A Parallel Universe – A Pitching Comparison (1996 versus 2012 Orioles)

June 26, 2012 | Hope Birchfield

The 1996 Orioles

What can be said about this team that has not already been said? They performed admirably throughout the season with Mike Mussina and Scott Erickson earning 32 wins together. Randy Myers tallied up 31 saves that year. Boomer Wells was also in the rotation and had moments of radiance intertwined with abysmal and less than stellar starts winning 11 and losing 14. With a solid offense comprised of superstars like Brady Anderson, Cal Ripken, Chris Hoiles and Roberto Alomar, the 1996 Orioles clinched the Wild Card spot. In the American League Division Series, the Orioles cured the Indian’s fever and went on to face the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. The rest is too painful to rehash but I can probably conclude with “Jeffrey Maier” and the pain at a true fan’s innermost soul will reignite.

There was something markedly different about that team compared to the previous year. The 1995 Orioles finished in third place, two games below five hundred. A similar configuration was present for the infield and outfield but the 1996 Orioles were able to finish 14 games above five hundred. How does this happen? Pitching happened. With strong starters such as Mike Mussina and Scott Erickson, the Orioles were able to keep the momentum through the season.

2012 Orioles

This team is different. People have been uttering this under hushed breath since their spectacular performances early on in the season. However, impressive starts with dismal finishes are something Orioles fans have known all too well since that fateful 1996 team that heated up in the second half and cooled indefinitely over the next decade. Still, with the All-Star break approaching, the Orioles are 10 games above .500 and currently in second place in the AL East. What is different this year? Pitching happened yet again.

Over the off-season, many fans groaned loudly when Guthrie was traded for Hammel, a pitcher who was sent to the bullpen because of lackluster performances. More groans came when the Orioles acquired Wei-Yin Chen. As fate would have it, Orioles fans have seen both of these pitchers evolve into reliable starters for the club. In my opinion, Hammel channels the 1996 Mike Mussina. With a general ease and comfort on the mound, I think most Orioles fans take a collective sigh of relief on days when he’s scheduled to start. With an 8-3 record, he commands the team starters with a 2.61 ERA presently. That is nearly half of Mike Mussina’s ERA at the close of the 1996 season (4.81). Our second ace starter in the form of rookie Wei-Yin Chen has surpassed the meager expectations that fans had at the beginning of the season. He has won seven of ten decisions and has a 3.38 ERA. The beauty of the Orioles pitching this year is not only the dominance of these two starters but the bullpen has begun a shift into a true powerhouse in theAL. In 1996, Randy Myers was the primary closer and ended with a 4-4 record and 30 saves. Like Myers, dirty Jim Johnson has command of the ball and has movement that can cause motion-sickness through a television set. Orioles’ fans are seeing the best of Jim Johnson this year. With a fastball in the mid-90s and ridiculously filthy off-speed pitches, Johnson has been virtually unhittable down the stretch.

This 2012 team is different. Looking forward, the Yankees are most likely going to clinch the AL East however if Hammel and Chen can continue having quality starts and if the Orioles can add more reliable starters further down in the rotation, the Orioles can inevitably take the wildcard. The hope is that the Orioles come out of their recent slump (generally as a team) and can offer the run support needed to win ballgames now.



3 Comments For This Post

  1. Jeremy Says:

    She is right this team is different from the last, should i say good Orioles team, that I can slightly remember. Even with the slump they have been having, the O’s have a good chance to win the division if not secure a wild card spot. Espcially with the Central Division playing as poorly as it is, with a race to see who stays over .500 the longest

  2. Andrew Says:

    Being someone who vivdly remebers the 1983 World Series winning season (yikes!!), I agree. The ’83 Orioles experienced several long winning and losing streaks in a two-division American League (see Thom Loverro “Orioles Magic”). It’s scary how good the team is, and just like the sdditions from ’95 & ’96, the organization seems ton havbe listened to the manager’s needs and made some key moves. “…Hammel channels the 1996 Mike Mussina. With a general ease and comfort on the mound, I think most Orioles fans take a collective sigh of relief on days when he’s scheduled to start. With an 8-3 record, he commands the team starters with a 2.61 ERA presently.” Great observation! Hammel surely looks and behaves like Mussina on the mound. Good job, Hope. Really solid comparison.

  3. TJ Says:

    Again so impressed with the knowledge Hope brings with her blogs. How refreshing to hear someone that actually knows their O’s history. Very talented writer and I see a future beat Oriole writer on our hands here. We will remember these first blogs from you Hope when you hit it big time some day. The sky is the limit for ya. I agree 110% that Hammel and Mussina are clones of each other. So claim and collected on the mound and make pitching look easy. Will we be different from 1996 and actually hit up the Free Agent market this year and look for some bats??

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