Finding the pitching-development droughts for all 30 teams


Matt Harvey has a chance to be the first ace developed by the Mets since Dwight Gooden. How do other teams stack up?

Matt Harvey is a Sports Illustrated cover star now. Part of me thinks it's a little too soon, and the other part of me is too busy checking in with to see if any new GIFs are up. It's hard to complain about Harvey getting too much attention now because he almost didn't get any as a prospect. After years of breathlessly waiting for Fernando Martinez or Alex Ochoa to be the next Darryl Strawberry, the Mets slipped us an under-the-radar prospect. So strange.

That's not the strangest thing about him, though. The strangest thing might be that he's a homegrown Mets pitcher who looks like he's approaching stardom. Tom Verducci took a look at the dearth of homegrown Mets pitchers, and found that since Dwight Gooden, there's been a whole lot of nothing. Good pitchers have come and gone (Johan Santana, Al Leiter, R.A. Dickey), but there haven't been any great homegrown pitchers developed by the Mets. Mike Pelfrey had a good season once. There's that.

So how does that compare with other droughts around the league? I guess the first thing to do is define what constitutes a good pitcher or "an ace." Baseball Reference has a handy guide on every player's page to what wins above replacement usually hint at:

8+ MVP, 5+ A-S, 2+ Starter, 0-2 Sub, < 0 Repl

It's probably a little too unrealistic to look for MVP-level homegrown pitchers, so let's stick with the five-win starters. Every team has developed one in their history, so let's find the last one.

Still on the team

Giants - Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain (Last season with 5+ WAR: 2009)
Mariners - Felix Hernandez (2010)
Red Sox - Jon Lester (2010)
Angels - Jered Weaver (2011)
Phillies - Cole Hamels (2011)
Blue Jays - Ricky Romero (2011)
White Sox - Chris Sale (2012)
Tigers - Justin Verlander (2012)
Rays - David Price (2012)
Reds - Johnny Cueto (2012)
Dodgers - Clayton Kershaw (2012)

Romero kind of makes me sad, and if you think the courts should throw it out, note that Roy Halladay did it with the Jays for six straight years. The Giants are known for their homegrown pitching right now, but before Lincecum and Cain, their last All-Star-quality homegrown pitcher was Ed Halicki in 1977.

Of course, between Jack Morris and Justin Verlander, there was Justin Thompson and only Justin Thompson.

Recent past

Cubs - Carlos Zambrano (2006)
Padres - Jake Peavy (2007)
Orioles - Erik Bedard (2007)
Indians - CC Sabathia (2007)
Astros - Roy Oswalt (2007)
Yankees - Chien-Ming Wang (2007)
Diamondbacks - Brandon Webb (2008)
Royals - Zack Greinke (2009)
Marlins - Josh Johnson (2010)
Rockies - Ubaldo Jimenez (2010)

I was hoping the Rockies wouldn't have one, if only so there would be one freak team. But not only did I forget about Ubaldo, there was also Jason Jennings. More important, the second-best pitching year in Rockies history according to WAR? Pedro Astacio, 1999. His ERA was 5.04.

The Yankees featured just one five-win pitcher in the '80s, and he (Ron Guidry) was developed in the '70s, so that sort of explains the kind of lost decade that will waste Rickey Henderson's best years.

Not-so-recent past

Braves - Kevin Millwood (1999)
Rangers - Kenny Rogers (2002)
Nationals - Javier Vazquez (2003)
Pirates - Kris Benson (2004)
Brewers - Ben Sheets (2004)
Twins - Brad Radke (2004)
Athletics - Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson (2003)

Ryan Drese wasn't homegrown, and neither is Matt Harrison. C.J. Wilson came close to five wins, but never went over. And Kenny Rogers' 2002 season came on his second tour with the Rangers, so I'm not sure if it counts. Luckily, it was Rogers who did it in the first place.

Benson was at five wins exactly, which makes me want to write and see if there's some sort of auditing process that could bump him down to 4.9 just for symmetry's sake. But before that is Francisco Cordova in 1998, so it's not like the adjustment would make that much of a difference.

And for all the young pitching the A's seem to have at any given moment, most of it isn't coming from the draft or the international market.

Distant, distant past

Mets - Dwight Gooden (1985)

So it's not just an interesting factoid to throw into a Matt Harvey feature -- the Mets have really had an unusual time developing their own pitchers. Verducci's column limited the search to drafted players only, but opening the floor to international free agents doesn't help things any. The last 20 Mets pitchers with a three-win season:

Rk Player Year WAR
1 Jonathon Niese 2012 3.4
2 R.A. Dickey 2012 5.8
3 R.A. Dickey 2011 3.6
4 R.A. Dickey 2010 3.6
5 Johan Santana 2010 4.6
6 Johan Santana 2009 3.3
7 Johan Santana 2008 7.1
8 Mike Pelfrey 2008 3.2
9 Tom Glavine 2005 4.1
10 Pedro Martinez 2005 6.9
11 Jae Weong Seo 2005 3.1
12 Tom Glavine 2004 4.0
13 Al Leiter 2004 4.8
14 Al Leiter 2003 3.6
15 Jae Weong Seo 2003 3.2
16 Steve Trachsel 2003 4.4
17 Kevin Appier 2001 3.5
18 Al Leiter 2001 3.0
19 Rick Reed 2001 3.0
20 Al Leiter 2000 4.8

I cut the list off at 20 because #21 was Armando Benitez, and no one wants to see that.

But the Mets don't have the worst drought when it comes to homegrown starters performing at an All-Star level. That one gets its own category …

Wait, what?

Cardinals - John Denny (1978)

Since Denny's season, the Cardinals have won six N.L. pennants and three World Series. But they've done it with poached players, whether via trades or free agency.

They've had good seasons from homegrown starters, don't get me wrong. The last three-win season came from Rick Ankiel, and there was Matt Morris and Alan Benes before that. Or Andy Benes. One of the Beni. But other than those pitchers, the real success has come mostly from other organizations.

There you have it: the Cardinals are your beacon of incompetence. If only other teams could fail so magnificently. (Or succeed without rubbing everyone else's noses in it.)

It figures. The Cardinals have always known that there's more than one way to skin a Kaat.

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