Posts Tagged ‘baltimore orioles’

h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Floyd Rayford

Electric trains are not a hobby. Baseball cards are not a hobby. Collecting baseball cards is a hobby. Organizing, trading, reading and analyzing baseball cards is an obsession.

Collecting electric trains is a hobby, as is erecting electric train sets and villages and what have you’s – generally anything that gets you whacked by the mob.

I can understand the joy of electric trains…I think. When I was a kid, I had a long looping wooden track. I had hundreds of trains/cars/trucks, etc. I would set them up bumper to bumper in some order that made sense to a five year old. Then I would start with one and push them around. I would then swap some vehicle positioning and push them around the track again. My little mind found this incredibly fun and pleasing.

Hey to each his own, Rayford clearly needed a hobby to take his mind off the trials and tribulations of life in the minor/major leagues.

Rayford was drafted in 1975 by the California Angels and reached  AAA in 1979. The following season, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles along with a bag o’ cash for Larry Harlow, who had a decent season in 1980 for the Angles but would be out of baseball after 1981. Rayford wasn’t ready for prime time, however, as he spent the majority of 1980 and ’81 in the minors, appearing in the longest game in baseball history, a 33-inning, eight hour and 25 minute affair.

He got to play sparingly in 1982 with the big league club and was replaced by Cal Ripken at third on May 30, thus launching the longest consecutive games played streak in baseball history.

He was bounced between the Cardinals and Orioles for the next few years and would be finished in the majors after the 1987 season, the year this card was printed. Still, he had successes in limited opportunities. In 1985, he hit .306/.324/.521 and 18 HRs in 372 plate appearances.

Before he officially retired form ball, he played in the minors from 89-91, appearing in just 81 games as a player. He actually had a tougher task than playing, as he was a player-coach the last two seasons.

I do hope he got a World Series ring for 1982, that could be the centerpiece of this model train set.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Jeff Suppan

So Jeff Suppan was the Todd Van Poppel of the mid-90s? That was my initial reaction to the blurb on the back of the card.

However, that’s not really true.

As the card points out, Suppan had all the promise and pedigree of a highly touted young pitcher (he had more stuff than fluff which was the case with Van Poppel). And you can’t really fault those press clippings, as Suppan tore through the minors. In 1996, at AAA and just 21-years-old, Suppan had a 5.68 K:BB rate.

For whatever reason, though, his stuff at that time just couldn’t fool major league hitters. While he posted nearly a K per inning in the minors, he struggled to strike out more than five batters per nine with the Red Sox. After three unsuccessful seasons and 39 appearances (29 starts) with a 5.99 ERA, 1.60 WHIP and 1.83 K:BB rate, the Red Sox left him unprotected in the 1997 expansion draft* and the Diamondbacks pounced (that’s probably a poor onomatopoeia).

He pitched horribly for Arizona and they soon sold him to Kansas City. While his tenure with the Royals was unspectacular, he pitched over 200 innings during each of his four full years there (from 1999-2002), combining for a 4.79 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 1.60 K:BB rate. Dude just ate innings, pitching the seventh most during that span – just behind Livan Hernandez, Mike Mussina, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson.

After 2002, he signed as a free agent with the Pirates, who quickly traded him and Brandon Lyon to the Red Sox for Mike Gonzalez, Freddy Sanchez and dollar dollar bills. Talk about a deal involving some average players who ended up making serious bank. It was a one-year deal, so Suppan found himself a free agent again in 2003.

That’s when he met the god that is Dave Duncan. From 2004-2006, he threw 572 innings for the Cardinals, posting a 3.95 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 1.67 K:BB rate. Sure it was mostly smoke and mirrors, but that’s some quality durability.

He also came through when it matted. He went 3-3 in the post-season for the Cardinals during that stretch and dominated the New York Mets in 2006. He threw 15 innings and allowed one earned run. He was the MVP of the NLCS that year and even took Steve Trachsel (a very similar pitcher) deep in game three.

