Ranking the Greatest Single-Season Efforts in Baltimore Orioles History
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
It's a pretty good time to be a Baltimore Orioles fan.
The team is fresh off it's first winning-season—and playoff berth—since 1997, and they're on pace to make it back-to-back appearances if they keep up their winning ways.
As if that wasn't enough, fans are blessed with an incredible collection of young talent, the likes of which haven't been seen in the Charm City in nearly 40 years.
Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Jim Johnson are among the top performers at their respective positions and each is age 30 or younger. Heck, the elder statesmen on this year's squad are shortstop J.J. Hardy (30), outfielder Nate McLouth (31) and starting pitcher Jason Hammel (30).
O's fans should count themselves especially lucky that they are getting the chance to witness two of the most impressive single-season campaigns in not only team history, but also the annals of Major League Baseball.
Manny Machado, at the tender age of 20, is currently on pace to break the 82-year-old record for most doubles in a single season. As if that wasn't enough, he's also second in all of baseball with 117 hits and second in WAR (5.0).
He's been just as good in the field, posting the second-highest defensive WAR (2.5) in the majors. Based on the number of plays he's made—and some have been truly incredible—he's been worth 15 runs. If he keeps this up, he should finish around 30-35, which would put him inside the top 10 all time at any position and within striking distance of the record for third basemen currently held by Baltimore's own Brooks Robinson. He's also on pace for over 400 putouts, which would also rank him among the top-10 third basemen of all time.
In fact, it's hard to envision a world in which Machado won't be honored with his first Gold Glove this season. Not bad for a 20-year-old that had never played the hot corner professionally before last summer.
And then there's Chris "Crush" Davis.
Davis is having such an incredible year that he would be a shoe-in for American League MVP if there wasn't some guy named Cabrera chasing down a second consecutive Triple Crown.
Through 84 games, Davis has slugged 32 homers and driven in 83 runs, putting him on pace for a 60-homer, 156-RBI campaign. Only four players in baseball history, and just two since 2000, have hit that many home runs in a single-season. No Oriole has ever hit more than 50 long balls, and only two have hit the 150-RBI mark.
He is also pacing the majors in total bases, slugging percentage and extra-base hits, and ranks inside the top 10 with a .331 average, 61 runs and 26 doubles.
Both Machado and Davis got me thinking about other great single-season performances in Orioles' team history, and after much consideration and tons of research, I have settled upon a list of the top 25 single-season efforts.
Stu Miller, 1965
Miller built a solid career with the Cardinals and the Giants before coming to Baltimore in 1963. He spent his best years with the O's, including a banner year in 1965, during which he posted a 1.89 ERA and racked up 24 saves. His WHIP of 0.997 was the second lowest of his career, and he added to his value by picking up 14 victories. His WAR of 4.3 is one of the highest numbers ever put up by a Baltimore reliever in a single-season effort.
Mike Cuellar, 1969
Cuellar put together an incredible seven-year run after joining Baltimore from Houston. He may have led the league in victories in 1970, but 1969 was easily his best campaign. He won 23 games, posted the third-lowest ERA (2.38) in the league and allowed just 18 home runs in 290.2 innings. He also finished in the AL top five in wins, WHIP, innings pitched and strikeouts. He capped his sterling season by becoming the first Cuban-born Cy Young award winner.
Merv Rettenmund, 1971
Rettenmund goes largely unnoticed among O's fans, despite spending nearly half of his 13-year career in Baltimore. He's also responsible for one of the most all-around productive seasons in team history. His third full season with the O's saw him post a .318/.422/.448 line. He rapped 23 doubles and 11 home runs and drove in a career-high 75 runs. For good measure, he added 15 steals and walked 27 more times than he struck out. After '71, Rettenmund never again appeared in more than 107 games or drove in more than 44 runs.
Mike Flanagan, 1979
Flanagan spent 15 of his 19 big league seasons with the Orioles, providing countless memories along the way. Few seasons were more memorable than his Cy Young campaign of 1979. In just his third full season, Flanny led the league with 23 wins and five shutouts and finished in the AL top five in strikeouts, WHIP, ERA, complete games and innings pitched. He would go on to pitch for the O's for another seven-plus seasons, but would never recapture the glory of that 1979 season.
Steve Stone, 1980
Stone spent only three seasons with Baltimore, but he did a lot of damage, especially in year two. That year he won a league-leading 25 games, topped 250 innings for the first time in his career and was named to his only All-Star team. He finished among the AL top 10 in ERA, strikeouts, innings pitched and strikeouts per nine innings. Stone gave the O's back-to-back Cy Young awards and combined with Jim Palmer, five of the eight awarded from 1973-1980.
Gregg Olson, 1989
Olson came to the O's via Auburn University, from which he was drafted in 1988. He made his big-league debut a few months later and by 1989 had established himself as the team's closer. He went on to save 160 games for Baltimore, although his finest season came in '89. He saved 27 games that year, but showed uncommon poise for a rookie, racking up 90 strikeouts in 85 innings. He issued 46 walks, although 10 of them were intentional, and despite facing 356 batters, he served up just one home run the entire year. Olson was a shoo-in for AL Rookie of the Year honors and even finished sixth in Cy Young voting and 12th in the race for AL MVP.
Cal Ripken Jr., 1994
Baseball's strike-shortened season was the ultimate what-if for some of the O's top players, including the Iron Man. In just 112 games, Ripken had driven in 75 runs and scored 71 of his own, all the while holding down a .315 average, his highest since his banner 1991 campaign. Had the season not been interrupted, Ripken likely would have topped 100 RBI and 100 runs, a feat he accomplished only twice in his 21-year career. As it was, he finished 12th in MVP voting and earned an All-Star nod and the eighth and final Silver Slugger award of his career. Defensively, Ripken continued to excel, leading all shortstops with a .985 fielding percentage and 72 double plays turned.
Lee Smith, 1994
Another unfortunate victim of the '94 strike, Lee was on a historic pace before the season was cut short. His 33 saves led the AL and put him within striking distance of Bobby Thigpen's record of 57. Smith's K/9 rate of 9.9 was his highest since 1989 and he issued just 11 walks. Smith only spent the one season in Baltimore and retired three years later.
Randy Myers, 1997
Myers was integral to Baltimore's back-to-back playoff squads in 1996-97, but he was at his best in his second season with the team. Not only did he shatter the team record with 45 saves, but he also posted the lowest ERA (1.51) of his career. He saved another two games in the playoffs and finished the year with the highest WAR (3.1) of his 14-year career. Like Smith, Myers was out of baseball shortly after his sterling campaign.
B.J. Ryan, 2004
It's widely assumed that Ryan's best year with Baltimore came in his final year. In 2005, he saved 36 games and struck out nearly 13 batters per nine innings. The year prior was actually his masterpiece, however. In '04 he struck out 22 more batters in 16.2 more innings and posted the lowest ERA (2.28) of any year he spent with the O's. His 35 walks were inflated by his nine intentional ones, and his K/9 rate of 12.6 was on par with his '05 season. Aside from 2006, the highest WAR Ryan ever posted was in 2004.
The 5 That Just Missed
Erik Bedard, 2007
Bedard shot through the Orioles' system, arriving in the big-leagues in 2002. Unfortunately, he was derailed by elbow ligament surgery, and when he returned to the majors two years later he showed only flashes of the dominance that made him one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Everything finally came together for Bedard in 2007.
