Urban Shocker’s Weblog
Dominican Beisbol & Baltimore Orioles Baseball News

Dec
10

RUDY HERNANDEZ of the Washington Senators

Though Juan Marichal is the name many people think of when considering the first pitcher from the Dominican Republic, little known Rudy Hernandez beat him to the big leagues by 16 days. This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of Hernandez’s -–and the D.R.’s—first appearance on a major league mound on July 3, 1960.

Hernandez was born in the Dominican city of Santiago in 1931 to a Puerto Rican mother and a father whose family had roots in Europe. His grandfather was a military official under Rafael Trujillo. Hernandez and his family moved to New York City before he was a teen, and he’d occasionally travel to visit a baseball-loving uncle that worked in Washington, DC as an attaché at the Dominican embassy. As a result, young Rudy Hernandez’s first trips to Griffith Stadium to see the Senators play came in a chauffeured limousine.

Basketball was his first love, however, and he had dozens of scholarship offers to sift through after an excellent high school career in which he lettered in three sports. The New York Giants were sufficiently impressed by the 18-year-old Hernandez at a tryout in Yankee Stadium though, and offered him enough money to lure him into professional baseball in 1950. He began his career as an outfielder with some pop in his bat, but advanced no higher than a few weeks in Class A ball in four seasons. Hernandez’s strong throwing arm regularly ranked him among the league leaders in outfield assists, however, and Phillies right-hander Steve Ridzik encouraged him to try pitching during winter ball in Puerto Rico.

Hernandez went 15-4 for the Class C Muskogee Giants in his first season on the mound in 1954, but his career stalled when he spent the next two years in the Army. He posted a 5.66 ERA in Class A ball in his first year back, and followed that up with a 0-9 composite record for three teams the following season. The Washington Senators acquired him for their Double-A club prior to 1959, and Hernandez’s big break came in his first taste of Triple-A ball the next year. With team brass on hand to observe top prospect Jim Kaat, Hernandez caught their attention with his effective low-ball pitching and earned himself a call up to the major leagues. The 28-year-old rookie hurled three scoreless innings in his big league debut against the Indians. “This is the first time I’ve been in Griffith Stadium since I was nine years old,” he told reporters. “And I get a kick coming back as a big league ballplayer.”

Hernandez also became the first Dominican to win a major league game six days later when, in his third appearance, he threw another three innings of shutout ball in Baltimore. Ten days after that, Juan Marichal debuted with a one-hitter against the Phillies, striking out 12. The history of Dominican pitchers in the majors had begun to unfold.

Hernandez finished 1960 with a 4-1 record and 4.41 ERA in 21 relief appearances before the Senators moved to Minnesota. The club didn’t protect him in the expansion draft, and he wound up back in Washington in 1961 with the brand new Senators. After just seven appearances though, his big league career was over and Hernandez bounced around to 10 minor league teams before retiring after 1964. He settled in Puerto Rico, where he scouted, helped young ballplayers and became a successful businessman.

(by Malcolm Allen)

This article was originally published in La Prensa del Beisbol Latino, a quarterly newsletter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)

Mar
21

Mike Bordick - Newest member of the Orioles Hall of Fame

Mike Bordick learned last week that he would be inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame this summer. “I don’t know what I did to actually deserve that,” Bordick told The Baltimore Sun. “But it’s definitely a great honor.”

My reaction was much like Bordick’s, I must admit. I mean, I knew he was a fan favorite, starting shortstop for the last winning Baltimore club and a solid defender, but the most valuable thing Bordick ever did for the team in my memory was get traded for Melvin Mora. A hot start in 2000 earned him his only career All Star appearance before the trade, but Bordick’s .260/.319/.394 slash line in 739 games with The Birds hardly made him a shoe in. Checking out the previous inductees using the WAR statistic, Bordick earned his honor and some additional respect from me at the same time. Bordick’s glovework resulted in the seventh best total of WAR Runs Fielding in the 57-year history of the modern Orioles, trailing only Brooks Robinson, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken, Paul Blair, Bobby Grich and Rick Dempsey. The first handful of names on that list won 38 combined Gold Gloves for Baltimore, with only Dempsey (like Bordick) getting shut out of the honors. When you add in Bordick’s offense, his overall WAR total as an Oriole is 13.1. To put that in perspective, Bordick is the 40th Orioles Hall of Fame member to be selected chiefly for his accomplishments as a player, and his 13.1 WAR figure beats eleven previous inductees, or 27.5%. So he’s hardly a fringe member of the fraternity.

