With Wins Above Replacement (WAR) becoming a hot topic as of late, I’ve published a few articles that examined Royals players from the past and how they fare in this category compared to the rest of the league. For my last post on this topic, I would like to look at a few pitchers who would rather forget some of their seasons they’ve had with this club. Keep in mind, I’m mainly going to stick with starters, simply because they see a lot more of the workload and can put the team at a worse chance of winning, more often.
Luke Hochevar and Jonathan Sanchez were two of the more recent nightmares this pitching staff had to deal with. Even with WAR aside they were some of the most recent disappointments that I can remember. The bright side is, Sanchez has already left us and I believe we’ve seen our last days with Hochevar on the mound. There is absolutely no reason not to non-tender him. The only positive coming from Sanchez was the fact we were able to flip him for Jeremy Guthrie, who ended up being one of the most dependable starters over the last few months. When you look at their statistics, it is plain to see how they end up with negative WARs. Hochevar was good for an 8-16 record over 32 starts where he also managed a 5.73 ERA and a WHIP of 1.42. His performance yielded a pitcher’s worst WAR of -1.7. Mr. Sanchez, on the other hand, started 12 games and notched only one win. His 7.76 ERA and 2.04 WHIP produced the second worst pitcher’s WAR on the team with -1.4. I really do hope the days are behind us where we trot out pitchers who are constantly giving us poor performances.
Enough about this past season, though. I’d like to look at a few names from the past who give us that same uneasy feeling when they take the mound, the way Hoch and Sanchez did this year. We all remember Runelvys Hernandez. He seemed so promising in 2003, yet failed to be anything more than just a flash in the pan. In 2006, Hernandez started 21 games for the Royals and went 6-10 for his efforts. He struck out 50 batters while walking 48 and finished up with an ERA at 6.48. His WHIP was an unheard of 1.76 which accounted for his -1.2 WAR, allowing his 2006 to be another forgettable and disappointing season for a Royals starter.
Jose Lima was a spark plug for any club house and was a main contributor in the Royals surprising 2003 season. However, just two short years later, Lima pitched his way to the club’s second worst season ever, according to WAR. This Royals team set the franchise record for losses in a season with 106. In this historic season, Lima started 32 games and wound up with a 5-16 record. He threw 168.2 innings and recorded only 80 strike outs while allowing 219 hits. This equated to a 6.99 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP. His WAR for this season registered at -1.8.
Now we must take a look at Doug Bird, who in 1978 had the single worst season a pitcher has ever had as he recorded a WAR of -2.3. He started only 6 games but appeared in 40 throughout the season. His win-loss record at 6-6 was respectable, but he only struck out 48 batters in nearly 100 innings of work. His ERA came in at 5.29 and he had a WHIP of 1.43. Those numbers don’t seem to be too bad, but as a reliever for most of the season, it is unfathomable to put nearly one and a half guys on base in critical late-inning high stress situations.
I would like to add a few honorable mentions. Mike Hedlund, who in 1972, recorded a WAR of -1.6. In 1979, Rich Gale had a WAR of -1.7 and finally everybody’s favorite, Sean O’Sullivan, in 2011 recorded a WAR of -1.6. I’d also like to mention, in O’Sullivan’s 2011 campaign, he had an astonishingly bad WHIP of 1.78. For me this has been interesting to go through season by season as I did research on some of the notably bad seasons in Royals history and examine just how awful these pitchers truly were. I really hope the days ahead are brighter and we can put the recent seasons of poor starting pitching behind us.