Jump to content

Remembering the 1980 AL East race with modern tools


Recommended Posts

As I lived it that year I mostly only knew Steve Stone was super amazing.    I can't even early elementary really remember disappointment at missing a playoff berth.

Some of what is fun about the 2024 AL East championship race for me is the idea the Orioles have never beaten the Yankees for anything they both wanted.     Broadly, they were down when we were up, and vice versa.     Off the top of my head, Adam Jones beating Dellin Betances in the summertime when NYY had burned him out is about my best memory in the heat of competition.      Kevin Gausman shoved at Yankee Stadium to clinch a playoff berth when they were out of it.      Jeter's warning track flyball and CC Sabathia shoving in the decider were big plays a couple of the times we were in their way.

This year baseball gives us a star-studded race, and special guest appearances from Juan Soto and Corbin Burnes.

I'll start the B-Ref help with the build of the 1980 Yankees...Thurman Munson's tragic death in August 1979 left a hole in the roster an early move plugged two weeks after Game 7.

 

  • Upvote 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here’s an account of that season that I wrote up last year:

The 1980 team was coming off a heartbreaking loss in the 1979 World Series, 4 games to 3.  The team had won 102 games and the front office didn’t do anything but minor tweaking, letting Don Stanhouse leave in free agency and picking up utility infielder Lenn Sakata and backup catcher Dan Graham in trades.  Not exactly earth-shattering.

In classic Orioles fashion, the team started sluggishly, finishing April at 7-11 and May at 22-24.   At that point, they were 7 games behind.  Despite playing better in June, they fell as far as 9.5 games back on June 20-22, at 34-32 on the latter date.   But from there, they started making up ground, going 5-1 in the remainder of June (17-9 for the month), 16-11 in July, and a torrid 21-9 in August, at one point getting within half a game of first place.   But that was as close as they got, despite closing out the season going 24-10.   As well as they played, the Yankees played even better, going 25-8 in September and early October.  The teams had no head-to-head matchups after mid-August, and the Orioles were simply powerless to stop New York from tearing through their schedule.  The O’s were eliminated on the second to last day of the season, and won a meaningless 100th game on the final day.   It was the best Orioles team ever to miss the playoffs, beating out the 97-win teams from 1964 and 1977, both of which also lost out narrowly to the Yankees.

The offense was 5th in runs scored and centered around Eddie Murray, who hit .300/.354/.519 (138 OPS+) with 32 homers and 116 RBI and 100 runs scored, and Ken Singleton, who hit .304/397/.485 (142 OPS+) with 24 homers and 104 RBI.   Al Bumbry did a great job setting the table, scoring 119 runs while hitting .318/.392/.433 (129 OPS+) and stealing 44 bases.  Rick Dempsey actually had one of his best years, posting a 108 OPS+.   It was not one of the better years for the Roenicke/Lowenstein LF platoon, but the DH spot was very productive, with Terry Crowley, Lee May, Benny Ayala and Pat Kelly, plus a few others, combining for 27 homers and 115 RBI.  The team was solid defensively, at +29 Rtot, though for the first time in 21 years, no Oriole brought home a Gold Glove.

The pitching was led by a surprise contributor, Steve Stone, who had been mediocre after being signed by the O’s in 1979 but found the magic formula with his curve ball and went 25-7 with a 3.23 ERA, wining the Cy Young Award, being named to the All-Star team, garnering some MVP votes and leading the league in wins.  Scott McGregor wasn’t too shabby either, going 20-8 with a 3.32 ERA.  Mike Flanagan (16-13, 4.12) and Jim Palmer (16-10, 3.98) were solid too, though Flangan fell off quite a bit from his 1979 Cy Young performance and Palmer was not quite the ace he had been through most of the 1970s.  The bullpen was solid, with Tim Stoddard garnering 26 saves in the closer role with a 2.51 ERA, Tippy Martinez adding 10 saves and a 3.01 ERA, and Sammy Stewart leading the relievers in innings at 118.2 while posting a 3.56 ERA.  Overall, the staff posted a 3.64 ERA, 3rd best in the league.  The starters had the third best ERA in the league at 3.76, and the relievers were 3rd best at 3.30, while posting the 4th best save rate at 80%.   

Overall, the 1980 team had a better record than two Orioles teams that won the World Series and several others that had gone to the playoffs.  But, the hated Yankees were just a little better. As consolation, the Yankees lost in the ALCS to a 97-win Royals team, pleasing Orioles fans everywhere.

  • Thanks 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Frobby said:

But from there, they started making up ground, going 5-1 in the remainder of June (17-9 for the month), 16-11 in July, and a torrid 21-9 in August, at one point getting within half a game of first place.   But that was as close as they got, despite closing out the season going 24-10.   As well as they played, the Yankees played even better, going 25-8 in September and early October.  The teams had no head-to-head matchups after mid-August

Gaylord Perry's overall results were meh as a trade rental, but he beat the Orioles at Memorial Stadium in his first game as a new Yankee that August.

He was about a Top 20 MLB starter that season by rWAR.

The Orioles swept a series at Yankee Stadium Aug. 8-10 as part of the surge, the Gaylord Perry trade occurred, and Gaylord helped them stop the bleeding during the Aug. 14-18 five game series at Memorial Stadium.      Five 50,000 crowds in five days must have been pretty hopping.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only summer I didn’t spend in the DC area was 1980, when I was a summer law clerk in Los Angeles.  And then I was away at school for September.  So, I don’t remember that many details, just that the O’s played amazing baseball down the stretch but so did the Yankees.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a distinct memory of those Yankee series in August that year.  I remember heading down to Ocean City with my friend's family for the week after the O's swept the Yankees in NY.   The excitement level was palpable. Everyone was excited about the O's and expected to beat them again the next weekend.   The only problem was that the O's had to first fly to KC to play the Royals three games during the week.    We won the first game but lost the next two.      Meanwhile, the Yankees went to Chicago and beat the White Sox 2 out of 3; so we lost ground.   Kind of put a damper on things.  The five game series was still great with the O's winning 3 of 5.  It wasn't enough though.  

That season and 1982 were thrilling defeats.  What a time to be an O's fan.  

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...