contact.

When Orioles’ Manager Buck Showalter was asked if he would continue to use Hunter in the ninth he was noncommittal. “I don’t know yet. We’ll see.” he said.

Perhaps it is time to look at other options for the closer role.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Fred Katz · May 15, 2014