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Royals' new manager's new math

5/20/2010

There have been essentially two bright spots for the Royals this season: Billy Butler turning into Edgar Martinez without the walks, and real progress in the farm system. The big prospects are former first-round draft picks Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, but a 22-year-old Double-A lefty is turning some heads, too. From the Kansas City Star:


    Lefty Edgar Osuna lowered his ERA to 1.23 by pitching five scoreless innings Wednesday in Class AA Northwest Arkansas’ 1-0 victory over Tulsa. He is 4-1 in eight starts after getting a no-decision.

    "I’ve seen guys do a lot more at the big-league level with a lot less than he has," Yost said. "I go back and look at Tommy Glavine, who was 90-91 (mph) tops. Osuna is 90 tops. But I look at Charlie Leibrandt, who was 88 with a changeup and a cutter. He won 18-20 games a year at the big-league level."

I'm sorry. I just can't help it. I love quotes like this.

Charlie Liebrandt never won 20 games. Charlie Leibrandt never won 19 games. Charlie Leibrandt never won 18 games.

Charlie Leibrandt did win 17 games. Once. He also won 16 games. Once. And he won 15 games. Twice. There were some other numbers in there, too. In Leibrandt's best eight seasons -- cutting out his first season with the Royals and his last with the Braves -- he won 104 games. So Yost might have more accurately said that Liebrand won "13-14 games a year at the big-league level."

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Leibrandt was a good, durable starting pitcher who put together a few excellent seasons, thanks largely to a low home run rate and the willingness to bust hitters inside with his mediocre fastball. He was, for a few years, one of my favorite pitchers. In a just universe, Leibrandt would be remembered for far more than giving up a big home run in the World Series.

If Edgar Osuna becomes half the pitcher Leibrandt was, the Royals will have done exceptionally well for the $50,000 they paid the Braves in the Rule 5 draft.

Obviously, the odds are against him. Considering Yost's exaggeration of Leibrandt's record, I suspect he's a little optimistic about Osuna's fastball, too. According to Baseball America last winter, Osuna "has a Bugs Bunny changeup that he mixes with a mid-80s fastball and a plus curveball."

In the same book, Osuna was ranked as the Royals' No. 27 prospect. That doesn't mean he won't reach the big-league level. Left-hander Blake Wood was No. 24 -- despite a 5.83 ERA in Double-A last season -- and Wood's in the big league right now. It does mean that we'll have to keep watching him. If he can earn a promotion to Triple-A and keep striking out five times more hitters than he walks, he might earn those comparisons to Charlie Leibrandt.