Braves One Year Wanker: Omar Moreno

I was 18 years old when the 1982 Bill James Baseball Abstract came out. I spent the mid and late ’80’s being horrified with the management of the Atlanta Braves, and nothing symbolizes that dreadful time better than the presence of Braves One Year Waner, Omar Moreno, in 1986.

Braves One Year Wanker, Omar Moreno

The Braves signed Moreno as a free agent during spring training. Moreno was pretty famous – from 1978 to 1980 Moreno stole 71, 77, and 96 bases respectively, and was the center fielder for the ’79 World Series champion Pirates, where he played for the Braves new manager, Chuck Tanner. Why wouldn’t we want to add a player like that? Let us count the ways.

First of all, Moreno was 27 years old in 1980. In 1986, he was 33. Also in 1980, he had an OBP of .306. The man got on base by hit or by walk 225 times in 1980, and stole 96 bases. He was able to make such efficient use of converting on base opportunities into stolen bases partly by limiting his extra base hits. He had 35 extra base hits all season, and slugged .325. Do a back of the envelope projection as to what this 27 year old might do at age 33, and we’ll come back to this.

But What About the Season Prior?

But enough about the past. How was he the season before? Maybe he aged gracefully, or had a late career surge. Is there anything in his 1985 record to indicate this might be somebody you would want to sign? In 1985, Moreno split time between the Yankees and Royals collecting 143 plate appearances. His line was .221/.246/.382. He stole 1 base.

OK, maybe it’s not fair to make a projection for 1986 based on 143 plate appearances. Maybe Moreno’s numbers for the Braves wouldn’t be too bad for a center fielder. LOL, the Braves already had a center fielder. His name was Dale Murphy. 1986 Omar Moreno made 89 appearances as a corner outfielder, 12 as a center fielder.

Let’s come back to your back of the envelope projection. Did you have anything resembling this 33 year old corner outfielder putting up a .234/.276/.351 line? While stealing 17 bases and getting caught 16 times? I bet you did, and congratulations if so.

But hang on just one more time. Maybe, just maybe, that’s acceptable from your 8th place hitter. Just kidding, Moreno led off in 66 of his 78 starts and batted 2nd in 11 others.

The End for Omar Moreno

Moreno was released in October, 1986. He never played in the big leagues again. Omar, if you’re out there, congratulations on your long career, your stolen base titles, and your World Championship. It’s not your fault it didn’t work out in Atlanta. Anybody should have been able to see it coming.

Thanks for reading on Braves One Year Wanker, Omar Moreno. If you enjoyed this piece, take a look at our entire series in this category!

Author: Rusty S.

Rusty S. is a Braves Journal reader since 2005 and an occasional innings-eater. It was my understanding that there would be no expectations.

16 thoughts on “Braves One Year Wanker: Omar Moreno”

  1. Omar the Outmaker! Great job, Rusty.
    The mid to late 80’s are sort of a lost period in my baseball memories—the Braves were truly abysmal, and Chuck Tanner and Omar Moreno epitomize much of that.
    But during this wasteland, the annual Bill James Abstracts were the highlight of the year when they came out each spring. James and his insights were a revelation. He brought a new understanding to statistics, sure, but always as a way to better understand the game that he so obviously loved. And what a delightful writer.
    He could also be biting in his criticism. I don’t have it handy to quote, but his stuff on Tanner was brutal (and hilarious).

  2. This happened before I was a Braves fan, and I truly had no idea of any of this — literally every word of this was new to me. I’ve heard the dreaded whispers of the horrors of watching Andres Thomas try to hit, or field, or do anything, but Omar Moreno sounds like a guy who combined the power of Rafael Belliard with the on-base skills of Jeff Francoeur and the baserunning of Yunel Escobar. Rusty, my sympathies for having to relive those traumas.

    That said, I’d still watch a team of nine Omar Morenos play the Detroit Tigers right now.

  3. Great job, Rusty. If you didn’t endure the Tanner/Nixon years, while you’re still entitled to call yourself a Braves fan, you are short of a fully realized life experience.

