Baltimore Orioles: Top 5 strikeout pitchers in franchise history
By Sam Belden
4. Mike Flanagan — 1,297 SO
A New England native and proud graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Flanagan spent his entire career in the AL East. He never reached the highs achieved by his forebears like Cuellar and Jim Palmer, but with four good pitches, he was a vital member of the Orioles pitching staff for more than a decade.
The Birds took Flanagan in the seventh round of the 1973 draft; two years later, he was in Baltimore to make the first start of his career. The witty lefty’s peripheral stats were never particularly strong, yet he soon became recognized as one of the better pitchers on the junior circuit, posting a 3.64 ERA in 1977 and being named to his lone All-Star team the following year.
But even with that success, no one expected Flanagan to win the Cy Young Award in 1979. The X-factor was his changeup, which he learned from teammate Scott McGregor; with a new pitch in his arsenal, Flanagan won 23 games and pitched five shutouts, leading the league in both categories. He also recorded 190 strikeouts, good for third behind Nolan Ryan and Ron Guidry.
Flanagan remained effective for a few more seasons, but as the early ’80s became the mid ’80s, his stats started to sag. He was traded to the Blue Jays midway through the 1987 season, but he returned to Baltimore as a free agent in 1991, giving him a chance to pad his totals. Flanagan had an eventful post-playing career, serving as a pitching coach, front office executive and color commentator before his untimely death in 2011.