OK, so this list was tough.
It was so tough, in fact, that I took a significant step to making it somewhat easier by creating a rule that any player on the Sweet 16 Most Underrated Orioles of All-Time could not be in the team’s Hall of Fame.
There, that reduces the number of qualifiers…considerably.
Honestly, it turned out to be a good move on my part. As I scan the list of Orioles HOF’ers, nearly all of them were vastly appreciated for their on-field work. Very, very few of the players who are in the team’s hallowed Hall are underrated.
Therefore, these sixteen players truly ARE underrated, because none of them will likely ever be Oriole Hall of Famers, yet each of them made significant contributions to the ball club at one time or another.
#16 — Larry Sheets (OF/DH)
Had back-to-back good years in ’86-87, careering it in 1987 with 31 HR’s and a .316 batting average in 135 games. Didn’t strike out nearly as much as semi-power-hitters did back then, but didn’t walk as much either. Was a capable defensive outfielder. Finished his Orioles career with 84 HR’s in 6 seasons and a .757 OPS.
#15 — B.J. Ryan (P)
Only had one great season (2005) when he emerged as the team’s closer, but put together three consecutive excellent seasons starting in 2003. Ended his 7-year stint in Baltimore with a 3.53 ERA. Had one of the best sliders in all of baseball before signing a huge free agent deal in Toronto for the ’04 campaign.
#14 — Storm Davis (P)
Spent six seasons in Baltimore in the 1980′s and ’90′s, starting 123 games and compiling a 61-43 record with a 3.63 ERA. Had his best campaign in 1984, throwing 225 innings with a 3.12 ERA and a 14-9 record.
#13 — Joe Orsulak (OF)
In five seasons with the Birds, Orsulak never hit below .269 and finished his tenure in Baltimore with a .281 career batting average and a very respectable .337 OBP. Always a dependable fielder and a guy who would come up with the clutch hit in late game-situations.
#12 — Jeremy Guthrie (P)
Kind of weird to have a guy with a 47-65 record on the Most Underrated List, but Guthrie is here and he belongs. He pitched for the Orioles during their true time of despair and did so with integrity and character. In three of his five seasons in Baltimore, pitching in what was then an extraordinarily difficult American League East, he produced an ERA of under 4.00. His biggest blemish was a propensity for giving up HR’s, but he gave the O’s three straight seasons of 200+ innings pitched from ’09 through ’11.
#11 — Mike Devereaux (OF)
OK, so Devereaux’s offensive numbers weren’t all that good. In fact, they were not nearly as good as I sort of assumed they would be before I started doing research on the former O’s center fielder. His seven seasons in Baltimore featured only one campaign with a batting average above .275 and his career splits in orange weren’t all that great (.251/.307/.404), but his defense at the time was as good as anyone. His “career year” in 1992 left him in 7th place in A.L. MVP voting; 24 HR, 107 RBI, .276 average.
#10 — Mark Williamson (P)
Spent his entire 8-year career in Baltimore, pitching for a bunch of so-so Orioles teams. Working mainly as a relief pitcher (with one half-a-season as a starter in ’88), Williamson finished with a record of 46-35 and 3.86 ERA.
#9 — Randy Myers (Closer)
Only spent two seasons in Baltimore, but the team went to the post-season in both of the campaigns that he served as the team’s closer. His 1997 season – in which he finished 4th in Cy Young voting – still ranks as one of the Birds’ all-time best seasons by any player. He made 61 appearances, with 45 saves and an ERA of just 1.51. In 59.2 innings of work, he surrendered only 47 hits, two of which were HR’s.
#8 — Gary Roenicke (OF)
Eight years in Baltimore made Roenicke a fan favorite and his numbers supported the adulation, as he produced splits of .250/.355/.448 with 106 HR’s. Part of the 1983 World Series winner. Came within seven walks of an interesting statistical anomaly. Finished his Orioles career with 335 walks and 342 strikeouts.
#7 — Koji Uehara (P)
There were always plenty of giggles about Koji’s inability to pitch in hot weather while in Baltimore, which made his 2011 trade to the Texas Rangers somewhat puzzling, but one thing was certain about Uehara — he could throw strikes. A failed starter in Baltimore, Koji’s best work came out of the bullpen. In 98 games and 157 innings of work, he produced an ERA of 3.03. His most impressive statistical feature? In those 157 innings, he struck out 165 and walked only 25.
#6 — Jeff Conine (1B)
Seven seasons in Baltimore — all of them when the team stunk — with splits of .287/.341/.442. Was also a very capable defensive player at first base. Had one of the Orioles’ best offensive years of the decade in 2001 when he produced splits of .311/.386/.443 in 139 games.
#5 — Randy Milligan (1B)
Over four years in Baltimore, Milligan produced several representative seasons at the plate, including 1990 when he registered a .408 on-base percentage. Here are Milligan’s career numbers. He truly was an extremely underrated offensive player.
#4 — Wally Bunker (P)
In six years in orange from ’63 through ’68, Bunker compiled a 44-27 record with a 3.40 ERA. He’s the only player on the list I didn’t see play personally. So, he has that going for him…which is nice.
#3 — Melvin Mora (INF)
Likely the only player on the list who someday WILL be in the Orioles Hall of Fame, Mora spent ten laborious seasons in Baltimore and was a true ambassador of the franchise both on and off the field. Gave 100% effort every time he stepped on the field and had several outstanding offensive seasons in orange. His career numbers in Baltimore included a .280 batting average and .355 on-base percentage. Here are Mora’s stats.
#2 — Darren O’Day (P)
The only CURRENT Orioles player to make the list, O’Day has been borderline extraordinary in his three seasons in Charm City. O’Day has pitched 145 innings thus far in Baltimore and has surrendered only 33 earned runs for a spectacular 2.04 ERA. Check out O’Day’s stats here.
#1 — Jim Dwyer (OF)
Eight years in Baltimore for Dwyer, from ’81 to ’88, and part of the 1983 World Series winner. Seemingly always came up with the big hit when called upon. Finished with splits of .262/.360/.433 in orange. Here are Dwyer’s career numbers.