Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mike Mussina, 2000 Pacific Omega #19

When the Orioles traded their erstwhile #1 starter Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies earlier this month, a lot of media members and fans wondered aloud who the team's Opening Day starting pitcher would be. If you ask me, that's a secondary concern. After all, there's not one pitcher who could be considered a lock for the five-man rotation, much less a front-runner to take on the Twins on April 6. But the speculation did inspire me to do some crack research on the O's previous 58 Opening Day starters. What follows is a list of the 33 men to receive that honor. As you can see, they were not all created equal. The guys at the very top of the list, though, should be no surprise.

-Mike Mussina and Jim Palmer: 6 starts each
-Dave McNally: 5
-Jeremy Guthrie, Rodrigo Lopez, Steve Barber: 3
-Rick Sutcliffe, Mike Boddicker, Mike Flanagan, Dennis Martinez, Milt Pappas: 2

And of course, the one-timers.

-Kevin Millwood, Erik Bedard, Sidney Ponson, Scott Erickson, Pat Hentgen, Jimmy Key, Jeff Ballard, Bob Milacki, Dave Schmidt, Storm Davis, Scott McGregor, Steve Stone, Pat Dobson, Tommy Phoebus,  Billy Hoeft, Jerry Walker, Jack Harshman, Connie Johnson, Hal Brown, Bill Wight, Lou Kretlow, Don Larsen

Which names are surprising to you? Only three pitchers had more Opening Day starts for the Birds than Guthrie, and they're the three best in club history. Rodrigo Lopez's three starts may seem to be an indicator of the team's lack of pitching depth in the 2000s, but two of those assignments came on the heels of his very good 2002 (15-9, 3.57 ERA) and 2004 (14-9, 3.59) seasons. Dave Schmidt's start in the 1989 opener seems like an odd choice in hindsight, since he wound up with an astronomical 5.69 ERA on a surprisingly competitive young team that had a cumulative 4.00 ERA on the season. But he'd been much better than that in 1988, with a 3.40 ERA in a swingman role for a much worse O's team. Besides, Frank Robinson had no way of knowing how well Ballard and Milacki would pitch in '89.

So who's your pick for Opening Day 2012? I'll go out on a limb and say it's Zach Britton. Now I've probably doomed him to have a slow recovery from his ongoing bout of shoulder soreness.


Ryan H said...

I think it might be Arrieta. I guess one name not on your list that surprised me is Mike Cuellar. Then again, when your pitching staff is stacked like it was in the early 70's I'm not that surprised after all.

Rounding Thirty 3rd said...

It is surprising that Cuellar is not on the list. How many Cy Young winners have zero opening day starts on their resume?

The other "funny" name that popped out was Don Larsen - mainly because of his mediocre career in contrast to his one defining game.

Kevin said...

Ryan - I'd imagine that Earl Weaver had a method to his madness. It can't be coincidence that he usually went with either Palmer or McNally.

Tim - As you probably know, that was Larsen's one full season as an Oriole (he returned as a reliever during the 1965 campaign). Mediocre is a kind word for his 1954, what with the 3-21 record. In fairness to Don, his 4.37 ERA was deserving of a better mark; he got 2.6 runs of support per start.