Storm Davis’ career got off to a very impressive start, causing many to attach lofty and perhaps unrealistic expectations to him. Despite never quite living up to that hype, he pitched well enough during his six seasons in Baltimore to be included on this list. In parts of six seasons with the Orioles, Davis started 123 games and finished 27 of them. His ERA was 3.63 and WHIP was 1.29. He went 61-43 and compiled a WAR of 13.4.
George Davis was born in Dallas. According to the back of his 1987 Topps baseball card, he got the nickname Storm from a book that his mother was reading while pregnant with him.
Davis was selected by the Orioles in the seventh round of the 1979 draft. He performed very well in the minor leagues, never posting an ERA of over 3.88. After four starts at AAA in 1982 he was promoted to the major leagues and never looked back. Working primarily out of the bullpen during his rookie season, he posted a 3.49 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 100.2 innings. He won eight games for a team that was in the hunt going into the final game of the season.
Following a successful rookie campaign, he started 29 games for the 1983 squad that ended the season as World Series champions. He went 13-7 with a 3.59 ERA in just over 200 innings. He started and pitched six scoreless innings in Game 4 of the ALCS, which the O’s would win in ten innings to capture the pennant. Despite giving up three runs in five innings in Game 4 of the World Series, he recorded the win. Looking back at a column that Tom Boswell wrote about Davis during the 1983 season shows just how much hype there was surrounding the young pitcher.
1984 was Davis’ best season in Baltimore and perhaps of his career. In 225 innings he posted an ERA of 3.12. His minuscule 0.3 home runs per nine innings was best in the league. He compiled a career-best 3.8 WAR. At age 23 and with three solid seasons under his belt, Davis’ star appeared to be rising quickly.
But Davis took a step back in 1985. He only pitched 175 innings and posted an ERA of 4.53 (though his FIP of 3.66 suggests he was the victim of bad luck). He got back on track in 1986, carrying a 3.62 ERA into September. But he injured his left ankle on September 3 and missed the rest of the season. Perhaps seen by the Orioles as an injury risk, he was traded to San Diego that offseason for Terry Kennedy and Mark Williamson.
Davis battled injuries and ineffectiveness over the next several years before transitioning to a bullpen role with the Royals in 1991. Despite pitching to an ERA of nearly five, Baltimore acquired him prior to the 1992 season. He was reunited with high school teammate and dear friend Glenn Davis, creating a nice story. The move paid dividends for the Orioles. He pitched 89.1 innings in 48 appearances, finishing with a 3.43 ERA.
But there was some offseason drama after the season. Davis wanted to stay and didn’t understand why the Orioles didn’t want him back. The Orioles cited nagging injuries. Davis suggested the culture had changed since his first stint in Baltimore. We have the benefit of hindsight and can see that the Orioles probably got that decision right. Davis pitched two more seasons to a combined ERA of 4.56 and then retired.
Davis only struck out only 5.1 batters per nine innings during his time as an Oriole. But he walked batters at an acceptable rate in Baltimore (three per nine innings) and consistently kept the ball in the ballpark (0.6 home runs allowed per nine innings). Prior to his injury in 1986, he was a very durable piece of the Orioles rotation.
Davis acknowledged upon returning to the Orioles in 1992 that “I’m not Jim Palmer. I’m never going to be Jim Palmer. I’m not going to win as many games as Jim Palmer. I know my limitations.” It must have been difficult dealing with such lofty and unfair expectations as a young player. But despite only playing parts of six seasons in Baltimore, he ranks in the top 20 in WAR and wins out of everyone that has pitched in an Orioles uniform. That performance combined with the fact that he helped the O’s win the 1983 World Series solidifies his spot on this list.