"Did you realize," Earl Weaver says by way of introducing himself, "that my five starters have a .592 combined winning percentage, the best in the league? Now I'm talking lifetime, and our bleeping stats are better than Kansas City's. That's all you can go by: past performance. When you go to the track and get out that bleeping Form, you see the same horse don't win every race. But if he wins enough, I push my money through the window."
Weaver's top starters—Mike Flanagan, Scott McGregor, Mike Boddicker, Storm Davis and Ken Dixon—are 356-245 in their careers. But they were only 48-48 last season, which is one reason why the Orioles, despite scoring a club-record 818 runs, finished out of the money in the AL East. When the O's scored four runs or fewer last year, they were 21-64.
The pitchers ran and threw more this spring than in the past. Weaver decided he would let his starters go until they tired. "I'm trying to make nine-inning pitchers out of them," he says. That may be because Baltimore was 10th in the league in saves last year with 33. But Tippy Martinez's left arm is healthy for the first time in two years, and in Martinez and Don Aase (10-6, 14 saves) the Orioles may have a tough lefty-righty bullpen combo.
To the mechanical and physical problems the Os' pitchers must overcome, add the spiritual. When camp began, veteran catcher Rick Dempsey wondered whether the pitching problem could be traced to the lack of a leader. Someone like, say, Jim Palmer.
Weaver also sensed the need for a leader, and finally convinced Eddie Murray to become the first team captain the Orioles have ever had. Though Murray has never been named AL MVP, he has accumulated 469 more AL MVP votes than anyone else in the '80s. He and Cal Ripken will continue to anchor a lineup that last season hit 214 home runs, the seventh highest total in big league history.
Though it's hard to believe that the Baltimore offense will equal its recent past performance—do you think Floyd Rayford (18 homers, 21 doubles, .306 in 359 at bats) is for real?—the same might be said for the pitching. Should the arms return to form, the Orioles will be a factor in the homestretch. And Weaver will be ready, whip in hand.
THE ELIAS ANALYST:
Attention, Earl: Since '81, he has been hitless in 16 at bats with two outs and bases loaded.
BAs with runners on (.361) and runners in scoring position (.370) best of clutch career.
Joined Al Bumbry and Don Baylor as the only players to steal 30 in a year for Weaver.
The sign of a tired SS: Rate of assists declined from league-leading 3.65 a game in '84 to 2.99.
His career rate of one HR every 18.5 at bats vs. lefties is close to overall rate of Mel Ott.
His 32 RBIs in August led AL, and his 11 HRs that month tied Mattingly for league lead.
To reach 100 strikeouts for first time in career, he whiffed in his last three at bats.
Batted over .310 with runners in scoring position for third time in past four seasons.
BA over last three seasons (.315) is 4th highest in majors.
Knocked out of 11 starts before fifth inning, 2nd highest total in AL.
Opponents' career BA in LIP situations (. 198) is lowest among starters in last 11 years.
Opponents hit 82 points higher (.303-.221) with runners on than with bases empty in '85.
This is the last AL Cy Young winner (1979) to have a winning record the next season.
Righthander has been more effective vs. lefties than vs. righties every year since '81.