Saturday, November 9, 2013

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #78 KEVIN APPIER


AN ADVANCED-METRICS DARLING.




STANDARD STATS FAIL TO MEASURE HIS WORTH.


DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Kevin Appier, he of the distinctive rock-back, lurch-forward, let-it-rip delivery, was one of the most underrated pitchers of the 1990s*. Pitching for the Royals, who had two winning seasons during the decade and never won more than 84 games, Appier won only 115 games despite a 3.49 ERA. From '90-'97, he was the third-best pitcher in baseball according to the advanced metric ERA+, which adjusts for ballpark and league. Average is considered 100; Appier was 140 during that stretch. 

DEFINING MOMENT

  • Appier pitched a complete-game one-hitter on July 27, 1993, striking out 11, walking one and throwing 106 pitches. And he lost, 1-0, to the Rangers on #52 Rafael Palmeiro's homer in the top of the seventh.

DEFINING SEASON

  • In '93, Appier won the AL ERA title with a 2.56 mark, nearly a half-run better than second-place Wilson Alvarez and more than a 1 1/2 runs better than the league average of 4.34. Appier went 18-8 with 186 strikeouts in 238.2 innings. He led the AL in WAR with 9.3 and just about all advanced pitching metrics. All that earned him was third place in the AL Cy Young voting; he received one first-place vote and finished 94 points behind 22-game winner #172 Jack McDowell, who pitched for the 94-win AL West champion White Sox. 

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Appier was third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in '90, when he went 12-8 with a 2.76 ERA.
  2. In that remarkable yet unheralded '93 season, he posted a major-league leading ERA+ of 179. 
  3. Began the '95 season 11-2 with a 2.04 ERA and was named to the AL All-Star team.
  4. But his season didn't end well, the victim of a four-man starting rotation employed by Manager Bob Boone. Appier went on the DL and finished 15-10 with a 3.89 ERA.
  5. Traded at the deadline in '99 to the Athletics, with whom he won 15 games and helped claim the AL West title the following year.
*Credit goes to this blog post from 2009 for an insightful and detailed analysis of Kevin Appier.

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