“Who is a fringe member?” you might ask. Well, while 80% of the Orioles HOF members recorded at least 12 WAR in Baltimore uniforms, a bunch of relief pitchers that made it did not. Stu Miller (9.4), Dick Hall (8.7), Tippy Martinez (6.3) and Ed Watt (5.1) all earned World Series rings with The Birds, though, so I can understand their selections. Gene Woodling (8.4) got booed out of town in his first stint with the team, returned to win Most Valuable Oriole honors the second time around, then served as a coach, so okay. Harold Baines (8.5) and Dennis Martinez (8.2) made fringe cases for Cooperstown largely with other teams, but we’re talking about a Maryland native and El Presidente, so I get it. That leaves the lowest WAR total in the Orioles HOF –and it pains me to point this out because I love the Big Bopper. The 2.5 WAR logged by Lee May as an Oriole has been matched or exceeded by 166 players in club history. In other words, guys like Chris Ray and Chris Richard have more of a claim on a spot than big Lee. Oh well, I was 10-years-old when he played his last game for the club, and I prefer to remember his league-leading 109 RBI in 1976 and 123 homers from 1975-1980. (Let’s just forget that May’s homer in Game Four of the 1970 World Series prevented the Orioles from sweeping the Reds.)

Lastly, it’s worth noting that current Orioles Brian Roberts (22.0), Nick Markakis (18.3) and (surprise) Jeremy Guthrie (14.8) look like they’re in after their playing days are over according to WAR. Recent Birds like Melvin Mora (26.9), Miguel Tejada (17.0) and (double surprise) Erik Bedard (13.8) also seem to meet the established standard. That is, unless you look at the omissions.

Here are the guys who should be in: Ben McDonald (13.0) comes in just a shade below Bordick, but may not be able to overcome the perception that he was a disappointment due to Wieters-esque expectations. Gary Roenicke (15.6) and Merv Rettenmund (16.4) did an awful lot of good for some memorable Baltimore clubs and deserve the honor based on who’s already in. In fact, only two other eligible players with over 15.0 WAR for the Orioles have not had the ceremony yet. They would be finger wagging Rafael Palmeiro (24.1) and the guy with the fifth-highest WAR total in Baltimore Orioles history…former New York Yankees right-hander Mike Mussina.

Hats off to the Oriole Advocates for doing what they do (and for recognizing Mike Bordick) but let’s get Mussina, Palmeiro, Rettenmund, Roenicke and McDonald in there, too.

Jan
13

Batting champ Hector Luna was a bright spot for the disappointing Aguilas

I’ll begin my review of the 2010-2011 Dominican League baseball season with a look back at one of the two teams that failed to qualify for the round-robin playoffs. The once-mighty Aguilas Cibaenas won an astounding nine Dominican championships in a 13-year span before dropping 12 consecutive post-season games a couple years ago in an unsuccessful attempt to defend their most recent title. The club’s 24-25 mark in 2010-2011 left them a single game shy of qualifying for the playoffs, as they’ve had to watch from home for a second consecutive year.

In late May, longtime Aguilas right-hander Jose Lima suffered a massive heart attack and died at the tragically young age of 37. Just a few weeks ago, Luis Polonia announced his retirement after 27 seasons (!) in Aguilas yellow. “La Hormiga Atomica” (as Polonia is fondly known in the DR) leaves with more hits (923), runs scored (517) and triples (43) than any player in league history. His #22 has been retired. As if there was any doubt considering the team’s on-field struggles, Aguilas baseball is in the midst of a changing of the guard.

Thirty-year-old utilityman Hector Luna –most recently of the Florida Marlins– was undoubtedly the team member most worth watching this season. Luna batted .349 to lead the Dominican League, and his on-base percentage (.447) and totals of 59 hits and 17 doubles also topped the circuit’s leader board. His 32 runs scored and 28 RBIs ranked second.