His season began like any other: inconsistently. Slowly he began to build momentum and by mid-season was one of the top pitchers in baseball. He won nine decisions in a row, spanning two months, and allowed more than three earned runs in only one of those 11 starts. Bedard finished the year 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA and a team-record 221 strikeouts, eclipsing Mike Mussina's 218 set 10 years earlier.
Bedard led the AL in hits per nine innings, strikeouts per nine innings and fielding percentage, and ranked among the top five in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
Mike Mussina, 1997
It's almost unfair to think of how good a career Mussina would have had if he hadn't been saddled with terrible teams for the majority of his career. He didn't have that problem in 1997, however, as the O's possessed arguably the most potent lineup in all of baseball.
Mussina finished the campaign with his fourth All-Star nod and his second consecutive Gold Glove. He also posted his fifth top-six finish in the AL Cy Young race in six years. He finished among the AL top 10 in ERA, hits per nine innings, strikeouts per nine innings, innings pitched, WHIP and complete games.
He also hit some personal milestones along the way, earning his 100th victory and setting a career-high and team-record 218 strikeouts. Surprisingly, "Moose" would earn only one more All-Star nod in his career.
Ken Singleton, 1979
Singleton spent the final 10 seasons of his career in Baltimore, the same organization that his son would also come to spend a year with. Unlike his speedy progeny, the elder Singleton's game was all about power, and in 1979 he put on a show for the ages.
Hitting in a lineup that also contained heavy hitters Eddie Murray, Gary Roenicke, Lee May and John Lowenstein, Singleton led the way, pacing the team with 93 runs, 35 homers, 111 RBI and a .295 average. He really turned the heat up in July, hitting nine homers and driving in 25 runs to lead the O's to an 18-10 record.
Singleton finished second in the AL MVP vote to Don Baylor. He finished in the AL top 10 in on-base percentage, slugging, walks, RBI, intentional walks, home runs, total bases and WAR. He also earned the second of three career All-Star nods.
Roberto Alomar, 1996
The fact that Alomar's best season in an Orioles uniform doesn't even rank among the top five of his own career should tell you just how amazing he was during his 17-year career. And while he will forever be remembered in Baltimore for the "spitting incident," Alomar gave the O's fans a few of the best all-around offensive seasons they've ever seen, not to mention one of the best double-play combinations in baseball history.
Playing on a squad that featured seven hitters who slugged more than 20 home runs, Alomar led the way. He paced the team in batting average (.328), on-base percentage (.411), doubles (43) and runs (132). He also posted the first of his three 20+ home run seasons and drove in nearly 100 runs. He also swiped 17 bases and walked 25 more times than he struck out.
Alomar hit just .250 in the postseason, but his overall performance was good enough to earn him his seventh consecutive All-Star berth, as well as his fifth straight Gold Glove and his second Silver Slugger. He finished among the AL top 10 in average, doubles, on-base percentage, runs, hits and fielding percentage.
Brady Anderson, 1992
Before Anderson was the slugger that was followed by steroid talk wherever he went, he was one of the fastest players in baseball. The speedy Anderson swiped 307 bases during his 14 years with Baltimore, his personal best coming in 1992. That year he not only stole 53 bases, but he also proved a threat at the plate, slugging what was then a career-best 20 homers. His 80 RBI represented nearly as many as he had accumulated during the previous four seasons.
In addition to his 20 HR/53 SB campaign, Anderson also legged out 28 doubles and 10 triples. He drew just as many walks as strikeouts and continued to provide some of the best outfield defense in the game. He led all AL left fielders with 376 putouts and racked up 10 outfield assists.
He finished among the AL top 10 in a variety of categories, including runs, triples, steals, extra-base hits, walks, at-bats and sacrifice flies. In addition to finishing in the top 15 in the AL MVP vote, he also earned his first All-Star nomination.
Amazingly, Anderson would hit just 41 home runs over the next three seasons before exploding for a team-record 50 in 1996.
25. Boog Powell, 1964
Our journey to the top single-season effort ever put forth by an Oriole starts with a man whose name is still known among O's fans more than 30 years after he hung up his cleats, thanks to his delicious barbecue.
Powell debuted with the Orioles as a 19-year-old and it didn't take him long to get going. He slugged 15 home runs in his first full season and upped that total to 25 in his sophomore campaign. He entered 1964 as a 22-year-old with close to 1,000 at-bats under his belt and an eagerness to impress first-year manager Hank Bauer.
He did more than that, pacing the O's offensive effort en route to a 97-win season. He was the very model of consistency, hitting at least seven home runs in every month except for August, when American League pitchers decided to quit giving him pitches to hit. He erupted with a month for the ages in July, slugging 12 home runs in just 73 at-bats, an average of one every six at-bats. He also drove in at least 15 runs in each month and finished the year eighth with 99 RBI and second with 39 home runs.
Powell also ranked among the top 10 in batting average, walks, on-base percentage and WAR. He led all American League hitters with a .606 slugging percentage and 10.0 at-bats per home run. Surprisingly he also led all left fielders with 12 outfield assists.
Oh what a joy it must have been to see Boog Powell, all 6'4'' and 230 pounds of him, patrol the outfield!
Powell also finished 11th in the American League MVP voting.
His .290 average was the third-highest number he would ever post in an O's uniform, and the .606 slugging percentage still ranks among the team's top 10 all time.
.290/.399/.606, 17 2B, 39 HR, 99 RBI, 74 R, 76/91 BB/K, 5.7 WAR
24. Dave McNally, 1968
Dave McNally went 65-21 from 1969-71, posted a 3.13 ERA, racked up nearly 40 complete games and finished in the top four of the American League Cy Young voting three times.
Still, as hard as it is to believe, his best year came in 1968, a season in which he didn't earn even a single vote for top pitcher honors. In '68, McNally won a then-career-best 22 games, posted a 1.95 ERA and struck out a career-high 202 batters, setting a team record that stood for nearly 30 years before Mike Mussina broke it.
McNally made 35 starts in '68 and somehow managed to finish 18 of them. He tossed five shutouts and posted a league-low 0.842 WHIP. His K/9 rate of 6.7 and BB/9 rate of 1.8 were both career bests.
At Memorial Stadium, McNally was nearly unbeatable. He went 13-3 with a 1.47 ERA in 16 starts at home, 11 of which he finished off himself. Four of his five shutouts also came at home.
What's most incredible about the 25-year-old's performance, however, was the fact that at the All-Star break he was 8-8. He won 14 of his final 16 decisions, posting a 1.72 ERA along the way and picking up enough momentum that he finished fifth in the voting for American League MVP.
Another truly amazing fact about his campaign was that in his 10 losses, he allowed an average of 2.5 runs and still pitched to a 3.50 ERA and a WHIP under 1.000.
He finished among the top five in the AL in ERA, victories, innings pitched, complete games, strikeouts, winning percentage and H/9.
As mentioned above, McNally put together one of the most impressive runs in team history over the next three seasons, but 1968 will forever be as good as he got. To this day, his 22 victories and 1.95 ERA that season rank ninth all time among Orioles.
