Royals “Franchise Four” Misses Mark

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If you haven't already voted, the Kansas City Royals have released a survey in which participants can elect the "Top four players in Royals Franchise History." The list is a good one. Every player on there is most deserving of certainly being in the conversation save for a couple selections. The issue here though isn't who IS on it, but rather who has been excluded.

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Brett, Saberhagen, White, Wilson…..they are all names that resonate with Royals fans of all ages. Alex Gordon makes the list as kind of a nod to the "New Guard" and deservedly so as he rockets up the All-Time Royals list,  already sitting 6th in all time WAR among position players (27.1 fWAR).
 

There are only 2 pitchers that made the list, and most certainly the intent of the Royals and MLB when making this "survey" was to spread around the options. They have 2 infielders, 2 outfielders a DH and 2 pitchers. One pitcher is a starter, and one a reliever. Dan Quisenberry is the starting pitcher selected, and he comes in as having the 3rd best contribution measured by fWAR of any pitcher in a Royals uniform.

There were, however, 2 pitchers who had more.

Mark Gubicza comes in second, and logged 2218 innings in a Kansas City uniform, second only to Paul Splittorff. Gubicza had a nice career of 14 years that is marked with being more of longevity and being an above average pitcher for the duration. He did manage to be a 2 time All Star selection, and finished his career with a 109 ERA+.
 

First on the list? None other than Kevin Appier. "Ape" had 2 stints with the Royals, the first lasting for 10 years, before returning  the final 2 years of his career to retire in a Royals uniform. During that time he logged 1843 innings of 3.49 ERA ball. He only made the All Star team one time, and this despite leading the league with a 2.56 ERA in 1993, and FIP in 1996 and 1993. He was an all star selection in 1995, the year he finished with a 3.89 ERA and one of his worst seasons in a Royals uniform.

From 1990 through 1997 he never once had an ERA+ below 121, and only twice was below 131. He was a very….very good pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. Add all that together, and he finished with 41.8 WAR according to fangraphs. For those keeping track at home, that leads all Royals pitchers and places him third on the all time list, well behind George Brett at 84.6 and nipping the heals of Amos Otis (42.0) in second.

batter WAR

career

By these measures, its entirely possible that had Appier not played the final 2 years for the Royals, (where he played badly and lowered his value) he could be the second best player in franchise history behind George Brett. I am not saying that this is the case, I am only saying that it doesn't take a whole lot of squinting in order to make that statement.

Rany went so far as to make a case for Appier's induction into the MLB Hall of Fame. Something that doesn't seem too far of a stretch when looking at comparable players. One interesting tidbit:

Here’s a list of the five best pitchers in baseball from 1990 to 1997, as ranked by ERA+, with a minimum of 1200 innings pitched:

 

Greg Maddux: 165 ERA+, 139-70

Roger Clemens: 157 ERA+, 118-73

Kevin Appier: 140 ERA+, 103-74

David Cone, 136 ERA+, 109-69

Randy Johnson, 135 ERA+, 114-55

All of that, and Kevin Appier only managed to make the All Star Team one year in that span. During arguably his worst season.

Kevin Appier has always been towards the top of my "Most  Under-rated" players list. Lots of Royals fans and numbers junkies look back on occasion at what he did, but for the most part he seems to be a "yeah, I remember him, he was good."

Well, I am here to tell you, that is wrong.

Kevin Appier was Great. At least by Kansas City Royals standards. And most certainly deserves to be listed on the final tally for any Royals "Franchise Four."  There is a write in section folks, and I can tell you who gets my write in vote.

 

–For some insight on how MLB selected these players, please read this

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