The Importance of Pitching: The 1971 Baltimore Orioles

Pitching. The importance of pitching is never underestimated when it comes to wins and losses. After witnessing the Phillies acquire Cliff Lee, I thought to myself what dominant rotations of years past have there been? The 1971 Baltimore Orioles came to mind. To have one or two 20-game winners on the same staff in the same season is impressive, but to have four seems nearly impossible. However, Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, and Pat Dobson all won 20 games that season. The 1971 Orioles were the last team to have four 20-game winners.

The youngest of the group, Jim Palmer, was 25. He went 20-9 with a 2.68 ERA in ’71. He threw 20 complete games with 3 shutouts. He also struck out 184 batters. 28-year-old Dave McNally went 21-5 to lead the rotation in wins that year. His 2.89 ERA was slightly lower than teammate Pat Dobson at 2.90.  McNally only struck out 91 batters that season, but had a win-loss percentage of .808.

Mike Cuellar was the oldest pitcher in the rotation at 34. He pitched 292.1 innings in 1971, the most in the rotation. With a 3.08 ERA, he had 4 shutouts and sent 124 batters back to the dugout on strikes. Like McNally, he was a lefty.

Pat Dobson ended the 1971 season with 20 wins and 8 losses. He struck out the most batters with 187 strikeouts. He had 18 complete games with 4 shutouts. “The Dobber”  passed away on November 22, 2006.

Of the four men, only Jim Palmer made it to Cooperstown in 1990. Palmer would pitch for 19 seasons with a 2.86 career ERA. He won the AL Cy Young Award in 1973,  1975, and 1976. You can hear Jim calling Oriole games to this day. Dave McNally never won a Cy Young. He passed away in 2002. Mike Cuellar split the 1969 Cy Young voting with Denny McLain. Mike Cuellar died in March 2010.

All statistical and historical data from


2 thoughts on “The Importance of Pitching: The 1971 Baltimore Orioles

    • It was before my time but I can only imagine. That’s extremely impressive considering MLB lowered the mound just a few years before.

      Thanks for the reply!

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