22-10, 1.95, 35 GS, 273 IP, 18 CG, 5 SHO, 24 HRA, 202/55 K/BB, 0.842 WHIP, 6.7 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 6.0 WAR
23. Al Bumbry, 1980
Bumbry doesn't have the cache of professional accolades to go up against the Cal Ripkens and Brooks Robinsons of the Orioles' world, but what he does have is immense fan support from those who are appreciative of all the little things he did during his 13 years in Baltimore.
Offensively, Bumbry ranks among the top Orioles' outfielders of all time, despite the fact that he slugged only 54 home runs during his career, or four less than Chris Davis is on pace for this season. Still, factoring in all the little things—like 252 stolen bases, 52 triples and 44 sacrifice hits—it's clear that Bumbry has a place among the greatest in team history regardless of position.
Bumbry's banner year came in 1980 when he was already 33 years old but showing no signs of slowing down. To start, he stole a career-high 44 bases that season. He walked (78) more than he struck out (75). He came within one triple and one home run of posting a 29/10/10 campaign and earned his one and only All-Star nod.
He racked up an astonishing 205 base hits, helped out by his 49-for-145 performance during the final month of the season. In September alone, Bumbry rapped nine doubles, legged out two triples and slugged three homers. He also drove in 16 runs and stole 12 bases.
In addition, Bumbry provided some of the best defensive metrics of any center fielder in baseball, finishing third in fielding percentage and second in Baseball Reference's range factor.
Bumbry finished the season among the American League's top 10 in hits, triples, stolen bases, runs, at-bats, average, on-base percentage, walks and WAR.
.318/.392/.433, 29 2B, 9 3B, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 118 R, 78/75 BB/K, 44 SB, 6.0 WAR
22. Hoyt Wilhelm, 1959
One of the greatest knuckleballers to ever grace the diamond, Hoyt Wilhelm was already 35 years old by the time he came to Baltimore. The four years he spent with the O's were arguably the greatest seasons of his long and storied career.
In Wilhelm's first full season with the Orioles, he successfully made the transition from reliever to starter, making 27 starts and just five appearances out of the bullpen. The results were surprising and incredible.
Despite having never pitched more than 159.1 innings in a single season, Wilhelm churned out 226, good for 10th in the AL. He set career highs with 139 strikeouts and 15 victories and led the American League with a 2.19 ERA. He also blew the socks off everyone and tossed 13 complete games.
In addition to all the wins and complete games, Wilhelm finished second in the AL in both WAR and WHIP. His WAR of 5.6 was the highest of his career.
Wilhelm's campaign brought him his second All-Star nod, six years after his first. Wilhelm went on to pitch another 13 years after that incredible 1959 season and finally hung up his cleats at age 49.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985 and still holds the record for most victories by a reliever.
15-11, 2.19, 32 G, 27 GS, 226 IP, 13 CG, 3 SHO, 13 HRA, 139/77 K/BB, 1.128 WHIP, 5.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 7.6 WAR
21. Bobby Grich, 1973
In particular, 1973 stands out. While it wasn't a year that saw career highs in homers, RBI or stolen bases, it was a solid all-around season at the plate that was accompanied by one of the finest defensive performances in team history. That's saying a lot coming from an organization that produced defensive wizards Cal Ripken Jr. and Brooks Robinson.
First, the offensive numbers. Grich's .261/.373/.387 line didn't wow anyone, but he did contribute 29 doubles and a career-high seven triples. He slugged 12 homers and drove in 50 runs. He was effective on the basepaths swiping 17 bags, and he drew a career-high 107 walks while striking out just 91 times. His on-base percentage was good enough to finish ninth in the American League.
On defense is where Grich really made his mark, scoring a WAR mark of 3.9, a number that was good for second in the AL in '73 and 22nd all time. He finished second with 509 assists, tops among second basemen.
He began a three-year streak of leading all American Leaguers at his position in double plays turned, and his .995 fielding percentage set a new single-season record. He also finished with the second highest mark in total zone runs for a second baseman.
Understandably, Grich was rewarded for his efforts with the first of four consecutive Gold Gloves.
.251/.373/.387, 29 2B, 7 3B, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 107/91 BB/K, 17 SB, 8.3 WAR
20. Rafael Palmeiro, 1998
With or without the help from performance-enhancing drugs, Rafael Palmeiro was one of the most consistent hitters in Major League history. His run of nine consecutive years with at least 37 home runs and 105 RBI is one that is unlikely to be copied.
Palmeiro joined the Orioles as a 29-year-old in 1994. His first season with Baltimore was cut short because of the strike, but he had already established himself by slugging 23 home runs and driving in 76 runs in just 112 games. His most impressive campaign with the O's would come in 1998, the first of a team-record 14 consecutive losing seasons.
That year, Palmeiro paved the way for the underperforming squad, slugging 43 homers and racking up 121 RBI. He also contributed 36 doubles, 11 steals and 79 walks. During the month of June, he was the hottest hitter in baseball, slugging 12 home runs, driving in 29 and posting an OPS of 1.152.
For his efforts, Palmeiro picked up the treble of All-Star, Silver Slugger and even the Gold Glove.
Palmeiro ranked among the AL top 10 in nearly every offensive category, including at-bats, total bases, home runs, RBI and extra-base hits. He also reached the 300-homer and 1,000-RBI mark during the course of the season.
He was equally solid on defense, picking up the second of three consecutive Gold Gloves. He finished tops among AL first baseman with 124 assists, and his .994 fielding percentage ranked fourth.
.296/.379/.565, 36 2B, 1 3B, 43 HR, 121 RBI, 79/91 BB/K, 11 SB, 6.3 WAR
19. Paul Blair, 1969
Paul Blair was a similar player to Al Bumbry in that he never put together a truly outstanding season at the plate, but his defense combined with his offensive potential made him a truly dangerous all-around player. As such, Blair finds himself a home inside the top 20 despite never having a season in which he hit over .300, slugged 30 home runs or stole 30 bases.
Playing on a loaded squad that won 107 games and got contributions from Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Don Buford, Davey Johnson, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally, the '69 Orioles squad was a juggernaut.
While each of the aforementioned players had a tremendous year, Blair's campaign was truly memorable. He set career highs in nearly every offensive category, including hits (178), runs (102), doubles (32), home runs (26) and RBI (76). He also stole 20 bases and led the league with 13 sacrifice hits.
He sputtered to a .168 finish in September and October, although he had already done enough damage to finish in the AL top 10 in runs, hits, total bases, extra-base hits, doubles, triples and WAR. For his efforts at the plate, Blair was honored with his first All-Star nomination. He also finished 11th in the AL MVP voting.
In the field, Blair was also incredible. He led the American League in putouts, finished second with 12 outfield assists and posted a top-five fielding percentage. His efforts in center field earned him his second Gold Glove. He would go on to win the next six at his position.
Blair played another 11 seasons, seven of which were spent in Baltimore, but he never again approached the 7.1 WAR he produced in 1969.
.285/.327/.477, 32 2B, 5 3B, 26 HR, 76 RBI, 102 R, 40/72 BB/K, 20 SB, 7.1 WAR
18. Melvin Mora, 2004
It's not every season that an Oriole challenges for the batting title while hitting nearly 30 home runs and driving in over 100 runs. As it would happen, Melvin Mora's incredible 2004 campaign was largely overshadowed by Miguel Tejada's own sensational performance, one that will make an appearance a little further down our list.
