Last week, Eutaw Street Report writer Andrew Stetka accepted @pizzacutter4’s challenge to pick one player from each roster of the last 25 seasons of Orioles Baseball to complete a “Super Roster,” so to speak. Without reading Mr. Stetka’s choices, I decided it would be a fun idea to do the very same thing, and then have you, the readers, compare the two rosters. In addition to the 25-man rosters, I also figured out how this team would fare in a 162-game season using some of my own calculations and the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball.
So, without further ado, my 25-man roster of the last 25 years of Orioles Baseball!
1992: SP Mike Mussina
In the case of “The Moose,” he almost certainly saved his best for first in his brilliant career. In his age-23 season, his first full season in the majors, Mike Mussina notched a league-leading .783 winning percentage by going 18-5, the first of 17 straight 11+ win seasons, an American League record that still stands. His 2.54 ERA was the lowest of his career, and the third lowest in the AL that season. Mussina threw 241 innings in ’92, second only to his 1996 campaign in which he logged 243.1 IP, and his 1.079 WHIP was the third-lowest of his career. Mussina was an All-Star in 1992 and finished 4th in Cy Young voting, making him the clear roster choice for the ’92 season.
1993: SP Ben McDonald
The number one overall pick in 1989, Ben McDonald was touted as the next Roger Clemens; a can’t-miss prospect out of Louisiana State University. While McDonald compiled a 78-70 record with a 3.90 ERA over his Major League career, he never fully lived up to his potential, and a slew of injuries forced his early retirement at the age of 29.
But for one season in 1993, the REAL “Big Ben” flashed the talent that made him one of the most highly coveted prospects in baseball. In his age-25 season, McDonald made 34 starts, compiling a 13-14 record with a sterling 3.39 ERA in 220.1 innings, including seven complete games and one shutout, teaming with Mussina to compose what many believed would be one of the best 1-2 combos in all of baseball for years to come.
Unfortunately for McDonald and the Orioles, things didn’t work out that way, but for one magical summer in 1993, he was exactly who the Orioles envisioned he would be.
*Note*- Chris Hoiles drew serious consideration for ’93 after batting .310 with 29 HR and 82 RBI, but as we all know, good pitching beats good hitting.
1994: SS Cal Ripken
Already having two AL MVP awards to his name, baseball’s Iron Man was on his way to more hardware in 1994, leading the Orioles in hits and trailing only Rafael Palmeiro in AVG and RBI when play ended on August 10th. Cal was on pace for a .315/.364/.459 slash line with 19 HR, 108 RBI, 102 R, and 202 hits when work-stoppage halted play on August 11th. That ended the Orioles’ season after 112 games, leaving Cal with 13 HR, 75 RBI, 71 R, and 140 hits.
Ripken would never again hit over .300 over a full season, but in 1994 Cal was as good as ever.
1995: 1B Rafael Palmeiro
You can’t compile a list like this without including Rafael Palmeiro, and no amount of finger-wagging is going to change that. In 1995, Palmeiro led the Orioles in AVG, H, HR, RBI, and SLG, batting .310/.380/.583 with 39 HR and 104 RBI all while playing .997 defense at first base. He was the unquestioned offensive force in that lineup, as evidenced by his 6.1 WAR.
1996: CF Brady Anderson
1996 was Brady Anderson’s coming-out party. The 32-year-old outfielder had a banner year, batting .297/.396/.637 with 50 HR, 110 RBI, 117 R, 37 2B, and 21 SB. He set career highs in AVG, H, R, HR, RBI, 2B, and SLG while leading the Orioles to their first playoff appearance since 1983. Anderson also became to first player to record a 20 HR/50 SB season and a 50 HR/20 SB season in his career. His 12 leadoff home runs in 1996 led all of MLB and are second all-time to Alfonso Soriano‘s 13 in 2003.
