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Brian Bannister Has Become Brian Bannister

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 16:  Starting pitcher Brian Bannister #19 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the game against the Chicago White Sox on May 16, 2010 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 16: Starting pitcher Brian Bannister #19 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the game against the Chicago White Sox on May 16, 2010 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Have you ever had a moment of self-reflection when suddenly you realize, that your life has become whatever it is that it was going to become and that you have become whatever it is you were going to be? You can make changes, sure, but on the whole, you can cross off a number of possibilities from the list. Brian Bannister is one of the game's more interesting characters and was once considered an enigmatic player. He's still interesting, but he's no longer much of an enigma. He has become himself.

Bannister has made 95 starts for the Royals. He still seems like a relatively new player to me, but that really isn't the case. Like Kyle Davies and even Luke Hochevar, Bannister has been around for some time now. (Of course, a Missouri state law passed in 2008 forbids Dayton Moore from making changes to the starting rotation, so we shouldn't be surprised.)

From 20,000 feet, it looks like Bannister has more or less become whatever it is he's going to be. After an interesting first season with the Royals in 2007 that was quickly followed by a rough (and predictable) 2008, it wasn't clear what Bannister's future in baseball was going to be. I wasn't sure Bannister would end up making more career starts than Darrell May back then, though it is now almost certain that he will. Bannister is now fairly deep into a third consecutive season of similar strikeout and walk numbers.

K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP ERA FIP
2007 4.20 2.40 0.82 .266 3.87 4.40
2008 5.57 2.86 1.43 .316 5.76 5.03
2009 5.73 2.92 0.88 .303 4.73 4.14
2010 5.31 2.88 1.52 .290 4.70 5.14

 

As you can see above, Bannister's strikeouts and walks (especially the latter) have been consistent over the last three seasons. At some point, Bannister's strikeout numbers will collapse, and that will be the end of his career. (I see his final line on his baseball-reference page being something like 6 starts with a bad team, a strikeout rate of 3.5 and an ERA of 6.50.) I'm not suggesting that that will happen any time soon however, although the slight dip we've seen this season will need to be monitored.

Essentially, everything we talked about with Banny three or four years ago is still valid: he's at the mercy of his defense, luck on balls in play, and the patterns of the prevailing winds. 2007 was in some ways his career year, but it was also an unsustainable model, which Bannister himself knew. Weirdly, 2007 earned him his MLB bona fides, and would have insured at least three more chances, but it also pushed him closer to being out of the game, at least as a starter. Bannister's made enough adjustments to get his strikeout numbers above water, so to speak. Nevertheless, that 5.73 K/9 in 2009 might very well end up being a career high.

It remains an open question as to what Bannister's value to the organization is going forward. He is barely above replacement level thus far, and as you can see above, there's isn't much room for growth. Bannister is in his second arb-eligible year, and is currently making $2.3 million. As with Kyle Davies, the Royals will need to decide if Bannister is a part of the future at a higher price. By this point, they should know what Bannister can give them.