14 August 2003

Could He be (H)Appier?

Kevin Appier beat the Yankees last night, pitching six shutout innings on the way to an 11-0 laugher due largely to Jeff Weaver's continued and inexplicable suck-ness. This was Appier's first start at Kauffman Stadium since rejoining the Royals, who traded him away to Oakland during the 1999 season. At the time, I was appy for Happier, er...appy for Appier, happy for Happier, er...I was glad for him because the Royals sucked back then (probably more than Jeff Weaver does now...maybe not). But now the Royals don't suck, at least not as much. And whomever in the AL Central can get through the rest of the year having sucked the least will win that weak-ass division and have a real, live shot at getting eliminated from the playoffs by the Yankees or Mariners. You can't beat that with a 19-or-20-inches-worth-of-pine-tar coated stick.

Appier spent the first eleven seasons of his career in Royal blue, pitching extremely well for some extremely lousy teams. Baseball-Reference.com's schedule breaker-outer indicates that only the Tigers, Phillies, Devil Rays, Marlins and Twins had a worse record than the Royals in that span, and that includes a 92-win season in 1989 in which Appier didn't play much of a role (1-4 in 21+ innings).

It also includes his best season, an 18-8 campaign in 1993 in which he won the AL ERA title by almost half a run less than the next closest competitor and almost a whole run less than the Cy Young winner, Black Jack McDowell. Jack had the good fortune to pitch for a team that could actually hit and therefore won 22 games despite a higher ERA and about 30 fewer strikeouts in 20 more innings. If the punchless Royals had somehow averaged more than the paltry 4.1 runs/game they gave Appier, he might have that trophy in his den instead of Black Jack.

For that matter, where would Appier's career numbers be if he'd had a team that could hit behind him for most of his career, say, like Andy Pettitte. Pettitte's got an ERA for his career roughly 18% better than the park adjusted league averages, which is pretty darn good. Granted, Pettitte's career isn't even ten years old yet, while Appier's been pitching in the bigs since 1989, but look at the contrasts:

Pettitte's career 3.95 ERA, roughly 18% better than average, has gotten him a career record of 141-77, so far, for a .647 winning percentage. That ERA ratio doesn't even rank him among the top 100 pitchers in history.

Appier is somewhere around #60, with an ERA about 24% better than average. That ratio is slightly better than current or future Hall of Famers Tom Glavine, Silver King, Bob Feller, Juan Marichal, Eddie Plank, Don Drysdale, Clark Griffith, and Joe McGinnity. What's more, it's only slightly worse than Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez, Tim Keefe, Jim Palmer, and Dazzy Vance. Pretty good company, if you ask me, which you must have, since you're still reading.

And yet Appier just doesn't have the wins to show for his effort. If not for the lousy run support he's received throughout most of his career, Appier might already have 15-20 more wins (and fewer losses). His "Support Neutral" record works out to about 175-130, instead of 169-135, but with good run support that could easily have been 190-115, which would place him squarely among some of the best pitchers in history. Where he is already, except that nobody knows it.

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