Still, immense credit has to be given to Mora, who was arguably the only bright spot on a Baltimore squad that endured a losing season in every one of the 10 years he spent with the club. He is also responsible for several of the most impressive offensive campaigns ever put forth by an Orioles' third baseman.
Mora hit the ground running in '04, hitting .361 during April and boosting his average to nearly .400 by the end of May. His performance during the second month of the season was wondrous. He posted a .402/.480/.701 line and hit eight homers, driving in 23. He slumped in June and July, hitting only .271 and .266, respectively, before bouncing back to hit well over .350 the rest of the way.
Mora finished the season a distant second to Ichiro (.372) in batting average, but he also cracked the AL top 10 in slugging, runs, doubles, total bases, RBI and WAR. His .419 on-base percentage was tops in the AL.
Mora was rewarded for his career year with both an All-Star nod and a Silver Slugger. He finished a distant 18th in the MVP voting, but combined with Tejada, he gave the Orioles arguably the top one-two combination in all of baseball.
Mora enjoyed several other impressive campaigns, but he never again put forth one as astonishing as his breakout performance of '04.
.340/.419/.562, 41 2B, 27 HR, 104 RBI, 111 R, 66/95 BB/K, 11 SB, 5.6 WAR
17. Boog Powell, 1970
The two-year run that Powell put together from 1969-70 was arguably the best in Orioles' history. During that span, the portly slugger swatted 72 home runs, drove in 235, hit an even .300 and finished second in the '69 MVP race before winning top honors in '70.
The latter was far-and-away Powell's crowning achievement as an Oriole. In addition to winning MVP honors, he finished top five with 114 RBI, a .412 on-base percentage, a .549 slugging percentage, 35 home runs and 63 extra-base hits.
Along the way, he put together one of the most impressive first-half performances in team history, hitting .320/.430/.605 with 23 homers and 73 RBI in the team's first 87 games. His 10-homer, 24-RBI showing in May was especially jaw-dropping.
He was at his best late in games, hitting .304 with 10 home runs in the seventh inning or later. And while the majority of his damage (.302/18/52) came at Memorial Stadium, he hit .300 or better at five other parks, including a 10-for-22 showing at Metropolitan Stadium, home of the West Division-winning Twins.
Other impressive feats from Powell's season include a .312/.412/.530 line against winning teams, six homers and 17 RBI in 12 games against Chicago, and his third consecutive All-Star appearance.
On top of it all, Powell was a beast in the postseason, going 11-for 31 (.355) with three doubles, three homers and 11 RBI in Baltimore's three-game sweep of Minnesota in the ALCS and their 4-1 World Series victory over Cincinnati.
The 1970 season was also the last great hurrah for Powell, who never again topped the 30-HR or 100-RBI mark.
.297/.412/.549, 28 2B, 35 HR, 114 RBI, 82 R, 104/80 BB/K, 1 SB, 5.1 WAR (5.4 OFF)
16. Jim Palmer, 1976
Jim Palmer won 268 games during his 19-year career, all of which were spent in Baltimore. He struck out more than 2,000 batters, won three Cy Young awards, was named to six All-Star squads and was a part of some of the best teams in Orioles' history, including three World Series winners and three runner-ups.
As evidenced by his statue outside Camden Yards, he's become a part of Baltimore lore, a status that is further enhanced by his commentating work for MASN.
Palmer's second best campaign came in 1976, a year that the Orioles failed to make the playoffs, despite an 88-74 record and one of the best performances in team history. For the second season in a row, Palmer led the American League in victories while also pacing the circuit with 315 innings pitched and 40 games started.
He also finished second in the league in WHIP, shutouts and complete games. In addition to his second Cy Young award, he also picked up the first of his four Gold Gloves.
As the Orioles fought to stay in the pennant race down the stretch, Palmer was key, going 11-5 with a 1.91 ERA, 11 complete games and four shutouts in 17 starts. Over the course of 141 innings, he served up just six home runs.
22-13, 2.51, 40 GS, 315 IP, 23 CG, 6 SHO, 20 HRA, 159/84 K/BB, 1.076 WHIP, 4.5 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 6.6 WAR
15. Jim Gentile, 1961
Gentile spent nine seasons in the big leagues, but the four years he spent in Baltimore were arguably the only productive years he had. Acquired from the Dodgers for two players and $50,000 in cash, Gentile went from notching only 36 at-bats from 1957-58 to slugging 124 home runs over the next four seasons.
His best season as an Oriole, and the best season of his career, came in 1961. Established as a full-time regular for the first time in his career, Gentile anchored a young lineup that included only one regular player over the age of 29. He out-homered the top-three sluggers on his own squad (46-45) and his 142 RBI not only led the league, but nearly doubled the next closest Oriole (Jackie Brandt with 72).
He finished in the AL top five in on-base percentage, slugging, homers, extra-base hits, average and WAR.
Impressively, Gentile did the majority of his damage away from Memorial Stadium, hitting .314 with 30 homers and 88 RBI on the road. And he had arguably two of the most impressive single-month performances in team history. In July he hit .423 with 10 homers and 26 RBI. He followed that up with 15 homers and 30 RBI in 31 August contests.
He posted an incredible .370/.497.854 line with runners in scoring position and slugged five grand slams on the year. From the seventh inning on, he hit .338 with 12 homers and 30 RBI. In regards to his play against specific teams, Gentile treated both the Angels and Tigers especially bad, slugging nine homers apiece against each squad.
For his efforts, Gentile was rewarded with an All-Star nomination and a third-place finish in the AL MVP voting, behind the only two guys to out-homer him on the season...Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
.302/.423/.646, 25 2B, 2 3B, 46 HR, 141 RBI, 96 R, 96/106 BB/K, 1 SB, 6.9 WAR (6.3 OFF)
14. Eddie Murray, 1983
Few hitters have as much clout as "Steady Eddie."
Over 500 career home runs.
More than 3,200 hits.
Eight All-Star selections, Rookie of the Year honors and three Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, not to mention five consecutive top-five finishes in the AL MVP voting.
The cherry on top came in 2003 when Murray was elected to the Hall of Fame.
Murray had many memorable seasons in Baltimore. Heck, nearly all 13 of them. During the early 1980s however, he was in a class of his own. He led the American League in homers and RBI during the strike-shortened 1981 season and on five occasions topped the 30-homer mark.
Murray's 1983 campaign was arguably his best as an Oriole. He set career highs with 33 homers and 115 runs and finished in the top five in slugging, total bases, RBI and walks. His WAR of 6.6 placed him seventh in the American League.
Unlike most hitters who have dramatic home-away splits, Murray lived up to his moniker with steady play both at Memorial Stadium (.305/15/56) and on the road (.304/17/55).
For the second consecutive year, Murray finished second in AL MVP voting, this time to his teammate, Cal Ripken Jr., although he did pick up his first Silver Slugger and fourth All-Star nod.
In the field, Murray continued to excel, finishing the season with a .993 fielding percentage. That number was good for fourth among all AL first basemen, but was down from the two previous seasons, when he finished tops at his position.
For good measure, Murray paved the way for the O's during their run to their third World Series championship, hitting three homers and driving in six runs in nine postseason contests.
