Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Former Oriole Walt Dropo dies; Played for Baltimore's first winning team

Monday's Washington Post includes the obituary for Walt Dropo, the 1950 American League Rookie of the Year for the Red Sox who finished his career in Baltimore.

From the Post:
In 1950, Mr. Dropo beat out New York Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford to win AL Rookie of the Year honors after batting .322 with 34 home runs and a league-best 144 RBIs in 136 games. He also made his only All-Star team that year.

A broken wrist slowed Mr. Dropo in 1951 and he was never able to match his outstanding rookie numbers. The first baseman batted .270 with 152 homers and 704 RBIs during his career. He was traded by Boston to the Detroit Tigers in 1952 and also played for the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles.

Shortly after being traded to Detroit in 1952, Mr. Dropo tied a major league record that still stands when he got hits in 12 consecutive trips to the plate. During that streak. he also tied another big league mark that's still in place when he totaled 15 hits in a four-game span. 
The Orioles acquired Dropo on June 23, 1959, in a trade that sent Whitey Lockman to the Cincinnati Redlegs. Dropo saw limited action during his two-plus seasons in Baltimore as Diamond Jim Gentile, a subsequent Orioles addition on Oct. 19, 1959, blossomed.

The 37-year-old Dropo played 79 games for the 1960 Orioles, the club that gave Baltimore its first winning season since relocating from St. Louis. A career first baseman, he appeared in three games at third base for the O's.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Can the 2011 Phillies Match the 1971 Orioles with Four 20-Game Winners?

The Phillies brought Cliff Lee back to Philadelphia this week, thereby piecing together what on paper is one of the great four-man rotations of all time. The Associated Press has termed it "a potentially historic rotation."

Among the potential history Philadelphia's rotation presents is the possibility of having four 20-game winners on one team. It's happened only twice before with the 1920 Chicago White Sox and the 1971 Baltimore Orioles. Wins don't mean what they used to for many baseball fans, but there's no denying the significance of having four 20-game winners in the same rotation.

So how do the top four pitchers in the Phillies' 2011 rotation compare to the top four pitchers in the Orioles' 1971 rotation? Can history repeat itself?

The purpose of this exercise is not to determine which rotation is better, but rather to size up both rotations and offer an educated guess as to whether the Phillies can match the Orioles' accomplishment. I believe it's important to remember the past greats of the game and celebrate their achievements. This represents the perfect opportunity to do so. It's entirely possible to celebrate modern greatness without overlooking or overshadowing prior triumphs. That's the point here.

Who's better? I'll leave that to the fans in bar rooms in Charm City and the City of Brotherly Love. For now, I'll conclude that the Phillies won't match the Orioles with four 20-game winners for two primary reasons:

1. Starters today throw fewer innings and therefore have less opportunities to pick up wins. And the 1971 Orioles utilized a four-man rotation.

Roy Halladay led all of baseball with 250.2 innings pitched in 2010. That total would be last among the Orioles' top four starters in 1970 and is nearly 40 innings less than the combined average of Baltimore's rotation.

Consider the remarkable difference that exists in the approach to the game by era. The 1971 Orioles rotation averaged 287.3 IP in 1970 led by Jim Palmer's 305 IP. By comparison, the 2011 Phillies top four picthers averaged 220.3 IP in 2010 led by Halladay's 250.2 IP. 

2. As Mike Mussina demonstrated for 17 of his 18 seasons in baseball, there's a certain amount of luck involved in winning 20 games.

Both the 1971 Orioles and the 2011 Phillies had/have remarkable pitchers in their starting rotation. Among each team's starting four, only one pitcher entered/enters the season having never won 20 games. However, Baltimore's 1971 rotation had three pitchers who won 20 games the previous season while Philadelphia's 2011 rotation has just one pitcher who won 20 games in 2010.

The likelihood of three pitchers holding form (Cuellar, McNally, Palmer) and one other catching enough breaks to win 20 (Dobson) is greater than the likelihood of one pitcher holding form (Halladay) and three other starters catching enough breaks to win 20 (Oswalt, Lee, and Hamels).

Here's a rundown of the numbers for the Orioles' four-man rotation  in 1971 (through the 1970 season) and the numbers for the top four members of the Phillies' 2011 rotation (through the 2010 season). If you love great pitching, you'd have a hard time doing much better than this.

Age (1970, 2010)
Palmer - 24
Hamels -26
McNally - 27
Dobson - 28
Lee - 31
Oswalt -32
Cuellar and Halladay - 33

Average - Orioles rotation - 28, Phillies rotation - 30.5

20-Win Seasons (though 1970 and 2010 )
Halladay - 3 (22-7 in 2003, 20-11 in 2008, 21-10 in 2010) and McNally - 3 ( 22-10 in 1968, 20-7 in 1969, 24-9 in 1970)
Cuellar - 2 (23-11 in 1969, 24-8 in 1970) and Oswalt - 2 (20-10 in 2004, 20-12 in 2005)
Lee - 1 (22-3 in 2008) and Palmer - 1 (20-10 in 1970)
Dobson - 0 and Hamels - 0.

Average: Orioles rotation - 1.5, Phillies rotation - 1.5

Career Wins (through 1970 and 2010)
Halladay  (13 seasons) - 169
Oswalt (10 seasons) - 150
McNally (9 seasons) - 114
Lee (9 seasons) - 102
Cuellar (8 seasons) - 89
Hamels (5 seasons) - 60
Palmer (5 seasons)- 59
Dobson (4 seasons) - 25

Average: Orioles rotation - (6.5 seasons) 71.75, Phillies rotation - (9.25 seasons) 120.25

Career ERA (through 1970 and 2010)
Palmer - 2.94
Cuellar - 2.95
Oswalt and McNally - 3.18
Halladay - 3.32
Dobson - 3.39
Hamels - 3.53
Lee - 3.85

Average: Orioles rotation - 3.12 (1970 League Average - 3.72), Phillies rotation - 3.47 (2010 League Average - 4.03)

Career ERA+ (through 1970 and 2010)
Halladay - 136
Oswalt - 135
Hamels - 123
Palmer - 120
Cuellar - 117
McNally - 114
Lee - 112
Dobson - 108

Average: Orioles rotation - 114.75, Phillies rotation - 126.5

Career WHIP (through 1970 and 2010)
Cuellar - 1.152
Hamels - 1.176
Halladay - 1.181
Oswalt - 1.189
McNally 1.195
Palmer - 1.209
Lee - 1.256
Dobson - 1.275

Average: Orioles rotation - 1.208 (1970 League Average - 1.330), Phillies rotation - 1.201 (2010 League Average - 1.348)

Wins in most recent season (1970 and 2010)
Cuellar - 24
McNally - 24
Halladay - 21
Palmer - 20
Dobson - 14
Oswalt - 13
Lee - 12
Hamels - 12

Average: Orioles rotation -  20.5, Phillies rotation - 14.5

IP in most recent season (1970 and 2010)
Palmer - 305
Cuellar - 297.2
McNally - 296
Dobson - 251
Halladay - 250.2
Lee - 212
Oswalt - 211
Hamels - 208

Average: Orioles rotation - 287.3, Phillies rotation - 220.3

Image Source: Here (though the original appears to be from Sports Illustrated).


Friday, December 10, 2010

Flashback Friday: Don Buford's Five Strikeout Day

Don Buford established two Orioles records in 1971: He hit five home runs leading off games, and he struck out five times in a nine-inning game.

Brady Anderson easily eclipsed the former mark in 1996 with 12 home runs leading off a game. Hopefully, Mark Reynolds will surpass the latter mark in 2010; not because I don't like Reynolds, but rather because Buford deserves better than to be remembered for a bad day at the plate not consistent with his overall performance.

Buford had a career AB/SO ratio of 7.92. Other leadoff hitters with a similar career AB/SO ratio are Roberto Alomar (7.96), Kenny Lofton (7.99), and Jimmy Rollins (7.89). Anderson, meanwhile, finished his career with a 5.5 AB/SO ratio, which nearly matches Boog Powell's 5.4 ratio.

In four seasons, Reynolds is averaging a 2.6 AB/SO ratio, which is to say that a five strikeout day would be entirely consistent with his overall performance ... except for the fact that he's never actually done it. Reynolds' career high for strikeouts in a game is four. He was worn the golden sombrero multiple times.

Back to Buford. As if keeping company with Alomar, Lofton, and Rollins wasn't impressive enough, Buford's numbers outshine Ichiro's - and any other player in history, for that matter - when it comes to staying out of double plays.

Buford, who played 10 major league seasons, has the lowest GDP in baseball history. He hit into 34 double plays in 4,553 career at-bats. Ichiro has grounded into 46 double plays in 10 seasons. Though the number of games played doesn't match up, Buford's 162-game average (4) is one better than Ichiro's (5).

Strangely enough, Buford's bad day at the plate came during what was otherwise a career year. In 1971, he led the league in runs scored with 99 (his third consecutive season of 99 runs scored), and posted career highs in average (.290), OBP (.413), slugging (.477), and OPS (.890).

