• Mar
    06

    The Orioles and the Draft 1975-1984


    by Kerry Leibowitz

    The Orioles and the Draft, 1975-1984

     

    In the last installment of this series, I concluded that, in the first decade of baseball’s amateur draft (1965-74), the Orioles performed at least as well as should have been expected given their slotting.  The team selected and signed seven players who went on to have careers as “contributors” at the big league; three of those players were bonafide stars (two of whom were selected in the second or third rounds).  For those interested, the club’s general managers during this time frame were Harry Dalton (through 1971) and Frank Cashen.

     

    So what about the next ten-year period?  What did the Orioles’ draft performance look like from 1975 through 1984?  Here’s the summary table during that stretch of time:

     

    BALTIMORE ORIOLES DRAFT SUCCESS, 1975-84

     

    Year

    N

    0

    1

    2

    3

    4

    1st Pick

    Non BL

    BL%

    Adj. Cont. %

    1975

    35

    30

    3

    2

    0

    0

    23

    85.7%

    14.3%

    0.0%

    1976

    22

    19

    2

    1

    0

    0

    20

    86.4%

    13.6%

    0.0%

    1977

    23

    19

    4

    0

    0

    0

    19

    82.6%

    17.4%

    0.0%

    1978

    22

    17

    2

    1

    1

    1

    22

    77.3%

    22.7%

    9.1%

    1979

    35

    27

    3

    2

    3**

    0

    45

    77.1%

    22.9%

    2.9%

    1980

    27

    21

    5

    1

    0

    0

    26

    77.8%

    22.2%

    0.0%

    1981

    31

    28

    1

    1

    1*

    0

    76

    90.3%

    9.7%

    0.0%

    1982

    29

    21

    0

    6

    2*

    0

    24

    72.4%

    27.6%

    3.4%

    1983

    29

    29

    0

    0

    0

    0

    25

    100.0%

    0.0%

    0.0%

    1984

    28

    22

    3

    3

    0

    0

    25

    78.6%

    21.4%

    0.0%

    Tot

    281

    233

    23

    17

    7

    1

    305

    82.9%

    17.1%

    2.8%

    Adj

           

    3

    1

    30.5

       

    1.4%

     

    *--indicates a classification including one player who was drafted by the Orioles but did not sign with the team

     

    **--indicates a classification including two players who were drafted by the Orioles but did not sign with the team

     

    The “1st Pick” column shows the slot of the first Orioles draft choice for that year.

     

    Note the “Adj” row at the bottom of the table.  Off and on through the team’s history, the club drafted players who went on to “contributing” (or better) big league careers but did not sign with the Orioles after being selected.  All of these players re-entered the draft and typically (but not always) substantially improved their drafting slots in later years.  A few of these players, as we’ll see, eventually were drafted by the Orioles a second time and did sign.  Regardless, selections who didn’t sign with the Orioles are not counted towards the team’s success rate.  For each table, I’ll indicate the names and draft years of such players. 

     

    In the case of the 1975-84 period, six players who went on to become contributing major league players were drafted at one point or another by the Orioles but didn’t sign with the team:

     

    • Glenn Davis (yes, that Glenn Davis) drafted in 1979 with the 765th pick in the 31st round; ultimately signed with the Astros after being drafted with the 5th overall pick in 1981.

     

    • Kevin Gross, drafted in 1979 with the 783rd pick in the 32nd round; ultimately signed with the Phillies after being drafted with the 11th overall pick in 1981.

     

    • Cecil Fielder, drafted in 1981 with the 767th pick in the 31st round; ultimately signed with the Royals after being drafted in the fourth round in 1982.

     

    • Walt Weiss, drafted in 1982 with the 260th pick in the 10th round; ultimately signed with the A’s after being drafted with the 11th overall pick in 1985.

     

    As for the players the Orioles did sign, only four went on to become contributing big leaguers, roughly 1.4% of their selections.  That’s the same rate as the previous decade, despite the raw total being lower.  This paradox is a function of the fact that the Orioles drafted only 281 players—just 28.1 per season—during this second decade, far fewer than the 494 they selected in the first decade. 

     

    The apparently equal rate of success is misleading, however.  First of all, the raw total of successful players over ten years is really the bottom line, and four players in ten years simply doesn’t measure up to seven.  But even more importantly, all of those “extra” selections during the 1965-74 period were in the form of very high round choices.  None of those high round picks went on to become contributing level big league players and, given the historical rate of success in the highest rounds of the draft, none should have been expected to reach that status.  So in the “rounds of consequence,” for lack of a better term, the rate of success was significantly lower in the second decade than the first.  This is also the reason why the percentage of the players who reached the big leagues in any capacity—about 17% for this cohort—is so much higher than it was during the first decade of the draft—all of those extra players drafted from 1965-74 were selected in the rounds least likely to yield big league players (i.e. the highest rounds of the draft).

    And finally, only one star caliber player was selected by the Orioles during the 1975-84 period compared with three in during the first decade.

     

    The contributing level players selected in the draft’s second decade:

     

    1978

    Cal Ripken, selected with the 48th overall pick in the second round, and the one clear star drafted during this period; Mike Boddicker, selected with the 152nd overall pick in the sixth round.

     

    1979

    Storm Davis, selected with the 175th overall pick in the 7th round.

     

    1982

    John Habyan, selected with the 78th overall pick in the third round.

     

    So, this is pretty dismal looking; there was one position player (Ripken) selected and signed in this entire decade who ended up having at least a contributing level career, though it was obviously an awfully productive one. 

     

    But there is a mitigating factor:  the Orioles’ average annual first selection in this time frame was the 30th or 31st drafting slot.  Basically, that’s an early second round pick, given that there were either 24 or 26 teams in the major leagues at the time and that supplemental picks weren’t implemented until 1982 (and were very small in number—only two on average per year from 1982-84).  Even when the Orioles did have a first round choice, the team’s year-after-year strong on-field performance made it impossible to secure a high selection.  The highest draft slot that the Orioles held during this decade was 19th, in 1977.  The team had no first round pick twice (1979 and 1981) and had no second round pick once (1981).  And when they did have a first rounder, it was usually around the 24th or 25th slot.  So the team was handicapped in its draft opportunities.

     

    And yet…

     

    Not a single first round Orioles selection (and there were eight of them) over this period of time had a career as a contributing big league player.  Even conceding the specific slot, the expected historical average would be somewhere around two or three.  Had they managed the expected success level of the first round, their ability to secure four contributors (including one star) out of the later rounds, would have meant average, or even slightly better, draft performance, not unlike that of the first decade.  But they struck out in the first round.

     

    Even worse, after nabbing Ripken and Boddicker in 1978 and Davis in 1979, the next five years netted John Habyan, and nothing else.  That’s one decent relief pitcher in five years.  And to add salt to the wound (and to tease you with some early results from the third decade), the Orioles got no contributing players out of the 1985 and 1986 drafts.  So, over a seven-year period, from 1980-86, the draft got the Orioles John Habyan.  Not good, and a pretty clear foreshadowing of a team headed for trouble in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

     

    This kind of performance would negatively impact any team, but for a franchise like the Orioles that has historically had almost no success obtaining players from the international market, it’s crippling.  And of course, beginning in 1986, the Orioles had five losing seasons in six years, including seasons with at least 90 losses and the Orioles’ worst season ever (1988).

     

    But bad records lead to high draft picks…historically high picks, in the case of the Orioles during the succeeding decade.

     

    Next:  1985-94


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