Yahoo’s Jeff Passan undertook a study aimed at determining which organizations are the best at developing pitchers. To do so, Yahoo “tallied the pitchers who debuted between 2008 and 2012 and tied them to the team with which they arrived. Then we compiled their Wins Above Replacement, via Baseball-Reference, with that first team only.”
Within those relatively limited (and potentially misleading, depending on whether a guy was acquired as a AAA top prospect after “developing” in another organization, for example) parameters, the Chicago Cubs fared horribly.
As in, the worst in baseball horribly. And by a country mile horribly.
For the pitchers who qualify under Yahoo’s rules, the Cubs’ total accumulated WAR is negative five. The next worst team is the Angels, at negative 1.8, and then the Astros at negative 0.1. Those are the only teams in the negatives. The top of the leader board has teams like the Dodgers, A’s and Rangers, who’ve accumulated 47.9, 35.7, and 33.4 WAR, respectively from their homegrown pitchers. Let that sink in for a moment, and wrap your head around how nightmarishly bad the Cubs’ “homegrown” pitching has been in the last five years.
A notable bit from Passan:
The teams without a single standout, meanwhile, found themselves buried toward the bottom. It’s inconceivable to think a team could go five years with a negative WAR from all of its homegrown pitchers, but that’s exactly what the Houston Astros (-0.1), Los Angeles Angels (-1.8) and Chicago Cubs (-5) did. Negative WAR essentially means the three teams would have been better off going to Triple-A and getting a replacement-level player – a bum, a scrub, a jabroni, whatever you care to call him – and plopping him on the major league roster. Jeff Samardzija was the Cubs’ only pitcher to post more than 0.2 WAR in the last five years – and he needed 1.6 WAR last year to boost his career total to 1.7.
You can see more of the methodology in Passan’s writeup, and you may have occasion to take issue with it. But, given how the last five years have played out, it’s hard to argue that the Cubs’ pitching situation – with respect to new pitchers who’ve come up through the ranks – is really ugly. And, sadly, it doesn’t look much brighter in the next two-ish years, either.