Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Where do winning pitchers come from?
By David Schoenfield
Paul Maholm has won 48 games for the Pirates, the most of any Pittsburgh pitcher since 2001.
Email from Page 2's DJ Gallo this morning, subject matter: Depressing Stat 'o the Day!
"Maholm beat the Nationals for the first time in eight career starts and tied Zach Duke as PNC Park's all-time wins leader with 31."
[PNC Park opened in 2001. Maholm is in his 7th season.]
This got me thinking, first about the Pirates and how long it's been since they developed a really good starter (no offense to Paul Maholm), and then to how difficult in general it is to develop winning pitchers. (Yes, I used wins; I could've used WAR or some other saber superstat, but for this quick little study, wins works just fine.) I went back 2001 to find the five winningest pitchers for each franchise and then checked to see how they were originally acquired.
An asterisk notes a player who was originally drafted or signed by that organization. The only team with five homegrown pitchers was the Angels.
Breaking down the 152 pitchers (note that this is NOT a list of the best 152 pitchers of the past decade) by various categories, we get:
Draft picks: 53 (26 were first-rounders)
Latin amateur: 12
Asian amateur: 1
That means 66 of 152 (43.4 percent) were developed from within.
Traded for while a minor leaguer or unproven major leaguer: 32
Traded for while a proven major leaguer: 25
Free agent signing: 19
Free agent signing after released/waived/not wanted: 9
Rule 5 pick: 1
(Note: Andy Pettitte was originally a Yankee draft pick, but was considered a free agent signing, since more of wins in this period came after returning to New York; Kenny Rogers originally came up with Texas, but his wins came after signing as a free agent; Woody Williams pitched twice for San Diego, but more came as a free agent signing.)
The Rule 5 pick was Johan Santana. He was actually selected by the Marlins from the Astros and traded to the Twins in a pre-arranged trade. Nine guys were picked up off the scrap heap. Not all of the minor leaguers/unproven guys were necessarily top prospects, but some like Scott Kazmir, A.J. Burnett and Jeremy Bonderman were.
Anyway, it's kind of fun to go through each team. It's also a reminder that winning major league ballgames is an amazingly difficult task and that developing pitchers who can succeed for a period of years is amazingly difficult.
Finally, back to the Pirates. Paul Maholm has 48 wins in a Pirates uniform, meaning he could become the first homegrown pitcher to win 50 games for the Pirates since ... John Smiley. Who was drafted in 1983.