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The best teams in baseball didn’t draft their own pitchers, but why?

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It takes forever to develop and there's a big missing ingredient: International talent.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

A couple days ago, I marveled at the Cardinals and their ability to not just have perhaps one of the most dominant pitching staffs of all time, but also how they have put that staff together primarily through their efforts drafting pitchers and signing them internationally. As of Sunday, "Cardinals pitchers ha[d] thrown 513 innings through the club's first 57 games. Of those, only 63.2 ha[d] been thrown by pitchers not either drafted by the Cardinals or traded for using players drafted by the Cardinals."

What I couldn't say then, but that I can say now is how the Cardinals actually stack up to other clubs in that regard. Pretty darn well, actually. The following charts tell interesting stories about how clubs have been building their staffs.

Teams using their own draft picks

First, here is how teams that have filled their 2015 pitching staffs primarily through the draft, meaning that these staffs consist either of players drafted by the club, or acquired via trade using players drafted by the club. This is expressed through Innings Pitched and is up to date as of Tuesday morning, June 9:

Team

Draft IP

Total IP

% Draft IP

Arizona Diamondbacks

440

528

83.3%

Chicago White Sox

432

489.67

88.2%

St. Louis Cardinals

398.67

525

75.9%

Toronto Blue Jays

380.67

506.33

75.2%

Tampa Bay Rays

380.33

517

73.6%

Washington Nationals

357.67

503

71.1%

Miami Marlins

355

515

68.9%

Oakland A's

333.67

522

63.9%

New York Mets

305.33

509.33

59.9%

Pittsburgh Pirates

268

517.67

51.8%

Los Angeles Angels

265

503.67

52.6%

Seattle Mariners

246.67

516.67

47.7%

Colorado Rockies

244

494

49.4%

Atlanta Braves

241.67

502

48.1%

San Diego Padres

233

529.33

44.0%

Cincinnati Reds

224

496.67

45.1%

Baltimore Orioles

212.67

491

43.3%

San Francisco Giants

205.33

519

39.6%

Milwaukee Brewers

196

518.67

37.8%

Boston Red Sox

195

518

37.6%

Texas Rangers

194.67

512.67

38.0%

Philadelphia Phillies

187

515.67

36.3%

New York Yankees

184.33

515.67

35.7%

Detroit Tigers

181.33

516

35.1%

Cleveland Indians

178

496.33

35.9%

Minnesota Twins

177

499.33

35.4%

Chicago Cubs

169.33

497.67

34.0%

Houston Astros

159

523.33

30.4%

Los Angeles Dodgers

154.33

511.67

30.2%

Kansas City Royals

95.33

479

19.9%

As you can see, the Cardinals fare extremely well, having deployed their draft picks to pick up, for instance, John Lackey to supplement Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, and others they drafted themselves. What's particularly interesting about the list, however, is how the Cardinals are the only team in the top four that have a record above .500.

Looking further down the list, the bottom five teams, the Twins, Cubs, Astros, Dodgers, and Royals are all either in first or second place in their respective divisions. Read that again: the Twins, Cubs, Astros, Dodgers, and Royals are all either in first or second place in their respective divisions and have the fewest innings pitched by players they drafted.

Now, we'd be remiss if we didn't acknowledge the large factor that free agency and the trade market is playing here, especially with teams like the Yankees and Dodgers, but there is a missing ingredient worth considering.

The missing ingredient: International talent

Let's move on and look at non-Asian international signings, primarily players signed young out of Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Cuba:

Team

Ammy FA IP

Total IP

% Ammy FA

Cleveland Indians

208.67

496.33

42.0%

Cincinnati Reds

156

496.67

31.4%

Seattle Mariners

162

516.67

31.4%

New York Yankees

141.33

515.67

27.4%

Detroit Tigers

133.33

516

25.8%

Atlanta Braves

116.33

502

23.2%

Los Angeles Dodgers

99.33

511.67

19.4%

Kansas City Royals

86

479

18.0%

Texas Rangers

85.67

512.67

16.7%

Toronto Blue Jays

75.33

506.33

14.9%

Tampa Bay Rays

73

517

14.1%

Los Angeles Angels

68.67

503.67

13.6%

St. Louis Cardinals

67.33

525

12.8%

San Diego Padres

66.33

529.33

12.5%

Boston Red Sox

64.67

518

12.5%

Chicago White Sox

54.33

489.67

11.1%

Milwaukee Brewers

54

518.67

10.4%

New York Mets

50.33

509.33

9.9%

Pittsburgh Pirates

41

517.67

7.9%

Arizona Diamondbacks

41.67

528

7.9%

Miami Marlins

39.33

515

7.6%

Philadelphia Phillies

22.33

515.67

4.3%

Colorado Rockies

19.67

494

4.0%

Chicago Cubs

17.67

497.67

3.6%

Oakland A's

5.33

522

1.0%

Washington Nationals

5

503

1.0%

San Francisco Giants

0

519

0.0%

Baltimore Orioles

0

491

0.0%

Minnesota Twins

0

499.33

0.0%

Houston Astros

0

523.33

0.0%

The Indians blow everyone away here thanks primarily to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco (whose presence on the Indians can ultimately be traced back to Bartolo Colon). But these numbers can be heavily influenced by a single starting pitcher, given that simply based on sheer volume, there are many more draftees than international signings every year. The most interesting part of this list to me, anyway, is the cluster of teams who have had almost no contribution from pitchers signed internationally.

Combine the two, and...

Finally, let's look at how clubs stack up overall when we combine the contributions they received from amateurs they either drafted or signed:

Team

Amateur IP

Total IP

% Amateur

Chicago White Sox

486.33

489.67

99.3%

Arizona Diamondbacks

481.67

528

91.2%

Toronto Blue Jays

456

506.33

90.1%

St. Louis Cardinals

466

525

88.8%

Tampa Bay Rays

453.33

517

87.7%

Seattle Mariners

408.67

516.67

79.1%

Cleveland Indians

386.67

496.33

77.9%

Miami Marlins

394.33

515

76.6%

Cincinnati Reds

380

496.67

76.5%

Washington Nationals

362.67

503

72.1%

Atlanta Braves

358

502

71.3%

New York Mets

355.66

509.33

69.8%

Los Angeles Angels

333.67

503.67

66.2%

Oakland A's

339

522

64.9%

New York Yankees

325.67

515.67

63.2%

Detroit Tigers

314.67

516

61.0%

Pittsburgh Pirates

309

517.67

59.7%

San Diego Padres

299.33

529.33

56.5%

Texas Rangers

280.34

512.67

54.7%

Colorado Rockies

263.67

494

53.4%

Boston Red Sox

259.67

518

50.1%

Los Angeles Dodgers

253.67

511.67

49.6%

Milwaukee Brewers

250

518.67

48.2%

Baltimore Orioles

212.67

491

43.3%

San Francisco Giants

223.67

519

43.1%

Philadelphia Phillies

209.33

515.67

40.6%

Kansas City Royals

181.33

479

37.9%

Chicago Cubs

187

497.67

37.6%

Minnesota Twins

177

499.33

35.4%

Houston Astros

159

523.33

30.4%

There's no one way to build a great staff

Again, we see a real mixed bag. What I take away from these lists is not that there are multiple ways to build a winning ballclub. I think most of us understand that intuitively. But if we look at the clubs at the bottom of the list, the Astros, Twins, Cubs, Royals, and Phillies, we see teams that have recently fallen into disrepair through poor drafting and inept front offices.

The first four of those have seemingly righted themselves somewhat last season and this year, but it takes time to build up the farm system required to be able to trot out a large number of pitchers a club either developed themselves, or acquired with amateur talent they acquired.

The systems at the top are something like Old Growth systems, whose prospects flowered and bore fruit years ago, and who are still benefiting or suffering, to varying degrees, from that now. It suggests that this process is cyclical.

It reminds us that, no matter what happens in this draft that concludes today, we won't know anything about the results until years down the line.