Those numbers earned him his lone All-Star appearance for a half-season's work and MVP vote points for a full-season's work. But it only took one day for him to earn his Olympic Rings

Other notables from Don Buford's five seasons with the Orioles (1968-1972):

-He was the first player to lead off a World Series with a home run. He did so off Tom Seaver in Game 1 of the 1969 World Series. Dustin Pedroia matched Buford's effort in 2007.

-He was the first Oriole to homer from both sides of the plate in a single game, doing so on April 9, 1970 against the Indians.

Strikeout Percentage (SO%) and AB/SO ratio while in Baltimore

Sam Horn
(Holds team record for most strikeouts in an extra-inning game with 6)
1990 - 22.1%, 4.0
1991 - 27.4%, 3.2
1992 - 32.4%, 2.7

Mickey Tettleton
(Holds team record for most strikeouts in a season with 160)
1988 - 22.2%, 4.0
1989 - 23.9%, 3.5
1990 - 28.6%, 2.8

Don Buford
1968 - 9.3%, 9.3
1969 - 9.4%, 8.9
1970 - 8.7%, 9.2
1971 - 11.3%, 7.2
1972 - 17.1%, 4.9


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Like Budweiser, Mark Reynolds has Whiffability

Mark Reynolds will establish a new Orioles record in his first season in Baltimore. Unfortunately, it will be for strikeouts.

Reynolds, whom the Orioles acquired in a trade with Arizona on Monday in exchange for David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio, is an all-or-nothing swinger who makes Adam Dunn seem like a contact hitter. All of which should make former Orioles catcher Mickey Tettleton a happy man.

Tettleton holds the Orioles' single-season team record for strikeouts with 160 in 1990. In four major league seasons, Reynolds has averaged 191.75 strikeouts per season. And even that figure underestimates his whiffability as it includes his 129 strikeout total in only 111 games during his rookie season.

[A quick aside: Having never before used the term "whiffability," I Googled it to examine its usage and whether the word actually exists. Turns out it has non-baseball applications. From Life magazine: "Budweiser has whiffability ... a clean, fresh aroma you find only in Bud." I smell a sponsorship opportunity in your future, Mark Reynolds.]

Other former Orioles who may be excited about the Reynolds acquisition are Don Buford, team record holder for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game (5 on Aug. 26, 1971), and Sam Horn, team record holder for most strikeouts in an extra-inning game (6 on July 17, 1991).

For information on Reynolds' positive value to the team (and there definitely is some), check out this ESPN piece on his "contact to damage" ratio.

A record-setting pattern

Should Reynolds indeed establish a team record during his first couple of seasons in Baltimore - for strikeouts or otherwise - he will be following a pattern established by other sluggers the O's have acquired in recent history. Specifically, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, and Miguel Tejada.

The Birds signed Palmeiro prior to the 1994 season; by 1996 he held the team record for most RBI by a left-handed batter with 142.

The Birds signed Albert Belle prior to the 1999 season; by 2000 he held the team record for most RBI in a month with 37 in June 2000.

The Birds signed Tejada prior to the 2004 season; by the end of the year he held the team record for most RBI by a right-handed batter with 150. Two years later he set the team record for hits in a season with 214.

Welcome to Baltimore, Mark Reynolds. Here's hoping you make the Orioles brass look like Real Men of Genius.

"So here's to you, Mr. Whiffability."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Confederate money and fake prospects; It must be Winter Meetings time

The Winter Meetings are almost here. Let the Syd Thrift references begin!

Dan Connolly offers a nod to Thrift and his much-repeated "confederate money" phrase over at Orioles Insider.
Call this the “Courting of Paul Konerko 2.0.”
The first version occurred in the 2005 offseason, when the Orioles’ brass had a clandestine meeting with Konerko and offered a five-year, $65 million deal to the then 29-year-old first baseman. He decided to stay with the Chicago White Sox for $5 million less, prompting more jokes about the Orioles’ “Confederate money.”

(I’m still quoting Syd Thrift all these years later. God rest his soul.)
But nothing says Syd Thrift quite like"minor league prospect" Gary Dell'Abate. Jeff Labrecque interviewed the real Dell'Abate, who referenced Thrift's broadcast misstep in 2000.
Not counting the famous pop-cultural shout-outs, like to Peter Jennings during the O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco chase, but what’s the strangest place you’ve gotten a Baba Booey shoutout?
I’m not very religious but I went to church a couple of times after 9/11. There was this woman wearing this very matronly dress and when she handed me the program whatever, she leaned in and just said, “Big fan, big fan. Baba Booey.” I just thought that was really funny because she did not look the part at all. Just shows you, the fans are everywhere.

One of my favorite stories of yours didn’t make the book and actually involved your given name. I’m a Baltimore Orioles fan and—
The Syd Thrift story? I love that.

They’ve been bad now for so long and that story kind of encapsulates their impotence.
That made it in to Sports Illustrated, as part of a story about how dysfunctional the Baltimore Orioles organization was. I love that one. Have you ever heard the actual call? Syd Thrift actually says, ‘Oh yeah, [Gary Dell' Abate] is one of our big prospects. He’s coming along.’

Orioles Baseball: As much fun as a trip to the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.


Related Reading: Flashback Friday: Revisiting a "Thrifty" Trade Deadline

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flashback Friday: All Politics Wasn't Supposed to be Local in Baltimore

Jerry Hoffberger & Earl Weaver
Tip O'Neill popularized the phrase "All politics is local." Former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn might well have disagreed.

In a move that irked Kuhn, Baltimore Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger joined Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes on the Memorial Stadium mound for the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game Two of the 1979 World Series. President Jimmy Carter handled first-pitch duties nearly a week later before Game 7, but it was the local guy, a friend of Hoffberger, who raised Kuhn's ire.

Kuhn fined Hoffberger $2,500 for using the governor's services and, according to an Associated Press article, cited a rule that prohibited "movie actresses and actors, politicians and people of note" from handling first-pitch duties.

Time magazine picked up on the controversy.
"Kuhn, standing next to the Governor at the toss, was smiling, but his grin was deceptive. Hoffberger's choice violated a rule that all first-ball throwers must be approved by the commissioner, with politicians and movie stars acceptable only in rare circumstances. For disobeying the rule, Hoffberger, who last season sold his team to Washington Attorney Edward Bennett Williams, was fined $2,500 by Kuhn. Hoffberger has protested the fine and requested a hearing; Kuhn is considering the appeal."
Sports Illustrated also spilled some ink on the stare down.
"Hoffberger ... said he defied the rule because Hughes was a personal friend (not to mention a onetime pitcher in Class D baseball), and he said he might refuse to pay the fine. In his anger, Hoffberger claimed that Richard Nixon had thrown out the first ball at an American League playoff game in Anaheim; in fact, Nixon merely was an honored guest of California Angel owner Gene Autry. However, the Pirates did have Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh hold a ball for photographers before a World Series game in Pittsburgh, after which the widow of former Pirate Manager Danny Murtaugh threw it."
Years later, Commissioner Kuhn had his say in the book, Hardball: The Education of a Baseball Commissioner (p. 232)
"Jerry emerged as president of the Orioles under the Williams ownership. Since the sale was not effective until November 1, 1979, Jerry was still the boss during the Pittsburgh-Baltimore World Series, during which he drew a fine from me for inviting Governor Harry Hughes of Maryland to throw out the first ceremonial ball. This was contrary to our sound World Series rule against using local politicians. It was a typical owners' trick designed to give the commissioner fits: invite a popular local governor to do the honors and then say how churlish the commissioner is for standing in the way. I let the governor go ahead and collected my fine with help from Williams."
Major League Baseball's Official Rules do not currently include any provisions about local politicians throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.


Image: Clarence B. Garrett, The Baltimore Sun

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bringing the Heat ... Again

On Tuesday I mentioned some off-season baseball reading I'm doing thanks to the Barnes & Noble clearance rack. Today I want to revisit a book I read this summer because the publisher sent me a copy for free. Forget best-seller lists, my reading choices are strictly economic.

If you're looking for a well-timed book to read in the wake of the Year of the Pitcher, check out "High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time."

I wrote my review of High Heat on Roar from 34 in early July. I later posted a transcript of the interview I conducted with author Tim Wendel. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from that conversation.

Wendel on the Joel Zumaya injury and the physical challenge of throwing triple-digit heat, an exchange made all the more interesting in hindsight given Strasburg's injury weeks after we conducted the interview.
Yeah. You know It pained me to see what happened with Zumaya, because Zumaya made the list of maybe the top dozen fireballers in High Heat in part because more of the potential and the promise more than anything he’s done so far. I guess it shows how fine the line is and how much stress, and torque, and punishment the arm takes when you’re talking about throwing this hard. At times we tend to take a lot of this for granted as fans or maybe people who cover the game.

Strasburg, for example, is doing phenomenal right now. I think he certainly has proven he’s more ready for prime time than the eight other guys he’s taking the field with half the time. I was watching the game when he was in Cleveland and he was having trouble with the mound and at one point he slipped and you just go “Oh!” All it takes is something like that and there goes a career.

