Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Showdown of Suckdom: 2010 Orioles vs 1988 Orioles

In the past, oh, 13 seasons of losing Baltimore baseball (and a few in the early 90's too), I have always been able to comfort myself, ever so slightly, with this thought: "Hey, I lived through 1988, I'll live through this too."

Now, I have to come to grips with reality...2010 is the new 1988. I have lived through two seasons that are equally horrific. I never thought I would see an Oriole season as terrible as '88 in my lifetime...but here we are. It may even be worse!

But as a distraction, I decided to see how these teams would stack up against each other, position by position, as the debate over which is the worst Oriole team in history begins.

Catcher: Matt Wieters vs. Mickey Tettleton

Sorry Matty, not thick enough yet (87 OPS+). In the battle of switch-hitting catchers,  Fruit Loops provided significant offense (113 OPS+) from behind the plate even if the defense was suspect.

Edge: '88 Orioles

First Base: Ty Wigginton vs Eddie Murray

Wigginton has been surprisingly solid for the O's this year (111 wRC+) but although Murray would never hit 30 homers again after the '87 season, '88 was still a pretty good season for Steady Eddie (140 wRC+).
Edge: '88 Orioles

Second Base: Julio Lugo/Brian Roberts vs Billy Ripken

Ripken has a really poor year at the plate and, from all accounts, was not so great in the field that year either. Even the paltry output from Lugo and a hobbled Roberts are a significant upgrade.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Shortstop: Cesar Izturis vs. Cal Ripken, Jr.

Ripken was nearing the height of his fielding powers and turned in a nice season at the plate. (132 wRC+)  Izuris has been worse with the bat than usual (and that's saying something) and hasn't even been very good in the field.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

Third Base:  Miguel Tejada\Josh Bell vs. Rene Gonsalez\Rick Schu

If Tejada had stayed, he would win here because Gonzalez was so wretched. But Tejada is gone and Bell figures to struggle mightily over last two months of the season. Rick Schu, acquired in a mid-season trade from the Tigers, actually hit pretty well and played defense that was superior to Tejada certainly and probably better than Bell.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

Rightfield: Nick Markakis vs. Joe Orsulak

This is closer than you might think but Markakis' bat (122 wRC+) is in another class compared to Orsulak. (113 wRC+).

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Centerfield: Adam Jones vs. Fred Lynn\Brady Anderson

Jones (98 OPS+) has come around with the bat but has had his challenges in the field. Lynn was having a fine year before he was dealt to Detroit (122 OPS+) and young Brady Anderson took over and struggled mightily at the plate. (OPS+ 43) Lynn was solid in the field and Anderson was superior which makes this one awfully close to call. At this point, it's a push, with Jones probably overtaking the pair at year's end.

Advantage: Push

Leftfield: Corey Patterson\Felix Pie vs. Ken Gerhart\Pete Stanicek

Against all odds, Patterson has been at least a  league-average hitter this season (98 OPS+, wRC+ 107), has stolen 18 bases at an 86% success rate and, while he has not played his requisite fine defense, I think he has played better than his -4.4 UZR/150 shows. He's been a bright spot.

It would have been interesting to see what Pie could have done if not for his injury early this season. His hot start has been erased by his struggles since his return from the DL as he is not even replacement level this season (-0..6 WAR).

However, the combo of Gerhart and Stanicek posted wRC+ numbers of 75 and 88 respectively during the '88 season and neither were particularly adept with the glove. They abdicate the leftfield competition to Patterson and Pie.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Designated Hitter: Luke Scott vs. Larry Sheets

Larry Sheets had just come off his career year in 1987, one of the greatest slugging seasons in Oriole history. Alas, that was not to continue as his ISO fell from .247 to .113 and his OPS+ dropped from 143 to a meager 83.

Luke Scott, on the other hand, continues his better-than-solid career with a monster .282/.348/.556 line and is by far the best hitter for Baltimore this season.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Backup Catcher: Craig Tatum vs. Terry Kennedy

Craig Tatum came better than advertised...even if he finds himself back in Norfolk right now.

Terry Kennedy still had a couple good years left in him...but '88 wasn't one of them as his paltry OPS+ of 61 shows. By all accounts, he did not have a good year defensively either.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

Utility: Garret Atkins/Scott Moore vs. Jim Traber/Keith Hughes

Who would think that any combo involving Jim Traber would win in any comparison? I won't go into the gory details but Atkins was really, really bad, folks.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Jeremy Guthrie vs. Mike Boddicker

Guthrie has continued to battle this season, turning in league average numbers that are welcome in this season where the rest of the rotation has been a disaster.

