The 2014 season will be a special one for the Baltimore Orioles, and not just because there are postseason dreams around Birdland. The O’s will celebrate 60 years in Baltimore, which presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on great players and memories since 1954.
In the spirit of the occasion I’ve decided to highlight some of the great individual seasons we’ve witnessed from 1954-2013. So far, we’ve looked at left field, center field, right field, third base, shortstop, second base, first base, and catcher.
This week, we go to the other side of the battery – pitchers.
Jim Palmer, 1975
23-11, 2.09 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 323 innings, 193 strikeouts, 25 complete games, 10 shutouts, AL Cy Young Award
Jim Palmer was a six-time All-Star, won four Gold Glove Awards, and tossed a no-hitter. He also won three American League Cy Young Awards in a span of four years. 1975 was one of those years.
Palmer led the majors in ERA, wins, and shutouts. His ERA+, which adjusts for ballpark factors and league averages, of 169 was also good for first. In the American League, Palmer was third in hits per nine innings (7.1), second in innings pitched, fourth in strikeouts, and second in complete games.
By both the Baseball Reference and FanGraphs versions of wins above replacement (WAR), Palmer’s 1975 tops the list as the best season ever by an Orioles pitcher. The 10 shutouts are most in franchise history and Palmer’s 323 innings pitched are most by an Oriole since 1954.
Dave McNally, 1968
22-10, 1.95 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 273 innings, 202 strikeouts, 18 complete games, 5 shutouts
McNally in Game 1 of the 1966 World Series
From 1968-1971, Dave McNally was one of the best pitchers in the American League. He won 20+ games each season while never having an ERA higher than 3.22 in any of them. In 1968, he was at his best.
McNally was second in the AL in wins and hits per nine innings (5.8), third in ERA, fourth in walks per nine innings (1.8) and complete games, and fifth in strikeouts.
If a WHIP (walks + hits / innings) of 0.84 sounds absurdly low to you, it should. It’s the 14th lowest in MLB history for a single-season and 10th lowest since 1900.
The 5.8 hits per nine innings are the fewest in franchise history. McNally’s ERA and batting average against (.179) are both lowest among qualified Oriole starters since 1954. His 202 strikeouts are fifth most during that time.
Mike Cuellar, 1969
23-11, 2.38 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 290.2 innings, 182 strikeouts, 18 complete games, 5 shutouts, AL Cy Young Award
Mike Cuellar spent the first six seasons of his major league career in the National League before joining the Orioles prior to the 1968 season, along with Curt Blefary. In his first season in Baltimore, all Cuellar did was win the American League Cy Young Award and finish eighth in MVP voting.
The left-hander finished the season second in the American League in wins and WHIP. He was third in ERA, hits per nine innings (6.6), complete games, shutouts, and innings pitched. Cuellar was also fifth in walks per nine innings (2.4) and strikeouts.
As far as rate stats go, In 1969, Mike Cuellar allowed the lowest OPS (.551) and third lowest batting average (.204) among qualified American League starters.
Mike Mussina, 1992
18-5, 2.54 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 241 innings, 130 strikeouts, 8 complete games, 4 shutouts
During the 1990s, Mike Mussina was a fixture in the Baltimore Orioles’ rotation, making five All-Star teams and finishing in the top five of the American League Cy Young Award voting five times along the way. In 1992, Mussina’s first full season in the majors, he authored one of his finest as an Oriole.
Mussina was second in the AL in WHIP, walks per nine innings (1.8), and shutouts. He also finished third in ERA, fourth in wins, and seventh in complete games.
He was tops among qualified American League pitchers with an on-base percentage against of .278. The .626 OPS allowed was fourth lowest and registers as the best season of Mussina’s career.
In 32 starts, Mussina surrendered zero earned runs six times, one earned run seven times, and two earned runs seven times.
Mike Flanagan, 1979
23-9, 3.08 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 265.2 innings, 190 strikeouts, 16 complete games, 5 shutouts, AL Cy Young Award
In 1978, Mike Flanagan made his lone appearance on an All-Star team. He followed that up by capturing the American League Cy Young Award the next year.
That year, Flanagan led the majors in wins and tied for the lead in shutouts. He finished third in the AL in WHIP, innings, and strikeouts, and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.71). Flanagan was also fourth in ERA, fifth in complete games, and sixth in hits per nine innings (8.3).
Flanagan’s 27 quality starts were most among American League starting pitchers and his start against the Chicago White Sox on August 15 earned a Game Score rating of 99, highest in the American League that season. On that day, Flanagan allowed five hits, one walk, one run, and struck out 12 in a 12-inning (!!!) complete game.