Will Joel Zumaya ever throw as hard as he once did? I don’t know after watching the tape of what happened last night. You talk about Sandy Koufax who went literally in three weeks from a journeyman to all world and being able to suddenly spot his fastball and suddenly gain control of his curve. You look at the price he paid in terms of what it did to his arm, the arthritis, the types of medications he was taking just to get through those last couple seasons. Even someone like Nolan Ryan who could probably go out today and throw, I don’t know, probably 92 or 93, still just the mental anguish he went through.

I think sometimes we just kind of think “Oh yeah, somebody like Stephen Strasburg, he’s got it made” or somebody like Sandy Koufax, “Yeah, Hall of Fame,” and you don’t see the price and you don’t see the real things they had to go through. They all know this next pitch might be my last one. You had to think that’s what ran through poor Joel Zumaya’s head last night.
Wendel on Earl Weaver, Steve Dalkowski, and how good Dalkowski's stuff must have been if he made the High Heat list even though he never caught on in the majors.
He almost became the number one guy and actually Earl Weaver’s the one who kind of talked me down off that a little bit, which I found amazing because Earl Weaver did as much as anybody to get Steve Dalkowski in the major leagues or to get him as close as he did, but then Earl said, “No, I can’t make him number one because he never made the majors.”

You know, I think part of it is just the mythic element. You’ve seen Bull Durham, the Nuke LaLoosh character being in a sense the myth of what Dalkowski was. That was certainly helped by the fact Ron Shelton, who went on to be a Hollywood writer and director, was in the Orioles organization about four or five years behind Dalkowski. He never played on the same team as Steve, but he knew all the stories and such. The stories of his fastball are just epic, and I think that’s part of what the appeal is too; here you have a very almost very docile guy who wears spectacles at least part of his career. He doesn’t look like an athlete at all. And yet boy did he have a gift. I think in an odd way that really appeals to people. He didn’t look like a Ryan or even a Feller. He looked like some guy you’d walk by on the street, and yet you put him on a mound, granted he couldn’t throw a first strike half the time, but as near as we can tell he threw potentially 104 to maybe 107 miles per hour.
And finally, Wendel on the time Tim Lincecum was blocked from the visitor's clubhouse at Nationals Park.
One of the great times I had doing High Heat was in Washington at the Nationals ballpark with Tim Lincecum, and we’re looking to enter the visitor’s clubhouse. The guy guarding the door wouldn’t let Lincecum in, in part because Lincecum kind of like this short, skinny, punk skateboard kid. And me and another guy are like, “No, he’s actually won a Cy Young.” And because Lincecum didn’t have his ID there was a bit of a hubbub for a few minutes until they let him in. I thought that was pretty interesting, somebody like Tim Lincecum could be part of this whole equation, too.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Were the Orioles Quitters?

On multiple occasions during the past 13 losing seasons it has seemed, from a fan's perspective, that the Baltimore Orioles quit during the second half of the season. It makes sense since quitters never win and frankly neither do the Orioles. 

From 30-3 to the late summer swoon, circumstantial evidence abounds. But it turns out there's testimonial evidence as well.

I'm currently reading John Feinstein's "Living On the Black" (Thanks, Barnes & Noble clearance rack), which chronicles the 2007 seasons of pitchers Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine. Mussina offers many interesting anecdotes, including a statement about playing on teams that approach the second half of the season in a manner similar to that of a high school senior facing his final weeks before graduation. It's baseball's version of senioritis.

Were the Orioles quitters during Mussina's time in Baltimore? [Vote in the Roar from 34 poll on the sidebar.]

Here's the relevant section from the book (emphasis added):
"Player meetings in baseball are rarely emotional, and it isn't often that anything especially brilliant or revealing is said. This meeting was no different. Pettitte was the right person to call the meeting and start it because he was the one pitcher on the staff who had pitched well. His point was simple: What we're doing isn't good enough. Yes, we've been injured, and yes it's early (it is, of course, a long season),  but this was unacceptable.

He was talking, for the most part, to the starters. The bullpen hadn't been that great, but it had the excuse of being overused because of the starters' incompetence.

Mussina, the other veteran in the room, also spoke. He pointed out that he hadn't been much use to the team in April but went on to talk about what was expected when you pitched for the Yankees. 'I've been on teams that began circling days on the calendar trying to get the season over with from the All-Star break on,' he said. 'Believe me, it's not fun. And it really wouldn't be fun here. That can be tough, but it's what's expected ....' "
Was Mussina using hyperbole in his clubhouse speech, or did he believe his teammates had quit on him the in the past? If so, when?

At the time Mussina made the comments he had yet to experience a non-playoff season with the Yankees.  So if he was wasn't exaggerating for effect (which is possible), he was referring to the Orioles.

Mussina played for the Orioles from 1991 through 2000. The O's finished with a losing record in five of those seasons: 1991, 1995, 1998, 1999, and 2000.  We can remove the '98 and '99 seasons from consideration. Baltimore had solid second-half records both times (41-33 in '98, 42-33 in '99).

Next to go is 1995. The Birds were an even 38-38 in the second half of the '95 season, won nine of their last 10 games, and posted a 16-11 record in August.

That leaves the 1991 and 2000 seasons.

The 2000 Orioles went 36-40 in the second half, won eight of their last 12, and finished the months of July, August, and September one game under .500. Hardly the stuff of champions, but also not the obvious mark of quitters. 

In 1991, the Orioles went 34-48 after the All Star Break and lost seven of their last 10. So the guess here is that Mussina thinks the '91 Orioles phoned it in after the All-Star Break.

Mussina entered the big leagues on Aug. 4, 1991. It's possible that the young, eager pitcher encountered a dour clubhouse atmosphere that left an indelible impression on him. In other words, his first cup of coffee was bitter. And as we fans can tell you, losing is an acquired taste.

It's also worth noting that Manager Frank Robinson was fired at the end of the 1991 season. So perhaps the Orioles quit on a manager they expected would soon be gone. Kind of like they did with Dave Trembley. But that's a topic for another day ....


Related Reading on Roar from 34:

-Moose Was a Great Bird

-The August Swoon is a Myth

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The View from Sarasota - Upgrades at Ed Smith Stadium

The 2010 baseball season is in the books. The preface to the 2011 season comes on Feb. 13 when pitchers and catchers report. In the meantime, Roar from 34 has some photos of the renovations taking place at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, courtesy of Sarasota resident and FOB (friend of the blog) Norm Schimmel.

Here are the details about the renovation.
"Ed Smith Stadium is undergoing extensive improvements which will dramatically transform the ballpark aesthetic and radically expand areas and amenities for fans. Enhancements to the fan experience include the addition of a two-story concourse with shaded views of the playing field; a new stucco fa├žade with tile accents; refurbished stadium seats directly from Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore; additional private suites and party facilities; and a state-of-the-art audio/video system and video board. Improvements to the player facilities include new dugouts and bullpens; a new half field with AstroTurf; refurbished batting cages; and a practice field with the same dimensions as Oriole Park at Camden Yards. All of these upgrades will be finalized in time for next year's spring training games."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Watch Out for Batted Balls? Not in 2010

No player hit a Eutaw Street home run in 2010. It was only the second time in Camden Yards history that fans could stroll down Eutaw Street during baseball season without heeding the club's advice to "Watch Out For Batted Balls" (photo credit: WallyG, Flickr).

The other Eutaw Street homerless drought occurred in 1993. Eutaw Street remained untouched by cowhide from May 23, 1992, to April 24, 1994, when Ken Griffey Jr. hit a 438-foot homer to right field. Griffey's blast was the only Eutaw Street home run of the 1994 season.

Batters reached Eutaw Street during game action four times in 2009. Luke Scott hit the two most recent "Bronze Bombs"  on July 11, 2009, and Sept. 1, 2009. Scott's four Eutaw Street home runs are the second-most behind Rafael Palmeiro, who hit five in four different seasons.

Scott failed to put any baseballs beyond the right-field flag court in 2010 despite establishing a career high in home runs with 27, 19 of which came at Camden Yards.

The 1993 Orioles team ERA was 4.32. The 2010 Orioles team ERA was 4.59.

Will the next Eutaw Street home run be hit by the home team or the visitors? Vote in the poll on the sidebar.

Related Reading:

The Eutaw Street Year in Review (2009)

Luke Scott Closes in on Rafael Palmeiro for Most Eutaw Street Home Runs

What if the Warehouse Were in Left Field?


Friday, October 08, 2010

Which was the Orioles' best walk-off win in 2010?

There weren't many things the Baltimore Orioles did better than other teams this season; however, walk-off wins did become something of a specialty at Camden Yards in 2010. The O's enjoyed a dozen walk-offs, half of which came during Buck Showalter's tenure. Orioles Magic indeed.

The Birds walked-off against both the Red Sox (three times) and the Yankees. They pinned a loss on Jonathan Papelbon and a blown save on Mariano Rivera. They won on bunts, singles, doubles, a botched fielders' choice, and a home run.