Veteran Bartolo Colon, the 2005 American League Cy Young winner, posted a 1.45 ERA in seven starts to rekindle interest from big league clubs. The 37-year-old right-hander hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2009, but appears to be on the comeback trail despite getting hit hard so far in the round-robin playoffs since getting picked up by Escogido.

Overall, the Aguilas were undermined by a league-worst .240 batting average. Their pitchers combined for a 3.53 ERA –second best in the circuit– and walked the fewest batters, but surrendered more home runs balls than any other staff.

Oct
23

RESULTS

October 22

Opening Day Dominican League action from San Pedro de Macoris

LICEY 8, ESCOGIDO 1 – Licey went ahead early at home with two unearned runs after an error by Escogido shortstop Joaquin Arias (New York Mets). Right-hander Robert Coello (Boston Red Sox) shut out defending champions Escogido on a single hit for the first five innings for the win. A four-run seventh-inning outburst blew the game wide open for Licey. Mariners OF prospect Carlos Peguero was 3-4 with a double and a RBI, while veteran Timo Perez and minor-leaguer Mike Wilson chipped in two hits and two RBI apiece.

GIGANTES 5, AGUILAS 1 – Arizona Diamondbacks’ catcher John Hester cracked a trio of doubles and scored three times to help the Gigantes win at home. San Francisco Giants outfielder Francisco Peguero collected three RBI, and former Milwaukee Brewers RHP Jose Capellan hurled five scoreless innings to earn the victory. Capellan led the circuit in wins and ERA last winter when the Gigantes came within one win of a championship. Ex-Seattle Mariners southpaw John Halama was charged with the loss for the Aguilas after getting kayoed in a three-run fourth inning. Boston Red Sox infield prospect Oscar Tejeda reached base three times for the Gigantes with a pair of hits and a walk.

TOROS 11, ESTRELLAS 4 – Minor-league veteran Victor Mercedes, who spent 2010 in the Mexican League, went 4-5 with three RBI to lead the evening’s most productive offense. The Estrellas committed five errors and got six walks and a hit batsman from their pitchers in defeat at home in San Pedro. Promising lefty Yohan Flande (Philadephia Phillies) threw four scoress frames. Blue Jays minor leaguers Brad Emaus (homer, 2 RBI) and Manny Mayorson (2-4, 2 runs, RBI) were other contributors.

October 23
ESTRELLAS 4, ESCOGIDO 2Estrellas manager Brian Harper earned his first win with help from his son Brett, who homered. Ex-Baltimore Orioles RHP Radhames Liz and four relievers combined on a five-hitter to spoil Escogido’s home opener. Oakland Athletics 3B Alex Valdez doubled and tripled for the winners.

LICEY 7, AGUILAS 1Veteran Jorge Sosa worked five scoreless innings to help Licey remain undefeated as his teammates pummeled Claudio Vargas and the rest of the Aguilas pitching staff. Catcher Robinzon Diaz (Detroit Tigers) had a double and triple among his three hits for the victors, who also benefitted from long balls hit by CF Reggie Abercrombie and 3B Yamaico Navarro (Boston Red Sox).

TOROS 4, GIGANTES 3The Toros stayed unbeated despite committing five errors thanks largely to a three-run double off the bat of Andy Dirks (Detroit Tigers) with two out in the bottom of the sixth. Right-hander Aneury Rodriguez whiffed seven over five innings for the winning club, though he wound up with no decision.

October 24

ESCOGIDO 7, LICEY 0Cuban right-hander Yunesky Maya and four relievers combined on a three-hit shutout with 13 total strikeouts. Maya whiffed eight over the first five innings. 1B Willis Otanez and CF Carlos Gomez knocked in two runs apiece as Escogido did all of its’ scoring in the first two innings.

AGUILAS 6, GIGANTES 3 – New York Mets 2B Daniel Murphy doubled three times to help the Aguilas come-from-behind and post the first victory of the winter league season. The go-ahead run scored in the bottom of the eighth on a wild pitch by Gigantes southpaw Jacobo Meque.

TOROS 10, ESTRELLAS 3
– The Toros remained undefeated behind 3 RBI performances from Danny Richar (Florida Marlins) and Ricardo Nanita (Toronto Blue Jays). Richar singled, doubled and tripled.

