FanPost

Rotation Domination

Most fans of the Royals have a long list of complaints with the Process and GMDM. Some complaints are legitimate while others are irrationally colored by years of losing.

During GMDM's tenure, the Royals have pieced together various spare parts, leftovers, has-beens and never-weres while preaching patience as the team developed in-house starters. Watching the first wave of starters develop in the minors, the 2012 season was viewed as the year when the guys with #1 stuff (all of five of them) were going to make an impact.

A funny thing happened on the way to Rotation Domination...it didn't happen and doesn't appear to be happening.

Two questions come to mind at this point: is putting together a decent starting five difficult? and is building the rotation primarily in-house realistic?

In recent years, several teams have had major turnarounds in their starting pitching - just what the Royals need to do. So how did they do it?

To start with, I chose not to include the Washington Nationals in this comparison since it is obvious how they got so good so quick. Draft well, overcome a TJ injury and make some trades that work out. We'll come back to the Nationals at the end of this analysis.

Using data from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com, I compiled data for the New York Mets, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates to compare with the Royals.

  • New York has a history of being up and down with their rotation.
  • Oakland has a history of being able to develop pitchers and generally has a good ERA.
  • Pittsburgh has a history most similar to the Royals of not having a good starting rotation.

For the first half of 2012, the starters on these three teams have top-10 ERAs.

#3

Mets

3.55

#7

Athletics

3.67

#10

Pirates

3.94

#28

Royals

5.16

The impetus for this analysis is the Pittsburgh Pirates - they have dramatically improved their pitching in just two off-seasons. In 2010, the team ERA was 5.00, in 2011 it was 4.04, and so far in 2012 it is 3.47.

Impressive.

All three teams have shown it is possible, with their own Process, to build an effective starting rotation. So why hasn't GMDM's process been able to achieve similar success?

Taking a deeper dive into how each team acquired starting pitchers for their 2012 staff will reveal the similarities and differences in the process each team uses. The tables below only include starters with ten or more starts.

Pitchers were acquired in three ways: drafted and developed in-house (3), by way of trade (5) and through free agency (5). Regardless of how acquired, there are only a few first round draft picks, the bulk being drafted in the 4th thru 11th rounds.

New York Mets

Name

GS

IP

K/9

BB/9

BABIP

ERA

R.A. Dickey
17
120.0
9.23
1.95
.258
2.40
Johan Santana
17
102.2
8.68
2.89
.271
3.24
Jonathon Niese
17
103.2
7.90
2.78
.274
3.73
Dillon Gee
17
109.2
7.96
2.38
.301
4.10

Dickey: Drafted by Texas 1st round 1996. Signed as free agent in 2009.

Santana: Amateur free agent 1995. Acquired from Minnesota in 2008 trade.

Niese: Drafted by NY Mets 7th round 2005.

Gee: Drafted by NY Mets 21st round 2007.

Oakland Athletics

Name

GS

IP

K/9

BB/9

BABIP

ERA

Brandon McCarthy
12
78.0
6.00
2.19
.283
2.54
Jarrod Parker
14
85.0
7.09
4.34
.260
2.86
Tommy Milone
17
108.1
5.98
2.08
.267
3.57
Bartolo Colon
17
104.1
5.43
1.47
.292
3.80
Tyson Ross
12
62.1
5.05
4.33
.344
6.35

McCarthy: Drafted by Chicago White Sox 17th round 2002. Signed as Free Agent in 2010.

Parker: Drafted by Arizona 1st round 2007. Acquired in Trevor Cahill trade.

Milone: Drafted Washington 10th round 2008. Acquired in Gio Gonzalez trade

Colon: Amateur free agent 1993. Signed as free agent in 2012.

Ross: Drafted by Oakland 2nd round 2008.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Name

GS

IP

K/9

BB/9

BABIP

ERA

James McDonald
17
110.0
8.18
2.54
.242
2.37
A.J. Burnett
15
93.0
7.65
3.19
.292
3.68
Kevin Correia
16
91.1
3.45
2.66
.252
4.34
Erik Bedard
17
86.1
8.13
4.07
.318
4.80

McDonald: Drafted by LA Dodgers 11th round 2002. Acquired via 2010 trade.

Burnett: Drafted by NY Mets 8th round 1995. Acquired via trade with NYY in 2012.

Correia: Drafted by San Francisco 4th round 2002. Signed as free agent in 2010.

Bedard: Drafted by Baltimore 6th round 1999. Signed as free agent in 2011.

Kanas City Royals

Name

GS

IP

K/9

BB/9

BABIP

ERA

Luis Mendoza
10
54.0
5.83
3.33
.326
4.50
Luke Hochevar
17
98.0
6.52
2.76
.321
5.14
Bruce Chen
18
98.1
6.59
2.01
.304
5.22
Jonathan Sanchez
11
52.0
5.88
7.44
.306
6.75

Mendoza: Amateur free agent 2000. Acquired from Texas in trade 2010.

Hochevar: Drafted by Royals 1st round 2006.

Chen: Amateur free agent 1993. Acquired as free agent in 2009.

Sanchez: Drafted by San Francisco 27th round 2004. Acquired in Melky Caberra trade 2012.

Conclusion

Looking over the details of these three successful teams compared to the Royals, you see the same set of methods used for acquiring talent. The least common, or successful method, is in-house development, the cornerstone of GMDM's Process.

When the other teams needed pitchers, they signed a free agent or traded for a talent that had survived the development process in another organization. All four of the Pittsburgh starters were acquired in the past few years - they didn't wait around for their talented pitching prospects to develop (Taillon/Cole/Appel).

Back to the Washington Nationals - what really separates them from a team like the Royals is acquiring guys that just happen to work out. Successful rotations are probably ten percent baseball acumen and ninety percent luck.

If the Royals had similar luck, Greinke would have chosen to stay, Hochevar would be dominating, Monty would have pitched his way into the rotation and Duffy and Paulino would have stayed healthy. With just a little luck, that would have been Rotation Domination in 2012.

Since you can't buy luck, GMDM needs to realize that pitchers in the low minors have more value in trades than waiting to see if they mature into major league pitchers. Trades and free agents are the way to turnaround an ineffective rotation.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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