Who am I?
I am a left-handed pitcher who has spent the past four seasons with four different teams.
I pitched in 83 relief games in 2008, yet did not break the 60-inning mark. In fact, I've pitched in 345 games, throwing just under 245 innings.
I have a career ERA around 4.00 and have thrown strikeouts at a 2:1 ratio to walks.
I currently lead the American League in games pitched and am the only remaining pitcher with double-digit innings to have an ERA of 0.00.
You know the answer to the riddle having read the headline, but would anyone have put Orioles journeyman reliever Will Ohman into the category of elite pitchers? That's what he seems to be this season. In 21 appearances, he has 13 strikeouts in 13.1 innings, has faced 54 batters, and has allowed zero runs, earned or unearned.
So what's his secret? Is he having an amazing career year? It seems like it. However, his dominating performance is indicative of something else: the growing trend of situational pitchers.
The term "LOOGY," or left-handed specialist, is used for someone who comes in for less than an inning, pitches to a couple batters, and then is replaced. Ohman falls into this category. Of his 21 appearances, he has pitched to one or two batters in 12 of them. Only once has he pitched over an inning. He did so on May 8 against the Minnesota Twins, facing four batters and throwing a season-high 22 pitches.
What does this all mean? From a look at the game logs, Ohman is used in one of two situations:
1. He is used as an inning man (usually the seventh inning, but he is used in the eighth and ninth too) in non-save situations, often when the bases are empty to keep a lead intact or in order to prevent a loss from getting any worse.
2. He is used in clutch situations, or as a buffer so another reliever can get ready. In May 18th's game against the Royals, he faced Mitch Maier in the top of the ninth, struck him out, and then was replaced by closer Alfredo Simon.
It is much easier to keep an ERA of 0.00 when you are brought in with the bases empty or when you are brought in to get out one batter. Still, if he is as effective as his ERA implies, why is he not used more in games he's pitching? He seems to be able to handle an inning of work—no need to take him out after one batter.
It's a difficult question to answer. I want to believe that he is having an amazing season, but when you are used the way he is in the Orioles' bullpen, it's hard not consider his performance somewhat fluky. After all, he could have stayed in against the Royals during May 18th's game. Granted, the Orioles won, and that's what matters.
Is he a fluke or having a great season? Perhaps more importantly, do these stats make him prime trade bait for the Orioles in July? They'll be out of contention by then, so if they can get a decent prospect for him, it will have worked out, whether or not his performance is just luck.