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Baltimore Orioles: Top 10 Pitchers of All Time

Mark CoverContributor IIMarch 5, 2014

Baltimore Orioles: Top 10 Pitchers of All Time

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Baltimore Orioles have had a rich history of pitchers throughout the lifetime of the franchise, but the statistics and merits of 10 individuals stood out above the rest.

    While no Oriole pitcher has truly been considered remarkable as of late, in other decades several O's pitchers have had astounding careers and have gone on to rack up numerous awards.  These awards include four AL Cy Young Award winners, one AL Rookie of the Year Award winner, two Gold Glove Award winners and three Relief Man of the Year Award winners.

    Taking statistics, awards and championships during each pitcher's respective eras into consideration, here are the Orioles' top 10 pitchers of all time.

     

    All candidates considered for this list required five years of service to the Baltimore Orioles.

    All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com or obtained through writer's own research and calculations.

Honorable Mentions

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    Ed Reinke/Associated Press

    These three players narrowly missed the cut and landed just outside the top 10.  All three were members of the 1983 world championship team.

     

    Mike Boddicker (pictured)

    Boddicker's stint with the Orioles can really be broken down into a tale of two different pitchers.  On the one hand, Boddicker's rookie and sophomore seasons with the O's ('83 and '84) can be considered the best two-year stretch of his entire career.  Between these two seasons, Boddicker pitched to a combined ERA of 2.78 and amassed a total of 440.1 innings.  1984 was his career year, though, as he compiled 20 wins over 261.1 innings pitched.  Boddicker finished fourth in the AL Cy Young Award voting that year and was an AL All-Star.

    Boddicker's initial seasons seemed like a flash in the pan compared to his body of work with the Orioles from '85-'88.  Boddicker's 1985 season WHIP ballooned to a 1.554 from his exceptional WHIP of 1.144 in his AL All-Star season of '84.  He never managed to get his ERA below 3.80 throughout those three years (and part of a fourth) with the Orioles.

    If Boddicker would have been able to replicate his stats from his first two years with the O's, there's no doubt he would have been considered a top-10 Oriole pitcher of all time.

     

    Scott McGregor

    McGregor's career regular season stats didn't blow anyone away to be sure (3.99 ERA, 1.29 WHIP), but he was lights out when the calendar turned to October.

    In six postseason starts, McGregor completed half of them.  Totaling 49.2 innings, McGregor only once threw fewer than eight innings in a postseason game.

    While his strikeout numbers in the postseason were low (26 Ks in 49.2 IP), McGregor got the outs the hard way and managed impressive numbers regardless.  Throughout his postseason career, McGregor had only allowed three home runs while pitching to an ERA of 1.63.

     

    Tippy Martinez

    Tippy served primarily as a setup man for the O's, but was occasionally called upon to close.

    Over his 11-year career with the Birds, Martinez saved 105 games and put up a quality ERA of 3.46.

    Martinez's only AL All-Star accolade came in the world championship season of 1983, where he recorded 21 saves and a 2.35 ERA over 103.1 innings pitched.

    Perhaps the moment Tippy is best known for is the historic inning he had facing the Toronto Blue Jays in August 1983, where he picked off three Jays baserunners at first base in the same inning.

10. Hoyt Wilhelm

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    Hoyt Wilhelm showcasing his knuckleball grip as a member of the Atlanta Braves in 1970
    Hoyt Wilhelm showcasing his knuckleball grip as a member of the Atlanta Braves in 1970Associated Press

    It didn't take long until we ran into our first Hall of Famer on this list.

    Despite playing five years for the Orioles, that stint was just a small blip on his radar, as Wilhelm managed to have a very long and prosperous 21-year career in the major leagues thanks in large part to his knuckleball.

    Wilhelm was a tweener throughout his career, serving occasionally as a starter, but mostly as a relief pitcher. 

    Throughout five years with the Orioles, Wilhelm was a three-time AL All-Star, producing an ERA and WHIP of 2.42 and 1.107, respectively.

9. Stu Miller

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    Stu Miller as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1952
    Stu Miller as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1952Associated Press

    Over a 16-year career in the majors as a reliever, Miller spent five of the last six years of his career with the Baltimore Orioles.  Those years can easily be considered as the greatest five-year stretch of his career.