    It should be noted that Bobby Cox was hired as GM in October 1985, so this was his first big splash of a signing (though his bigger news was trading away Milt Thompson and Steve Bedrosian for Ozzie Virgil and Pete Smith.) To be fair Omar only cost $100K, less that 1/4 of what they were paying Terry Harper, his main rival for playing time. Omar put up a -1.4 WAR, but Harper cost over 4 times as much and put up a -1.1. Good times.

  4. In Chuck Tanner’s defense, we all know you have to have a fast guy who can steal bases at the top of the order. And while only starting half the games, nonetheless Omar led the team in stolen bases. QED.

  5. Great stuff, Rusty. 1986 was sooo bad. Many holdover position players from the ’82 team were has-beens by then, including Horner, who at 28 was too fat to play 3B anymore; Hubbard and Ramirez, both of whose offense had cratered two years prior; Claudell, who had lost interest and was on his way out; Chambliss, pretty much a pinch-hitter by then (although a very good one); and Benedict, in the middle of a five-year span where he could barely hit the ball into the outfield.

    The Bill James piece was called “Chuck Tanner’s Funeral Home” I believe — it was up there with his Enos Cabell takedown for the sort of savagery that is commonplace now. I don’t think it had much to do with his Braves tenure…it was more alluding to how his relentless optimism blinded him to the cocaine scandal in the mid-80s Pirates clubhouse.

  6. To be fair, I was upset with the Terry Pendleton signing too. I thought he was over the hill at 31. First-guessing is hard.

  7. Yeah, the 90-91 offseason haul of Pendleton, Bream, Belliard, and Nixon didn’t exactly move the needle at the time!

  8. Pretty justifiably so, in the case of Bream and Belliard! But I don’t think anyone realized just how effective Bobby would be in his platoon deployments — acquiring a bench full of defensive caddies allowed him to mix and match in a way that actually maximized his players’ effectiveness. Nowadays, everyone carries too many relievers to allow that strategy to work, but Bobby platooned more than any other manager of his generation.

    And I don’t think there was any way that anyone could have imagined that Terry Pendleton would become Terry Pendleton.

  9. Great write up Rusty S. I moved from Atlanta to Chicago in ’81 and didn’t follow the Braves very closely after the ’82 season until I moved back in ’88. Glad I missed having to watch Moreno.

  10. @8–and even more especially as to Nixon! What should one have expected from the 33 year old Nixon in 1991? 1986 Omar Moreno!
    Yet, Otis in 1991 posted an OBP of .371 (getting on base–and stealing bases– being the only skills that he could conceivably offer); before that season, his career OBP was barely over .300. He also stole 72 bases, 22 more than he ever had before. That’s what getting on base can do for you, something that Omar the Outmaker was never good at even when he was playable in the late 1970’s.

  11. Hey, that’s not fair — Otis was only 32 in 1991! And he was barely an offseason acquisition; they traded for him on April 1.

    Anyway, it’s not that Otis couldn’t take a walk. His career batting line from 1983-1990 was a putrid .228/.302/.277, but an OBP 74 points higher than his batting average isn’t dreadful; dreadful is the fact that a guy as fast as he was had a .264 BABIP over that period. He only had 50 infield hits from 1988-1990; if he had hit the ball into the ground more and legged out more infield hits, his OBP would’ve looked perfectly respectable.

    That’s pretty much just what happened in 1991, when he finished with a batting average of .297, and an OBP exactly 74 points higher. BB-ref suggests that he had 73 infield hits in 1991, which is insane. His BABIP in 1991 was .327, which made a lot more sense.

    I think he may have had some good coaching which helped him leg out a few more singles, which helped him contribute easily 1-2 extra wins to the team by himself.

  12. Yeah, I sure don’t mean to criticize Otis. Despite his other problems, he was one of my favorite players of the early 90’s. He showed that a player in his thirties could adapt and adjust his game to his unique skills.
    If Moreno had learned to take a walk we could admire him. He never did.

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