.306/.393/.538, 30 2B, 3 3B, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 115 R, 86/90 BB/K, 5 SB, 6.6 WAR
.257/.333/.514, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R, 4/7 BB/K, 1 SB (postseason)
13. Brooks Robinson, 1968
No list of top Orioles anything would be complete without the human vacuum cleaner, Brooks Robinson.
And while Robinson had so many incredible seasons, there are only room for two on this list, beginning with his historic 1968 campaign, one that began with a game-clinching eighth-inning home run in the season opener and ended with his ninth consecutive Gold Glove.
Along the way, he rapped 36 doubles, slugged 17 homers and drove in 75 runs. While those numbers might not sound impressive, especially by today's standards, those were solid numbers for 1968. He finished the season ranked second in doubles, sixth in hits and total bases and seventh in RBI.
In addition to the impressive 4.4 WAR that Robinson contributed at the plate, he added another 4.5 wins in the field. Those 4.5 wins represented the third-highest total in big-league history (at the time) and the highest single-season mark since Art Fletcher's 5.1 all the way back in 1917.
Robinson was passed years later by teammate Mark Belanger and St. Louis' Ozzie Smith, but his defensive performance from 1968 still ranks fifth all time.
Several other advanced metrics show just how dominating Robinson was at the hot corner in '68. His campaign still ranks inside the top 10 all time in total zone runs and he is by himself atop total zone runs at third base.
Sadly, defensive ability was not as appreciated in the late-60s as it is today, and as a result, Robinson finished a mere 17th in MVP voting. He would have to settle for his ninth consecutive All-Star nod as his crowning achievement, as well as the admiration of today's stat-heads.
.253/.304/.416, 36 2B, 6 3B, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 65 R, 44/55 BB/K, 1 SB, 8.4 WAR
12. Mike Mussina, 1994
It's hard to find another player in team history that divides fans like Mike Mussina.
"Moose" spent ten glorious seasons with the Orioles before stabbing the city in the back and high-tailing it for the Big Apple. Regardless of how much influence team owner Peter Angelos had on the decision, the simple fact remains that Mussina was an Oriole one day and a Yankee the next.
Mussina's 1994 campaign is another cosmic "what if." By the time the strike shut down the season, he had already racked up 16 victories in 24 starts, good for second in the league behind New York's Jimmy Key. His 3.06 ERA placed him fourth in the league, as did his WHIP of 1.163. He also posted top-five numbers in winning percentage and innings pitched.
Mussina finished the season with a WAR of 5.4, which ranked him eighth in the AL and fourth among pitchers. It was also the seventh-highest number of his 10-year career, which makes one wonder what his numbers would have looked like had he been able to make another 10 starts.
If he had continued to pitch at the same pace, and his 2-0 record and 1.20 ERA in his final two starts suggest he likely would have, Mussina would have finished with a 23-7 record, 250 innings and a WAR of 7.7. That number would have ranked as the second highest of his career, and the wins and innings would have represented career highs.
For a true testament to the kind of pitcher that Mussina was, look no further than his performances away from Camden Yards. He went 8-1 with a 2.04 ERA and surrendered just five home runs in 83.2 innings on the road. The one loss came in a contest in which he tossed eight innings of two-run ball.
Even more impressive is that 17 of Mussina's 24 starts qualified as quality starts.
Other numbers, including his pedestrian 99/42 K/BB rate, were less than impressive, but on the whole the season was arguably one of Mussina's best, even with the work stoppage.
Mussina finished fifth in the American League Cy Young voting for the season.
16-5, 3.06, 24 G, 176.1 IP, 3 CG, 19 HRA, 99/42 K/BB, 1.163 WHIP, 5.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 5.4 WAR
11. Brady Anderson, 1996
The battle for the top 10 seasons produced by an Oriole is fierce, and as such, someone is going to have to get left out. Sadly, that season is Brady Anderson's record-breaking 1996 campaign.
Say what you will about steroids and how Anderson ballooned to twice his own size, but the simple fact is that he took his game to a whole new level in '96, pacing one of the most impressive offenses in baseball history.
The number that stands out, obviously, is the 50 home runs. Never before had Anderson slugged more than 21 in a single season, and after '96 he never swatted more than 24. Most of that can be attributed to his reported use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Some of it, however, was due to lineup protection. From 1995, when Anderson slugged 16 homers, to '96 the Orioles added seasoned veterans and proven sluggers B.J. Surhoff, Bobby Bonilla, Roberto Alomar and Eddie Murray to a lineup that already included Chris Hoiles, Rafael Palmeiro and Cal Ripken.
The four new additions combined to hit .297 with 81 homers and 241 RBI. The players they replaced hit a combined .250 with 24 home runs and 108 RBI. If you don't think a ton of credit for Anderson's incredible season goes to replacing Manny Alexander with Alomar, Jeff Manto with Surhoff and Jeffrey Hammonds with Bonilla, you're out of your mind.
Back to Anderson.
His season wasn't just about home runs. He rapped 37 doubles, on pace with his career average; legged out five triples, also on pace with his career average; and swiped 21 bases, which of course...was in line with his career average.
He also posted totals in line with his 162-game average in walks, sacrifice hits and sac flies. Interestingly enough, and this too is a testament to the better protection he had in 1996, Anderson drew only one intentional walk all season. To put that in perspective, he drew four the year before and a career-high 14 in 1992.
Anderson added another three long balls in the postseason, including two of Baltimore's nine in their ALDS victory over Cleveland.
For his efforts, Anderson picked up his second All-Star nod and also a top-10 finish in the AL MVP vote. Surprisingly, he wasn't even the Oriole with the highest finish. That honor went to Rafael Palmeiro, who finished sixth.
.297/.396/.637, 37 2B, 5 3B, 50 HR, 110 RBI, 117 R, 76/106 BB/K, 21 SB, 6.9 WAR
10. Frank Robinson, 1969
Robinson's Triple Crown-winning campaign of 1966 gets all the love, but few actually remember how good he was three years later during the 1969 season that saw the Orioles steamroll through the American League, winning a team-record 109 games before inexplicably losing to the Miracle Mets in the World Series.
That team produced several incredible campaigns, including two (Mike Cuellar and Paul Blair) that made this list, but most of the glory from that run falls into the lap of Robinson. He not only led the squad with 111 runs and a .308 average, but he also finished with roughly the same WAR as that of his '66 AL MVP season.
The majority of Robinson's damage came during an incredible first half. In 93 games before the break, he posted a .329/.431/.582 line and slugged 22 home runs. He hit a meager (by his standards) .271 after the break.
He again proved his excellence in the clutch, hitting .343 with nine homers after the sixth inning, and the O's went 24-7 in games in which he homered, including 15 in a row from April 12 to June 24.
Robinson finished the season second in the AL with a .415 on-base percentage, 111 runs and a .987 fielding percentage. He ranked fourth with a .308 average and finished inside the top 10 in hits, triples, RBI, total bases and WAR.
He also earned his fifth top-five finish in the MVP voting and was elected to start his 11th All-Star game.
.308/.415/.540, 19 2B, 5 3B, 32 HR, 100 RBI, 111 R, 88/62 BB/K, 9 SB, 7.5 WAR
9. Nick Markakis, 2008
As a whole, our society tends to get too wrapped up in the "what have you done for me lately" mindset. As such, we place way too much emphasis on what we've just seen, forgetting what we saw long ago. Fortunately, some recent accomplishments stand the test of time.
