Orioles sign former A’s closer Balfour
On Tuesday, MLB Trade Rumors writer Zach Links reported that Baltimore agreed to terms with former Oakland closer Grant Balfour. Terms disclosed are 2 years, $15M, with $500K deferred each year. This signing addresses one of Baltimore’s biggest off-season needs. Balfour, who turns 36 on 30 December, has post-season experience.
In his three seasons in Oakland (2011-13), Balfour was solid in the closer’s role. Per Baseball-Reference, he pitched 199.1 innings. Balfour had an ERA+ of 154, a WHIP of 1.043 and 203 strikeouts to 75 walks. He gave up 133 hits (6 hits per 9 innings) and 19 home runs (0.9 per 9 innings). He totaled 64 saves in those three years.
Per Fangraphs.com, his four-seam fastball averaged 93.3 MPH, his slider averaged 86 MPH and his curve averaged 82.5 MPH. He threw the four-seamer 60.4% of the time, the slider 27.8% of the time, and the curve 7.1% of the time. He will also throw a two-seam fastball, a cutter and a changeup to keep hitters off-balance. Looking at his splits, it appears his worse performance was on the road against right-handed batters. In that situation: he had his highest WHIP (1.50); his highest walk rate (16.7%); his lowest strikeout rate (18.5%); his highest home run allowed rate (1.5 per 9IP); his lowest runners-left-on-base percentage (72.4%); and an Expected Fielding Independent Pitching rate of 5.11 (below average). Looking at those past numbers as a possible average going forward, he will bear watching when facing right-handed batters in Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Rogers Centre. He’ll need to improve those numbers to help Baltimore stay in the hunt for a post-season berth.
Balfour missed 2005-06 with injury issues (Tommy John/shoulder). He’s been durable since, but the Orioles are betting he won’t start to show effects of wear & tear. The American League East is going to be competitive again in 2014, and Baltimore adding a fiery guy like Balfour adds some extra competitiveness to the proceedings. He should be fun to watch, and with good health he makes the Birds better.
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