After his splendid 2006 regular and post season, Suppan was treated to a four-year $42 million contract by the Brewers (good gosh, my golly, what a folly). He pitched wretchedly for the Brewers, prompting one fan to put Suppan up for sale on eBay.

He was eventually released, but scooped up by the Cardinals. He posted a 3.84 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and 1.32 K:BB rate for the Cardinals in 70.1 IPs during 2010. That would be his last season in the majors.

While I was able to mention Suppan in the same breath as Maddux in this piece, he never lived up to those press clippings. However, the $58 million he earned in his playing time, the NLCS MVP, 2006 World Champion and 12.8 WAR suggest he was a far better player than Van Poppel ever was (TVP was worth -2.1 WAR during his career).

*Man, there were four total All-stars in that draft (although possibly a Hall of Famer in Bobby Abreu). One All-star, Damian Miller, I vaguely remember as a subpar catcher. While I was annoyed Esteban Yan was gone from the Orioles, it didn’t hurt as much as Aaron Ledesma being scooped up in the final round. I was 15 when he played for the Orioles – I had no clue he was 26 at the time as I had never heard of him. That year was magical for the Orioles (at least for awhile) and I remember an 11-3 loss to the Tigers pretty well. Jimmy Key continued his second half swoon and Esteban Yan compounded the damage, but a scrappy infielder went 2-4, raising his average to .345. Ledesma hit .352 that year for the Orioles but didn’t make a postseason appearance. The following year he hit .324 for Tampa Bay, then would be out of baseball two years later. The only two HRs he ever hit were for the Orioles and he finished with a .296/.338/.365 line. His dWAR seems average, so I’m surprised his bat never stuck. Maybe he just wasn’t that good…like Luis Mercedes.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out on the Flip Side: Hoyt Wilhelm (via Candy Maldonado)

Before the summer of 1991, when I was just 9, I thought I knew everything about baseball – and, if not everything about baseball, everything about the Baltimore Orioles. I grew up going to games with my family. I also tagged along with my father and some of his college friends, one of which played “fantasy baseball.” This particular friend was astounded at my ability to recall statistics, trades, etc.

What changed that summer? I rode in a car driven by my father to Cooperstown, New York. We had an old Volkswagen Rabbit (I think) without A/C. I had purchased Pocket Full of Kryptonite (holy crap what a video) before the trip and we listened to it on repeat the entire way – my father must have hated the Spin Doctors.

Anyway, the whole city is amazing, baseball card stores, memorabilia abounds – and that doesn’t include the awesome history-rich spectacle that is the Hall of Fame. On this trip, I opened a 1989 Upper Deck pack and received a Ken Griffey, Jr. card. Magic.

Getting to actually go into the Hall was a special thrill. I got my picture taken in-between the plaques of Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson. Then we wandered around and I saw Hoyt Wilhelm. I had no freaking clue who Hoyt Wilhelm was. I had never studied my Candy Maldonado cards apparently (probably because I hated Maldonado even though I sort of liked the Blue Jays teams from the early 90s…Maldonado always seemed to make errors and lollygag. But, I’ve already written about Maldonado so there’s no reason to dwell).

Wilhelm, who pitched as a 48-year-old, had a career that spanned 21 seasons and 2,254 innings and he racked up a bunch of records on the way.

Wilhelm appeared in the fifth most games in history by a pitcher: 1,070, which trails only Dennis Eckersley, Mike Stanton, John Franco and Jesse Orosco – modern day relievers. He also owns the 30th best ERA (2.52) by a pitcher with at least 1,500 IPs. He owns the most career victories in relief: 124 – a record not likely to ever be broken. He also pitched the most innings in relief in MLB history: 1,871.

And that knuckleball was devastating, resulting in the eighth lowest opposing batting average – people hit just .216 off him – a mark better than Randy Johnson. Hell his knuckleball was so good, the Baltimore Orioles created a bigger mitt so catchers could handle it.

