Based off a couple comments from my previous post about Jeremy Guthrie, I decided to revisit the great Orioles pitchers, more specifically, the pitchers that have been voted into the Orioles Hall of Fame.
Of the pitchers in the O’s Hall of Fame, I have included those who spent a significant percentage of their Orioles career as starters. The lone exception will be Hoyt Wilhelm, who made only 43 starts over his four-plus years in Baltimore, but the reasons for that will become apparent.
I am also including Mike Mussina and Guthrie in the discussion since the former will certainly be elected someday and the latter certainly has a case.
I will again reference WAR as calculated by Baseball-Reference.com again and I will give an approximate “WAR per season” for each pitcher as requested by commenter Mitch on the last post. I will also liberally reference a stat called ERA+, a measure that helps us compare pitchers to their peers and, in turn, better compare pitchers across eras. After all, it was easier to pitch in the 1960s than the late 1990s. A 2.75 ERA in 1967 is not the same as a 2.75 ERA in 1997.
On with the list!
12. Dennis Martinez - 8.2 WAR, 0.9 WAR per season
Martinez in the Oriole Hall of Fame is a headscratcher. He has a reputation as a really good guy and did win 108 games while in Baltimore. But he was a below average pitcher during his Oriole career (93 ERA+) and was much, much better after he moved on to other teams. During his best seasons for the O’s, he was slightly above average. I’m guessing he rode his post-Oriole career into the O’s Hall of Fame.
11. Hoyt Wilhelm - 14.7 WAR, 3.7 WAR per season
Wilhelm went to the Hall of Fame on the strength of his career as a reliever. But 43 of his 52 career starts came with Baltimore and he arguably turned in the best season by a starting pitcher in Oriole history. In 1959, at the age of 36, Wilhelm had an ERA of 2.19 (173 ERA+, best all-time for a Baltimore twirler) while winning 15 games. His 156 ERA+ is still first in Baltimore history for a starting pitcher.
10. Scott McGregor - 17.5 WAR, 1.6 WAR per season
McGregor has two great seasons for the World Series teams in 1979 and 1983. But overall, he was an average pitcher and over his last four seasons he wasn’t even that. He gets penalized for an early decline phase that put him out of baseball by age 35.
9. Steve Barber - 15.6, 2.1 WAR per season
In my opinion, Barber has always been a bit underrated. ERA+ shows that he was only a below average pitcher for a season and a half during his Orioles career and his 1965 and 1966 seasons were outstanding. He was consistently good with three excellent seasons. Only his relatively short stint with the Orioles keeps him this far down the list.
8. Jeremy Guthrie - 15.9 WAR, 3.7 WAR per season
Forget about his win-loss totals. Over his first four-plus seasons in Baltimore, Guthrie has been a pretty impactful pitcher. He continues to build on his very good career with solid, if unspectacular, seasons. He only has an ERA+ of 107 though, and if he sticks around for his decline phase, he could slide back down this list.
7. Mike Cuellar - 15.9 WAR, 2.1 WAR per season
I was surprised that Cuellar ended up this far down. His 1969 season was outstanding (151 ERA+), one of the best in franchise history. The next seven seasons? He was just slightly above average. Cuellar racked up a lot of wins but with an ERA+ of 110. For reference, Ben McDonald finished his time in Baltimore with a 111 ERA+. Cuellar benefited from a potent lineup and accumulated a bunch of wins during very average seasons. Only his monster 1969 season keeps him ahead of Guthrie.
6. Mike Flanagan - 20.2 WAR, 1.7 WAR per season
Flanagan was the definition of an average pitcher (an ERA+ of exactly 100 for his Oriole career) but pitched for a very long time. There is a lot of value in an average pitcher after all and Flanagan topped it off with his 1979 Cy Young performance (131 ERA+) and an outstanding stint as a reliever at age 39 in 1991.
5. Mike Boddicker - 15.9 WAR, 2.65 WAR per season
Like Barber, it is often forgotten how good Boddicker was. Although the bulk of his value is wrapped up in his stellar 1983 and 1984 seasons (141 ERA+ over those seasons), he threw more than 200 innings for five straight seasons even though he was pretty average for his last four seasons in Baltimore.
4. Milt Pappas - 19.9 WAR, 2.5 WAR per season
Pappas was just so consistently good, I considered moving him up another notch on the list. Unfortunately, his Oriole (and baseball career) was relatively short and he really never had a great season. He did have a fine 1965 and was an All-Star with a 2.60 ERA (134 ERA+) just before he was traded to the Reds.
3. Dave McNally - 22.1 WAR, 1.8 WAR per season
Debuting at 19, McNally sandwiched several very good seasons (and a few average ones) around his jewel of a performance in 1968, when he posted a 1.95 ERA (154 ERA+) and probably only missed the Cy Young award because Denny McClain went 31-6 for the Tigers. The greatest Orioles lefty of all time.
2. Mike Mussina - 44.5 WAR, 4.9 WAR per season
Mussina is easily the second-best pitcher in Orioles history and it’s really not even close. If he’d hung around in Baltimore, you could have made the argument that he was the best Orioles pitcher ever. But the best years of his career came in Baltimore, as he had seven seasons with an ERA+ over 130.
1. Jim Palmer - 63.5 WAR, 4.0 WAR per season
Was there any doubt? Three Cy Young awards (and a couple of second-place finishes, too), the highest career WAR in team history by a long shot , eight seasons with an ERA+ over 130 and four Gold Gloves. Enough said.
Heath Bintliff blogs about the Orioles at Dempsey’s Army. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.