1997: Jimmy Key
This was a close call between Jimmy Key and Scott Erickson. Ultimately, I chose Key, mainly because he was a left-handed pitcher. His 1997 numbers certainly back up his inclusion on this roster. Key started ’97 with a bang, winning his first eight decisions, and he was 11-1 before losing five of six starts to bring him back down to earth. All told, Key went 16-10 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.375 WHIP in 212.1 IP over 34 starts. Key’s 16 wins tied for the team lead and helped propel the 98-win Orioles to their first division title since 1983.
1998: LF Eric Davis
Though 1998 was the beginning of the Dark Ages for the Baltimore Orioles, one player was able to turn back the clock and return to his former glory. In 1998, Eric Davis hit .327/.388/.582 with 28 HR, 29 2B, 89 RBI, and 81 R. In his age-36 season, Davis set career-highs in AVG, H, 2B, and SLG. Davis also recorded a hit in 30 consecutive games, a franchise record that still stands today.
1999: IF/OF B.J. Surhoff
1999 presented arguably the hardest roster decision to make. The Orioles offense was potent, compiling a slash-line of .279/.353/.447 with 203 HR and 851 R. This roster spot came down to two players: B.J. Surhoff and Albert Belle. While Belle led the team with 37 HR, 117 RBI, and 101 BB, Surhoff led the team with 207 H and 38 2B, and trailed only Belle with 28 HR and 107 RBI, respectively.
Defense set the two apart, as Surhoff committed 0 errors in 148 games in LF while throwing out 16 baserunners.
All-in-all, Surhoff hit .308/.347/.492 with 104 R to go along with his gaudy HR and RBI numbers while making the lone All-Star appearance of his career.
2000: C Charles Johnson
As many Orioles fans remember, 2000 was the year things started to get really ugly. Under the tutelage of General Manager Syd Thrift, the O’s made a flurry of moves in the four days leading up to the trade deadline, trading away Mike Bordick, Will Clark, Harold Baines, Charles Johnson, Mike Timlin, and B.J. Surhoff for what amounted to Melvin Mora and a bag of baseballs.
Who can forget Surhoff’s teary-eyed farewell after being traded to Atlanta?
Lost in the mayhem, Charles Johnson had put together a strong campaign before being traded to the Chicago White Sox. Though he only played 84 games for the Orioles, the backstop was hitting .294/.364/.570 with 21 HR and 55 RBI before he was jettisoned out of town. In all, Johnson finished the 2000 season batting .304/.379/.582 with 31 HR and 91 RBI between Chicago and Baltimore, all career-highs.
2001: IF/OF Jeff Conine
The 2001 Baltimore Orioles were just plain awful. Their 63 wins were the fewest in a 162-gm season since 1991. While the pitching staff’s 4.67 ERA ranked 10th in the AL, the offense was downright atrocious, finishing last or second-to-last in AVG, OBP, SLG, H, HR, R, 2B, OPS, and TB.
The lone bright spot was Jeff Conine, who quietly hit .311/.386/.443 with 14 HR and 97 RBI. While those are solid numbers, Conine makes this list simply because there was no one else.
2002: RP Buddy Groom
The 2002 Baltimore Orioles were staying afloat late into August. When play ended on August 23rd, the Birds were a respectable 63-63. Then the wheels fell off. The team went 4-32 in their final 36 games, with losing streaks of 8, 10, and 12 games during the stretch.
Though the team faltered, Buddy Groom did not. Groom posted a solid season, going 3-2 with a 1.60 ERA, 2 SV, and a 0.903 WHIP in 70 games covering 62 IP. Though the team as a whole was terrible, Groom’s inclusion on this roster was well earned and well deserved.
2003: RP B.J. Ryan
The 2003 Orioles were the definition of mediocrity. A number of position players had decent years, but nothing worth taking up a roster spotm on our list. Sidney Ponson was solid, but also not quite deserving.
So in steps B.J. Ryan, mainly because he was a big, dominant lefty reliever just coming into his prime. Ryan was solid in 2003, going 4-1 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.371 WHIP in 76 games covering 50.1 IP. He had more dominant seasons later in his career, but his inclusion here, much like Jeff Conine in 2001, is more out of necessity and lack of good options than anything else.