Case in point: Nick Markakis' 2008 campaign.
Some will argue that Nick the Stick's greatest single-season triumph came the year before, when he set career highs with 23 homers and 112 RBI, and tossing in 18 steals just for good measure. Yes, the campaign was strong, but it doesn't hold a candle to his performance in '08.
For starters, '08 was the season that Markakis set career highs in nearly every other offensive category, including runs (106), doubles (48), walks (99), batting average (.306), on-base percentage (.406) and slugging percentage (.491). In any other year—for any other team—Markakis' slash-line would have been good enough for an All-Star nod, but he didn't get one.
He also didn't win a Gold Glove, despite having a tremendous year in which he committed just three errors, led all right fielders in putouts and racked up an Major League-best 17 outfield assists.
Markakis finished the season among the American League's best in runs (fourth), doubles (third), walks (second) and led the circuit with 7.5 WAR, a number that placed him behind only Albert Pujols, Chase Utley and Mark Teixeira.
Some argue that Markakis hasn't developed into the superstar that fans expected him to, and ESPN recently declared him the "most average player" in baseball. Through it all, however, he's been nothing but a model of consistency.
He won his first Gold Glove in 2011 and appears to be headed to his first All-Star game this year.
.306/.406/.491, 48 2B, 1 3B, 20 HR, 87 RBI, 106 R, 99/113 BB/K, 10 SB, 7.5 WAR
8. Miguel Tejada, 2004
The Orioles sprung a six-year, $72 million contract for Tejada after he was not retained by the A's after the 2003 season, and while the team as a whole didn't necessarily get the victories it desired—averaging only 73 wins per season—it certainly got some incredible production.
In his debut season, Tejada put together one of the most impressive campaigns in team history.
He led the league with 150 RBI, setting a modern team record along the way. He finished third in the AL in total bases, fourth in hits and extra-base hits, eighth in home runs and ninth in doubles. His WAR of 7.4 was fifth in the league and second among position players. And in a fitting tribute to the position he played—shortstop—he played in all 162 games.
On the other side of the ball, he led the American League in assists, double plays turned and range factor among shortstops. His defensive WAR of 1.4 set a career high that he has yet to exceed.
Tejada's run-producing performance was so exceptional it truly is hard to quantify.
He racked up at least 23 RBI in every month except for March/April and had 30 or more in both July and September/October. He had exactly 75 in each half of the season. Against division rivals he excelled. He hit .316 and drove in 17 runs in 19 games against Boston, hit .312 with 22 RBI in 19 games against New York, and hit .291 with 18 RBI in 19 games against Tampa Bay.
In terms of game-to-game performance, he drove in at least two runs 42 times, at least three runs 18 times, at least four runs seven times and on four different occasions drove in five runs in a single game. Interestingly, the O's were 14-4 in games in which Tejada drove in at least three runs. The were 32-51 in games in which he didn't record an RBI.
So Tejada went, the Orioles went.
With a .311 average, 15 homers and 75 RBI at the break, Tejada was a shoo-in for the All-Star game. Prior to the contest, he slugged a then-record 27 home runs in the Home Run Derby, taking home the trophy.
After the season, he finished fifth in the MVP voting and was awarded with his first Silver Slugger.
To date, Tejada's 2004 campaign with Baltimore represents the best single season of his 16-year career.
.311/.360/.534, 40 2B, 2 3B, 34 HR, 150 RBI, 107 R, 48/73 BB/K, 4 SB, 7.4 WAR
7. Brooks Robinson, 1964
While Robinson's 1968 campaign may be arguably the greatest defensive season in history, it's his MVP-winning performance in '64 that most fans remember.
Hands down, '64 was easily the top offensive season of Robinson's long and storied career in Baltimore. The year saw him set career highs in hits (194), home runs (28), RBI (118), batting average (.317), on-base percentage (.368) and slugging (.521).
He finished second in the league in batting average and hits, third in doubles and 10th in home runs. His WAR of 8.0 was tops among AL position players, and he finished seventh in defensive WAR. And of course, he led the circuit in numerous other defensive statistics, including putouts, assists, double plays turned and fielding percentage.
After a strong first half (.317/9/48), Robinson really heated up, hitting .317 with 19 homers and 71 RBI after the All-Star break, the best second-half performance of his career. He was especially incredible during the season's final month, hitting .381 with 13 doubles, five homers and 32 RBI in just 31 games.
He became so hot at the plate that first-year manager Hank Bauer moved him to the cleanup spot where Robinson actually thrived, hitting .333/.385/.574. And as a testament to his status as arguably the most consistent player in franchise history, Robinson drove in at least 10 runs against every one of the Orioles' nine opponents that season.
Particularly memorable was a four-game stretch against Boston and New York when Robinson hit homers in each game and drove in eight runs. He also had a 4-for-4 day against Boston earlier in the year in which he missed hitting for the cycle by a double and scored three runs.
The 27-year-old Robinson was awarded the American League MVP for his efforts, beating out Mickey Mantle by 18 first-place votes to two. He also picked up his fifth consecutive All-Star nomination and his fifth straight Gold Glove.
.317/.368/.521, 35 2B, 3 3B, 28 HR, 118 RBI, 82 R, 51/64 BB/K, 1 SB, 8.0 WAR
6. Mike Mussina, 1992
The Orioles have been witness to many incredible debut seasons. In his first full season, Cal Ripken Jr. slugged 28 homers and won Rookie of the Year honors. Eddie Murray swatted 27 in his rookie year and also won honors. No member of the organization had as memorable a first full season as Mike Mussina, however, and his 1992 campaign goes down as arguably the top single-season pitching performance in team history.
Mussina was actually called up the year prior and looked every bit as good as the front office hoped he would, pitching 7.2 innings of one-run ball in his debut. He went on to win four of his first nine starts and finished the year with a 2.87 ERA and two complete games in 12 appearances. He pitched into the sixth inning in all but one of his starts and went at least eight innings half of them. Over his last six starts, he posted a minuscule 1.66 ERA and averaged 8.1 innings.
All that was just an appetizer for Mussina's incredible 1992 season, one in which he somehow only finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.
The season began inconspicuously enough, with "Moose" going only 5.2 innings with no strikeouts and two walks. He returned to form in his second start, tossing eight innings of one-run ball, and followed that up with a complete-game six-hitter. By July, Mussina had two more complete games and he took a 9-3 record and a 2.40 ERA into the All-Star break. He was an easy selection for his first All-Star game.
The first start after the break offered a glimpse of how special Mussina was. He tossed a complete-game, one-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts against Texas. Perhaps suffering from a bit of a hangover, he went a season-low three innings in his next start, but from then on he was downright dominant. Over the final 14 starts of the season, he threw four complete games, went 8-2 and averaged eight innings per start. He went the distance in four of his final five outings.
Mussina finished the season fourth in the American League with 18 victories, third with a 2.54 ERA, and second in WAR (8.2), WHIP (1.079) and shutouts (four). His .783 winning percentage was tops in all of baseball.
He did more than finish among the AL leaders in most categories, though. His single-season WAR was the second highest among pitchers in team history.
Mussina spent another eight seasons with the Orioles, each of them special in their own way, but he never had a season as impressive as his '92 campaign.
