The Baltimore Orioles have had many surprising players this year, both good and bad. Depending on how you look at it, many players may appear to be more of a disappointment, and part of that is because of the seasons they were coming off. For instance, players like Chris Davis, Chris Tillman, Manny Machado, Tommy Hunter and even Ubaldo Jimenez were coming off of solid seasons, if not the best of some of their careers (see Chris Davis’s 53 home runs).
On the flip side, the Orioles have had multiple players who have been bright lights for the team this season, and the best surprise story has to be reliever Zach Britton.
Nelson Cruz is clearly the teams best player thus far, and is having a career season, but Cruz has always had hitting ability and while his numbers are surprising, it is still reasonable to believe he was capable of this. But for Britton, this season seems to have come out of no where.
Britton came to the majors as a highly regarded prospect as a starter for the O’s and had little, if any, success. Britton was a major disappointment and after going back and forth to the majors, found himself a role in the bullpen as a long reliever, pitching when the team needed multiple innings of relief, while making a spot start here and there.
After falling in to a more traditional relief role last year, Britton often was brought in to face left handed hitters in the late innings of games. This is the position Britton found himself in to start this season, although not limited to only left handed hitters. As the season progressed, Britton remained right at the top of the list of ERA among relievers. His 0.83 ERA in 25 appearances is nothing short of remarkable.
In 32.2 inning pitched, Britton has struck out 23 batters while allowing only 21 hits and 10 walks. He has allowed a total of three earned runs the entire season, making him about as lights out as the term could mean.
With the back end of the bullpen struggling (i.e. Tommy Hunter), Britton has assumed the role of closer and currently has recorded five saves thus far. Britton fits better in the late inning relief/ set up man role as compared to being the actual closer, but with his success this season, it’s hard to argue against the decision to appoint him to the position.
Britton’s success story is the best on the Orioles’ team and potentially one of the best in the league. Coming up to the majors surrounded by all the hype as the team’s next top starter, and only disappointing those who thought so, Britton has become just about the next best thing he could possibly be; an untouchable arm in the bullpen.
He has been one of, if not the only, bright spot among pitchers within the organization and as long as Zach can continue his success, the Orioles have somebody they can turn to when the rest of their struggling pitchers need bailed out.