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.
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.