Blast from the Past: Taking a Look at the Top 10 Orioles This Past Decade

Zachary Krueger@@ZacharyKruegerCorrespondent IIApril 4, 2013

Blast from the Past: Taking a Look at the Top 10 Orioles This Past Decade

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    With baseball returning to Baltimore this week, both players and fans alike are looking forward to seeing what the Orioles can offer as an encore to the success they had in 2012.  Baltimore had its highest win total since 1997 this past season, going 93-69 on the year and making the playoffs as a wild-card team.

    Despite not having much success between 1997 and 2012, the Orioles still managed to bring in some talented players during that period.  Here's a look at the top 10 Orioles over the last decade.

10. Koji Uehara (2009-2011)

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    The Orioles dipped into the overseas player pool in 2009 when they signed Japanese All-Star Koji Uehara to a two-year, $10 million deal.  He was expected to contribute as a starter for the Orioles that season.

    Uehara started the entire 2009 season for the Orioles, making 12 starts and posting a 2-4 record with a 4.03 ERA.  Due to his ineffectiveness as a starter, the Orioles opted to move him to the bullpen, where he flourished for the Birds.

    In 2010, Uehara appeared in 43 games, posting a much-improved 2.86 ERA over 44 innings.  He gave up only 14 earned runs in the 2010 season and even managed to save 13 games in the process.

    In 2011, Uehara had yet another solid season for the Orioles, making another 43 appearances while lowering his ERA down to 1.73.

    However, Baltimore struggled in 2011 and chose to put Uehara on the trade block.  The Orioles traded him to the Texas Rangers before the deadline passed in exchange for first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter.

9. B.J. Ryan (1999-2005)

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    The Orioles' bullpen was a struggling unit during the club's extensive playoff drought.  While B.J. Ryan may not have been the best reliever throughout his entire career with the Orioles, his numbers from 2003 to 2005 qualify him for this list.

    During the previously mentioned seasons, Ryan served as a highly productive lefty out of the Orioles' 'pen.  He appeared in 221 games from 2003 to 2005 posting a 2.60 ERA, striking out 285 batters while walking only 88 and giving up a mere nine home runs.

    In 2005, the Orioles offered Ryan the closer role, and he delivered for them in what would be his last season with the team.  Ryan made 69 appearances in 2005, saving 36 games in 41 chances and holding hitters to a .208 batting average.

8. Erik Bedard (2002-2007)

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    Erik Bedard was never a top starter in the league during his time with the Orioles, but given their struggles while he was there, nobody really was.  Picking Bedard felt more like electing the best of the worst in terms of Orioles starting pitchers since 2003, but a strong 2007 season helped qualify him for this list.

    Bedard was a starter for the Orioles from 2004 to 2007. He has the second-most wins (40-34) of any Orioles starter since 2003, trailing only Rodrigo Lopez (45-49).  So why go with Bedard over Lopez?

    Despite the obvious reason as shown above, Bedard had a winning record during his time with the Orioles, while Lopez did not.  In addition to their win/loss records, Bedard also posted a 3.82 ERA during that time span, whereas Lopez posted a dismal 5.04 ERA. 

    There is one more stat that factors into Bedard making this top-10 list: Bedard had a historical season with the Orioles in 2007.  He went a respectable 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA, finishing fifth in the AL Cy Young race.  

    Where Bedard stands alone among Baltimore pitchers in the history of the franchise is that, in 2007, he set the Orioles' team record for most strikeouts in the season, striking out 221 batters—good for fourth-highest in the league that year.

    Bedard's value remains to still be seen on the Orioles' 2013 roster.  With his stock at the highest it would ever be for his career, the Orioles traded Bedard to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for center fielder Adam Jones.

7. Melvin Mora (2000-2009)

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    Melvin Mora didn't get his chance in the majors until he was 27 years old, breaking in with the New York Mets in 1999.  A lifetime .277 hitter who racked up 1,503 hits in a 13-year career, it would be interesting to see how good Mora might have been had he developed at a faster rate. That being said, he was one of the most reliable Orioles during his 10-season tenure with the team.

    From 2003 to 2009, Mora was a two time All-Star (2003, 2005). He also won Silver Slugger award winner in 2004 after posting a .340 batting average—a franchise record.  Ironically enough, in 2004, when he didn't make the All-Star game, he posted his best statistical season.  

    In addition to his batting average, Mora hit a career-high 27 home runs and had 104 RBI while leading the American League in on-base percentage at .419.  Additionally, he is one of only five players since 2003 to have 100 or more RBI in a season for the Orioles and is one of four to have done it twice, driving in 104 runs again in 2008.  

    Mora would play one more season for the Orioles in 2009, but didn't he have nearly as much success as he had in 2004 or 2008.

6. Jim Johnson (2006-Present)

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    Jim Johnson has been with the Orioles since 2006, but he didn't really become a key contributor until the 2011 season.  Despite his short tenure with the team—including a remarkable 2012 season, in which Johnson set a franchise record in saves (51) while also leading the league in the same category—Johnson has already done enough to earn the top pitcher spot on the list.

    Johnson was absolutely remarkable for the Orioles in 2012.  Appearing in 71 games last season, he converted on 51 of his 54 save opportunities, posting a 2.49 ERA while leaving opposing hitters with just a .220 average.  In addition, he gave up only three home runs last season—the second-best of any Oriole to pitch at least 50 or more games in relief.

    For a pitcher who is widely considered to be one of the best closers in the league, and one of only two Orioles pitchers to have made an All-Star game since 2003, Johnson is awarded the honor as the Orioles' best pitcher in the last decade.

