Appreciating Mike Cuellar

While I was collecting the various factoids for my Game 7 post a few weeks back I was reminded of how good a pitcher Mike Cuellar was. Now, Cuellar pitched before my time, although I did know his name since he threw against the Mets in the 1969 World Series.

Many Orioles fans will probably laugh that I wasn't aware of how good Cuellar was, but that's the great thing about baseball history. No matter how much you follow the game it seems you can always stumble upon an impressive player that you hadn't appreciated before.

Year Age Tm W L G GS CG SHO IP BB SO ERA+ WHIP HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
1959 22 CIN 0 0 2 0 0 0 4.0 4 5 28 2.750 2.3 9.0 11.3 1.25
1964 27 STL 5 5 32 7 1 0 72.0 33 56 85 1.569 1.0 4.1 7.0 1.70
1965 28 HOU 1 4 25 4 0 0 56.0 21 46 95 1.357 0.5 3.4 7.4 2.19
1966 29 HOU 12 10 38 28 11 1 227.1 52 175 153 1.078 0.4 2.1 6.9 3.37
1967 30 HOU 16 11 36 32 16 3 246.1 63 203 108 1.202 0.6 2.3 7.4 3.22 AS
1968 31 HOU 8 11 28 24 11 2 170.2 45 133 108 1.154 0.4 2.4 7.0 2.96
1969 32 BAL 23 11 39 39 18 5 290.2 79 182 151 1.005 0.6 2.4 5.6 2.30 CYA-1,MVP-8
1970 33 BAL 24 8 40 40 21 4 297.2 69 190 105 1.149 1.0 2.1 5.7 2.75 AS,CYA-4,MVP-11
1971 34 BAL 20 9 38 38 21 4 292.1 78 124 109 1.122 0.9 2.4 3.8 1.59 AS,MVP-24
1972 35 BAL 18 12 35 35 17 4 248.1 71 132 121 1.079 0.8 2.6 4.8 1.86
1973 36 BAL 18 13 38 38 17 2 267.0 84 140 115 1.307 1.0 2.8 4.7 1.67
1974 37 BAL 22 10 38 38 20 5 269.1 86 106 111 1.259 0.6 2.9 3.5 1.23 AS,CYA-6,MVP-10
1975 38 BAL 14 12 36 36 17 5 256.0 84 105 97 1.223 0.6 3.0 3.7 1.25
1976 39 BAL 4 13 26 19 2 1 107.0 50 32 66 1.673 0.7 4.2 2.7 0.64
1977 40 CAL 0 1 2 1 0 0 3.1 3 3 23 3.600 5.4 8.1 8.1 1.00
15 Seasons 185 130 453 379 172 36 2808.0 822 1632 110 1.197 0.7 2.6 5.2 1.99
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/31/2011.

 

Cuellar was 22 when he came up with the Reds in 1959. After pitching only four innings, Cuellar would not see the big leagues again until 1964 when he caught on with the Cardinals at age 27. The next season he was traded to the Houston Astros and even then it took him until 1966 to crack the rotation. After that, Cuellar became one of the most dominant left-handed starting pitchers in the big leagues for about the next decade. 

He's best remembered as part of the Oriole's fantastic starting staff that pitched together from 1969 through the mid 1970's.

Cuellar ranked 6th in ERA+ among left-handed starters that threw at least 1000 innings between 1966-1975. For lefties throwing at least 2000 innings? He ranks second (115). The best? Steve Carlton (117), and it was very close.

If you look at left-handed starters that pitched at least 2500 innings since 1947, Cuellar ranks 13th in terms of ERA+ (110). However, you also should consider that Cuellar really didn't catch on as a regular in the bigs until his age 27 season (1964).

Cuellar logged over 2400 innings between the ages of 27 and 37. Only 19 left-handed pitchers managed that feat. Cuellar ranks 9th in ERA+ (116), 9th in K/BB (2.19), 4th in complete games (153/387), and 4th in average Game Score (57.6). Moreover, if we calculate a non-league adjusted FIP (not ideal, of course) for these pitchers Cuellar ranks 6th (4.41). Pitchers such as Whitey Ford, Jim Kaat, Randy Johnson, and Steve Carlton rank ahead of him.

Cuellar wasn't a Hall of Fame pitcher, but he was a damn good one for a large part of his career.

Below is a short clip from MLB.com that includes video of Mike Cuellar in action.

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