October 26

ESTRELLAS 8, ESCOGIDO 0 – Five Estrellas pitchers combined on a six-hitter to drop the defending league champs to 1-3. Veteran Juan Richardson stroked a pair of doubles and scored twice.

LICEY 7, AGUILAS 4 – Licey out-hit the Aguilas 16-5 and prevailed after their early 5-1 lead was shaved to a single run in the sixth. Jake Fox (4-5) and Robinzon Diaz (3-3) led the offense.

TOROS 11, GIGANTES 4 – The Toros seized the lead in the fifth and pulled away late to maintain their perfect won-lost mark in the young season. Brad Emaus went 4-4 with a couple of doubles to offset a pair of errors, while Jose Costanza (Cleveland Indians) added three hits and Danny Richar knocked in three.

Oct
03

2010 All Star led the Orioles in GWRBI

I’m fully aware of the arguments against the utility of the Game-Winning RBI & Runs Produced Statistics, but I went through baseball puberty in the 1980′s and have fond memories of them both from my childhood. As a result, I continue to track them for the amusement of myself and whoever clicks on this here page.

GWRBI used to be an official MLB statistic, with a player collecting one when he drove in the run that gave his team a lead they never surrendered, whether it be in the first inning of a 10-0 triumph, or a walkoff grand slam down three in the bottom of the ninth. Baltimore’s Jim Gentile notched 26 of them in 1961, which is not just an Orioles’ record, but also the highest total by any American League player in at least half-a-century.

In 2010, the Orioles GWRBI leaderboard looked like this:

11 – Ty Wigginton
10 – Luke Scott
7 – Adam Jones
6 – Nick Markakis
5 – Felix Pie
5 – Matt Wieters
4 – Miguel Tejada
4 – n/a
3 – Corey Patterson
3 – Brian Roberts
2 – Cesar Izturis
1 – Josh Bell
1 – Jake Fox
1 – Rhyne Hughes
1 – Julio Lugo
1 – Nolan Reimold
1 – Craig Tatum

GWRBI in the 7th inning or later
5 – Ty Wigginton
3 – Luke Scott
2 – Adam Jones
2 – Nick Markakis
2 – Brian Roberts
2 – Miguel Tejada
2 – Matt Wieters
1 – Felix Pie

******************

Another old stat I like is runs produced, which adds a players runs scored & RBI, then subtracts their home run total. The result is the number of team’s runs that an individual player either drove in or scored. The top ten 2010 Orioles in this category were:

127 – Nick Markakis
126 – Adam Jones
117 – Ty Wigginton
115 – Luke Scott
81 – Matt Wieters
72 – Miguel Tejada
69 – Cesar Izturis
67 – Corey Patterson
65 – Felix Pie
46 – Julio Lugo

Sep
19

JOSH BELL HAS A WRETCHED K:BB RATIO, BUT HE KEEPS GOOD COMPANY

Baltimore Orioles 3B Josh Bell is setting a record pace in this, his rookie season. With just 14 games remaining, Bell appears to be posting the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio in Orioles history. With 50 strikeouts against just two walks in his first 144 official at bats, the 23-year-old Rockford, Illinois-native is all alone in franchise annals with his rate of 25 whiffs per free pass.

Okay, Mike Cuellar struck out 54 times against two walks in 1971. Cuellar K’d 43 times with walking even once another season, and posted a 145:4 ratio when the Birds won three straight AL pennants from 1969-71. Of course he was a pitcher who won 67 regular season games in the same span. Amongst position players, Bell is pioneering a new extreme.

Reserve catchers Vic Rozvovsky and Larry Haney set the small sample size marks with a 20:1 mark in 1967 and a 19:0 effort in 1968, respectively. Baltimore’s award for most whiffs and fewest base-on-balls ought to be named in honor of the late Jerry Adair. Until the second-sacker put up a 51:9 ratio in 1963, no Orioles player had ever had a mark that really jumped out as that unaceptable. Even worse for Adair, two of the nine walks he did draw were intentional!

