I recently wrote an article about Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and how Royals hitter’s of the past have faired with this statistic. Today, I’d like to look at the same stat, but for some notable pitchers of the past and present. What I discovered, not surprisingly, was how bad Royals hitters have been in the past with my last article. Now I wasn’t too shocked because I remember teams of the past and the Royals having players like Carlos Febles, Angel Berroa, and Michael Tucker. I’d like to see the opposite as I look at the pitchers, but, in general, most of the recent seasons haven’t been filled with much success from our pitchers. Instead of looking season by season, I’m going to spotlight some of the great WAR seasons by pitchers. After the great seasons, I will follow up with another article examining the worst seasons on the mound in Kansas City using the WAR statistic.
One of the top WAR pitchers in Royals history is Kevin Appier. Appier was the top player on his team for six different seasons during his time spent in Kansas City. His greatest season came in 1993 where he registered a WAR of 9.0. In that season he went 18-8 and had the best ERA in the league at 2.56. One stat that really jumped out to me during that year was his ability to limit the long ball. In 238.2 innings pitched he allowed only 8 home runs, which was good for .3 home runs allowed per 9 innings pitched.
While Appier may be the top player for his team with all pitchers considered in all seasons, he hasn’t had the greatest season in franchise history according to WAR. His 1993 campaign ranks as the 3rd best pitching season in franchise history, under the WAR category. The second greatest season, according to WAR, goes to Bret Saberhagen for his stellar season in 1989, in which his WAR was 9.2. Saberhagen won the Cy Young award that year in the American League with a 23-6 win loss record and a league best ERA of 2.16. In ’89 he also threw 12 complete games and struck out 193 batters, while only walking 43.
The greatest season in Kansas City Royals history for a pitcher goes to Zack Greinke, who had a WAR of 10.1, in 2009. He won the Cy Young award that year despite only winning 16 games. His 2.16 ERA and his 242 strike outs displayed his dominance that year. For the lack of run support he did receive, it’s amazing he was able to win 16 games that year. Greinke threw 3 shut outs in 2009, and those have been the only shut outs he has thrown in his career. While Greinke has had some very terrific seasons over the last few years, none have compared to his unbelievable success in 2009.
There are a few seasons I’d like to give an honorable mention nod to. Now remember the 3 seasons I just went over are based on WAR. The next few seasons were great and even Cy Young worthy, but they don’t measure up in terms of WAR. Bret Saberhagen in 1985 won the Cy Young award as a 21 year old rookie and his WAR measured in at 6.9. In 1988, Mark Gubicza accounted for a WAR of 7.5. He won 20 games that year and took 3rd in the Cy Young award balloting. In the strike-shortened season of 1994, David Cone won the Cy Young award and finished with a WAR of 6.6. In these 3 honorable mention seasons, Gubicza had the highest WAR, yet was the only one not to win the Cy Young award for his efforts. Like with most stats, they need to be taken with a grain of salt, but I do like how WAR can give you an idea of a players worth for a particular season.
I am going to follow up this piece with the historically bad seasons on the mound, according to WAR, in franchise history. I would expect to see a few recent pitchers we have had, including the likes of Luke Hochevar.