Five Orioles had two walk-off hits in 2010: Adam Jones, Julio Lugo, Nick Markakis, and Ty Wiggington. Meanwhile, Cesar Izturis, Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, and Miguel Tejada rounded out the delightful dozen.

Markakis was in the walk-off mix most often, either as a hitter or as the winning run. And Ty Wiggington has to take the crown as best walk-off hitter of 2010 given that he beat both the Red Sox and the Yankees with his last-inning heroics.

But that still leaves this question: Which was the Orioles' best walk-off win of the 2010 season?

Here's the full list (in alphabetical order by player's last name) -

Cesar Izturis - Aug. 5, 2010, Orioles 5 - Angels 4
A one-out Izturis single off Francisco Rodriguez scores Julio Lugo, who pinch ran for Matt Wieters after the catcher led off the ninth inning with a double.

Adam Jones (1) - Aug. 6, 2010, Orioles 2 - White Sox 1
A two-out Adam Jones single plates Nick Markakis in the 10th inning. Neither team had scored since the top of the third inning. A Luke Scott single moved Markakis from first to third to set up Jones' game winner. It is the first and only time all season that the Orioles will win two consecutive games in walk-off fashion, demonstrating right from the start that these would indeed be different times under new manager Buck Showalter.

Adam Jones (2) - Aug. 16, 2010, Orioles 5 - Mariners 4
The bunt heard round the world. Okay, the bunt heard round Baltimore. Okay, okay, the bunt heard round Baltimore by those fans who hadn't already tuned out the Orioles in favor of Ravens training camp. Still, it was awesome. 

After matching the Mariners in the 10th inning, the Orioles pulled out the victory in the 11th when Adam Jones laid down a two-out bunt to score Nick Markakis from third base. Markakis doubled leading off the 11th inning and advanced to third base on a Ty Wiggington groundout.

Julio Lugo (1) - June 25, 2010, Orioles 7 - Nationals 6
The Orioles trailed 6-0 after three innings and still faced a three-run deficit headed into the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Orioles tied it. Cristian Guzman's throwing error while trying to turn two on a Julio Lugo grounder in the ninth gave the Orioles the win. Guzman's errant throw was the Nationals' fourth error of the day. Washington gave away the first game in what would turn out to be a three-game sweep.

Julio Lugo (2) - July 20, 2010, Orioles 11 - Rays 10
A Scott Moore sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 12th inning ensured that the Orioles wouldn't go home extra-innings losers. A Julio Lugo single to right in the bottom of the 13th ensured that the Orioles went home extra-innings winners.

Nick Markakis (1) - May 18, 2010, Orioles 4 - Royals 3
Nick Markakis' bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 10th sent Orioles fans home happy and gave Alfredo Simon his first major league win.

Nick Markakis (2) - June 6, 2010, Orioles 4 - Red Sox 3
Another single to center field, another extra-innings, walk-off victory - this one in 11.

Brian Roberts - Aug. 9, 2010, Orioles 3 - White Sox 2
Brian Roberts' first home run of the 2010 season wound up being the Orioles' only walk-off home run of the season. Roberts went deep in the bottom of the 10th inning off J.J. Putz. Alfredo Simon blew his fourth save of the season in the top of the ninth inning after allowing a leadoff home run to Paul Konerko.

Luke Scott (1) - Sept. 13, 2010, Orioles 4 - Blue Jays 3
Luke Scott doesn't just hit doubles and home runs. Scott's 11th inning single scores Nick Markakis, who reached base on a line-drive single and advanced on an infield groundout. Orioles win. Orioles win.

Miguel Tejada  (1) - April 30, 2010, Orioles 5 - Red Sox 4
Miguel Tejada follows up a game-tying, eighth-inning homer off hotshot Red Sox prospect - and likely successor to closer Jonathan Papelbon - Daniel Bard with a 10th inning single to score Adam Jones and secure the first win of the three-game series for the Birds. The win ends the Orioles' seven-game losing streak to the Red Sox at Camden Yards and sets up the first non-losing season series against Boston since 2004.

Ty Wiggington (1) - May 2, 2010, Orioles 3 - Red Sox 2
How sweep it is. The Orioles finish off an unlikely early-season sweep of the Red Sox when Ty Wiggington doubles home Nick Markakis in the bottom of the 10th inning for the team's second walk-off win of the three-game set. 

Wiggington, one of the team's lone bright spots during a dismal start to the season, is on his way to his first All-Star selection. Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, meanwhile, takes the second of his career-high seven losses in 2010. Papelbon also had a career-high eight blown saves.

Ty Wiggington (2) - Sept. 19, 2010, Orioles 4 - Yankees 3
Ty Wiggington deserves some kind of award for beating the Red Sox and the Yankees in the same season in walk-off fashion. Luke Scott provided the ninth-inning heroics in this one with a home run off Mariano Rivera to tie the score at three. Scott then led off the 11th inning with a double to left field, and Wiggington finished the job with a line-drive single.

The Verdict

So which was the best walk-off win of the 2010 season?

The way I see it (and I saw it in person), the Orioles saved the best for last. The Sept. 19th win against the Yankees was the Birds' best walk-off of 2010.

Consider that it featured the following improbable twists and turns:

-Longtime Orioles killer Andy Pettitte had just returned from the disabled list but was up to the same old tricks. Pettitte allowed one run in six innings, and the lethargic Orioles looked to be on their way to getting swept at home in their final series against New York.  

-Mariano Rivera entered to close the door in the ninth inning and received a standing ovation from the large Yankees contingent at Camden Yards. The only thing missing was "Enter Sandman." Oh, and the actual save thanks to Luke Scott.  

-And then there was the Mike Gonzalez Houdini act in the 11th inning. Gonzalez straight-jacketed himself with a leadoff walk and errant pick-off throw that put a runner on third with no outs. He then escaped unscathed with a strikeout and double play. Back-to-back intentional walks in between were the key.

Add in the fact that the Yankees were in the thick of the division race with the Rays while the Orioles were just trying to avoid 100 losses, and you've got yourself the best walk-off win of the 2010 season.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Don Larsen was far from perfect in Baltimore

It took one day for the Major League Baseball playoffs to produce a legendary moment. Roy Halladay became only the second pitcher in baseball history to throw a postseason no-hitter.The other was former Oriole Don Larsen, who pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.

While Halladay's postseason success seemed almost pre-ordained after a career-long playoff drought - although granted, not to this level - Larsen's success was anything but.

Two years before his World Series perfect game, Larsen set the Orioles record for losses in a season with 21. Think about it, during the franchise's first-ever season in Baltimore Larsen established a mark for futility that hasn't been matched since. Among individual Orioles records, only Bob Turley's mark for walks in a season, 181, has stood as long.

[Larsen and Joe Coleman also established the more obscure record of most losses to one team in 1954, Larsen with five against the White Sox and Coleman with five against the Yankees.]

Keep in mind, however, that the 1954 Orioles were a bad ball club, one that finished 54-100. The '54 Orioles' .351 win percentage is better than only one other Baltimore team - the 1988 Orioles (.335).

For comparison's sake - and with full acknowledgment that it's difficult to make judgments across time - Larsen's 1954 numbers aren't altogether different than Brian Matusz's numbers in 2010 aside from strikeouts (where Matusz's total is much better).

ERA: Larsen - 4.37 ERA in 28 starts; Matusz 4.30 in 32 starts

WHIP: Larsen - 1.498; Matusz 1.343

H/9: Larsen - 9.5, Matusz 8.9

While he turned it on down the stretch, Matusz already had nine losses halfway through his 32 starts.

All of which goes to show (jokingly) that we can expect a post-season no-hitter from Brian Matusz in two years' time.

Related Reading:

-Legendary Washington Post sports writer Shirley Povich's story about Larsen's perfect game

-Baltimore's Never Been Perfect (Roar from 34)

-Looking Back on Better Days: The Orioles' First No-Hitter (Roar from 34)


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The top five teams with a gripe toward the Orioles

For those of us fans whose teams are on the outside looking in during the playoffs (again), it's the time of year for season recaps. To that end, Roar from 34 considers which five teams have the biggest beef with the Orioles now that the season is over. Each team's record against the Orioles is in parentheses.

[Which team do you think has the biggest gripe with the Orioles? Vote in the poll in the sidebar. ]

5. New York Yankees (13-5) - The Yankees dominated the Orioles again in 2010. What's there to be upset about?

Dumb question. For Yankees fans, there's always something to be upset about. The Yankees finished one game back of the Rays in the A.L. East. Shouldn't they have gone 14-4 against Baltimore? 15-3? Heck, should they ever lose to the Birds?

The Yankees went 3-3 against the Buck Showalter Orioles during a stretch of the season where every game supposedly counts more (which actually makes no sense, but since when is sports logic actually logical?). Most painful among those losses to the Orioles was the Sept. 17 extra-innings defeat at Camden Yards following a Mariano Rivera blown save (Luuuuuuuke) that helped make the immortal closer appear more human headed into the playoffs.  

Still, any gripes Yankees fans have with the Orioles are misplaced. New York failed to win the season series against any other division opponent. The Yankees split with Boston (9-9) and lost the season series against both the Rays (8-10) and the Blue Jays (8-10). Think New York's ready to consider divisional realignment?  

