Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
1. Bret Saberhagen
Bret Saberhagen was the original kid Royals pitcher that set the mold later followed by Zack Greinke. Saberhagen was a precocious 20-year-old during his rookie season in 1984 when he posted a respectable 10-11 record, with a 3.48 ERA in 157.2 innings pitched.
The next season, Bret Saberhagen won both the American League Cy Young Award and the 1985 World Series MVP Award. So much for the sophomore jinx!
Saberhagen enjoyed a season for the ages in 1985. Not only did the 21-year-old go 20-6 with a 2.87 ERA, he dominated the St. Louis Cardinals in both of his starts in the World Series—including a complete game shutout in Game 7 that was the best pitched game in KC Royals playoff history until Johnny Cueto two-hit the Mets in Game 2 of the 2015 Series.
Oh, and Bret Saberhagen’s wife Jeanine gave birth to their son Drew during the 1985 World Series.
While Saberhagen never was able to top that 1985 season during his remaining years in Kansas City, he did win another Cy Young Award in 1989 for his outstanding 23-6 campaign with a 2.16 ERA in 262.1 inning pitched.
However, the Kansas City Royals traded Bret Saberhagen after the 1991 season, trying to reload a depleted team. Saberhagen and Bill Pecota went to the New York Mets in exchange for Kevin McReynolds, Keith Miller, and Gregg Jefferies. Saberhagen finished his KC Royals career with a 110-78 record, 3.21 ERA, 128 ERA+, and an outstanding 1.134 WHiP.
After his eight seasons with Kansas City, Bret Saberhagen pitched eight more years for the Mets, Rockies, and Red Sox. He appeared in playoff series with the Rockies and Red Sox, but never again won a post-season game after his heroics in the 1985 World Series.
We also considered some other pitchers for this list.
David Cone was the third Kansas City pitcher besides Zack Greinke and Bret Saberhagen to win a Cy Young while with the Royals, but he only pitched two full seasons, plus a September call-up in 1986.
Steve Busby won some consideration for becoming the first pitcher in major league history to pitch a no-hitter in each of his first two seasons, but his career was cut short at age 25 by a torn rotator cuff. Larry Gura was a horse for five seasons for the late 70’s to early 80’s KC Royals, but today’s value estimators don’t like him much due to his absurdly-low strikeout rate (3.3 K/9).
We REALLY would have liked to include Wade Davis on this list, since arguably enjoyed the best two-year run of any reliever in major-league history. However, we decided that two outstanding years simply wasn’t enough (plus a poor season as a starter in 2013).