Boddicker didn't have a great season for the Orioles in '88 (he saved that for the Red Sox after he was traded) but his peripherals show that his 101 ERA+ is greater than Guthrie's.
Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Kevin Millwood vs. Mike Morgan

Even though Morgan imploded as a starter early and was relegated to the bullpen, he is still providing more value than Millwood...and Millwood is headed in the wrong direction.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Brian Matusz vs. Jeff Ballard

Too depressing to detail, Jeff Ballard had a better "first full season" in the majors than Brian Matusz is having right now. You heard that right, Jeff Ballard > Brian Matusz. (sigh...)

Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Brad Bergesen vs. Jose Bautista

23-year-old Bautista was not great but was solid with a ERA+ of 93 over 171.2 innings in 1988. Brad Bergesen has posted an ERA+ of 64. Advantage Bautista.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

SP: Jake Arrieta vs. Jay Tibbs

Arrieta and Tibbs are similar levels of suckdom. Arrieta wins the ERA+ but he has also walked more than he has struck out. Different but equally bad for these guys.

Advantage: Push

RP: Alfredo Simon vs. Tom Niedenfurer

Niedenfurer was a journeyman reliever with a decent career and turned in a very respectable ERA+ of 112 with 18 saves. Simon has been average (ERA+ 103) and has exceeded expectations but the nod goes to Niedenfurer.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

RP: Jason Berken vs. Mark Williamson

Berken has been oustanding in middle relief with an ERA+ of 155. Williamson didn't strike batters out much, was wild and posted an ERA+ of 80.

Advantage: '10 Orioles

RP: Matt Albers vs. Dave Schmidt

Albers has edged his ERA+ up to 99 but the peripherals are pretty terrible. Schmidt's peripherals were better and he manged to put up an ERA+ of 115.

Advantage: '88 Orioles

RP: Mark Hendrickson vs. Mark Thurmond

In this battle of the lefties, Hendrickson has actually pitched better than his ERA this season. The peripherals are good but he has been hit unlucky. Thurmond had bad strikeout and walk rates but had better results overall. Tempted to give this to Hendrickson but in reality, it's another tie.

Advantage: Push

Final Un-scientific Results:

'88 Orioles - 11
'10 Orioles - 6
Push - 3

It's not even close. We are probably looking at the worst Oriole team since the franchise moved to Baltimore. Regardless of record (and the Orioles are on a pace to equal the '88 loss total, I can't make a very compelling argument that this version of the Orioles is better than the 1988 verison.

You're witnessing something historic Oriole fans. You are living through 2010.


Arjan said...

I love this post. Very bad comparison for Brian Matusz, yikes. Love the Atkins comment.

As someone who has been criticized for not being through all the bad seasons ( I got here in 2000) I do feel a certain inclusion because of this year. Your post was great and boy, it has been tough to watch this season, I just didn't know how bad (or good compared) '88 was.

Thanks again!

brek said...

Great article. I really never thought I'd see another '88 season. So far, at least, there haven't been any historical records for awfulness broken (0-21, 30-3), so that's a positive.

I'm going to nitpick a couple things. I think you probably should have matched "ace" to "ace." So match-up Millwood to Boddicker rather than Guthrie to Boddicker. That at least sways the results a little closer to even.


"Rick Schu, acquired in a mid-season trade from the Tigers, actually hit pretty well and played defense that was superior to Tejada certainly and probably better than Bell."

That makes it sound as though Bell has far superior defense to Tejada. Granted, I haven't been able to watch as many games since Bell has been starting, but nothing I've seen from him even in the minors would indicate to me that he is in anyway a defensive upgrade from Miggy.

DempseysArmy said...

Arjan: If you've been watching since 2000, you've seen PLENTY of bad seasons.

brek: Millwood was ace in name only; it was conceivable that Guthrie, Millwood or Matusz could be the best Oriole pitcher for 2010. I decided to go with Guthrie, the best 2010 pitcer vs Boddicker, best 1988 pitcher.

Bell may not be a great fielder but he has played 3rd throughout his minor league career and is young; it's a good bet that he plays a better third base than Tejada.