Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Doug Drabek, 1998 Spire #236

A few times a week, I chat with fellow blogger Andy (of Traded Sets fame). On more than one occasion, he's implored me to write a post with the theme of "Brotz-wurst". You see, it's a play on my last name, and...well, his theory is that it should write itself. With a little help from Andy and the Baseball-Reference Play Index, that's exactly what happened. In one of our conversations last week, I told him that I was planning a post about the worst single-season starting pitchers in Orioles history. So Andy hopped on to the B-R thingumabob and put together this handy list. We capped it at a minimum of 20 starts, which rules out supernova failures like Russ Ortiz and Adam Eaton. But as you'll see, there's still plenty of grist for the rag-arm mill. Working backwards, from fifth-worst to worst of all:

5. Bob Milacki, 1992: Three years removed from his career year of 1989, when he threw 243 innings of league-average ball (14-12, 3.74 ERA), and coming off of another fairly decent season (10-9, 4.01), the 27-year-old had a rude welcome to the brand-new Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Milacki started 20 games and relieved in three others, and went 6-8 with a 5.84 ERA. He gave up six runs per nine innings at home, and wasn't much better on the road. His WHIP was an unsightly 1.59, and at the end of the year the Birds let him go. Things didn't get any better post-Baltimore, as Bob went 2-10 with a 5.83 ERA in 22 games in Cleveland, Kansas City, and Seattle.

4. Garrett Olson, 2008: If you're disappointed by Felix Pie's poor showing thus far, just remember that we didn't exactly give up the farm for him. I'd already repressed the sheer horror of the 2008 O's rotation, but the fact that this jittery kid got to torment us for 26 starts says it all. (Lefty Brian Burres was 13th-worst, and he took another 22 starts.) Olson's 9-10 record belied a vulgar 6.65 ERA and 1.73 WHIP. He was knocked out of four starts before completing three innings, and had nine starts in which he allowed five or more runs. When he was good, he was very good; when he was bad, he was abysmal.

3. Jose Mesa, 1991: Ah, Joe Table. Before he was a good closer, he was a lousy starter. At age 25, the Dominican righthander was allowed 23 starts worth of rope. In a lost season for the Birds, he was 6-11 with a 5.97 ERA and 1.72 WHIP. He walked 4.5 batters per nine innings, and was especially flammable in June (0-3, 11.84 ERA, 2.42 WHIP). Mooooving on.

2. Dave Schmidt, 1989: The rest of the guys on this list played on teams that weren't any good. But Schmidt was supposed to be the one veteran presence on a pitching staff full of rookies and career minor-leaguers. Instead, the young guys did all of the heavy lifting for a surprise contender while Dave fell flat on his face: 10-13, 5.69 in 26 starts and 12 relief appearances. He failed to complete five innings in seven of his starts, and once gave up a dozen hits in three innings of work! It was a long way to fall for someone who hadn't been below league average in ERA in eight prior major league seasons. Considering that the O's finished just two games out of first place in the A.L. East, Schmidt's subpar 156 and 2/3 innings may have cost them a trip to the postseason.

1. Doug Drabek, 1998: I guess the card choice was a spoiler. This was the first of two ill-fated seasons with Ray Miller as manager, and one of his bright ideas was to bring in his best pitcher from his tenure as Pittsburgh's pitching coach. Doug had indeed been great during his Cy Young season (22-6, 2.76 ERA)...in 1990. The mustachioed Texan strolled into Baltimore as a 35-year-old who hadn't posted a decent ERA in four years, and the O's got more of the same. He failed to clear the fifth inning in nearly half of his starts (10 of 21), served up 20 home runs in 108 and 2/3 innings, and went 6-11 with a horrendous 7.29 ERA. Incredibly, he didn't get any cheap wins: he posted a 2.16 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in his half-dozen victories and averaged nearly seven innings per game. But oh, those 11 losses: 11.70 ERA, 2.23 WHIP, less than four innings per game. Unsurprisingly, 1998 was the last stand for Drabek's career.

So even though the Birds wasted seven innings of four-hit ball from rookie Jason Berken today, we should probably count our lucky stars. It could be worse...and it has been.


night owl said...

This is the second "Doug Drabek as an Oriole" mention I've read in the past few days (can't remember if they were both on this blog).

I honestly do not remember him pitching for the Orioles at all.

Andy said...

Nice, Kevin!

Kevin said...

night owl - I believe the first mention of Drabek as an Oriole was mine as well. It's a disturbing legacy to leave behind.

Andy - Hey, couldn't have done it without your help. Well, maybe I could have...but it would have taken years.

Anonymous said...

I felt sure that Don Larson's 1954 season would be the worst. Maybe his ERA or other stats weren't as bad as those in the top five (bottom five?) but come on, 3 and 21 isn't one of the club's five worst seasons ever?

Gerry said...

I'm with Anonymous. Larsen pitched over 200 innings with an ERA+ of 82. No Oriole pitcher since then has pitched 200 innings in a season with an ERA+ that bad.

Kevin said...

Anon. and Gerry - You make a strong point. On the one hand, I'm mindful of the contradictory nature of being "good enough" to lose 20 games. I'm sure he wouldn't have gotten to 200 innings if the brand-new Orioles had anyone better; Larsen kind of had to take his lumps. He completed 43% of his starts, which tells me that there was at least something there. But I wouldn't argue too strongly if Larsen was on somebody's list.

Unknown said...

i can't believe rodrigo lopez's '06 didn't make it

9-18 with a 5.90 over 189IP? batters ops+ed 125 against him at camden yards. 2.52 era in wins... pretty nice... 8.53 in losses. bleccch!

he was the first guy that came to mind for me!

Unknown said...

era+ of 77 over 189 innings. c'mon!