28. Melvin Mora, 3B/OF/SS (2000-2005)
All-Star: 2003, 2005
Silver Slugger: 2004
Am I overrating Melvin Mora a little bit based on the fact that I really like Melvin Mora and he's been one of the few bright spots of this decade's Orioles? Yeah, probably. So what?
Let's have a little talk about Melvin Mora's 2004 season, because it was the best offensive season by an Oriole with at least 500 at-bats since Brady Anderson's monster 1996 season. Mora finished second in the AL in batting average (.340), led the league in OBP (.419), was fifth in slugging percentage (.562), fifth in OPS (.981), sixth in runs scored (111), eighth in hits (187), ninth in total bases (309), sixth in doubles (41), fourth in adjusted OPS+ (149), fifth in runs created (127), eighth in extra base hits (68), and sixth in times on base (264). He had a rough time adjusting to third base, but it was because -- oops! -- he was playing with an outfielder's glove. Once Mora settled in at third, he was fine. And in 2005, he played very well at the hot corner.
Mora was acquired from the Mets in 2000, along with non-factors Pat Gorman, Lesli Brea and Mike Kinkade in exchange for Mike Bordick the one time in Mike Bordick's life that Mike Bordick could hit. Even with 75% of the people we traded for not doing anything, Melvin Mora's contributions have made it worthwhile.
For one thing, I don't think anyone expected Mora to be much of a player. He was 28 when we got him, he had a little over 500 career major league plate appearances, and he looked like a supersub. He was supposedly a shortstop, or supposedly a center fielder, but he could play the corner outfield spots, he could play second, he played a little third. And his first stint with the O's that 2000 season was OK but nothing to get excited about, as he hit .291/.359/.397 in 53 games. In 2001, over 436 at-bats, he hit .250/.329/.362 with seven homers and 48 RBI.
In 2002, Mora played 74 games in left field, 41 at shortstop, 31 in center, 12 at second base, five in right, and was the DH three times. He hit just .233, but he walked 70 times and hit 19 homers. And on a team that was that anemic offensively, Mora almost looked good instead of mediocre.
Then, God knows what happened, but Melvin Mora became a great player overnight. Though injuries limited him to just 96 games, he hit .317/.418/.503 in 2003 with 15 homers. He continued that success in 2004, and drove in 100 runs for the first time in his career. He had his struggles in 2005, but still hit .283/.348/.474 with a team-leading 27 homers.
Mora got hit with three pitches in a game in 2002, and actually is second all-time in franchise history in getting hit by a pitch, which he's done 71 times in 3090 plate appearances. (Brady Anderson, if you wonder, is by far the leader with 148.)
Another simple park-adjusted OPS+ list:
GREATEST OFFENSIVE SEASONS BY A THIRD BASEMAN IN ORIOLE HISTORY (MIN. 415 AB) 1. Doug DeCinces, 1978 (149) Melvin Mora, 2004 (149) 3. Brooks Robinson, 1964 (145) 4. Brooks Robinson, 1962 (125) Brooks Robinson, 1967 (125) 6. Brooks Robinson, 1965 (124) Brooks Robinson, 1966 (124) 8. Melvin Mora, 2005 (122) 9. Brooks Robinson, 1968 (117) 10. Leo Gomez, 1992 (116)Even adding in defensive value, DeCinces' 1978 might have been the best season ever by an Orioles third baseman, because while Brooks was Brooks and all, DeCinces could pick it, too. But, just offensively, Mora's 2004 was as good as any O's third baseman has ever been. And dig that Leo Gomez cameo.