Saturday night was just another Jim Johnson save. There have been 36 of them this season. Johnson is now tied for third on the Orioles single-season save list. His next one will tie him with Gregg Olson for second place with 37.Only Randy Myers with 45 in 1997 has more.With the season third-quarters complete, Johnson has a good chance to eclipse Myers mark. Hes been the Orioles closer for a year. It was on August 14, 2011 that he bailed out an ineffective Kevin Gregg against the Tigers. Since then, Johnsons been the man.Johnson converted his first 17 saves opportunities this season. He blew the 18th, but recorded the win. His second blown save on July 14, was also an Orioles win.Only once, on July 27, has a Johnson blown save resulted in an Orioles lost. That was the only game this season the Orioles have lost when leading after eight. His 3.20 ERA isnt all that impressive, but 11 of the 18 runs Johnson has allowed come from two horrid outings. In the July 27 game, Johnson gave up six runs in one-third of an inning and in a July 16 blowout, he allowed five runs in one-third. Take away those two appearances, and Johnsons ERA is 1.26.As impressive as Johnsons year has been, is it good enough to be award-winning? Recently, a colleague suggested that Johnson and not Adam Jones be considered for the Most Valuable Oriole Award.Thats certainly a credible argument, but how about Johnson as a Cy Young candidate?A reliever hasnt won the Cy Young Award in 20 years. Oaklands Dennis Eckersley was the last to do it in 1992 when he was 7-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 51 saves. Eckersley also took home the MVP Award.Detroits Willie Hernandez (1984) and Oaklands Rollie Fingers (1991) also both awards as relievers. The only other AL reliever to win the Cy Young was the Yankees Sparky Lyle in 1977.Johnsons competition comes from both starters and relievers. Tampa Bays Fernando Rodney enters Sunday with 38 saves in 40 opportunities compared with Johnsons 36 in 39. Rodneys ERA is a sparkling 0.79. Hes allowed just five earned runs.Rodney has struck out 55 and walked just nine and given up only two home runs. Johnson has struck out 28, walked 12 and allowed three homers.However, Rodney has worked in 58 games and thrown 56 23 innings. Johnson has worked in 52 and pitched 50 23. Rodney and his teammate Joel Peralta are tied with New Yorks Boone Logan for most appearances.With the luxury of a deep bullpen, manager Buck Showalter has been able to not overuse Johnson. None of the Orioles relievers are among the league leaders in appearances, something Showalter is proud of.For him to be considered as a Cy Young candidate, Johnson must continue to pitch well and the Orioles need to contend. If Rodney has a few bad outings and the Rays falter, perhaps Johnson can get some votes.There are also several starters in the mix. Tampa Bays David Price is the current favorite with a 16-4 record and a league-leading 2.39 ERA. Jered Weaver is 15-3 and a 2.74 ERA and Chicagos Chris Sale is 14-4 with a 2.72 ERA. Felix Hernandez, who won the award two years ago is 11-5 with a 2.60 ERA on a team thats seven games below .500.Johnson can hope to best Myers 1997 season. Not only did he have a club record 45 saves, but he blew only save chance. Myers finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting, behind three 20-game winners. Myers also finished fourth in the MVP voting. Myers also had two postseason saves.He left the Orioles after the 1997 season, and his career ended a year later.Despite the unlikelihood of Johnson winning the Cy Young, the Orioles can rejoice. Johnsons just 29, and cant be a free agent until 2015. While its risky to sign closers to long-term contracts and the Orioles have Pedro Strop on hand, they may consider a multi-year deal in the offseason.Johnson lives near the Orioles spring training headquarters in Sarasota, Fla., and is a low maintenance closer. Showalter wont pitch him four days in a row, even if Johnson wants to.If the Orioles get to the postseason, Johnson is likely to be a great asset and he could benefit from a schedule that allows for more rest.There was talk last winter that the Orioles would convert Johnson to a starter. Theres none of that talk now.
Could Jim Johnson win the Cy Young?
August 19, 2012, 5:35 pm