4. Seattle Mariners (3-6) - If you had polled every American League manager at the All-Star break and asked which A.L. team was most likely to lose 100 games in 2010, my guess is the 59-loss Orioles would have been at the top of every ballot except one (If there's one thing I loved about interim manager Juan Samuel it was his optimism).

Ultimately, the Mariners were the American League's only 100-loss team thanks in part to the team's 3-6 record against the Orioles. One of those losses came on Adam Jones' two out, walk-off bunt. As if Seattle fans didn't hate Baltimore enough after that Erik Bedard deal.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (0-6) - The Angels were the only team that couldn't beat the Orioles, which helps explain why Los Angeles-Anaheim finished with an overall losing record (80-82) for the first time since 2003. It also was the first time since 2003 that the Angels finished below second place in their own division. To make matters worse, the Angels lost one of those games to the Orioles on a Cesar Izturis walk-off single, which accounted for one of Izturis' 28 total RBI in 2010.

2. Texas Rangers (4-6) - It's a mixed bag for Texas, but they still rank in the No. 2 spot given that: 1. The Rangers had a losing record against the Orioles, and 2. The Rangers finished four games behind Minnesota for post-season positioning.

The bad news is that four games separated the Rangers from playing the Yankees at home rather than playing Tampa on the road. The good news is that four games separated the Rangers from playing the Yankees at home rather than playing Tampa on the road.

The Rangers lost the League Division Series to the Yankees in 1996, 1998, and 1999 (i.e. the previous three times they won the A.L. West). Perhaps Rangers fans should be thanking the Orioles.

1. Boston Red Sox (9-9) - Last season, Red Sox writers blamed the Orioles for giving Red Sox fans inflated hopes. In short, the thinking was the O's were so bad that fans mistakenly took to thinking the Red Sox were good for beating them so frequently. It was a bit of a stretch.

This year, Red Sox fans have a legitimate gripe with the Birds. Hampered much of the season by injuries, the Red Sox had enough fight left in them to win 89 games and a record good enough for third place in the A.L. East and second place in the other American League divisions. Nevertheless, the season ended early in Boston this year leaving plenty of time to discuss woulda-coulda-shoulda scenarios.

The Orioles beat the Red Sox as often as the Yankees did in 2010. Included among the Orioles' victories was an 11th inning walk-off win in Baltimore (Don't you just love Hideki Okajima?); a 10th-inning victory at Fenway; and an unlikely, late-April sweep of the Red Sox at Camden Yards featuring a Ty Wiggington walk-off double against Jonathan Papelbon.

The Orioles entered the latter series with a 4-18 record while Boston was riding high - and looked to be turning a corner - after sweeping Toronto on the road. Instead, Baltimore surprised fans in both cities with a sweep of its own. Incredibly, the Red Sox won seven of 10 games in a stretch where the team's only losses came against the Orioles.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This Orioles fan is seeing red

Cincinnati Reds fans have waited longer than Baltimore Orioles fans to watch their team in the post-season. The Reds' last playoff appearance came in 1995, and they failed to make the post-season in 1999 despite winning 96 games.

Cincy fans have endured nine consecutive losing seasons (remember when nine seemed like a lot?).

And they're forced to cheer for T.O. on football Sundays.

So it's hard not to appreciate this.

If you're like me, watching Jay Bruce's division-clinching, walk-off homer against the Houston Astros sent you to daydreaming. It's pretty easy to turn those "Bruuuuuce" cheers into "Luuuuuuke."

Hats off to the Reds, including former Orioles pitcher Arthur Rhodes.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What they're saying about the Orioles ... Facebook edition

Readers of The Sun are familiar with the semi-regular media roundup known as "What they're saying about the Orioles." Thanks to Openbook, I can now do a similar feature of my own. It's called "What they're saying about the Orioles ... Facebook edition."

Here's a rundown of Facebook updates from the past eight hours that have included the word "Orioles." It seems Facebook users are most interested in attendance woes at The Trop, the anniversary of Ted Williams' final hit in a game against the Orioles, and the frustrating fact that the Rays weren't able to clinch the division against the last place Orioles.

Here's what's been said today on Facebook:
Randi Muller Dixon  GO RAYS Ferg is GIVING AWAY 50 free tickets to tonights Rays v Orioles  game. Be on the patio here at 6:30pm sharp. Participate and win. We'll test your knowledge of the Rays, baseball and who knows what...? FREE TICKETS! See you on the patio at 6:30pm. Don't be late.

[RF34 Note: Bag the trivia. It'll be hard enough to find 50 people who want to go to the game without jumping through hoops first.]
John Crowley  Note to the Rays: I know that you're upset of the lack of attendance but seriously concentrate on winning games especially you Price, concentrate on beating the Orioles.

Eric Geiple  wants to go to the Rays/Orioles game! It makes me sad that they could clinch the playoffs and only 10,000 people are showing up.. Obviously you haven't sucked since 1998.

Joe Aro  Tampa Bay doesn't deserve to have major league baseball. As good as that team is and nobody cares. Camden Yards would be packed every night (will be soon) if the Orioles were closing in on the A.L. East Title

Jim Miller  Watched the Tampa bay Orioles game. ALL 10 People at the game saw a great Orioles  win. Can't believe they can't draw more people to a Major League team in contention for a division crown. Oh well I wouldn't go either unless they were playing the YANKS.

Grant Holly  Ok, looking good this month Baltimore Orioles. Let's finish up the season on a high note!!

Rick Dennis  being a cubs and orioles fan I often forget baseball is still being played this time of year!

Rod Reder You are making multi millons per year, you are a grown man, get over it. 90% of the tri county population is struggling, it's on TV, it's the Orioles, it's a 6 hour day to travel from Pasco...etc

[RF34 note: This is in relation to Longoria griping about the lack of fans at Tropicana Field.]

Matthew Daniel Aragon III  The orioles will be good when the orioles get rid of Kevin Millwood and put Brian Matuz at ace. He is one the best underrated young pitchers who doesn't get noticed cuz the o's aren't doing anything special.

Michael Pizarro  O's win vs Tampa Bay! wat a game! 4-0! Baltimore Orioles 4 Tampa Bay Rays 0! Go O's! Go Showalter! Go Matuz! I'd rather see Tampa Bay win n da Yankees loose than the Boston Red Sox try 4 da post season! :)

 Scott Andrews  we cant beat the orioles, really ???? wtf

[RF34: Haven't been watching many games lately, have you Scott?]

Matthew Holding  seriously, can the orioles cap trend die, the iron man must be turning in his grave

Lee Weldon  Do I root for the Orioles to lose so that the Yankees don't get the penant? What a quandry!

[RF34 Note: Never actively root against the Orioles. Passively, maybe.]

Courtney St Amant  so the rays got shut out by the orioles?!!! we're obviously not ready for the playoffs if we cant even win against the orioles! kiss ass tonight boys!

[RF34 Note: See earlier comment in response to Scott. Oh, and I think - hope - you meant "kick."]

Joe Lourenco  Did the spankees lose again, to bad they dont play the Orioles everyday and CC can win more games against them lmao

Tim Reilly  9-28-1960, Ted Williams hit a home run in his last career at-bat as his team, the Boston Red Sox, defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 at Fenway Park. Nice to see that nothing has changed in 50 years.

Rebecca Roberts  Can see the city and the ocean from her balcony. What a view to wake up to. Going to the Salty Dog for some deep fried hotdogs and later to see the Rays play the Orioles!

John Gorman  When I was 3 or 4 my parents bought me a number 9 T-shirt. Ted Williams was my first hero. It was 50 yrs. ago today. The place: Fenway Park. The Red Sox were playing the Baltimore Orioles. Ted Williams took what would be the final swing of his long career for a home run. It remains the greatest finale in sports. www.tedwilliams.com The greatest hitter, Ted Williams, online autobiography. Baseball Hall of Famer, US Marine, fighter pilot & fishing Hall of Famer. Hitting tips, fan letters, ...

Jim Hilliker  Cmon Tampa Bay....beat by the Orioles ??? The Yankees want you to win !!!! At least the Red Sox won......

Jay Kelley 9/28/1960: Ted Williams hits a HR in his last career AB as the Boston Red Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 @ Fenway Park.

Eric Harris  12,446 fans at the Orioles/Rays game last night - totally embarrassing for a first place team in late September

Bruce Wallick  Looking forward to attending "Yeardley at the Yard" this Friday evening to benefit Notre Dame Prep through the "One Love Foundation" in building a turf field, Orioles v. Tigers!

Sharon Poore  Dang it! C'mon Tampa Bay! We just need 1!!! Those dang Orioles  have been kicking everyone's asses lately...what the hell happened? Are they juiced? lol oh well, at least NY Yankees lost too! RAYS are still #1!!!! dang! Phillies won too! dang! Now, let's go RAYS!!!!

Michael Sakata  Im calling it Baltimore Orioles 2011 AL East Champions no joke...

[RF34 Note: Any relation to Lenn, Michael?]