A handful of Orioles deserve honorable mention for their impatient ways. Utilityman Freddie Bynum logged a 30:2 ratio in 2007, and found himself out of the big leagues after one more season with a .275 career OBP. The last 86 at bats of Mike Figga’s career came in 1999, when he K’d 27 times against two walks for the Orioles. Reserve infielders Jackie Gutierrez (1986) and Manny Alexander (1996) each achieved 27:3 ratios, and modern counterpart Brandon Fahey (2008) got as far as 25:3. That trio got one more at bat in a Baltimore uniform between them.

Three more Birds managed to wind up with ratios in the 6:1 to 6 1/2 :1 neighborhood. Shortstop Kiko Garcia sported a 43:7 figure in 1978, similar to the 44:7 rate John Shelby finished with in 1985. Second-baseman Juan Bell was slightly worse with 51:8 in 1991. Those three players all finished their big league careers with on-base percentages between .281 and .286.

Floyd Rayford struck out 69 times versus 10 walks in 1985, but batted .306 with 18 homers in just 359 at bats. Two years later he was out of the league, however, hanging ‘em up with a .283 major league OBP.

The most hideously unbalanced K:BB ratios in Birds history came from a pair of right-handed sluggers who’d been home run champions at lower levels before breaking into the big leagues as Orioles. Jim Fuller wallopped 106 minor league homers from 1971-73, but flopped in his best big league opportunity, the following year. In 1974, Fuller walked just eight times (two of those were intentional) versus 68 strikeouts for the Birds. Before the decade was through, Baltimore brought in Mexican home run king Andres Mora, who whiffed 53 times against five free passes (one intentional) in 1977. Neither Fuller or Mora finished with a MLB OBP better than .256, so they didn’t get many chances to demonstrate their power.

Based on this group of peers, Bell’s chances of long-term success might seem slim. He has to learn how to hit left-handed AND right-handed at the major league level, and he did put up a .357 minor league OBP over six seasons. Bell is young with pop in his bat, so he’s got a shot, but for now he’ll have to be content with meeting my favorite First Lady, homering off a former Cy Young winner, and setting a dubious record during his rookie year.

Sep
01

Miguel Tejada Has Played More MLB Games at Shortstop Than Any Dominican

More than 100 players from the Dominican Republic have played shortstop in a major league game, but none have done so more frequently than Miguel Tejada. On August 17 at Wrigley Field, Tejada logged his 1,862nd game at a shortstop in the big leagues, nudging ahead of his boyhood idol, Alfredo Griffin.

Tejada tied Griffin’s mark the previous night against the Cubs, collecting four hits and two RBIs in a 9-5 San Diego victory. In moving past Griffin, he walked and singled in the Padres 1-0 triumph, and participated in three double plays on defense to help protect his team’s slim margin.

As an Orioles fan, I was thrilled when the team re-signed Tejada in the off-season, but a little saddened that he was moving to third base. He returned to his natural position after being dealt to the San Diego Padres in late-July, however, and moved into the record books a few weeks later.

When I had the pleasure of interviewing Tejada in New York in 2007, he seemed unaware that he was closing in on this record, but acknowledged that Griffin had been the man who inspired him to play shortstop in the first place. In fact, Tejada wore number 4 when he broke into the Show with Oakland, the same number Griffin sported during his standout years with the Toronto Blue Jays.

With a MVP award, six All Star selections and now this on his resume, a World Series ring would certainly cap off a borderline Hall of Fame career in style for the player known to teammates as “The Bus.” With the Orioles out of contention until next year at the earliest, I’ll certainly be rooting for Tejada and his teammates.

Here are the top 6 Dominicans in games played at position number 6 (shortstop) for those of you scoring at home:

1,874*** (through 8/31/2010) – MIGUEL TEJADA
1,861 – ALFREDO GRIFFIN
1,573 – TONY FERNANDEZ
1,386 – RAFAEL RAMIREZ
1,330*** – RAFAEL FURCAL
1,292 – CRISTIAN GUZMAN