2004: SS Miguel Tejada
Okay, so we all know how prominent Miguel Tejada was in the Mitchell Report, and we all know that he apparently lied about his age during his career. But in 2004, Tejada rewarded the Orioles for their six-year/$72m commitment by bashing .311/.360/.534 with 34 HR, a franchise-record 150 RBI, 40 2B, 203 H, and 107 R.
Tejada was an All-Star, and helped give a disenchanted fanbase something to cheer about in his first season in Baltimore. Melvin Mora was close to getting the 2004 nod, but Tejada simply put together one of the greatest seasons in Orioles history in 2004.
2005: 2B Brian Roberts
Through the first three seasons of his career, Brian Roberts proved to be a capable second baseman and leadoff hitter for the Orioles. Nothing spectacular, but solid nonetheless. Then in 2005, Roberts and the Orioles rocketed out of the gate. Roberts mashed eight home runs to go along with 26 RBI and 10 SB in the season’s first month, and had propelled the Orioles to 14-games above .500 by June 21st. On June 23rd, the team had spent 62 games in first place.
While the Orioles’ momentum proved to be unsustainable (the team finished in 4th place with 74 wins), Roberts never really slowed down. He finished his first All-Star season batting .314/.387/.515 with 18 HR, 73 RBI, 45 2B, 27 SB, 92 R, and 176 H. Though a gruesome elbow injury ended his season prematurely, Roberts was the clear choice for 2005.
2006: RP Chris Ray
Blame the Orioles’ recent resurgence for Chris Ray receiving the nod for the 2006 roster spot. Erik Bedard had a 15-win campaign in ’06, but pitchers in more recent seasons out performed him, clearing room for Ray. In arguably his best season in the majors, Ray went 4-4 with a 2.73 ERA, 33 SV and a 1.091 WHIP in 61 games covering 66 IP. In 2007, the hard-throwing closer underwent Tommy John Surgery and never returned to the form that made him a formidable bullpen piece for the Orioles in the mid-2000’s.
2007: RF Nick Markakis
In just his second MLB season, the former first-round pick built on his solid rookie campaign in impressive fashion, slashing .300/.362/.485 with 23 HR, 112 RBI, 43 2B, 191 H, 97 RS, and 18 SB while leading the club in nine offensive categories. Defensively, Markakis flashed the leather, committing just two errors to go along with his 13 outfield assists, introducing his laser arm a force to be reckoned with over his career with the Orioles.
Though Markakis played nine solid seasons for the Birds, none came close to duplicating his 2007 output, hence his inclusion on this roster here.
2008: RP Jim Johnson
If I said that Jim Johnson would make this roster, many would believe his inclusion would be for one of his back-to-back 50-save seasons. Those folks would be mistaken. In his first full season in MLB, Johnson went 2-4 with a 2.23 ERA, 1 SV and a 1.194 WHIP in 54 games covering 68.2 IP. The 2.23 ERA is still his lowest ERA for any season to date. Perhaps most remarkable about Johnson’s 2008 season is the number 0 – that’s how many home runs the 6’6″ righty surrendered in his rookie season. While Jim Johnson would become a household name in Baltimore for what he did upon assuming the role of closer, the 2008 season put him on the map.
2009: SP Brad Bergesen
Brad Bergesen may be an odd inclusion on this list, given that he only made 19 starts in 2009, but he most certainly was the lone diamond on an otherwise rough pitching staff. Bergesen went 7-5 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.281 WHIP in 123.1 IP in 2009 while registering quality starts in 13 of his 19 games started.
Unfortunately for Bergesen and the Orioles, a line drive off the bat of Billy Butler would break his leg and cut his rookie season short, while also derailing his career. Bergesen would never again reach the heights of his 2009 rookie campaign, and four seasons later, he was out of baseball.