Monday, September 27, 2010

Baltimore: Football town or baseball town?

The Sun's Kevin Van Valkenburg penned a feature on Sunday that daydreams about what it would be like for Baltimore fans to have two competitive teams for which to cheer in September.

The article, "In this Charm City fantasy, late September means football and baseball," includes comments from fellow Blog-O's-phere members Stacey Long of Camden Chat and Chris Stoner of Baltimore Sports and Life as well as yours truly.

Here's what I had to say:
"I've thought a lot about whether this is a football town or baseball town," said Matt Taylor, who grew up an Orioles fan and started a blog, Roar From 34, in 2006 so he could vent. "I think what I've I settled on is that it's a sports town. The fans are willing to get behind any team as long as it's competitive. If one team struggles as badly as the Orioles have, people are going to lose interest. I think it wouldn't take much, just a .500 record, and people would still be talking about the team even when Ravens training camp started. The passion is there, but it's hard not be a little cynical."
So what sayeth you, dear reader? Given two competitive teams, would Baltimore be considered a football town or a baseball town? Vote in the poll in the sidebar.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Can Aubrey huff, puff his way into the post-season?

"Dress for the job you want, not the job you have." Ahem.

From his purple checkered pants to his red thong, former Oriole Aubrey Huff certainly doesn't dress for the job he has; whether he's in fact dressing for the job he wants is anybody's best guess.

Huff did not return a request for comment prior to the Roar from 34 deadline. [Note: I didn't actually contact Aubrey Huff.]

Sartorial savvy aside, Huff is making news these days for things that actually have to do with the game of baseball. As fans in Baltimore well know, that's not a taken-for-granted type thing.

Here are a few tidbits about Huff's chase for the post-season, his big numbers on bad teams, and his prospects for next season.

-Turns out that Huff was the losingest player of the 2000s. Playing for the Orioles will do that to a guy. Washington Post
Huff has played in 1,470 regular season games, which means he trails only Texas's Michael Young and St. Louis's Randy Winn among active players who have appeared in the most games without a playoff appearance. But neither Young nor Winn has suffered quite as acutely as Huff. He was the losingest player of the 2000s, which he spent primarily with the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles, appearing in 776 losses. (Winn was second, at 771.)

When I asked Huff if he has allowed himself to imagine that moment when the Giants clinch a playoff berth he said, "Oh, God, absolutely. How could you not? All that hard work, the mental grind, the misery, finally paying off? There's still a long way to go here, and there could still be a bad ending, but hopefully this is the year for me."

-Rays third baseman Evan Longoria recently became the fourth player in franchise history to tally consecutive 100 RBI seasons. The others: Fred McGriff (1999-00), Carlos Pena (2007-08-09) and Aubrey Huff (2003-04). MLB.com

-Like the Orioles, the Cubs need a first baseman for the 2011 season. The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan raises Huff's name as a possibility. Chicago Tribune
Paul, what are the chances that the Cubs resign Xavier Nady as their first basemen, instead of wasting money on Adam Dunn? Do they try to go value with Nady at first, if it would allow them to splurge on Carl Crawford? -- Chad, Kansas City. Mo.

Nady's agent, Scott Boras, is probably working on a 20-page mission statement regarding the value Nady has provided with his strong finish since Derrek Lee was traded and he got regular time at first. I like Nady, but his slow start while recovering from Tommy John surgery was one of the problems early on in 2010. The Cubs need a power hitting first baseman, preferably a left-handed hitter. If not Dunn, then perhaps a short-term, one-year fix like Aubrey Huff until they get more payroll flexibility in 2012.
-Finally, here's a USA Today profile from last week about Huff considering the prospects of playoff baseball.


Baltimore Orioles

Flashback Friday: Steady Eddie Doubles Down

Earlier this week, Nick Markakis become the third major league player to hit 43 or more doubles in four consecutive seasons. The other two players are Hall of Famers: Joe Medwick and Tris Speaker. There's another Hall of Famer, an Orioles legend, who made history by doing half as well for five times as long.

Fourteen years ago this week, on Sept. 24, 1996, Eddie Murray doubled in a 13-8 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Murray, who two weeks prior hit his 500th career home run, became only the second player to have 20 or more doubles in 20 consecutive seasons. The other was Speaker. Murray hit 560 doubles overall.

Speaker is Major League Baseball's career leader for doubles. The lefty outfielder totaled 792 doubles in 22 seasons with Boston, Cleveland, Washington, and Philadelphia. Speaker had 50 or more doubles in a season five times as well as five additional seasons where he hit 40 or more. His single-season best was 59 doubles in 1923.

Cal Ripken Jr. is the Orioles' career leader in the category with 602 doubles, the 13th most overall. Had it not been for the strike-shortened 1994 season, during which he hit 19 doubles, Ripken would have had 20 or more doubles in 18 consecutive seasons. His single-season best was 47 doubles in 1983.

Ripken is followed on the O's career doubles list by Brooks Robinson (482) and Murray (363). Brian Roberts currently trails Murray by 32 doubles.

Steady Eddie never had a 40-double season in 21 years in the bigs. His career high for a season was 37, set in 1985 and matched in 1992.

Murray had two RBI in the 1996 Boston game where he stroked his 20th double, and he added another on Sept. 27 to finish the season with 79 RBI. It was his 20th consecutive season with 75 or more RBI, which broke Hank Aaron's record of 19 straight seasons.

As is the case with doubles, Murray trails only Ripken and Robinson for career RBI in an Orioles uniform. And, as is the case with doubles, Roberts is the current Orioles player closest to Murray for RBI. Roberts trails Murray in career RBI for Baltimore by 766.

[This article also appeared on Camden Chat.]


Baltimore Orioles

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Who is Baltimore's best bunter?

Baltimore's baseball players have been getting on base without hitting the ball very far since the late 19th century. Back then, with the help of the groundskeeper and some tightly packed dirt, the Baltimore Chop turned into the stuff of legend.

Before becoming Baltimore's baseball franchise, the St. Louis Browns made a name for themselves by allowing short hits to Nap Lajoie - bunt singles, to be specific - as part of an infamous doubleheader that shaped the 1910 batting race.

(Jon Wertheim tells that story in the recent Sports Illustrated article, "The Amazing Race").

All this to say that Baltimore - the home of pitching, defense, and the three-run homer - also has some small ball in its blood. Just ask Adam Jones.

A little more than a month after he won a game with a walk-off bunt in the 11th inning, Jones plated the Orioles' first run on Sunday against the Yankees with yet another two-out RBI bunt single. In the process, he tied Cesar Izturis for the team lead in bunt hits with seven. Both players are tied with Ichiro for fifth place for bunt hits in the American League.

Overall, the Orioles have the sixth most bunt hits in the American League and are in line with the league average of 20.

Though he has played in roughly 50 fewer games than either Jones or Izturis, Corey Patterson currently has the third-most bunt hits on the team with five. That should come as no surprise to anyone who follows this stat, which means that anyone reading this is now surprised.

Patterson led the team in bunt hits in 2006 and 2007; his 17 bunt hits in 2006 are the most ever recorded for an Orioles player (the stats go back to 1988).

If Patterson is the master of the bunt hit in Baltimore, Melvin Mora is surely his apprentice. Mora led the Orioles in bunt hits for three consecutive seasons (four times overall) and finished second to Patterson in the category in 2006. He had 16 bunt hits in 2001.

As if all this information weren't trivial enough, here's your final piece of bunt hit trivia: 1991 American League MVP and All Star Game MVP Cal Ripken Jr. tied Brady Anderson for the team lead in bunt hits that season with four.

On to the numbers:

2010 American League Leaders - Bunt Hits

1. Erick Aybar - 16
2. Julio Borbon - 13
3. Elvis Andrus - 11
4. Juan Pierre - 10
5. Ichiro Suzuki - 7
5. Adam Jones - 7
5. Cesar Izturis - 7
8. Ben Zobrist - 6
8. Sean Rodriguez - 6
8. Cliff Pennington - 6
8. Chone Figgins - 6

Baltimore Orioles team leaders in bunt hints, by season

Brian Roberts, 2009 - 3
Melvin Mora, 2008 - 6
Corey Patterson, 2007 - 12
Corey Patterson, 2006 - 17
Melvin Mora, 2005 - 12
Melvin Mora, 2004 - 7
Melvin Mora, 2003 - 6
Jerry Hairston, 2002 - 7
Mevlin Mora, 2001 - 16
Luis Matos, 2000 - 3
Gene Kingsale & Mike Bordick, 1999 - 3
Roberto Alomar, 1998 - 5
B.J. Surhoff, Mike Bordick & Roberto Alomar, 1997 - 2
Roberto Alomar, 1996 - 9
Curtis Goodwin, 1995 - 5
Brady Anderson, 1994 - 5
Harold Reynolds, 1993 - 8
Billy Ripken & Joe Orsulak, 1992 - 3
Cal Ripken & Brady Anderson, 1991 - 4
Steven Finley, 1990 - 6
Phil Bradley & Brady Anderson, 1989 - 3
Rick Schu & Brady Anderson, 1988 - 4

Related reading:

"Walk-off bunts are nothing new in Baltimore" (Camden Chat)

"Bunting for a Hit with 2 Outs and a RISP from the 4 Hole" (Baseball Reference Blog)

"The Amazing Race" (Sports Illustrated)


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is there room enough in the A.L. East for everyone to win?

