#23 - Scott McGregor, LHP (1976-1988)
In the last 35 years, the Orioles have played a total of twelve World Series games. Four of those twelve games were started by one man: lefty Scott McGregor, a man whose postseason glory is exceeded only by the glory of the mustache he so famously sported.
Many of the great Orioles were products of the Orioles farm system, either as signees before the draft came into existence or as drafted players. McGregor was one of those who came from elsewhere. He was originally drafted by the Yankees in the first round in 1972, #14 overall, out of high school in California. A midseason trade in 1976 brought McGregor, along with Rick Dempsey, Tippy Martinez and two others to Baltimore. The most notable of the five players the Orioles sent to New York was Elrod Hendricks.
So began the Orioles career of one of the greats. McGregor got into three games at the end of that '76 season, including two starts. He returned the next year, getting use mostly out of the bullpen as a 23-year-old. He threw 114 innings in 29 games in his first year spending a lot of time in the big leagues. The results were pedestrian, a 4.42 ERA that was good for an 86 ERA+ in 1977. That means he was 14% worse than the average pitcher.
The Orioles saw enough to throw him into the rotation the very next year. He would go on to start 283 games over the next nine seasons, putting up a 3.80 ERA - over that span, a 102 ERA+. That might not be very flashy on the whole, but McGregor has this trump card: his two best seasons were the two years in his career that the Orioles made it into the postseason. Those were 1979 and 1983. McGregor threw in a 20-win season in 1980; the only Oriole to do so between then and now was Mike Boddicker in 1984.
It's those World Series years for which McGregor is remembered, and for good reason. He posted his career-best WHIP across 174.2 innings in 1979 - including a nearly-nonexistent BB/9 of 1.2. That's actually ridiculous. Why can't Orioles fans have a McGregor now? That is good.
McGregor was 25 when he was given the ball in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Angels. With the Orioles up 2-1 in the series, it was potentially a clinching game. McGregor responded to the pressure of the situation by throwing a six-hit shutout to send the Orioles to the World Series. He wasn't done there, tossing another complete game as the Orioles won Game 3 against the Pirates, followed by eight innings of two-run ball in Game 7. That game got worse after he left and the O's took a heartbreaking loss that still has Baltimore fans hating the "We Are Family" song to this day.
In 1983, both McGregor and the Orioles got another bite at the apple. He started a career-high 36 games in the regular season, notching a career-best 3.18 ERA across 260 innings - also a career high. He was the staff ace of a great team. McGregor got the ball in Game 1 of the ALCS. He gave up two runs, one earned, in 6.2 innings against the White Sox, taking a tough loss as the Orioles failed to solve Cy Young winner LaMarr Hoyt. The O's went on to win the next three games to get back into the World Series.
Game 1 of the World Series against the Phillies saw McGregor in action again. He picked up just where he left off, this time dueling against NL Cy Young winner John Denny. That game saw McGregor give up only two runs over eight innings, but the Orioles offense only scored one off Denny and McGregor took another tough loss. The Orioles, too, picked up where they left off, going on to win the next three games.
In the best-of-seven World Series, that meant McGregor was due to pitch again in Game 5, the potential clincher. He delivered with a five-hit shutout, closing out the game and the series with that liner to Cal Ripken Jr. that we've all seen a thousand times. That Phillies lineup featured two future Hall of Famers, plus future 4,000 hit man Pete Rose. They had nothing against the mustache that day.
In six postseason games for the O's, McGregor threw 49.2 innings. His shortest outing was 6.2 innings and he had three complete games, with two shutouts. In all, that was good for a 1.63 postseason ERA. Wow! Seriously, wow.
Across a 13-year Orioles career, McGregor ended up with a 3.99 ERA. He hardly ever struck anyone out, with a 3.8 K/9 over his career, but he hardly ever walked anyone either. On the franchise leaderboard, he ranks fourth in innings pitched, sixth in wins, and sixth in Baseball Reference's Wins Above Replacement among Orioles pitchers. He is a World Series champion. McGregor was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1990.
For performance in multiple postseasons, Scott McGregor has few equals even among the greatest of Orioles pitchers. In the regular season, he had few great seasons, but many that were at least average. He brought his best when it really counted. While he may be #23 on our greatest Orioles list, he'll always be #1 on the list of greatest mustaches.