    From 1963-1967, Miller had a SO/9 (strikeouts per nine innings pitched) of 7.7 with the Orioles, which would be considered top 10 in the league during that time period.  Miller also received AL MVP votes in three of those five seasons.

    If one word could characterize Miller, it would be "deceptive."

    Miller was a soft-throwing pitcher who liked to get his opponents off-balance rather than blow it by them.

    In an interview with Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman in July 2009, Klingaman asked just how fast Miller's pitches were.

    "About 102 (mph), I guess," he said. "Really, my fastball was in the mid-80s, at most, and the changeup was a good 8 mph less. But both pitches looked the same, which was the secret to my deception."

    Miller's slow-pitch style baffled teammates as well:

    "One catcher said he could catch my stuff with a pair of pliers," Miller said, per Klingaman. "Another bragged he could catch it with his teeth."

8. Gregg Olson

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    Alan Greth/Associated Press

    Considered by most as the greatest Oriole reliever of all time, Olson got his opponents out primarily with his above-90s fastball and his devastating curveball.

    An Orioles Hall of Fame inductee in 2008, Olson spent the first six years of his major league career in Baltimore.

    Serving as the club's closer during that time, Olson totaled 160 saves and owned a top-notch SO/9 of 8.9.  In fact, had he qualified, Olson's SO/9 of 9.5 in 1989 would've placed second in the American League, behind only one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Nolan Ryan.

    In that same year, Olson took home AL Rookie of the Year honors and placed sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting.

    Despite only being named to one AL All-Star team as an Oriole, Olson was a rock for the ballclub and still remains its all-time leader in saves.

7. Mike Flanagan

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    UNCREDITED/Associated Press

    Flanagan was an Oriole to the core.

    Throughout his 18-year career, Flanagan spent 15 years of it in Charm City.

    While his career numbers with the Birds weren't all that special (3.89 ERA, 1.323 WHIP), Flanagan managed to be a consistently reliable member of the Orioles rotation from 1975-1987 and as a reliever during the '91 and '92 seasons.

    Flanagan had his greatest season with the Orioles in 1979, leading the majors in wins (23) and tying for the lead in shutouts (5).  These accomplishments, along with pitching 265.2 innings for a 3.08 ERA, earned him the AL Cy Young Award.

    Flanagan was a member of the 1983 world championship team and along with his contributions as a front office executive and color commentator will forever remain in the hearts of Oriole fans everywhere.

6. Steve Barber

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Barber spent over half of his career with the Oriole ballclub, serving as a left-handed starting pitcher over eight seasons.

    Achieving nearly 100 wins (95) during his stint with the O's, Barber was a very efficient middle-of-the-order starter.  Barber totaled an ERA of 3.12 as an Oriole and never once finished with an ERA higher than 3.84 over the course of a full season.

    Barber was a two-time AL All-Star as a Bird and received AL MVP votes during his rookie and sophomore years in the majors ('60 and '61).  He totaled 28 wins and completed 20 games between those two seasons.

    Barber was a member of the 1966 championship team and coincidentally had his greatest season that year.  Barber pitched to an ERA of 2.30 and a WHIP of 1.148 en route to a postseason berth.

5. Milt Pappas

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    Milt Pappas (right) as a member of the AL All-Star team in 1965
    Milt Pappas (right) as a member of the AL All-Star team in 1965Anonymous/Associated Press

    Pappas, simply put, was a stalwart as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

    Over his nine-year career with the team, Pappas consistently pitched 200-plus inning seasons, reaching the milestone six times.

    Pappas also managed to pile up 10 wins as a starter in each of his eight full seasons with the ballclub.  He was also selected to two AL All-Star teams, striking out 941 batters over this particular time span.

    Pappas finished in the top six in shutouts six times over the course of his career with the Orioles, proving he could maintain his prowess and stamina over the course of nine innings.

    Pappas' control might be his greatest claim to fame, though, as he finished first in wild pitches thrown in '59 and '60 with just 14 and 10, respectively, and led the majors in SO/BB (strikeout to base on balls ratio) with 3.271 in '64.

    Although Pappas was unfortunate in not being a part of any Baltimore championship teams, his contributions to the buildup of the historic franchise should never go unnoticed.

