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Greatest O's: Introduction

Selection criteria

I've settled on an informal system for selecting the top 50 Orioles of the last 50 years (i.e., 1954-2003). The primary criterion for judging players will be their total contributions to the Orioles during their playing careers. Those contributions will be measured by two rating systems, Bill James's Win Shares and Clay Davenport's Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP-3). I don't really want to get into the details of each system here; however, information on both is widely available—Win Shares in book form, and WARP-3 on BaseballProspectus.com, where it is included on the Davenport Translations (DT) player cards. Neither system is perfect, but both make a reasonable effort at mathematically approximating a player's total worth, combining his efforts on offense, defense, and the pitcher's mound. In truth, the two systems have a lot in common, but they differ enough in some implementation details that I decided to use both statistics to get a more complete picture.

The Oriole career Win Shares and WARP-3 will be weighted far and above all other factors, but in some cases peak performance—that is, the value of the player in his greatest seasons—will also be considered. Peak contributions will come into play for stars that had brief Oriole stints, but shone brightly enough in their years with Baltimore to overshadow the longer but less spectacular careers of others. However, to eliminate one-year wonders, a player must have spent a minimum of three seasons in an Oriole uniform to make it to the final cut.

Other factors that may be used to settle close calls are, in order of decreasing importance: the player's extra-Oriole playing career; the player's postseason performance with the O's; and the player's contributions to the organization after his playing career.

Positional distribution

As I wrote in my last article, the official ballot for selecting the Top 50 team is seriously flawed and is bound to result in some deserving players being left off the team and some less worthy ones making it. I will correct somewhat for these potential injustices. Ideally, one would attempt to determine the 50 greatest Orioles of the last 50 years, regardless of where they played on the field. However, to maintain balance I will begin with modest positional quotas, distributed as I suggested in my amended ballot. The first 40 players chosen for my Top 50 will contain the top three players at each fielding position, including nine outfielders; there will also be one designated hitter and fifteen pitchers, at least one of which will be a reliever. That makes 8 * 3 + 1 + 15 = 40. The last ten spots will be given to the most deserving players, regardless of position, who have not yet been named.

Another problem that I failed to mention earlier is the lack of spots devoted to managers, not to mention coaches, scouts, executives, and other non-players. But restricting the nominees to players is a fair compromise in that it reduces the complexity of the process for the voting public. For the most part, fans are familiar with the achievements of the players, whose contributions come on the field in the presence of many witnesses. Other team personnel may have a large influence on the team's success, but most of their work happens behind the scenes. Also, the lack of objective measuring tools makes it hard to gauge the contributions of non-playing personnel. So while it may be interesting to name the top bullpen catchers in Orioles history, I'll save that debate for another day.

I will reveal my top Oriole selections position by position, starting at catcher. I'll name the players at each position that cracked the top 40, along with honorable mentions that merit consideration for the top 50. After those are done, I'll choose the final ten players to round out the top 50, and finally I'll wrap up the discussion by attempting to rank the top ten players of the Orioles' last fifty years.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 15, 2004 9:54 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Greatest O's—for real this time.

The next post in this blog is Greatest O's: Catchers.

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