And, really, it wouldn’t be until he joined the Orioles that his career would take off. He spent eight seasons with the New York Giants, St. Louis, and Cleveland, until the Indians gave up on him and Baltimore claimed him off waivers. He pitched for parts of five years for the Orioles, amassing 14.7 wins above replacement player, a 2.42 ERA and 2.28 K:BB walk rate. Eventually he would be part of a trade that brought the Orioles Luis Apiricio.

Still, Wilhelm is probably most remembered for September 20, 1958 when he threw a no-hitter against the hated Yankees and Mr. Perfect, Don Larsen. The Yankees wouldn’t be no-hit for another 45 years.

Then, the following year, on August 6, 1959, Wilhelm almost pitched a no-hitter in relief. Entering the game at the start of the ninth inning, Wilhelm held the White Sox hitless for 8⅔ innings before finally surrendering a hit in the 17th.

Wilhelm also fought in Europe during World War II and was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. He received the Purple Heart.

I’ve found my way to a number of Hoyt Wilhelm cards over the years (all pictured here). I realize he’s a borderline Hall of Famer, at best, but his career remains terribly fascinating to this day. I stumbled upon his life much the same way I stumbled onto this topic – just cruising through baseball history looking to soak up knowledge. Who knew something good could come from Candy Maldonado?

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h2h Corner ~ Check you out on the Flip Side: Ron Roenicke

I think, initially, this card stuck out for two reasons. One, I love Gary Roenicke (more on him later) and, two, tennis is one of the more exasperating sports (second only to golf in my opinion). What is it with rich people and bizarrely intricate athletics?

When I was a kid, it was important to my parents that I be fluent in the art of the hardcourt. They had grown up without much money, put themselves through school and ascended to the upper middle class. So, on vacations, I’d always have to take tennis lessons. Mostly, during these lessons, I pretended I was Ken Griffey, Jr. or Barry Bonds and tried to hit every return over the fence. Exasperated, the tennis “pro” would send me off to the wilderness to retrieve the balls. Repeat this for one hour and you get the gist of my lessons. (Why I always emulated lefties is beyond me – maybe because I had a horrid backhand).

Anyway, I’d also play my father in tennis at the end of every trip. While he isn’t all that athletic, he was better at tennis than me. I was faster/quicker and in better shape, but I could never get the ball to go where I wanted (maybe it had something to do with those lessons). My dad would play well enough to keep me around in the match. Invariably (because we’re both poor losers and intensely competitive), though, he would put me away and I would get frustrated. I knew it was happening and couldn’t stop it. Well, I knew one way to stop it. I would slam my racket on the ground like a petulant child. Consequently, tennis is not relaxing but anxiety producing – worse than swinging a driver and missing the ball completely.

Roenicke had no problem with hand-eye coordination though, so tennis must have come easily to him. After all, he was a first round pick of the hometown Los Angeles Dodgers in 1977. He never really lived up to that billing though. He wouldn’t make it to the majors for four years (1981), when he was 24-years-old and he didn’t fare well in 22 games that year.

However, he did show some promise the following season, going .259/.359/.336. Sure, you’d want more power from a corner outfielder, but this was 1982 and he did get on base.

The Dodgers would release him in the middle of the following (unproductive) season, however. He bounced around for awhile, catching on here and there and not really getting to prove himself. From 1984-1986, he played for three teams and posted a .252/.389/.379 line in 535 plate appearances. That had to have been the highlight of his career (and he even played in a post-season with the Padres). It’s a shame he never got to show what he could do on the field. He finished with a .238/.353/.338 line.

So, why did the name Roenicke stick out (I pulled this card from a pack before he became the Brewers manager)? Well, his brother, Gary Roenicke, was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles in 1977 (along with Joe Kerrigan and Don Stanhouse) for Rudy May, Randy Miller, and Bryn Smith. He was an Earl Weaver type of player.

