5 best seasons by an Orioles position player

November 30th, 2020

Over the years, some of baseball’s greatest players have called Baltimore home. That’s led to some incredible individual performances, stretched out over 162-game increments.

It’s really a beautiful thing -- watching an elite player clicking on all cylinders for a full summer. Orioles fans have seen it more than a time or two.

Which, though, stand above the rest? Across MLB.com, we are ranking each club’s top individual position player seasons, including the best in Orioles’ history:

1.
Year: 1991
Key stats: .323/.374/.566, 210 hits, 34 homers, 114 RBI, .940 OPS, 11.5 WAR

Has there ever been a better season by a shortstop? Maybe not. According to Wins Above Replacement calculations, the 11.5 WAR Ripken achieved in 1991 is not only the best single-season mark by any Oriole regardless of position, it’s the top single-season total for any full-time shortstop ever. Those two accolades are enough for Ripkin to claim the top spot on this list.

Setting career marks in several major offensive categories, Ripken became the first shortstop to compile at least 30 homers, 200 hits and 40 doubles in a single season. He led baseball in total bases, and won All-Star Game MVP honors, the Home Run Derby, one of eight Silver Sluggers, one of two Gold Gloves and his second American League MVP Award. He did so, of course, playing in all 162 games.

2.
Year: 1966
Key stat: One of 15 Triple Crown seasons in Modern Era

The best season of Frank Robinson’s Hall of Fame career is also considered one of the best debut seasons for any player with a new team. Acquired in the now infamously lopsided trade with the Reds in the winter of 1965, Robinson forever changed the trajectory of the Orioles franchise. He introduced himself to Baltimore by hitting .316/.410/.637 with 49 homers and 122 RBIs, winning the AL Triple Crown. He also paced the league in runs scored, walked almost exactly as often as he walked and, oh yeah, took home World Series MVP honors after leading the O’s to their first title.

They would reach four of six World Series between 1966-71, winning two, with Robinson playing a starring role.

3. Cal Ripken Jr.
Year: 1983
Key stats: .318/.371/.517, 121 runs, 47 doubles, 27 HR, 102 RBI, 8 WAR

By WAR calculations, Ripken was actually slightly more productive the year after he won his first MVP Award in 1983. But his impact was far greater in ’83, when Ripken led AL hitters in runs, hits and doubles and led the Orioles to their third and most recent World Series title. It was a fitting follow-up to his Rookie of the Year campaign of ‘82, establishing the future Hall of Famer as one of the game’s brightest stars and a revolutionary figure at the shortstop position. He’d go on to make 19 consecutive All-Star appearances, win seven more Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves.

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4.
Year: 1964
Key stats: .317/.368/.521, 28 HR, 128 RBI, 8 WAR

The summer of 1964 saw Brooks Robinson at the peak of his powers: when what was easily his offensive peak dovetailed with his top defensive season statistically. The result was an all-around terrific year, with Robinson setting career bests in nearly every offensive category and earning his lone AL MVP Award. He received 18 of 20 first-place votes, handily beating runner-up Mickey Mantle for the honor. At the time, it was objectively one of the best seasons ever put together by a third baseman in MLB history.

5.
Year: 2013
Key stats: 286/.370/.634, 53 HR, 168 OPS+, 138 RBI, 7 WAR

Before he became synonymous with his albatross contract, Davis was “Crush,” a spinoff of the Bull Durham character Crash Davis, a nickname he earned during the 2013 season. The nickname came with positive connotations, given to Davis because all he did in 2013 was crush baseballs. His 53 home runs established a new franchise single-season mark, breaking Brady Anderson’s previous record of 50. He led the league in homers, RBIs and total bases (370), earning All Star and Silver Slugger honors as well as a third place finish in AL MVP voting. He’d win a second league home run title in 2015.

Honorable mention: Within the franchise’s first decade, slugging first baseman Jim Gentile established early Orioles records for homers (46) and RBIs (141) in 1961, posting an extraordinary 187 OPS+ that season. … highlighted his remarkable 14-year run in Baltimore with consecutive great seasons in ’69 and ’70, placing second in MVP voting in ’69 and claiming the award in ’70. … enjoyed arguably the best all-around season of his Hall of Fame career in ’83, when he hit .306 with 33 homers and a .930 OPS and placed second to Ripken in MVP voting. …**** hit at least 38 homers annually between ’95-’98, but none of those years were as good overall as Brady Anderson’s singular ‘96 season with 50 home runs and 21 stolen bases… arrived in Baltimore on a big free agent contract in ‘04 and compiled 150 RBIs, the club record and all-time MLB single-season record for a shortstop. … The best showcase of unique skillset came in ‘05, when he parlayed 70 extra base hits and 27 steals into 7 WAR. … established himself as one of the game’s top all-around talents in 2015, combining 35 homers, 20 steals and elite defense at the hot corner.