Sep
01

Billy Ripken's Play Was Obscenely Bad In 1988

First things first. If you’re not familiar with the WAR (Wins Above Replacement Player) statistic, there’s a definition of it here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Wins_Above_Replacement_Player If you’re not inclined to click the link, the stat “attempts to express the total number of wins that a given player adds to his team over the course of a season by comparing the player’s performance with that of a fictitious “replacement player”. A “replacement player” is assumed to be an average Triple-A callup who might appear in the majors only as replacement for an injured player, and whose hitting, fielding, and (if applicable) pitching skills are far below league average.”
Some players performance falls so far short of acceptable levels that they accumulate a negative WAR total for a given season, usually costing them their job in the process. However, teams sometimes keep giving playing time to guys who absolutely aren’t earning it. That brings us to 25-man roster of the worst WAR totals in the 57-season history (1954-2010) of the Baltimore Orioles. Some players were so terribly bad in limited play that their WAR scores would’ve “earned” them a spot on this team, but I’ve selected the roster using players who actually spent the bulk of the season on the active roster.

We’ll start in the bullpen with a handful of guys who pitched so poorly in limited innings that a hypothetical Triple-A callup probably would’ve helped the ballclub more in the standings. MIKE FLANAGAN (-1.3 WAR in 1992) is the token lefty, based on his career-ending 40-year-old season in which he posted an 8.05 ERA as a LOOGY in 42 appearances. The league batted .338 against him, and he walked more men than he struck out. DICK HALL (-1.4 WAR in 1971)’s raw numbers don’t look so bad compared to a lot of these guys with a 4.98 ERA as a 40-year-old for a pennant-winning team, but like Flanagan he went into retirement after a campaign that landed him here. JIM McDONALD (-1.4 WAR in 1955) didn’t retire after stinking it up in his only season as an Oriole, but “Hot Rod” got traded before the season was even complete and took nearly a year and three transactions to get back to the big leagues and finish up his nine-year career with little distinction. JIMMY HAYNES (-1.6 WAR in 1996) wound up in the bullpen after recording an unbelievable 10.08 ERA in 11 starts as a touted youngster. He didn’t fare much better in relief, and got dealt away for Geronimo Berroa the following year. He actually recovered enough of his promise to last a decade in the bigs and win 63 games. KEN DIXON (-1.7 WAR in 1987) was another kid the Orioles once expected big things from. Less than a year after striking out 13 Chicago White Sox, “Boom Boom” found himself in the midst of an mystifying campaign in which he surrendered 31 longballs in just 105 innings, flunked a trial in the closer role, and hurled what proved to be the final innings of his major league career.

The rotation features DAVE SCHMIDT (-1.9 WAR in 1989), the Opening Day starter for the “Why Not?” squad, who won 10 games despite getting mostly pounded and striking out just 46 men in 159 2/3 innings. DAVE JOHNSON (-2.0 WAR in 1991) was a hometown boy with a feel good story in two previous seasons with the Birds, but he was so godawful in ’91 when the league slugged .563 against him that he was unceremoniously released and finished as a major leaguer save for a 12.96 ERA in a half-dozen appearances for the Tigers. ARNIE PORTOCARRERO (-2.0 WAR in 1959) had been a 15-game winner the previous year, but suffered through a miserable year in which he coughed up 107 hits versus just 23 strikeouts over 90 innings. Pitchers still hit back then, and he was a minus with the bat in his hands, too. JACK FISHER (-2.2 WAR in 1962) had three decent seasons after arriving as part of the Kiddie Corps, but everything changed for “Fat Jack” when was tagged for a 1.507 WHIP as a 23-year-old. The Orioles dealt him away after the season, and he eventually lost 73 games in just four years with some pitiful early Mets clubs. JEFF BALLARD (-2.3 WAR in 1991) was just two years removed from an 18-win season when the southpaw recorded the worst season based on WAR by any Orioles pitcher in history. His Baltimore career was over, and his big league career would be as well after some forgettable work for the Pirates.

At Designated Hitter, it pains me to point out that my childhood hero, KEN SINGLETON (-2.3 WAR in 1984), wrapped up his distinguished 15-year career on such a downer. After rebounding during Baltimore’s World Series run the previous year, the switch-hitting Singy was equally inept from both sides of the plate and retired at age 37 to get into broadcasting.