From 1979-1985, he appeared in 823 games for the Orioles, posting a .250/.356/.447 line. He hit lefties really well throughout his career (.255/.363/.454) and did a ton of damage for Earl Weaver as a platoon player. Gary finished with a .247/.351/.434 line, appeared in two World Series and won one. His final numbers are eerily similar to his brother.

I like to think that what Gary learned from Earl Weaver maybe had a little to do with how Ron Roenicke manages. But really, I just like to see Weaver and they heyday of the Baltimore Orioles in any successful baseball squad.

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Don’t Look Back In Anger: Cliff Pennington & Nolan Reimold

For Razzball: Don’t Look Back In Anger: Cliff Pennington & Nolan Reimold http://razzball.com/dont-look-back-in-anger-cliff-pennington-nolan-reimold/

 

 

Don’t Look Back in Anger: Angel Pagan, Matt Wieters, James McDonald

Don’t Look Back in Anger: Angel Pagan, Matt Wieters, James McDonald

http://razzball.com/don%E2%80%99t-look-back-in-anger-angel-pagan-matt-wieters-james-mcdonald/ Continue reading

h2h Corner ~ I’m a Believer: May Edition

It struck me that this piece could be known as the twitter column…

ZobristZorrilla

Surprise, surprise, Lance Berkman is the top first baseman and my boy Zobrist is in the top 5. Expect Fielder/Pujols to replace them, with Teixeira and Howard filling out the top seven. Just a crazy deep position – I feel bad for those stuck with Justin Morneau and Kendrys Morales.

The Orioles have some buy low guys…Guerrero, Scott.

How is the human body so different from vessel to vessel: Holliday/Dunn, Bay/Morneau.

Matt Holliday – most underrated baseball player of the last few years? According to the players/Neyer, it is Shin-soo Choo. Hard to argue against that. Continue reading

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Nick Markakis

I love the back of this card. That said, I’m not quite sure that being able to “hit like crazy, run well, swallow up everything in right field (and where was Anna Benson?) and throw 90-mph-plus” is unique to Markakis. Although it should be noted that he was viewed as much as a pitching prospect as a hitter…and was drafted two times before being selected #7 overall by the Orioles in 2003.

While chin balancing is not unique (I have a friend who can balance almost anything as well, although he specializes in lacrosse sticks), it’s cool. In the grand scheme of things Markakis appears to be a down to earth guy who loves playing baseball and goofing around. The fact that he wanted to share the chin balancing factoid on his 2010 Topps card makes me like him a lot more – anytime I see players being “kids” or at least normal (and not approaching the game like a job, even though it is) warms my heart like apple pie a la mode. There’s something wholly sweet and honest about it, and I give kudos to Markakis for it.

Outside of the above, I have a hard time thinking/writing about Markakis – and it took awhile to write the above and even select this card for Flip Side inclusion.

Quite simply, I’ve expected so much of him given his early success and high draft pedigree that his plateau has left me disenchanted. On the other hand, he’s a great teammate and a phenomenal person – he and his wife have truly embraced Maryland (my home state) and really give back.

Since reaching the majors in 2006 at 22, Markakis has been a full time player. In his second full season he would hit 23 HRs, steal 18/24 bases and post a .300/.362/.485 line. He’d follow that up with arguably his best year (20 HRs and a .306/.406/.491 line). Clearly his 2008 (5.5 WAR) during which he walked 99 times would be the turning point in his career. Right?

Well, I hope not. Since 2008, Markakis’ slugging has dropped off significantly and he isn’t walking as much as one would like. Still, we must remember that Markakis will only be 27 during the 2011 season. I think people (especially myself) have expected too much too fast of Markakis.

He does own a .298/.368/.463 line in five full seasons with 89 HRs and has accumulated 18.3 WAR. For comparison sake, Carl Yastrzemski, by age 26, had played six relatively full seasons. Entering his age 27th season, Yaz had a .293/.373/.458 line with 95 HRs. Yaz had been worth 21.2 WAR at this point.