18-5, 2.54, 32 GS, 241 IP, 8 CG, 4 SHO, 130/48 K/BB, 16 HRA, 1.079 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 8.2 WAR
5. Jim Palmer, 1975
Palmer had several truly incredible seasons for Baltimore, but the creme de la creme was his 1975 campaign.
To get a taste of how good Palmer was in '75, check out his monthly splits:
Palmer's performance during the first half of the year (13-6, 2.26, 13 CG, 6 SHO) was incredible, but what was even more amazing is how excellent he was after struggling to a 2-2 mark and a 4.31 ERA in five July starts.
In 15 starts spanning from August 1 to September 28, Palmer went 9-4 with a 1.78 ERA. He finished 11 of his own starts, and four of those were shutouts. Surprisingly, his most impressive performance may have come in a contest that didn't result in either a complete game or a shutout. On August 21, Palmer tossed 12 innings of five-hit, one-run ball in an affair that the O's finally won in the 14th. As if it couldn't have gotten any more impressive, Palmer accomplished that feat coming off of back-to-back shutouts.
Later in the year he also added a 10-inning, 10-strikeout performance against Boston.
Palmer pitched well on three days rest, something he did 24 times, but he was at his best with four days in between starts. In those 11 appearances, he tossed complete games eight times and held down a 1.94 ERA.
The 1975 campaign saw Palmer finish as the Major League leader in ERA (2.09), victories (23), shutouts (10) and WAR (8.5) among pitchers. He topped the American League charts in overall WAR and finished second in WHIP (1.031), innings (323) and complete games (25). He finished in the AL top five in winning percentage (.676), strikeouts (193) and games started (38).
Personally, it was an exceptional year for Palmer, as he set career highs in wins, complete games, shutouts, innings pitched and WHIP. He also picked up his fourth All-Star nod and his second Cy Young, taking 82 percent of the vote. The '75 campaign also saw Palmer pick up career win No. 150, complete game No. 100 and crack the 2,000-inning mark.
Palmer would go on to win his third Cy Young the next season, and he finished in the top three the two years after that.
23-11, 2.09, 38 GS, 323 IP, 25 CG, 10 SHO, 20 HRA, 193/80 K/BB, 1.031 WHIP, 5.4 K/9, 2.2 K/9, 8.4 WAR
4. Cal Ripken Jr., 1984
As expected, several of the top few spots are occupied by Mr. Oriole himself, the Iron Man, Cal Ripken Jr.
Thanks to his incredible defensive value, as well as a bat that revolutionized the position of shortstop, most of Ripken's seasons are worthy of inclusion in the top 25. For the sake of being fair, however, I limited his single-season contributions to this list to three, and not surprisingly, all three rank inside the top four.
The worst of his best campaigns took place in 1984, when he was just a fresh-faced 23-year-old. Two years earlier, Ripken had taken home Rookie of the Year honors, and the very next season he was named MVP for his efforts leading the Orioles to their third World Series title. Kind of hard to top those first two seasons, eh?
Ripken responded to the pressure, taking charge of a squad full of aging veterans, including Rick Dempsey (34), Ken Singleton (37), Al Bumbry (37) and John Lowenstein (37), and guiding the Orioles to 85 wins. Unfortunately, that was only good for fifth in the American League.
Going through the American League leaders, it was easy to spot Ripken. He finished inside the top 10 in triples (seven), average (.304), slugging percentage (.510), runs (103), hits (195), extra-base hits (71), total bases (327), doubles (37) and at-bats (641). For the second consecutive season, he played in a league-high 162 games. More impressively, he played every inning of every game, going the distance in 10 extra-inning contests, including one 16-inning affair.
Hitting .290 with 17 doubles and 14 home runs at the break, Ripken was an easy selection to his second straight All-Star game. His second half was even better (.319/13/43) and he was rewarded for his season-long effort with his second Silver Slugger.
Along the way, Ripken hit for the cycle (May 6 vs. Texas), slugged two homers in a game three times, and proved to be excellent in clutch situations, hitting nearly .400 after the sixth inning and posting a .313 average with two outs and RISP.
On defense, Ripken contributed 3.6 WAR, the highest number of his career, and the 38th-highest mark of all time. He also set career highs with 297 putouts and 23 total zone fielding runs above average . His 583 assists were not only a career best, but also the sixth highest single-season total of all time for a shortstop. The player who finished behind Ripken had 102 fewer assists.
His .971 fielding percentage was only fifth best in the American League, but was also a testament to just how polished he would become at the position.
Overall, Ripken posted a Major League-leading WAR of 9.9 in 1984, the 56th highest total ever achieved by a position player, and the second highest of his career. Only 10 players have posted a higher number since, and to be fair, one doesn't count because it was Ripken himself.
More on that later.
Surprisingly, Ripken finished dead last (27th) among those players who received votes for the American League MVP, behind such awe-inspiring talents as Steve Balboni, Willie Upshaw, Lloyd Moseby and Juan Beniquez.
.304/.374/.510, 37 2B, 7 3B, 27 HR, 86 RBI, 103 R, 71/89 BB/K, 2 SB, 9.9 WAR
3. Cal Ripken Jr., 1983
It's hard to imagine having a better rookie campaign than Ripken. In his first full season, he hit .264 with 32 doubles, 28 homers and 93 RBI, all while playing solid defense at arguably the second-most demanding position on the field. He was awarded ROY honors and garnered 94 percent of the first-place votes.
Ripken's encore to his rookie campaign is arguably one of the most impressive sophomore seasons in baseball history.
As a 21-year-old, Ripken took the American League by storm. He paced the circuit with 162 games played, 726 plate appearances, 663 at-bats, 211 hits, 121 runs and 47 doubles. A few stats that he didn't lead the league in, although he came close, included batting average (.318, fifth), total bases (343, second), home runs (27, ninth) and RBI (102, ninth).
It's hard to believe that he got off to a slow start in '83, hitting a respectable but not overly impressive .294 with two home runs and 10 RBI in March/April. He boosted his power numbers (5 HR, 17 RBI) in May, although his average dipped to .269. He actually entered the All-Star break riding a 5-for-26 (.192) slump.
A simple five-day rest provided the Iron Man with all the energy he would need the rest of the way. A few days after the break he embarked on one of the hottest streaks of his career, going 18-for-47 (.383) with six doubles, three homers and 15 RBI during an 11-game hitting streak. Throughout the second half, he put together hitting streaks of 11 and 16 games.
Ripken's second-half performance stands up when compared to some of the most impressive in team history. In 86 games, he posted a .352/.386/.551 line, rapped 30 doubles, slugged 14 homers and drove in 56 runs, while scoring 69 of his own. During the month of September he was especially dangerous, hitting .393 with 11 doubles, six homers and 19 RBI. He scored 30 runs and posted a 1.023 OPS.
Ripken finished the season with career highs in at-bats, hits, runs scored and doubles. Each of those marks set in '83 still stood as personal bests when Ripken retired 18 years later. His overall WAR of 8.2 placed him first in both leagues and would go down as his third highest single-season total.
Defensively, Ripken also shined, picking up 2.3 WAR for his play in the field. That number was good for third in the AL. He also finished tops in the league in assists and double plays turned, and his .970 fielding percentage was good enough for fourth.
