Baltimore Orioles: Surprisingly good bullpen targeted at trade deadline?

For the first time since 2016, the Baltimore Orioles are not a bad team. They aren’t a playoff team yet either, but are leaps and bounds better than any team they put on the field in the last five seasons.

In June, the Baltimore Orioles went 14-12, marking the first time since August 2017 that they had a winning record in a month. One of the big reasons for their improvement this year has been a consistent, excellent bullpen.

When you think of the best bullpens in baseball, you probably think of the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, or Milwaukee Brewers well before the Orioles.

Those teams all have really good to great bullpens but, surprisingly, the Baltimore Orioles are in the same league this season.

Entering play Friday, the Orioles’ bullpen has a 3.16 ERA, third-best in all of baseball, and trailing just the Yankees and Houston Astros. Baltimore’s bullpen, however, has also had to carry a huge workload and their 318.2 innings pitched is the third-most in the majors. The team has only four blown saves all season, the least of any team, and their 82.7% team save conversion is the best rate in all of baseball. All in all, the bullpen has accrued 4.1 fWAR, trailing only Atlanta’s crew for the most wins above replacement.

Baltimore has seven relievers that have thrown at least 23.2 innings and six of them have an ERA of 2.70 or better. Led by closer Jorge López, those six relievers are not exactly household names. In fact, it would be tough to argue that any of them had significant big-league success prior to 2022.

Entering Friday, López, Dillon Tate, Felix Bautista, Cionel Perez, Keegan Akin, and Joey Krehbiel had combined to toss exactly 200 innings and compiled a 1.53 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 2.83 K/BB in 2022. That same group amassed a 5.85 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, and 1.91 K/BB in 316.2 innings just one season ago. It’s an astonishing change in such a short period of time and credit has to be given to the Orioles organization.

With the trade deadline looming and the Orioles in fifth place in the American League East, it is likely that Baltimore will be sellers at the trade deadline and López, Tate, and others will be on the radar of any team looking to shore up their bullpen. Each of these relievers, however, is under team control for multiple years moving forward and Baltimore could decide to keep the group together in hopes that they can continue their success for the next contending Orioles team.

In any case, the bullpen in Baltimore has been an unexpected source of pitching excellence this season and is a big reason for the team’s improvement.