How difficult to develop a 50-game winner?
April, 28, 2011
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
Howard Smith/US PresswireCole Hamels was a first-round pick of the Phillies in the 2002 draft.The other day I wrote a post asking, "Where do winning pitchers come from?" Buried in there was a note that the Pirates have not developed a homegrown 50-game winning pitcher since John Smiley, who debuted in 1986.
Now, that sounds interesting and helps explains why the Pirates haven't had a winning season since 1992, but is it really all that unusual? I checked all 30 teams to find their last three homegrown pitchers -- meaning they were an original draftee or amateur signing -- to win 50 games for that franchise. As it turns out, it's very difficult to develop a pitcher that is both good enough and lasts long enough to win 50 games for you.
Here is the National League list:
As you can see, for some franchises you have to back to the 1970s to find such a pitcher. Smiley's 1986 debut date isn't even the oldest; the Reds haven't developed a homegrown 50-game winner since Tom Browning appeared in 1984. With 32 career wins, maybe Johnny Cueto will make the list eventually.
I checked every team going back to 1970. Among NL franchises, the teams with the most homegrown 50-game winners since then are the Brewers and Giants with 12 apiece. Not including the expansion franchises, the clubs with the fewest are the Reds and Expos/Nationals with five each.
If there's a larger issue to be drawn from this, it's that building from within is monumental task. What the Giants did last year, with a rotation of four homegrown starters (Jonathan Sanchez is about to reach 50 wins) is a rarity. A team like the Royals with a slew of top hitting prospects about to reach the majors probably won't be able to rely solely on homegrown pitchers to supplement those hitters. They'll have to make some astute trades (maybe even dealing one of those position players) or sign a veteran free agent or two.
We'll run the American League list tomorrow.
(Research conducted via Baseball-Reference.com.)
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter at @dschoenfield. Follow the SweetSpot blog at @espn_sweet_spot.