The 1983 season was a year of firsts for young Ripken. In addition to being named to his first All-Star squad and picking up his first Silver Slugger as the top hitter at his position, he also was awarded his first American League Most Valuable Player trophy, beating out teammate Eddie Murray by 32 points.
Ripken's incredible season didn't stop when the regular season wound down, though. He and Murray led the O's to a 98-win season and a World Series victory over the Phillies (4-1). It would be Ripken's one and only title, and while he only mustered three hits in five games in the final series, he could console himself with the .400 he hit in the ALCS, as well as the final out of the championship that settled into his glove.
.318/.371/.517, 47 2B, 2 3B, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 121 R, 58/97 BB/K, 8.2 WAR
.273/.385/.333, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 7 R, 5/7 BB/K (postseason)
2. Frank Robinson, 1966
It's hard not to stand in awe of Frank Robinson's Triple Crown-winning 1966 campaign.
It would be quicker to list the statistics that he did not lead the league in than those he did.
But we've got time, so let's take a look.
Robinson led the American League in batting average (.316), home runs (49), RBI (122), runs (122), on-base percentage (.410), slugging percentage (.637), total bases (367), extra-base hits (85), sacrifice flies (seven) and fielding percentage at his position (.992).
He did not lead the league in hits (second), doubles (third), walks (third) and WAR (second).
See what I mean? Much quicker.
By leading the league in the three major categories—AVG, HR, and RBI—Robinson became only the 13th player in Major League history to take home Triple Crown honors. Only two players have accomplished the feat in the 47 years since.
Robinson wasted no time adjusting to the American League after coming over in a relatively one-sided trade from Cincinnati. He hit .463 in April to go along with five homers and 10 RBI. May was the only month that Robinson struggled, and even then he hit five homers. He bounced back and slugged eight homers and drove in 26 runs in June and took a .312/.418/.591 line into the All-Star break.
In the second half, Robinson really heated up. He tagged pitchers for 13 home runs in a mere 106 at-bats during July, and he slugged nine homers and drove in 17 runs in a 10-game stretch from July 18-29. He posted three two-homer games in August on his way to slugging 12 long balls during the month. He added six more in September and finished five homers ahead of Hank Aaron, who finished second in all of the majors.
He didn't stop doing damage when the regular season ended, though. He swatted two more homers against the Dodgers in a surprise World Series sweep. He earned MVP honors for the Series, alongside a ton of other hardware.
He also won the AL MVP handily, sweeping all 20 first-place votes, and the Babe Ruth Award. He was awarded with his sixth All-Star nomination, and his first in the American League.
Robinson went on to hit another 213 home runs for the Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians, but he never again topped the home run, RBI, run, or double totals that he reached in '66. He would also never hit above .311 for a single season.
.316/.410/.637, 34 2B, 2 3B, 49 HR, 122 RBI, 122 R, 87/90 BB/K, 8 SB, 7.6 WAR
1. Cal Ripken Jr., 1991
It's hard to top a Triple Crown campaign, but in 1991, Cal Ripken Jr. did just that, setting the bar for single-season offensive output that each shortstop to come after him would be measured by.
Yes, Ripken had a lot of incredible seasons prior to, and after, '91, but without a doubt his 11th season in the majors was his finest.
Where to begin?
I suppose it would be best to start at the beginning of Ripken's season. He was off to an unspectacular 2-for-10 start when he exploded on April 13 against Texas with a 4-for-5 performance that included a triple, two two-run homers and seven RBI. His average wouldn't dip below .308 for the rest of the season. He added another 13 RBI before the end of the month and finished with 20.
He picked right up where he left off and hit safely in all but five of the O's 27 games in May, finishing 37-for-106 (.349) for the month with seven doubles, seven homers and 15 RBI. Included in May was an 11-game hit streak.
As good as he was in May, he was even better in June, hitting .371 with 10 doubles, five homers and 16 RBI. He racked up two or more hits in 16 of 27 contests and had three or more hits five times. During one six-game stretch, he hit .480 with four doubles, two homers and six RBI. He finished the month on an eight-game hitting streak, during which he went 16-for-35 (.462) with three doubles, a triple, three homers and seven RBI. He was intentionally walked five times in June and saw his average rise as high as .362.
He hit in five straight leading up to the All-Star break, finishing the first-half with a .348/.405/.596 line, 21 doubles, 18 homers and 54 RBI. Appropriately, Ripken was named to the American League squad for the ninth consecutive year. He put on a show at the SkyDome, taking home top honors in the Home Run Derby as well as the All-Star game itself.
After the break, Ripken finished out July in a bit of a slump. His .245 average for the month as a whole was his lowest of any month by a whopping 66 points.
He bounced right back in August, putting together a season-high 12-game hitting streak. He rapped 10 more doubles and slugged four more home runs while maintaining a .330 average for the month.
August turned to September, and instead of simply playing out the final month of the season, Ripken attacked opposing pitchers. He posted multi-hit games in 16 of 27 contests. In fact, there were only two games in which he posted just one hit. He scored two hits 14 times, three hits once and four hits once. He ended the month on a 14-for-26 (.538) tear with three homers and 13 RBI in the month's final six contests. And he closed out the year with the final at-bat in the history of Memorial Stadium.
Ripken finished the season with career highs in average (.323), home runs (34), RBI (114), steals (six), on-base percentage (.374) and slugging (.566). He paced the American League in total bases (368), extra-base hits (85) and WAR (11.5).
He had 73 multi-hit games, including 18 contests with three or more. He drove in at least three runs in 11 games. He also hit several personal career marks, including 300 doubles, 250 homers and 1,600 games played.
Defensively, Ripken was his usual self. Coming off a 1990 season in which he committed just three errors, he had a lot to live up to, but he acquitted himself nicely, leading the league in putouts, assists, double plays turned, fielding percentage, range factor and total zone runs.
In addition to All-Star honors, the Home Run Derby crown, and the All-Star game MVP, Ripken also took home his sixth Silver Slugger, his first ever Gold Glove and the American League MVP trophy. He won 81 percent of the vote and became the first player in AL history to win the MVP while playing for a team under .500.
By the way, despite Ripken's efforts, the Orioles went 67-95 in 1991.
Now it's time to break down just how great Ripken's '91 season was historically. And believe me, it was.
His single-season output of 11.5 WAR placed him ninth all time among position players, behind only Babe Ruth, Carl Yastrzemski, Rogers Hornsby and Lou Gehrig. He has since been passed by Barry Bonds but still ranks tied for 11th all time.
He became the first player since himself in 1984 to lead the American League in offensive and defensive WAR since 1965 and only the third in league history. In fact, Ripken is responsible for two of the four seasons in AL history in which the same player has led the circuit in offensive and defensive WAR.
And last but not least, as of 2006, Ripken's 1991 season ranked as the second highest of all time in WARP3 among non-pitchers with a total of 17.0, behind only Babe Ruth's 1923 campaign.
The effects of Ripken's '91 season lasted well into the mid-90s. He finished in the top six in the AL in intentional walks from '91-93, and he single-handedly revolutionized how awards were doled out with voters no longer beholden to players who competed on winning teams.
.323/.374/.566, 46 2B, 5 3B, 34 HR, 114 RBI, 99 R, 53/46 BB/K, 6 SB, 11.5 WAR