Hall Spot For Appier Much Deserved

I’m not sure if it’s just me who doesn’t truly appreciate how great Kevin Appier was during the 10 years he pitched in KC.

The newest member of the Royals Hall of Fame sort of flew under my radar for some reason.

He was big just as the Royals started to get small. We had been so spoiled by years of dominance. We were still in the hangover of that shocking World Series win in 1985. We were watching Frank White and George Brett hang it up.

So when the team stopped making the playoffs and struggled just to stay relevant, we didn’t appreciate what Appier was doing on bad teams. Appier became a fixture in the Royals rotation in 1990 and was a mainstay for the next 8 seasons.

Only once during those years, in 1993, did the team win more than 82 games, and only three times did the team finish above .500. But Appier labored faithfully, racking up the kind of statistics that don’t win Cy Young trophies, but that number crunchers appreciate.

If you ask me to name the greatest starting pitchers in Royals history, I would probably list off the studs from KC’s best teams: Leonard, Splittorff, Saberhagen, Gubicza… Then I’d say, “But don’t forget how great Steve Busby was for a short time.” Then of course I’d have to say Greinke might actually be the most talented.

But a closer look at the individual measurements reveals that Appier might just be the best in team history.

Start with the most basic of measurements – WAR – and you see Appier’s standing among Royals pitchers. Appier is number one by a wide margin. Of the list of top 10 individual season WAR rankings, both Appier and Saberhagen have three. No other Royal has more than one.

Then look at some of the more sophisticated means of judging pitchers – Adjusted Pitching Runs, Adjusted Pitching Wins, Base-Out Runs Saved, Win Probability Added, Situational Wins Saved, Base-Out Wins Saved. Appier is first in every category, ahead of the other two best in team history, statistically speaking: Saberhagen and Dan Quisenberry.

Appier is in the team’s top 10 in the commonly recognized rankings – wins and ERA – and is number one in strikeouts. But when you look at these adjusted means of ranking a pitcher independent of his team, you realize that Appier was great on bad teams. If he had the benefit of a lineup of Brett, White, Hal McRae and Willie Wilson, he’d have been a perennial 20 game winner.

Believe it or not, Appier is actually ranked by Baseball Reference.com as the #99 pitcher of all time! (Right between some pretty darn good ones – Jack Morris and Frank Viola, and ahead of some guys you’ve heard of – Rollie Fingers, Fernando Valenzuela…)

Appier never pitched in a playoff game for the Royals. He never won any major awards and only played in one all-star game.

But it’s great to see him receive the credit he deserves in front of the closest witnesses to his greatness – KC fans. We’ll see him enshrined in the team’s hall of fame on June 25. He joins six other starting pitchers. But by some convincing measurements, Appier is the best.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: