In an ominous bit of foreshadowing, Dayton Moore noted last August that, "We're going to expect and work to put together a rotation that is going to give us 1,000 innings."
Reading Jeff's post from Tuesday, he noted that in an appearance in Wichita,Ned Yost also mentioned the 1,000 inning goal from the starters. Moore and Yost are on the same page and this 1,000 innings thing has become both a goal and a talking point. Obviously, the first question that jumps to mind is why? (Because at this point if your first response to any Royal statement isn't a question, you haven't been paying attention.)
Is there a benefit in having a rotation that tops 1,000 innings? Is that some sort of magic number that guarantees a spot in the post season? Do they wish to inflict Maximum Hochevar on my summer?
So I decided to check some numbers. Going back the last ten years, I found all the starting rotations in the American League that topped the 1,000 inning mark. What follows is that list. Teams that made the post season are marked with an asterisk.
Seattle - 1002.2 IP
*New York - 1001.1 IP
League Avg - 953 IP
Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas finished second and sixth respectively in the league in innings pitched.
Hiroki Kuroda tossed just under 220 innings and CC Sabathia finished square on 200 innings pitched. Phil Hughes was a complete game short of the double century mark.
*Tampa - 1058 IP
Los Angeles - 1043 IP
Chicago - 1021.2 IP
Seattle - 1021.1 IP
League Avg - 982 IP
Guess who the innings leader was for the Rays? One guess. Yes... Our man, James Shields. Big Game! His 249.1 innings was the seventh highest total since 2003.
And guess who topped 200 innings for the Angels? One guess. Yes... Our man, Ervin Santana. His 228.2 innings ranked third on his team, behind Dan Haren and Jered Weaver.
Seattle - 1018.2 IP
Los Angeles - 1013.1 IP
Boston - 1011.1 IP
Chicago - 1004.2 IP
League Avg - 980
The Mariners won 61 games. Yes. You read that correctly.
League Avg - 942 IP
Not surprisingly, this was the year with the lowest average of innings pitched among starting staffs.
Toronto - 1021.2 IP
*Los Angeles - 1012 IP
League Avg - 949 IP
Roy Halladay can only do so much.
*Cleveland - 1021.1 IP
Chicago - 1016 IP
League Avg - 948 IP
Chicago - 1042 IP
Cleveland - 1000.2 IP
League Avg - 944 IP
*Chicago - 1074 IP
Minnesota - 1025.2 IP
*Los Angeles - 1014 IP
Cleveland - 1006.2 IP
*Boston - 1002.2 IP
Oakland - 1001.2 IP
League Avg - 969 IP
Four starters on the White Sox World Championship team topped 200 innings.
Oakland - 1030.2 IP
Chicago - 1008 IP
*Boston - 1007.2 IP
This season was the last of the Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson Oakland A's. They did make an appearance the following season with Zito, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton leading the way.
League Avg - 953 IP
*New York - 1066 IP
Seattle - 1026.1 IP
*Oakland - 1018 IP
Chicago - 1013 IP
League Avg - 957 IP
The '03 Yankee rotation of Mike Mussina, David Wells, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte feels like your father's rotation.
The Mariner rotation of Jamie Moyer, Ryan Franklin, Joel Pinero and Freddy Garcia all topped 200 innings as well, but with less cachet.
-- The White Sox are on this list seven times. Mark Buehrle has never thrown fewer than 201 innings in a season since joining the Chicago rotation for the 2001 season. Ozzie Guillen is responsible for six of those seasons.
-- The only teams in the AL to not have a 1,000 inning rotation over the last 10 years are the Orioles, the Rangers and your Royals. The Rangers have been kind of good the last few seasons. The Orioles made the post season last year. And the Royals. Yeah.
-- Over the last 10 seasons, teams have topped 1,000 innings from their starting pitchers 29 times in the American League. That's a rate of just under 21 percent. On average, one in five teams will have a starting staff that will pitch more than 1,000 innings.
-- Of those 29 times, just 10 of those teams qualified for the post season. That's a 34 percent success rate. With 41 post season qualifiers in total over the last 10 years, that works out to 29 percent.
-- Perhaps the most important finding of all: The average win total of teams with 1,000 inning rotations was 87.4 wins.
Can the Royals meet the goal? Color me skeptical. Since becoming the Royals general manager, Moore has had only two pitchers top 200 innings: Gil Meche in 2007 and 2008, and Zack Greinke in each season from 2008 to 2010. Yes, the additions of Santana and Shields will surely help, but the real pressure will be on Wade Davis and Jeremy Guthrie. From 2008 to 2011, Guthrie averaged 204 innings. Davis has only pitched two full seasons as a starter, but will be making the transition from the bullpen. His career high for innings 184 in 2011.
But while the Royals are positioned to get a high number of innings from their rotation for the first time in years, (since at least 2008 when Greinke, Meche and Brian Bannister were undermined by Hochevar and Kyle Davies) it's not any sort of key to contention. Innings are important. But as the 2010 Mariners will attest, quality innings matter most.