The Orioles' inspired play under Buck Showalter has reignited hopes in Baltimore that the team's prolonged chase for a winning record can mercifully end sooner rather than later. While the ultimate goal - the dream, really - is to reach the top of the division ladder, playing .500 baseball or better over the course of a full season is the first rung on that climb. After all, it hasn't happened for 13 consecutive seasons.

But would a .500 record be satisfying for fans if it still left the Birds in last place? It's entirely possible - though perhaps not probable - that such a thing could happen. 

Only once since Major League Baseball introduced the Central Division in 1994 has every team in a division finished .500 or better. The Washington Nationals finished in last place in the N.L. East in 2005 with an 81-81 record.

The Nationals essentially had as good a chance at winning their division in 2005 as they did at winning the Wild Card. The entire N.L. East was separated by only nine games in the standings that season while the Nationals finished eight games off the Wild Card pace.

On five other occasions there have been divisions where four teams finished .500 or better: the 2000 N.L. West, 2003 N.L. East, 2007 N.L. West, 2008 N.L. Central, and 2008 A.L. East. The Blue Jays (73-72) are chasing a sixth occasion, but the Orioles are making it difficult for them. It seems every division series offers the O's a chance to play some version of a spoiler role here down the stretch.

Would you be satisfied with a .500 record in 2011 if the Orioles still finished in last place? Vote in the poll on the sidebar.


Baltimore Orioles

Division Races with four or more teams playing .500 baseball or better

2000 N.L. West
San Francisco Giants       SFG     97     65     .599     --
Los Angeles Dodgers       LAD     86     76     .531     11.0
Arizona Diamondbacks   ARI      85     77     .525     12.0
Colorado Rockies             COL     82     80     .506     15.0
San Diego Padres             SDP     76     86     .469     21.0

2003 N.L. East
Atlanta Braves           ATL     101     61     .623     --
Florida Marlins          FLA        91     71     .562     10.0
Philadelphia Phillies  PHI        86     76     .531     15.0
Montreal Expos         MON     83     79     .512     18.0
New York Mets         NYM     66     95     .410     34.5

2005 N.L. East
Atlanta Braves             ATL         90     72     .556     --
Philadelphia Phillies     PHI         88     74     .543     2.0
Florida Marlins             FLA        83     79     .512     7.0
New York Mets            NYM       83     79     .512     7.0
Washington Nationals WSN        81     81     .500     9.0

2007 N.L. West
Arizona Diamondbacks     ARI      90     72     .556     --
Colorado Rockies               COL     90     73     .552     0.5
San Diego Padres              SDP      89     74     .546     1.5
Los Angeles Dodgers        LAD     82     80     .506     8.0
San Francisco Giants        SFG     71     91     .438     19.0

2008 N.L. Central
Chicago Cubs             CHC       97     64     .602     --
Milwaukee Brewers MIL       90     72     .556     7.5
Houston Astros        HOU       86     75     .534     11.0
St. Louis Cardinals   STL        86     76     .531     11.5
Cincinnati Reds        CIN         74     88     .457     23.5
Pittsburgh Pirates   PIT         67     95     .414     30.5

2008 A.L. East
Tampa Bay Rays      TBR      97      65      .599      --
Boston Red Sox        BOS      95     67     .586     2.0
New York Yankees  NYY     89     73     .549     8.0
Toronto Blue Jays    TOR     86     76     .531     11.0
Baltimore Orioles     BAL      68     93     .422     28.5

Friday, September 10, 2010

Was Meatloaf right: Two out of three ain't bad?

This week's Flashback Friday post on Roar from 34 revisits the last time the Baltimore Orioles swept the New York Yankees in the Bronx. It happened back in 1986 and woulda, coulda, shoulda didn't happen earlier this week thanks to a Nick Swisher walk-off home run.

It's not just the road where the O's have struggled to complete a sweep of the Yankees. Baltimore hasn't swept New York at home since the final three games of the 2000 season. So while two out of three ain't bad, and the games don't really mean anything in the standings for the Birds, it still would've been great to take that third game in New York this week.

All this got me wondering where Wednesday's loss ranks in terms of missed sweep opportunities against the Yankees. At the very least it's the worst sweep-averting Yankees win since 2001, but to my mind it's easily the worst sweep-averting Yankees win this decade, and century for that matter.

Since 2000 the Orioles have entered the third game of a series against the Yankees with a chance at the sweep 13 times. They've won that third game exactly once. Three of the 12 losses have come by one run, and three of the twelve losses have come by 10 runs (the score was 13-3 each time).

On only two occasions before Wednesday had the Orioles lost a "sweep game" in the ninth inning or later. Both times it involved a bases loaded walk.

In 2004 Jorge Julio issued a bases loaded, ninth inning walk at Yankee Stadium in a game the Birds lost 4-3. In 2001, Willis Roberts failed to hold the lead for the O's at home in the ninth inning, surrendering a sacrifice fly that tied the game at four. The Yankees then won the contest in the 10th inning on a bases loaded walk by John Parrish.

Here's the full rundown of potential sweep games against the Yankees since 2000.

April 6 to 8, 2009 @ Home - Lost the last game 11-2
Sept. 11 to 13, 2009 @ NY - Lost the last game 13-3

April 18 to 20, 2008 @ Home - Lost the last game 7-1
May 26 to 28, 2008 @ Home - Lost the last game 4-2
July 28 to July 30, 2008 @NY - Lost the last game 13-3

June 26 to 28 @ Home - Lost the last game 8-7
July 27 to 29 @ Home - Lost the last game 10-6

April 6 to 18 @ Home - Lost the last game 13-3

Sept. 3 to 5 @ NY - Lost the last game 4-3

Aug. 23 to 25 @ NY - Lost the last game 5-2

June 25 to 27 @ Home - Lost the last game 3-2

Sept. 21 to 23 @ Home - Lost the last game 5-4

Three game sweep to end the season, Sept. 29 to Oct 1. Scores: 13-2, 9-1, 7-3


Flashback Friday: Sweeping the Yankees in the Bronx has never been easy

The Orioles came tantalizingly close to sweeping the New York Yankees this week. It would have been the Birds' first three-game sweep in New York since 1986 when they shut down the Yanks in a series from June 6th through 8th.

Scott McGregor, Mike Boddicker, and Ken Dixon picked up the wins for Baltimore that weekend in a trio of games the O's won by scores of 5-2, 7-5, and 18-9, respectively. Don Aase earned the first two saves of the series while Tippy Martinez finished the sweep with the last of his 115 career saves, his only one during the 1986 season.

Sunday's wild finale in 1986 may as well have been Old Timers Day at the ballpark. The 36-year-old and soon-to-retire Martinez pitched 3.1 innings, allowed three runs on six hits, struck out two, and walked one. His line was better than that of 43-year-old Tommy John, who went three innings, allowed four runs on seven hits, and recorded no strikeouts or walks.

Both pitchers entered the game due to unique circumstances.

Martinez was Weaver's only rested relief option when he came into the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth. Weaver was limited to eight available pitchers for the weekend series due to Mike Flanagan's trip to the disabled list and Nate Snell's bruised foot that kept him back in Baltimore.

Tippy wasn't particularly stressed about the prospect of impressing his manager and ending the O's meltdown.

"I knew he'd be patient with me," he said of Weaver. "He didn't have anyone else."

The lefty promptly struck out Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, who homered the previous night, to stifle a New York rally that closed a 7-1 gap to one run. Former Oriole Gary Roenicke drew a bases loaded walk earlier in the Yankees' five-run sixth inning. The offense provided Martinez an extra seven runs of insurance to work with in the top of the seventh inning. All of the runs came at the expense of 23-year-old Yankees rookie, and future Oriole, Doug Drabek.

The O's bullpen had been key to the team's success during a 20-6 run they enjoyed prior to the Sunday finale. The group posted a 7-0 record with 11 saves and a 1.66 ERA.

Aase, who had spent nearly two full seasons on the disabled list following reconstructive elbow surgery in 1982, led the bullpen charge as he worked toward a career-high 34 saves and his lone All Star appearance in 1986. One night earlier he made his 25th appearance of the season and earned his 16th save.

"He's the biggest difference in this team," Lynn said after the Saturday win. "We're playing well and getting some big hits but, right now, we've got that guy to come in and shut the door. That means so much to a team. You start believing you're not going to lose in the late innings."

Tommy John took the loss on Saturday after giving up six runs - three of them earned - in four innings of work. He then became the fifth Yankees pitcher on Sunday when he appeared in relief of Al Holland, who pulled a hamstring after tossing five pitches to Lynn.

After two fleet contests that each ended in well under three hours, Sunday's series finale turned out to be the longest-nine inning game in American League history. The game lasted four hours and sixteen minutes, not including a 40-minute rain delay along the way. The total topped the previous longest game by five minutes.

