Friday, March 14, 2008

Appier or Saberhagen?

In a recent article on his blog Rany claims that Kevin Appier "is the best pitcher in the history of the Royals franchise". Of course he is right. It's not a bold claim, Appier was pretty good most of his career but played on some poor Royals teams. Bret Saberhagen, on the other hand, won two CYA's and was the winning pitcher in game 7 of the 1985 World Series. This debate sprung up in a couple of forums and different stats were thrown around (Rany used WARP). But I'm gonna look at it from another angle, how many times were they the best pitcher in their seasons with the Royals. It's entirely subjective and it really doesn't prove anything but I do find it interesting.
I am just looking at W-L/ERA/ERA+

We will start with Saberhagen.
Saberhagen - 10-11 3.48 era 116 era+
Best Pitcher - Bud Black 17-12 3.12 era 130 era+

This was Black's best season and Sabes rookie year so no shame in being the second best in '84.

Saberhagen - 20-6 2.87 era 145 era+
Best Pitcher - Charlie Leibrandt 17-9 2.69 era 154 era+

I know Sabes won his first CYA in '85 but Liebrandt was better. Liebrandt was second in era and era+ to Dave Stieb and finished 5th in CY voting. Saberhagen was very good but probably won the award because of his 20 wins.

Saberhagen - 7-12 4.15 era 102 era+
Best Pitcher - Danny Jackson 11-12 3.20 era 132 era+

Liebrandt and Mark Gubicza were also better as Saberhagen battled injuries for the first time in his young career.

Saberhagen - 18-10 3.36 era 136 era+
Best Pitcher - Saberhagen, but not by much.

Liebrandt went for 16-11 3.41era 134 era+. So the for the first time in his career Sabes was the best starter on his team, although Liebrandt wasn't far behind. He started the all-star game after going 15-3 2.47 in first half and then went 3-7 4.61 the rest of the year. What was looking like a historic year turned out be just a really good one.

Saberhagen - 14-16 3.80 era 106 era+
Best Pitcher - Mark Gubicza 20-8 2.70 era 149 era+

This was easily Gubicza's best season and though Sabes was solid he was still only the third best starter (Liebrandt 126 era+).

It's worth noting that Danny Jackson went 23-8 2.73 era 132 era+ for the Reds. But hey at least Kurt Stillwell hit .251/.322/.399.

Saberhagen - 23-6 2.16 era 180 era+
Best Pitcher - Saberhagen

The best year of any starter in team history. Simply dominating.

Saberhagen - 5-9 3.27 era 118 era+
Best Pitcher - Kevin Appier 12-8 2.76 era 139 era+

Appier's rookie season and he already one ups the 2-time CYA winner. Sabes spent time on the DL and was limited to just 135 innings.

Saberhagen - 13-8 3.07 era 135 era+
Best Pitcher - Saberhagen

His last year in KC before Kevin McReynolds was forced into our lives. So in eight seasons Saberhagen was the Royals best pitcher in only three of them; 87, 89, & 91. It really seems like it should be more but injuries were a major factor.

Now lets look at Appier. I'm just using 1990-1997 because he only made three starts in 98 and was traded mid-season in 99.

Appier - 12-8 2.76 era 139 era+
Best Pitcher - Appier

Finished 3rd in ROY voting and probably should have won. It won't be the last time he's screwed out of a major award.

Appier - 13-10 3.42 era 121 era+
Best Pitcher - Saberhagen 13-8 3.07 era 135 era+

Appier was good but Saberhagen was better. Sabes was traded in the offseason and Appier becomes the ace of the staff.

Appier - 15-8 2.46 era 165 era+
Best Pitcher - Appier

He was good, really good and the best is still yet to come.

Appier - 18-8 2.56 era 179 era+
Best Pitcher - Appier

Gets royally screwed out of the CYA because voters only cared about wins. His 93 season is 2nd best team in history (Sabes 1989).

Appier - 7-6 3.83 era 130 era+
Best Pitcher - David Cone 16-5 2.94 era 170 era+

Appier was ok but Cone was great and won the CYA. I guess they couldn't screw KC out of the award two years in a row. Cone gets traded in the offseason for a collection of lint and a free milkshake at McDonalds.

Appier - 15-10 3.89 era 123 era+
Best Pitcher - Gubicza 12-14 3.75 era 127 era+

Gubicza's last good season and in fact only pitches 124 innings the rest of his career.

Appier - 14-11 3.62 era 138 era+
Best Pitcher - Appier

Tim Belcher was pretty good (127 era+) and Jose Rosado was great (156 era+) but only pitched 106 innings.

Appier - 9-13 3.40 era 137 era+
Best Pitcher - Appier

Belcher & Rosado weren't so good in 97although Rosado did make the all-star team.
OK so Appier was the best starter in five of his eight full seasons and was second best in the other three. Now I know some people may say that Sabes had better pitchers on his teams but Appier did pitch with Cone, Gubicza, and Rosado. I guess you can draw your own conclusions on what all this means but to me it adds up to Appier being #1 and Saberhagen #2.


  1. I see what you are trying to show and it does make sense but:

    Cy Young Awards
    Sabes - 2
    Ape - 0

    I think that about says it all.

  2. I admitted as much however those are only two seasons out of eight.

  3. And Cy Youngs are very faulty things indeed.

    2005-Bartolo Colon?
    1993-Jack McDowell?

    I'd go on and on and on, but I'm off to work out. But keep this in mind, the BBWAA rarely gets it right.