In the outfield, you could platoon JAY GIBBONS (-1.8 WAR in 2007) with DICK WILLIAMS (-1.7 WAR in 1961). Gibbons, a former Rule 5 draftee who had highs of 28 homers and 100 RBIs in Baltimore, was named in the Mitchell Report and posted a .620 OPS before disappearing from MLB…only to work his way back and resurface with the Dodgers this year. Williams responded to being acquired for a third time by Baltimore with an all-around poor performance. Before the decade was over, he’d commence a managing career that landed him in the Hall of Fame. Centerfield sadly (in this case) belongs to PAUL BLAIR (-2.2 WAR in 1976), who batted an anemic .197 in his final season as a regular and failed to win a Gold Glove for the first time in eight years. The Orioles dealt him away to the Yankees, and Blair earned two more World Series rings as a reserve. Former All Star KEVIN BASS (-1.6 WAR in 1995) gets the call in right, where he wrapped up his 14-year career with a largely lousy effort after signing with Baltimore as a free agent. LARRY SHEETS (-1.6 WAR in 1988) had been a lethal left-handed power bat for three seasons, but his magic mostly disappeared in the year of the 0-21-starting Zer-O’s.

Catcher AL PARDO (-1.4 WAR in 1985) was a switch-hitter in name only. His .133/.167/.147 slash line in 1985 was almost identical to the results he managed in parts of three other seasons. GUS TRIANDOS (-1.2 WAR in 1962) had been a three-time All Star for Baltimore, but Hoyt Wilhelm’s knuckleball gave him fits and he was a mess in hitting just .159 in 207 at bats. The Orioles traded him after the season, and three teams gave him chances the next three years, but the slugging backstop never regained his form.

When JIM TRABER (-1.7 WAR in 1988) hit his first eight major league homers in a 17-day span two years before, some people in Baltimore actually wanted to dump Eddie Murray to make room for him. Actually, the Orioles basically did that after this debacle of a season, and Traber’s offensive numbers actually got worse the following year. TONY MUSER (-1.8 WAR in 1976) had a reputation as a good glove man, but a .227/.270/.264 slash line at a power spot just wasn’t getting it done. That was the year before Murray arrived, so these two are bookends of the Eddie era, so to speak.

Eighteen-year-old bonus baby WAYNE CAUSEY (-1.7 WAR in 1955) was overmatched as a rookie when he batted just .194, but carved out a solid big league career starting six years later after the Orioles had traded him away. TY WIGGINTON (-2.0 WAR in 2009) became Baltimore’s first player in the Camden Yards era to finish two games below replacement level after signing as a free agent, but rebounded with a strong first half the following year to earn an All Star selection for the first (and probably only) time in his career.

Shortstop BILLY HUNTER (-1.4 WAR in 1954) didn’t distinguish himself much on the field with the first modern Orioles squad before being dealt away in a massive 17-player deal after the season, but of course he returned years later as a coach for some of the greatest teams in franchise history.

Second base is where I’ll list this team’s utility infielder, FRED MARSH (-1.4 WAR in 1955). Marsh didn’t hit much at all, and wrapped up his seven-year big league career in a Baltimore uniform the following year. Last, and in this case least, comes BILLY RIPKEN (-2.5 WAR in 1988), who recorded the worst WAR figure in Baltimore Orioles history. To be fair, his dad got canned as manager a mere six games into the season, and the team kept running him out there in the hopes that the .308 he hit as a rookie the previous year wasn’t a mirage. It was. No matter how you slice it, a .207/.260/.258 slash line for a guy that started 146 games is awfully bad.

Honorable mention: David Segui began his career with three straight seasons at least one full game below replacement level for the Orioles from 1990-92. As far as I know, no other Oriole got enough rope (or playing time) to be that sub par for so long. Hayden Penn also deserves a mention for finishing a full 1.9 games below replacement level despite appearing in only six games!!! How is that possible, you may ask? The 15.10 ERA and 2.593 WHIP Penn posted in 2006 is how.

