Categorized | Classic, Royals

Royals Five Year Bests: Pitchers

I recently looked at the top Royals position players by Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for rolling five-year periods in club history. Here is the same for the twirlers:

1969-73

13.9 WAR Dick Drago
8.0 WAR Paul Splittorff
7.6 WAR Roger Nelson

Drago was the only pitcher to pitch regularly during each of the five first years of Royals play. “Regularly” is an understatement–he averaged 227 innings a year in this span. His 3.52 ERA only translates to a 101 ERA+, but staying healthy and pitching, pitching, and pitching some more makes him the standout hurler from the first half decade. He still ranks ninth on the team’s all-time innings pitched list.

1970-74

 

12.1 Dick Drago
10.1
Steve Busby
9.4
Paul Splittorff

 

1971-75

 

16.2 Steve Busby
11.8
Paul Splittorff
11.6
Al Fitzmorris

 

Busby’s arm only allowed him three full seasons, 1973-75.

1972-76

 

15.7 Steve Busby
13.3
Al Fitzmorris
9.5
Paul Splittorff

 

1973-77

 

14.6 Steve Busby
13.6
Al Fitzmorris
10.1
Paul Splittorff

 

1974-78

 

13.2 Dennis Leonard
10.9
Steve Busby
10.7
Al Fitzmorris

 

1975-79

 

16.0 Dennis Leonard
8.3
Paul Splittorff
6.8
Larry Gura

 

1976-80

 

16.7 Dennis Leonard
12.6
Larry Gura
8.1
Paul Splittorff

 

1977-81

 

17.9 Dennis Leonard
15.0
Larry Gura
8.0
Paul Splittorff

 

Leonard’s top five WAR seasons all came in succession from ’77-’81. He averaged an impossible 261 innings during the stretch.

 

1978-82

 

15.3 Larry Gura
11.8
Dennis Leonard
9.2
Dan Quisenberry

 

1979-83

 

14.5 Dan Quisenberry
11.3
Larry Gura
9.4
Dennis Leonard

 

1980-84

 

17.0 Dan Quisenberry
10.2
Larry Gura
6.8
Buddy Black
6.8
Dennis Leonard

 

1981-85

 

18.1 Dan Quisenberry
8.4
Buddy Black
8.1
Bret Saberhagen

 

1982-86

 

17.7 Dan Quisenberry
10.8
Charlie Leibrandt
10.4
Buddy Black

 

The Quiz dominated the ’79-’86 stretch and is the only reliever to top any five-year period.

1983-87

 

16.9 Bret Saberhagen
16.3
Charlie Leibrandt
15.8
Dan Quisenberry

 

1984-88

 

21.4 Charlie Leibrandt
20.4
Bret Saberhagen
18.8
Mark Gubicza

 

1985-89

 

27.6 Bret Saberhagen
23.1
Mark Gubicza
20.0
Charlie Leibrandt

 

Leibrandt’s 20.0 WAR is the highest total for any number three on these lists. 20 WAR players tend to get strong consideration for the team hall of fame. That three Royals starters racked up that amount in the same five year stretch is crazy.

1986-90

 

24.2 Bret Saberhagen
22.0
Mark Gubicza
13.7
Charlie Leibrandt

 

1987-91

 

27.4 Bret Saberhagen
18.2
Mark Gubicza
10.6
Charlie Leibrandt

 

1988-92

 

20.4 Bret Saberhagen
16.1
Mark Gubicza
14.5
Kevin Appier

 

1989-93

 

22.9 Kevin Appier
16.9
Bret Saberhagen
16.6
Jeff Montgomery

 

1990-94

 

28.4 Kevin Appier
13.6
Jeff Montgomery
12.7
David Cone

 

1991-95

 

28.0 Kevin Appier
13.2
Jeff Montgomery
12.7
David Cone

 

1992-96

 

30.9 Kevin Appier
12.7
David Cone
11.8
Jeff Montgomery

 

Ape remains vastly underappreciated as one of the dominant pitchers of the ’90s. This is the only five year stretch in team history that anyone not named George Brett has 30+ WAR.

1993-97

 

28.6 Kevin Appier
12.7
David Cone
9.6
Jeff Montgomery

 

1994-98

 

20.0 Kevin Appier
9.4
Tim Belcher
7.6
Mark Gubicza

 

1995-99

 

17.0 Kevin Appier
9.8
Jose Rosado
9.4
Tim Belcher

 

1996-2000

 

12.7 Kevin Appier
9.9
Jose Rosado
9.4
Tim Belcher

 

1997-2001

 

8.4 Jeff Suppan
6.5
Kevin Appier
6.4
Jose Rosado

 

1998-2002

 

9.6 Jeff Suppan
6.6
Paul Byrd
5.3
Jose Rosado

 

1999-2003

 

9.0 Jeff Suppan
6.6
Paul Byrd
5.9
Darrell May

 

2000-04

 

6.6 Paul Byrd
6.6
Darrell May
6.3
Jeff Suppan

 

2001-05

 

6.6 Paul Byrd
6.6
Darrell May
4.4
Zack Greinke

 

After having strong pitching from the club’s inception through the mid-’90s, things get really ugly in the new millennium. 6.6 is the lowest list-leading total, and 4.4 is the lowest number period.

2002-06

 

6.6 Darrell May
4.8
Paul Byrd
4.5
Zack Greinke

 

2003-07

 

7.2 Zack Greinke
5.6
Darrell May
4.9
Gil Meche

 

2004-08

 

11.4 Zack Greinke
8.7
Gil Meche
6.3
Joakim Soria

 

2005-09

 

16.6 Zack Greinke
9.4
Gil Meche
9.0
Joakim Soria

 

2006-10

 

18.3 Zack Greinke
12.7
Joakim Soria
9.0
Gil Meche

 

Awarding three points for every number one spot on these lists, two points for number two, and one point for third place, the leaders look like this:

 

27 Kevin Appier
20
Bret Saberhagen
16
Dennis Leonard
14
Dan Quisenberry
14
Zack Greinke
13
Steve Busby
12
Larry Gura
12
Paul Byrd
11
Paul Splittorff
11
Darrell May

 

Keep in mind that is roughly a reflection of how each pitcher out-performed his own teammates in his own time with the Royals.

Number of five year periods at number one:

 

8 Kevin Appier
5
Bret Saberhagen
4
Dennis Leonard
4
Dan Quisenberry
4
Zack Greinke
3
Steve Busby
3
Jeff Suppan
2
Larry Gura
2
Paul Byrd
2
Darrell May
2
Dick Drago
1
Charlie Leibrandt

Retired pitchers from that list not in the team hall of fame: Paul Byrd, Darrell May, Dick Drago and Charlie Leibrandt. Byrd, May and Drago do not have much of a case for induction. Leibrandt is a borderline candidate in my mind, probably falling just short.

Looking ahead to the almost completed next stretch of five seasons:

2007-11 (through August 14, 2011)

 

18.2 Zack Greinke
13.2
Joakim Soria
9.0
Gil Meche

 

And now for something sad. The next three pitchers on that list:

 

2.8 Robinson Tejeda
2.8
Bruce Chen
2.8
Brian Bannister

 

 

(I have combined the position player and pitcher five-year period WAR lists to get the top three players overall on my blog here.)

You should probably follow Aaron Stilley on the Twitters.

 

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