2010: RP Koji Uehara
The 2010 Baltimore Orioles would continue a trend of bad baseball that would wind up reaching 14 seasons in length. Winning just 66 games, the offense was putrid, and the pitching staff was worse. Manager Dave Trembley would end up losing his job by the first week of June, paving the way for Buck Showalter to take the helm by early August.
Lost in the shuffle was Koji Uehara, pitching in just his second season after coming over from Japan. In 2010, Koji went 1-2 with a 2.86 ERA and 0.955 WHIP in 43 games covering 44 IP. More impressively, Uehara walked only five batters all season, flashing the remarkable control that would eventually make him a key piece on a World Championship team in Boston a few seasons later.
2011: C Matt Wieters
Touted as “Jesus in Cleats” and “Joe Mauer with Power,” Matt Wieters had legendary expectations before he even stepped foot on a Major League diamond – expectations that would prove nearly impossible to live up to. But to his credit, Wieters has put together a solid career, making four All-Star appearances and winning two Gold Glove awards behind the dish. 2011 would mark his first All-Star game and his first Gold Glove. In his age 25 season, Wieters slashed .262/.328/.450 with 22 HR, 68 RBI with 28 2B. Defensively, he committed just five errors while throwing out 37% of would-be base-stealers. Though he never produced the eye-popping numbers that many anticipated, Wieters is arguably the best catcher in Orioles history and his inclusion on this roster is an absolute must.
2012: RP Darren O’Day
2012 and beyond is where this thing starts to get tricky, mainly because the Orioles have been so good over the last five seasons that there are a number of worthy candidates to complete this roster. In the 2012 season, the Orioles won 93 games, thanks largely to an absolutely dominant bullpen that featured six relievers who made 34 or more appearances with an ERA below 2.73.
The best of the bunch? Darren O’Day. In 2012 O’Day went 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 0.940 WHIP in 69 games covering 67 IP. O’Day had the lowest ERA and WHIP of any qualifying reliever on the team and only Matt Lindstrom walked fewer batters. His 9.3 K/9 IP was also the highest on the team. Any Orioles All-Time bullpen almost certainly has to include O’Day, and while he has had even better seasons since, his 2012 season set the tone.
2013: 1B/DH Chris Davis
Was there really any doubt? Chris Davis had a season of epic proportions in 2013. The slugging first baseman set franchise records for home runs, extra-base hits, and total bases, all while playing stellar defense for the 85-win Orioles. While the Orioles fell short of the playoffs in 2013, Davis finished third in MVP voting and was a finalist for the Gold Glove at first base. He finished his monster season leading all of Major League Baseball in HR, RBI, TB, and XBH. His final slash line was .286/.370/.634 with 53 HR, 138 RBI, 96 XBH, and 103 R.
2014: SP Chris Tillman
The 2014 Baltimore Orioles won 96 games and captured their first AL East crown since 1997 thanks, in large part, to the starting rotation. Orioles starters went 68-45 with a 3.61 ERA in 2014. Of the six starters to make 20 or more starts that season, four won 10 or more games and five had ERAs at 3.65 or lower.
The ace of that staff was none other than Chris Tillman. In perhaps the best season of his successful career, Tillman went 13-6 with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.230 WHIP in a career-high 207.1 IP over 34 GS, including a complete-game shutout against the World Series-bound Kansas City Royals on May 16th. His 22 quality starts were a team high, and over a 13-start stretch from July 18th-September 20th, Tillman went 6-0 with a 2.04 ERA.
2015: 3B Manny Machado
After his previous two seasons ended prematurely due to knee injuries, Manny Machado entered the 2015 season with a chip on shoulder, looking the prove that the Orioles hadn’t wasted the third pick in the 2010 draft on an injury-prone player. All Manny did in 2015 was slash .286/.359/.502 with 35 HR, 86 RBI, 30 2B and 102 R with stealing 20 bags.
Machado was the only player in the Majors to play in all 162 games, and was rewarded for his stellar season with his second All-Star selection and second Gold Glove award. Though the Orioles finished with a .500 record at 81-81, Machado came in fourth in MVP voting and proved to the baseball world that his knee issues were a thing of the past.
2016: CP Zach Britton
2016 saw the Orioles return to the playoffs as the second Wild Card team, notching 89 wins in the process. While a number of Orioles had incredible seasons, it took an historic season from Zach Britton to secure the final roster spot on this list. All Britton did in 2016 was go a perfect 47/47 in save opportunities while pitching to the lowest ERA in MLB history for a pitcher who threw at least 50 innings. Needless to say, his 0.54 ERA in 67 IP was a franchise record, leading to Britton’s second consecutive All-Star selection and a fourth place finish in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
Albert Belle (1999)– .297/.400/.541, 37 HR, 117 RBI, 108 R, 181 H, 101 BB 4 Errors, 17 A, 3.4 WAR
Delino Deshields (2000)- .294/.369/.444, 10 HR, 86 RBI, 43 2B, 37 SB, 3.1 WAR. Voted Most Valuable Oriole, I left Deshields off the roster simply because of the need for a backup catcher.
Melvin Mora (2004)– .340/.414/.562, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 41 2B, 187 H, 111 RS, 5.6 WAR in 140 games. His .340 BA is still a franchise record.
Nelson Cruz (2014)- .271/.333/.525, 40 HR, 108 RBI, 32 2B, 4.6 WAR. Cruz’s 40 HR led all of baseball.
Mark Trumbo (2016)-.256/.316/.533, 47 HR, 108 RBI, 94 R, 1.6 WAR. Trumbo’s 47 HR led all of baseball, marking the fourth consecutive season in which an Oriole led the majors in that category.
Roster at a Glance:
- RHP Mike Mussina (1992)
- RHP Ben McDonald (1993)
- RHP Chris Tillman (2014)
- LHP Jimmy Key (1997)
- RHP Brad Bergesen (2009)
- LHP Buddy Groom (2002)
- LHP B.J. Ryan (2003)
- RHP Chris Ray (2006)
- RHP Jim Johnson (2008)
- RHP Koji Uehara (2010)
- RHP Darren O’Day (2012)
- LHP Zach Britton (CL) (2016)
- Brady Anderson CF (1996)
- Nick Markakis RF (2007)
- Eric Davis LF (1999)
- Chris Davis DH (2013)
- Miguel Tejada SS (2004)
- Rafael Palmeiro 1B (1995)
- Manny Machado 3B (2015)
- Matt Wieters C (2011)
- Brian Roberts 2B (2005)
- Cal Ripken SS/3B (1994)
- Charles Johnson C (2000)
- B.J. Surhoff UT (1999)
- Jeff Conine UT (2001)
So how would they do?
The starting rotation of this 25-man roster combines for a 3.19 ERA. The bullpen combines for a 2.16 ERA. After computing Brad Bergesen’s output had he made 28 starts in 2009, this team would have given up 521 total runs in a season.
Offensively, the numbers are staggering (and a bit non-sensical considering there are more RBI than runs scored): 2,135 hits for a .302 AVG, 378 HR, 1,162 R, and 1,264 RBI. Now, those numbers are highly exaggerated for a season, given that only nine players can play everyday, and there are 13 position players on the roster.
So, for our purposes, I used baseball-reference.com to figure out each starting position player’s 162-game average stat-line, and then calculated their numbers into the amount of games they averaged per season throughout their careers. Then I took however many games were left over from non-catching positions, and divvied them up between the three non-catching bench players, assuming Charles Johnson would catch all the games Wieters did not, dividing their single-season numbers by the new number of games they would actually play on this roster.
After those calculations, the numbers are far more believable: 1,554 hits for a .283 AVG, 215 HR, 824 R, and 820 RBI.
Based on the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball, created by Bill James, this 25-man roster of the last 25 years of Orioles Baseball would go 113-49 for a .696 winning percentage when calculating the number of runs allowed vs. the number of runs scored.
Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is one hell of a team.