Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best LHP in KC history

Kevin Appier and Bret Saberhagen are hands down the two best starting pitchers that have ever played for the Royals but they were both righthanded so who was the best lefty? It's widely acknowledged that Paul Splittorff is the best left handed starter in Royals history but is that really accurate? He is the all time franchise leader in wins and innings which shows he pitched at a high level for a long time but his career 101 ERA+ is really underwhelming.

*Trivia question - What pitcher holds the single season Royals record for strikeouts by a lefty?*

Another name that jumps out is Larry Gura, only Splitt had more wins by a LHP. You also have to consider Danny Jackson and Jose Rosado but since they each totaled less than 800 innings we'll toss them out. It may surprise some people to know that Bud Black has the tenth best ERA+ among all KC pitchers, that certainly shocked me.

But in my opinion the best LHP is Charlie Leibrandt. His 116 ERA+ is tied for first among LHP's (with DJ) and his 1985 season was the best in Royals history by a lefty.

5 best seasons by a LHP:
1) 1985 - Leibrandt 17-12 2.69ERA 154 ERA+
2) 1978 - Gura 16-4 2.72 142
3) 1980 - Gura  18-10 2.95 137
4) 1987 - Leibrandt 16-11 3.41 134
5) 1981 - Gura 11-8 2.72 132

Looking at Gura having three of the top five seasons and you see why I tossed out DJ & Rosado, they simply didn't pitch long enough in Royal blue. Gura's final two seasons as a Royal (83 & 78 ERA+) really brought down his numbers and while it's likely that Liebrandt numbers would have come down had he stayed with KC it should be noted that he had three good seasons with the Braves from 1990-92 (127, 112, 110).

So here are the top four:

Player Record Innings ERA ERA+
Leibrandt 76-61 1257 3.60 116
Gura 111-78 1701.1 3.72 107
Spittorff 166-143 2554.2 3.81 101
Black 56-57 977.2 3.73 112

Only three lefty's in franchise history have struck out 150+ hitters in a season - two of them did it in 1987 (DJ 152, Leibrandt 151). The other is the answer to the trivia question, Bill Butler struck out 156 in the Royals inaugural season (1969) and that appears to be unbreakable as only seven Royals have struck out 130+ with Rosado's 141 in 1999 the most recent.

So the soft tossing lefty is not a recent development for the Royals, it seems to be a franchise philosophy dating back to the beginning. Which I guess is why Horacio Ramirez was not only given 1.8 million dollars but also a spot in the rotation. Some habits are hard to break.

1 comment:

  1. Jackson was definitely was the most talented, too bad all we got for him was kurt stillwell.