At 26, Yaz hit 16 HRs. At 26, Markakis hit 12 HRs. At 27, Yaz hit 44 and would average 37 a year for the next four seasons. I’m not saying Markakis will be Yaz, I’m just saying that the book isn’t closed on Markakis.

Maybe we’ll see Markakis stand on his head over the next few years. A Markakis in his prime makes the Orioles line-up pretty dynamic…

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Arthur Rhodes

rhodesbackrhodesfrontTalk about same ole same ole…

Rhodes posted a 1.72 ERA in 2001 (the best mark out of the pen in the AL that season). In 2010, Rhodes posted a 2.53 ERA out of the pen. That’s nine years apart. Oh, and Rhodes career began in 1991 as a starter with the Baltimore orioles (he’d allow 47 hits and 23 walks in just 36 IPs in his initial season).

To date, Rhodes has a career that spans 20 years…but it sure didn’t look like he’d stick around that long. As a kid I sat in the bleachers of Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. I hated Arthur Rhodes and Sidney Ponson and Alan Mills (unless he was choking Daryl Strawberry) and Jose Mesa and Armando Benitez (A Buster Olney column!) and Ben McDonald. They all sucked and they were all chokers – I was an unforgiving pre-teen.

Rhodes especially let me down because I had such high hopes for him. In 1992, when he was just 22, Rhodes started 15 games for the Orioles and posted a 3.63 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. He also managed to limit his walks (3.6 per nine) and increase his k/9-rate (7.3). In short, to an untrained eye, Rhodes looked like the real deal. What I know now is that Rhodes would never, as a starter, be that frugal with free passes and he’d never be the type to post a 0.6 HR/9 rate – it was simply unsustainable. So, the idea that he was a 2.03 K:BB pitcher was pure poppycock.

Sure enough, over the next two years as a starter, he saw HR/9 rate around 1.5, BB/9 rate around 5.0 and K:BB walk between 1 and 1.5 – not so good. In 1995, Rhodes would start nine games and post a 7.16 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. Toward the end of the year, the Orioles tried him as a reliever. In 10 appearances (hardly much of a sample size), he posted a 4.88 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Not great, but surely better than Rhodes the starter. What’s more interesting is that he allowed a .202/.316/.412 line to opposing hitters.

In 1996, Rhodes would start the last two games of his career and make 26 relief appearances. His era was 4.02 and his WHIP was 1.34 – not shocking, eh? Then, in 1997, he made 53 relief appearances with a 3.02 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Clearly, the Orioles found what Rhodes was made to do (i.e. become my generation’s Jesse Orosco).

There would be some bumps along the way (1999, 2000, 2004 and 2006), but some brilliance, especially as a LOOGY. For his career he has limited lefty opponents to a .216/.282/.319 line.

But, as the back of the card reflects, there wasn’t much finer than his 2001. In addition to his amazing ERA, Rhodes went 8-0. Only 13 people in the history of the game have gone 8-0 or better in a season. In addition, as of this writing, he is second all-time in holds, with 217.

While the Orioles of the mid-/late-90s never quite got there, their success corresponded with the organization figuring out how best to use some of its assets. Clearly Rhodes was a helpful piece and is someone who continues to build a semi-historic baseball career.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Cal Ripken

Cal Ripken - 1992 frontJust like Willie Mays (greenies), Len Dykstra, and Brady Anderson, I am a cheater. There is nothing all that interesting or bizarre about the back of this card. What I love about it is the front of the card: Cal pictured with Henry Louis Gehrig’s Cooperstown plague.

One of my favorite pictures of myself is from my first visit to the Hall of Fame. It was under remodeling at the time and the plagues were all on dry wall basically in an anteroom. However, there was on HoFer (I can’t remember who) between Frank and Brooks Robinson — my father’s gods. That gave just enough room for me to peak my head in between and be snapped between two of the great Orioles and baseball players of all time. It’s a good shot.