5. Nick Markakis (2006-Present)

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    It's tough to not love a player like Nick Markakis.  When it comes to consistent hitting, he is at the top of the list for the Orioles.

    Since entering the league in 2006, Markakis has led the team in batting average four times in his first full seven seasons (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).  He has twice eclipsed the 100-RBI mark for the Birds (2007, 2009) and led them both years in that category.

    Markakis is a lifetime .295 hitter and has a .364 on-base percentage for his career.  To add to his model of consistency, he is the only player in Baltimore history to accumulate four straight seasons of 40 or more doubles.

    Markakis has also been a staple for the Orioles defensively.  He boasts a .992 career fielding percentage making 77 outfield assists in his career—the third-most among active right fielders in the league.  Markakis is also a Gold Glover, winning the award in 2011.

    It's incredible that with the great seasons he always produces that he has yet to be voted to an All-Star game.  But don't let that take away from the great career that he has already made for himself.

4. Brian Roberts (2001-Present)

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    Nobody on the Orioles' 2013 roster has played more games in an Orioles uniform than second baseman Brian Roberts.  The 13-year veteran has played in a total of 1,250 games since 2001 and has been a staple at the top of the Orioles' lineup for the majority of his career.

    Roberts is a lifetime .280 hitter and has appeared in two All-Star games for Baltimore (2005,2007).  Three times in his career, he has had 50 or more doubles (2004, 2008, 2009), leading the American League with 51 doubles in 2004 and all of the majors in 2009 with 56.

    Not only has Roberts consistently hit doubles, he has also been one of the top base stealers for Baltimore, ranking third in Orioles history with 275 stolen bases.

    Since the 2010 season, Roberts has suffered a variety of injuries, resulting in him playing in just 115 games from 2010 to 2012.  Finally healthy for the start of the 2013 season, look for one of the most productive players in Orioles history to continue his contribution this season.

3. Matt Wieters (2009-Present)

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    Since 2003, the Orioles have brought in veteran catchers such as Javy Lopez (2004-2006) and Ramon Hernandez (2006-2008).  But they seem to have finally found their catcher of the future in 27-year-old Matt Wieters.

    While Wieters has not quite yet enjoyed the offensive success that Lopez and Hernandez had, he has seen an increase in his offensive numbers the last two seasons.  

    Since joining the Orioles in 2009, Wieters has hit .261 for his career with 66 home runs and 251 RBI.  Although his average may not be the most impressive, he is still patient enough at the plate to have a career on-base percentage of .330.   

    In addition to his growing offensive production, Wieters has already established himself as one of the top defensive catchers in the league.  He has thrown out 33 percent of runners attempting to steal on him during his career, six points higher than the league average of 27 percent over that time frame.

    Having made two All-Star games in his four-year career, as well as two straight Gold Glove awards—something neither Lopez nor Hernandez did during their time with the Orioles—Wieters is already the best catcher to put on an Orioles uniform in the last decade.

2. Adam Jones (2008-Present)

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    As much as it may pain me to not put the two time All-Star who helped lead the Orioles to their first playoff berth since 1997 at No. 1 on this list, I can't bring myself to do it just yet. 

    Adam Jones could one day see his name at the top of a list such as this, but he may need to put together some stronger seasons to be the No. 1 player.

    Jones has been a stud for the Orioles.  The 27-year-old center fielder has grown into one of the top center fielders in the league, and, at this rate, the sky is the limit for what he could accomplish in his career.

    The Orioles traded pitcher Erik Bedard to the Seattle Mariners in 2008 in exchange for the young center fielder—a trade that worked out well for the Orioles, as Bedard has since seen his career dwindle, while Jones' continues to be on the rise.

    Since joining the Orioles in 2008, Jones has hit .281, compiling 104 home runs and 363 RBI over that period.  Last year, he was a centerpiece in the Orioles' offense en route to their improbable playoff run.  Jones led the team in batting average (.287), hits (186), runs scored (103), doubles (39) and games played (162). 

    He has also developed into one of the top defensive outfielders in the league, having won two Gold Gloves in his first five seasons with the team.

    Jones signed a six-year, $85 million extension with the Orioles in May of last season, meaning the center fielder will have plenty of time to continue his rise in the Orioles organization.

1. Miguel Tejada (2004-2007, 2010)

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    During his first stint with the Orioles, no player was more productive than Miguel Tejada.  

    The Orioles signed Tejada to a six-year, $72 million deal in hopes of turning around a franchise that was already stuck in a six-year playoff drought.  While he was unable to help return the Orioles to playoff glory, it was certainly not because of a lack of effort on his part.

    Tejada posted All-Star-caliber numbers with the Orioles during his first four years with the franchise.  Prior to being traded by the team in 2008, he hit .311 with 102 home runs and and 429 RBI while posting a .362 on-base percentage.  Of his five total years with the Orioles, 2008 was his best. 

    Tejada lead the way for an Orioles team that would set franchise records in team batting average (.281), hits (1,614) and doubles (319).  

    In 2004, he was arguably the best player in all of baseball.  He did not manage to secure his second career MVP award (2002), however, finishing fifth in the AL MVP race that year.  That year, Tejada set the Orioles' franchise record for most RBI in a season (150), leading the entire league in that category.  In fact, since Tejada's remarkable RBI output that season, only Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees has had more in a season (156).

    Tejada may have fallen short of putting the Orioles back into playoff contention, but it is difficult to deny that his performance during his time with the Orioles wasn't the best the team has seen over the last decade.