4. Mike Mussina

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    ROBERTO BOREA/Associated Press

    Mike Mussina certainly had an illustrious career with the Baltimore Orioles, and if he were not allowed to leave via free agency after the 2000 season, he probably would've finished even higher on this list.

    Over his 10-year career with the Orioles, Mussina averaged 200.9 innings pitched per season, a feat that is often seen as a benchmark accomplishment for aces in today's game.

    Considering Mussina pitched mostly in the steroid era of Major League Baseball, his 3.53 ERA during his time with the Orioles was remarkable.

    Being surrounded by an abundance of core talent during that time wouldn't hurt either, as Mussina earned 147 wins as an Oriole, averaging nearly 15 wins a season.

    Mussina also earned himself a large number of accolades through his performances both with arm and glove.  During his Oriole career, Mussina was named to the AL All-Star team five times, won four Gold Glove Awards and finished top-six in AL Cy Young Award voting seven times.

    Given his amazing statistics and numerous accolades during an era that saw an inflation in offense due to PEDs, Mussina is the greatest Oriole pitcher in recent years.

3. Mike Cuellar

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    Associated Press

    Cuellar started his career off at the age of 22 with a few NL teams, but like most members of this list, he saw his best years in orange and black.

    Over seven full seasons with the O's, Cuellar averaged an astounding 274 innings pitched and nearly 20 wins per year.

    Cuellar's best season was during his AL Cy Young Award-winning season of '69 when the left-hander went 23-11, striking out 182 batters and pitching to an ERA of 2.38, good for third in the AL.

    The 1970 season was nearly as impressive.

    Cuellar managed one more win, but allowed nearly 30 more runs to score over the regular season.  Feeding off his regular-season performance, Cuellar helped lead the O's to the franchise's second world championship.

    In an article memorializing the life of Cuellar by Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman, Jim Palmer had this to say of Cuellar's performance in the 1970 season:

    "He should have won the Cy that year, but not doing so never affected his performance," Palmer said. "Mike was, arguably, the best left-hander in the game from 1969 to 1974, but he never got his due."

    Cuellar was a member of the 1971 Baltimore Orioles rotation that boasted four 20-game winners, and no one can take that away from him.

2. Dave McNally

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    Associated Press

    McNally was as close to being a lifelong Oriole as you can get (13 out of 14 major league seasons).

    Even though McNally wasn't considered the best pitcher on the staff during his distinguished career with the team, you certainly could make the case that he and Palmer weren't Nos. 1 and 2, but 1A and 1B.

    Starting out with the club at the ripe age of 19 in the season of 1962, McNally worked to become progressively better as he matured as a pitcher.

    After having a floundering WHIP total that ranged from 1.188 to 1.496 over his first five full seasons with the team, McNally managed to lower it to an American League-leading 0.842 in 1968.

    Clayton Kershaw's WHIP of his career year (thus far) in 2013? 0.915.

    I know, I know. They are completely different eras.

    Regardless, it is still an impressive feat knowing you need absolute control, stamina and mental fortitude throughout the course of a season to achieve such numbers.

    McNally never managed to win an AL Cy Young Award during his career, but he finished in the top four in voting three times, was named to the AL All-Star team three times and won two world championships with the Orioles.

    McNally is the second member of this list to be a part of the four 20-game winners of 1971.

1. Jim Palmer

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    Associated Press

    Jim Palmer, Mr. Oriole himself, was a career Oriole, spending 19 years in the majors and never once wearing colors other than the orange and black.

    Palmer is the only member of this list to don the championship rings of all three Orioles World Series years.

    A three-time AL Cy Young Award winner, Palmer had the entire package.

    If you wanted a guy whom you could always count on to stay healthy, eat innings and lead a staff over two decades, Palmer was your man.

    Over a 162-game average in his career, Palmer averaged 27 games started and 249 innings pitched per season.

    Palmer recorded 268 wins, good for 36th all time, and sports a ridiculous career ERA of 2.86.  He also managed to reach the 20-win milestone eight times throughout his decorated career and is a member of the four 20-game winners of 1971.

    Not to be overshadowed by his more notable accomplishments, Palmer was also named to six AL All-Star teams and is a four-time Gold Glove Award winner.

    Given the fact that Palmer was an Oriole throughout his entire major league life, put up astounding statistics, won three championships and received numerous accolades, he is the greatest Oriole pitcher of all time.

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