"A record, huh?" Weaver asked afterward. "Does it go to the Hall of Fame or the Hall of Shame? The thing is, how would you like to sit through something like this and go home a loser?"

Lee Lacy made sure that didn't happen. Lacy, who emphasized after the game that he was a "line-drive hitter," ripped three home runs, the third of which caused Rick Dempsey to feign fainting in the dugout. Larry Sheets added a blast into the black center field bleachers at Yankee Stadium on what was in fact Bat Day in the Bronx.
Overall, the Birds totaled 22 hits.

The sweep was the Orioles' first against the Yankees since Aug. 8-10, 1980, and put some early distance between the second-place Birds and the third-place Yankees. Not that Weaver was doing any celebrating.

"I told my players if they ever miss curfew again, they're going to have to watch a tape of this damn game," he said. "I've been around a long time. Hell, I was around a long time today."

Perhaps Weaver knew what was coming.

Baltimore finished the 1986 season in last place in the seven-team American League East with a 73-89 record, 22.5 games behind the first-place Red Sox. The 90-win Yankees finished in second-place by 5.5 games.

[This post appeared Thursday on Camden Chat.]


Baltimore Orioles

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Thirty home runs used to mean something. It still should.

Luke Scott has never truly received the appreciation he deserves during his time in Baltimore, in part because his feast-or-famine routine at the plate leaves him starved for hits for extended stretches. As full seasons go, 2010 has been Scott's most impressive effort over the long haul as he continues adding to a career-high home run total that currently rests at 26. Hitting 30 would move him into some elite Orioles company and hopefully earn him some acknowledgment.

Baseball's steroids era inflated home run expectations among fans. At this time in 1998 Mark McGwire was busy burying Roger Maris' single-season home run record and in the process making 30 homers appear pedestrian. Consider, though, that only 14 players in O's history have hit 30 or more home runs in a season, led by Eddie Murray who did it five times.

Gus Triandos was the first Oriole to pass the 30 homer mark. He did so in 1958.

The '60s brought a relative power surge to Baltimore as the O's had batters with 30 or more home runs in six different seasons. Meanwhile, Jim Gentile and Frank Robinson became the franchises' first 40 home run hitters. Gentile whacked 46 in 1961, Robinson 49 in 1966. The 1990s Orioles matched that effort with 30 home runs in six different seasons, topped by Brady Anderson's 50 in 1996 and Palmeiro's 43 in 1998.

On the flip side, Boog Powell and Ken Singleton were the only Orioles to break the 30-homer mark in the '70s. Powell (1970) and Singleton (1979) each totaled 35 home runs in a season. Baltimore has never had fewer 30 home run seasons in a full decade.

So Luke Scott will have accomplished a fairly rare feat in Baltimore should he hit four more homers this season, but unfortunately it's not likely to make him much more memorable. After all, can you name the last three Orioles to hit more than 30 home runs? [See the chart below for the answer.]


Related Recommended Reading: Dempsey's Army - "Luke Scott: An Appreciation"

Baltimore Orioles 30 Home Run Seasons By Decade

2008 - Aubrey Huff 32
2004 - Miguel Tejada 34
2002 - Tony Batista 32

1999- Albert Belle 37
1998 - Rafael Palmeiro 43
1997 - Rafael Palmeiro 38
1996 - Brady Anderson 50, Rafael Palmeiro 39
1995 - Rafael Palmeiro 39
1991 - Cal Ripken 34

1987 - Larry Sheets 31, Eddie Murray 30
1985 - Eddie Murray 31
1983 - Eddie Murray 30
1982 - Eddie Murray 32
1980 - Eddie Murray 32

1979 - Ken Singleton 35
1970 - Boog Powell 35

1969 - Boog Powell 37, Frank Robinson 32
1967 - Frank Robinson 30
1966 - Frank Robinson 49, Boog Powell 34
1964 - Boog Powell 39
1962 - Jim Gentile 33
1961 - Jim Gentile 46

1958 - Gus Triandos 30

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Interview with "High Heat" author Tim Wendel - Part Three

The third and final installment of my interview with High Heat author Tim Wendel considers hard-throwing closers and the brotherhood that develops among baseball's hardest throwers.

Why do you suppose that more of these guys don’t end up as closers with it being so difficult to put it all together when you have this gift?

I think it’s somewhat the money involved. It’s funny because one of the major characters in High Heat is David Price, and I caught up with David last year, because David was kind of the phenom of last year, and he was kind of going through some of the things that Strasburg and Chapman are going through now. At one point he was down at Durham in Triple-A, which ironically is where Bull Durham is set and things kind of came together on that end, and at one point he’s talking and he says “Maybe I should just go to the bullpen, maybe I could get up there quicker.” But I would’ve been really surprised if the Rays would’ve had him do that in part because I just think once there’s so much money involved and starting pitching is at such a premium then if somebody can make it as a starter you’re probably better off having them do that.

Ironically, I think one of the best closers around these days, Jonathan Papelbon with the Red Sox, went against that grain. It’s kind funny at times in doing this book how certain eras and things are kind of clicked together. Norm Sherry caught Koufax and was very close to when Koufax literally turned his career around in like about two to three weeks during spring training. In interviewing Norm I asked him “Who do you like watching today? Who really lights up your circuits?” And the first guy he named was Papelbon, which I found amazing because Sherry lives out in Southern California, but he watches the games and as he says, “I try not to miss Jonathan Papelbon. He really gets me excited.”

It’s interesting, at times we think everything in baseball is happening right now, but whether it’s Norm Sherry, or Bob Feller, or even Nolan Ryan, they’re all kind of watching who’s coming along and who’s the next fireballer, because they can really relate to them.

Even within this summer we’re kind of seeing the gift and the curse at the same time where Strasburg comes out and is doing so well so far, but then you’ve got someone like Zumaya who’s struggled with injury, and who knows what happens with his career. Do you think that’s fair, do you think there’s an accurate parallel there?

[Note: We conducted this phone interview one day after Joel Zumaya fractured his elbow on June 28.]

Yeah. You know It pained me to see what happened with Zumaya, because Zumaya made the list of maybe the top dozen fireballers in High Heat in part because more of the potential and the promise more than anything he’s done so far. I guess it shows how fine the line is and how much stress, and torque, and punishment the arm takes when you’re talking about throwing this hard. At times we tend to take a lot of this for granted as fans or maybe people who cover the game.

Strasburg, for example, is doing phenomenal right now. I think he certainly has proven he’s more ready for prime time than the eight other guys he’s taking the field with half the time. I was watching the game when he was in Cleveland and he was having trouble with the mound and at one point he slipped and you just go “Oh!” All it takes is something like that and there goes a career.

Will Joel Zumaya ever throw as hard as he once did? I don’t know after watching the tape of what happened last night. You talk about Sandy Koufax who went literally in three weeks from a journeyman to all world and being able to suddenly spot his fastball and suddenly gain control of his curve. You look at the price he paid in terms of what it did to his arm, the arthritis, the types of medications he was taking just to get through those last couple seasons. Even someone like Nolan Ryan who could probably go out today and throw, I don’t know, probably 92 or 93, still just the mental anguish he went through.

I think sometimes we just kind of think “Oh yeah, somebody like Stephen Strasburg, he’s got it made” or somebody like Sandy Koufax, “Yeah, Hall of Fame,” and you don’t see the price and you don’t see the real things they had to go through. They all know this next pitch might be my last one. You had to think that’s what ran through poor Joel Zumaya’s head last night.

Is there anything else you’d like to highlight?

Once these guys get to this point, or even if they get close, I think they realize they’re part of a brotherhood, and they really take pride in that. There are so many different ways you can look at baseball. You can follow the great teams, you can follow the different eras – the Deadball Era and that goes to the Golden Era before and after World War II, etc. – I think another key thread you can follow through the game is just following the fastball pitchers. And these guys, even the contemporary ones, they kind of know that to a certain extent.

Again, I’m back to Tim Lincecum a little bit. Tim Lincecum is not a baseball historian. You ask him “Gosh, 1975 World Series,” and he’ll just kind of be looking at you like “Who played?” and “What happened?” and “Oh, that was Carlton Fisk? Okay, yeah, I think I kind of know him.” But then the thing is you start talking about the names we were just talking about, the names that are through High Heat. Okay, Walter Johnson, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, JR Richard, Nolan Ryan, etc. And all of the sudden he knows all those people. He may not be in contact with them, but he knows at least in broad strokes what they were about and what they did. And it’s funny you get him talking about his windup or his delivery and a great many of these guys they’ll go “Oh yeah, I do a little bit like Koufax did here, and I then I do a little like Nolan Ryan did here, that was my stride to the plate,” whatever it may be. So early on, and I think it starts way back when they’re at a pretty young age, they start hearing these names, and part of it is I better start knowing their stories, because maybe if I start knowing the stories well enough of the guys that I’m hopefully trying to follow in the footsteps of then maybe I can succeed, too. That was a pretty cool thing to find in doing High Heat.