BASS: .244, 5hr, 32rbi
HUNTER: .243, 2hr, 27rbi
SINGLETON: .215, 6hr, 36rbi
SHEETS: .230, 10hr, 47rbi
WIGGINTON: .273, 11hr, 41rbi
TRABER: .222, 10hr, 45rbi
TRIANDOS: .159. 6hr, 23rbi
BLAIR: .197, 3hr, 16rbi
RIPKEN: .207, 2hr, 34rbi

CAUSEY: .194, 1hr, 9rbi
GIBBONS: .230, 6hr, 28rbi
MARSH: .218, 2hr, 19rbi
MUSER: .227, 1hr, 30rbi
PARDO: .133, 0hr, 1rbi
WILLIAMS: .206, 8hr, 24rbi

BALLARD: 6-12, 5.60
FISHER: 7-9, 5.09, 1 save
JOHNSON: 4-8, 7.07
PORTOCARRERO: 2-7, 6.80
SCHMIDT: 10-13, 5.69

DIXON: 7-10, 6.43, 5 saves
FLANAGAN: 0-0, 8.05, 0 saves
HALL: 6-6, 4.98, 1 save
HAYNES: 3-6, 8.29, 1 save
McDONALD: 3-5, 7.14, 0 saves

Apr
25

That awful night in 2007 only counted as one loss

Since the dawn of the 162-game schedule at least, I’ve always enjoyed breaking the season down into 18-game increments, since baseball is usually a nine-inning game, and a 162-game season is comprised of nine 18-game “innings”. So to speak.

While I’m fully aware that modern Orioles history began before baseball went to a 162-game schedule –and that some seasons since have featured fewer games for a number of reasons — here, nevertheless, is the history of the Orioles’ first 18-games of the season:

18-game start – How many times – (most recent)

18-00 = never
17-01 = never
16-02 = never
15-03 = never
14-04 = 1 time (1966)
13-05 = 2 times (1969 & 1970)

12-06 = 2 times (1968 & 1997)
11-07 = 13 times (last in 2008)
10-08 = 9 times (last in 2004)
09-09 = 9 times (last in 2003)
08-10 = 2 times (last in 2009)
07-11 = 9 times (last in 2001)
06-12 = 4 times (last in 2002)

05-13 = 3 times (1955, 1984 & 1993)
04-14 = 1 time (1999)
03-15 = never
02-16 = 1 time (2010)
01-17 = never
00-18 = 1 time (1988)

So, indeed, this is the second-worst 18-game start in club history –and by a good margin. In fact, it’s the second-most extreme start for the team even if you include good starts. That sinking feeling in my stomach watching these games told me this was some historically bad baseball. And it is.

Apr
07

Brian Roberts looks all fuzzy, and the Rays are the only ones smiling (AP photo by Steve Nesius)

I woke up on the wrong side of bed this morning. A gut-wrenching conclusion to a baseball game hotly anticipated since last October will do that to a guy. Went to sleep last night chanting all those cliched mantras about how it’s only one game, blah blah blah, yet here I am over 12 hours later still feeling like something awful has happened. Here’s why.

Last night marked the 57th “Opening Day” game for the Baltimore Orioles, and it was the first them they’d EVER lost (EVER!) a season inaugural aftering suffering a blown save by one of their relief pitchers. I suspected as much. When I was 12, my Dad took me to me first Opening Day, and the Birds got spanked 7-2. A few days after he died, I went to another Orioles Opener and they lost 12-0 (not to mention another 20 in a row after that). I was also their for the last Opening Day at Memorial Stadium when Baltimore got drubbed 9-1 amid much pomp and circumstance. So I know a thing or two about disappointing starts to baseball seasons. Last night was a doozy, though.

The only other time in club history a Baltimore pitcher had blown a save on Opening Day came in 1985, when free agent acquisiton Don Aase (like Mike Gonzalez last night) made his Orioles debut. Aase inherited a 2-1 eighth inning lead from Storm Davis at home against the Rangers, surrendered a bunt single to the first man he faced, and a game-tying safety two outs later. Not to worry, Cal Ripken walked leading off the bottom of the eighth, and Eddie Murray followed by clubbing a two-run homer. Baltimore won, and Aase earned a save for the American League All Stars the following year before injuries wrecked his career.

Last night was more proof of that old adage that you’re liable to see something new in baseball every day if you’re paying attention. Watching the O’s leave 10 runners on base and go a pitiful 1-12 with runners in scoring position, I muttered to myself “They don’t deserve to win this game” last night in the top of the ninth inning. Well, in the bottom of the ninth, they lost it. And I’m still bummed. Thank God there’s another game tonight. Go O’s!

by Malcolm Allen

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