However, at this point I have to come clean (are you listening Palmeiro?). I wanted the Orioles to trade Ripken after his brilliant 1991 campaign. Yes, fresh off a .323/.374/.566 season, I thought they should move him. I was foolish and didn’t understand what was to come. I was thinking about all the losing I had experience in my lifetime and how many players Ripken was worth. I was thinking the Orioles could reverse the Glenn Davis damage.

But I was wrong, in fact, nothing could reverse the damage of trading a player like Ripken in his prime — quite simply few players have been equal to him on a baseball diamond.

People like to lump Cal into the accumulator Hall of Fame class. In my opinion, that’s sort of like distinguishing between the guys who earned their millions or were trust funded them – when you get down to it, what’s the real difference? That said, Cal was not just an accumulator, a guy who stuck around for a long time and eventually put up Ruthian numbers (a little like what Eddie Murray did).

Cal was one of the best players ever. Would I believe this as ardently if he wasn’t the best thing to happen to my baseball world in my lifetime (other than Roger Clemens being tied to Roids)? Probably not, but that’s because I’d be ignorant of Cal’s place in history. I would not have tried to defend him and research his awe-inspiring career benchmarks which outshine even the shiniest of Cooperstown plagues. Walk with me…

Cal Ripken has the 13th most hits in history — 3,184. That is more than George Brett, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, etc.

He has the 32nd most singles (with 2,106) — behind Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, Rod Carew, Tris Speaker, Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Stan Musial and Boggs.

That leaves a lot of room for extra base hits. In fact, Ripken hit the 13th most doubles (603) — more than Barry Bonds, Boggs, Gwynn, Lou Gehrig, Frank Robinson and Ted Williams.

He also finished with the 17th most extra base hits with 1,078 and the 13th most total bases: 5,168. While Ripken hung around, he wasn’t hitting wimpy singles, but continually mashing his way to top 20 numbers in power categories.

Still, durability does count (ask Dale Murphy), 19 times Cal Ripken had at least 100 hits. That is tied for the seventh most in history. In addition, 15 times Ripken had over 150 hits — that is tied for the 6th most seasons. In 20 consecutive seasons, Ripken had 10+ HRs. Hank Aaron is the only player to have more years in a row – Aaron did it 23 times.

All those hits put him on his way to scoring the 30th most runs in MLB history: 1,647. That is more than Brett, Rogers Hornsby, and Tim Raines.

All that aside, May 28, 1996 must have been a special day. His brother, Billy hit a HR, and Cal added three! It was the second time both he and Billy hit HRs in the same game.

What gives Ripken so much additional value (and we’ll get to WAR) is his glove. He has the seventh most assists by a SS in a career – he had 6,977. That is behind Ozzie Smith, Louis Aparicio, Luke Appling and a few others. With all those assists, he got to a ton of balls, but still managed to post the fifth best fielding percentage by a shortstop in major league history (min. 1,000 games). He also had excellent years. In 1990, he posted the best fielding average ever by a shortstop in a single season: .9956. He also owns the 11th best year. In 1984, Ripken recorded 583 assists — the 6th most ever in a season.

Now for the new-age stuff: Ripken was worth 89.9 wins above a replacement player in his career. According to Baseball Reference, that is the 26th best mark all time — and, depending, on how you look at Alex Rodriguez, puts him tops among shortstops. In 1991, Ripken was worth 11 WAR — tied for the 30th best mark in a season ever.

Yes, Cal Ripken was an accumulator, but his accumulations were great statistics, not just ho-hum years. Four times, Ripken was worth 7.0 WAR or better. From 1983-1991, he was worth less than 6.0 WAR just once. The rest of his career (1992-2001) was not as good (he averaged 2.4 WAR) but that is just 2 less WAR than Derek Jeter has averaged for his career by way of comparison. Quite simply there are very few men who are Cal’s better on the diamond.

Thank god the Orioles didn’t trade him and thank god for 1983, Cal grew to deserve it.

Cal Ripken - 1992 back

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