Last night the Orioles won another one-run game — no surprise there. Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson combined for a scoreless 7th, 8th, and 9th — also no surprise. The Orioles bullpen is a major reason the team is tied atop the AL East. On Tuesday Jeff Zimmerman argued that successfully leveraging these relievers could partially account for the O’s performance in one run games. The theory is that an inconsistent rotation and streaky offense put the O’s in a disproportionate number of low leverage situations and preserving the best relievers hurts run differential in these games, while allowing the team to consistently use its best arms in close games. The result? Bigger blowout losses, fewer blowout wins, and more wins than typical run differential expectations would dictate.
Testing the theory that there is a method to the O’s 2012 run requires analysis of three questions. First, do the O’s find themselves in enough low leverage situations for such a strategy to impact their run differential on a significant scale? As Jeff pointed out on Tuesday, relative to other similarly successful teams the O’s seem to have a disproportionate number of blowout losses—games lost by more than six runs. In fact, the O’s have the 12th highest number of low leverage relief appearances in baseball.