When historians talk about the greatest pitching rotations in baseball history they rarely discuss the Kansas City Royals quartet of the mid-1980s. But the Royals had four starters from 1985-1987 who did something few other groups ever did.
Only four teams in baseball history have kept four pitchers in their rotation for three straight years and had all four pitchers post at least 10 WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Here are the Royal Four:
This makes them one of the most balanced starting rotations (over multiple seasons) in history. While other rotations have posted more WAR for a three-year span, only three other teams boasted pitchers who all reached 10 WAR. They are:
The Royals won the World Series the first year this rotation was in place, in 1985. Saberhagen was the golden boy, a young, hard-throwing righthander who won the Cy Young Award in 1985 and later added another while with Kansas City.
Gubicza was a soft-tosser who came up with Saberhagen as a rookie in 1984. Gubicza finished third in Cy Young voting later in his career, but he was rarely a big winner, topping 14 victories only twice.
Left-hander Charlie Leibrandt was the veteran of the group, he was 28 when the four first teamed together. He was a control specialist and he later went on to be a member of another very good rotation with the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s. Leibrandt had terrible luck in the postseason: despite pitching fairly well in seven starts and 13 games in the postseason, his record was 1-7.
Jackson was the second lefty in the group, and he had the best fastball, though it was somewhat raw. He always seemed like he was about to be a star, but he only had one great season, in 1988 when he led the league with 23 wins.
Jackson started games†in three World Series for three different teams: the ’85 Royals, ’90 Reds, and 1993 Phillies. He pitched brilliantly for Kansas City in the 1985 postseason, winning two games in the World Series when he essentially dominated the Cardinals.