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Royals Five Year Bests: Position Players

I am digging probably too deep into Royals history to see who the top three position players by Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) have been for every five year period in team history. Not just the nice round chunks like 2000—04 and 2005—09, but every consecutive five year stretch: 1969—73, 1970—74, 1971—75, and so on. I believe I am stealing the idea from Joe Posnanski, who once looked at the best player in all of baseball by rolling five year periods. Here I look at the only team that matters. It is a lot of numbers to wade through, but it yields some interesting results. Assuming you are a Royals fiend.

1969-73

16.2 WAR Amos Otis CF
10.2 WAR John Mayberry 1B
9.6 WAR Paul Schaal 3B

1970-74

20.6 Amos Otis CF
11.7 John Mayberry 1B
9.9 Freddie Patek SS

1971-75

18.7 Amos Otis CF
18.6 John Mayberry 1B
10.7 Freddie Patek SS

Amos Otis does not get enough love in Royals-land. Many current Royals fans did not see him play, plus he does not live in the area and seems to keep a low profile (though he is coming to town soon for the Buck O’Neil golf tournament). He was a special player, perhaps the second best position player in team history. All hail AO.

1972-76

19.7 John Mayberry 1B
16.9 Amos Otis CF
13.7 George Brett 3B

George’s death grip on these lists begins…

1973-77

21.3 George Brett 3B
16.4 Amos Otis CF
15.1 John Mayberry 1B

1974-78

26.6 George Brett 3B
19.8 Amos Otis CF
16.6 Hal McRae DH/LF

1975-79

34.5 George Brett 3B
19.0 Amos Otis CF
15.3 Darrell Porter C

1976-80

39.0 George Brett 3B
18.2 Amos Otis CF
17.3 Darrell Porter C

George’s ’76—’80 is the best five-year stretch in Royals history by WAR. Here are Brett’s seasons in more detail:

Year Age G R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1976 23 159 94 215 34 14 7 67 49 36 .333 .377 .462 .839 144
1977 24 139 105 176 32 13 22 88 55 24 .312 .373 .532 .905 142
1978 25 128 79 150 45 8 9 62 39 35 .294 .342 .467 .809 123
1979 26 154 119 212 42 20 23 107 51 36 .329 .376 .563 .939 148
1980 27 117 87 175 33 9 24 118 58 22 .390 .454 .664 1.118 203

Porter’s ’76-’80 stretch is the highest total for a third place finisher on these lists. Quantifying catcher performance and value is a tricky thing, and WAR might not reflect reality for receivers as well as it does for other position players. After asking my Twitter peeps, I get the impression Porter had a strong arm but sub-par “receiving” skills. Nevertheless, WAR indicates Porter’s bat more than made up for any defensive shortcomings and that he was pretty incredible in his four years as a Royal. Only Porter and Mike Macfarlane have racked up more than four WAR as a Royals catcher. The top five:

Rk Player WAR
1 Darrell Porter 17.3
2 Mike Macfarlane 13.1
3 Fran Healy 3.8
4 John Buck 3.5
5 John Wathan 3.2
1977-81

33.6 George Brett 3B
18.5 Willie Wilson LF/CF
17.3 Darrell Porter C

1978-82

31.8 George Brett 3B
24.1 Willie Wilson LF/CF
14.9 Darrell Porter C

1979-83

30.8 George Brett 3B
23.6 Willie Wilson LF/CF
10.4 Darrell Porter C

1980-84

24.8 George Brett 3B
21.0 Willie Wilson LF/CF
9.6 Frank White 2B 9.6

1981-85

23.2 George Brett 3B
14.5 Willie Wilson CF/LF
10.4 Frank White 2B

1982-86

23.9 George Brett 3B
13.3 Frank White 2B
12.6 Willie Wilson CF/LF

1983-87

20.5 George Brett 3B
12.2 Frank White 2B
7.8 Willie Wilson CF

1984-88

21.6 George Brett 3B/1B
11.2 Frank White 2B
9.0 Kevin Seitzer 3B

1985-89

20.5 George Brett 1B/3B
11.0 Kevin Seitzer 3B
9.2 Frank White 2B

1986-90

17.1 George Brett 1B
14.2 Kevin Seitzer 3B
7.8 Danny Tartabull RF

1987-91

14.2 Kevin Seitzer 3B
14.2 George Brett 1B
12.4 Danny Tartabull RF

1988-92

11.8 George Brett 1B
10.8 Danny Tartabull RF
9.9 Kevin Seitzer 3B

1989-93

8.3 Mike Macfarlane C
7.3 Danny Tartabull RF
6.2 George Brett DH

1990-94

10.1 Mike Macfarlane C
5.8 Danny Tartabull RF
5.1 Gary Gaetti 3B

George slides off the list for the first time since 1971-75.

1991-95

9.2 Mike Macfarlane C
8.0 Gary Gaetti 3B
7.0 Greg Gagne SS

1992-96

9.3 Mike Macfarlane C
8.0 Gary Gaetti 3B
7.0 Greg Gagne SS

Mike Macfarlane, ladies and gentlemen! His competition was not particularly stiff, but still, he tops the lists between 1989—96. One of the biggest surprises for me. Maybe it should not be surprising since he played 890 games with the Royals and put up a “good for a catcher” 104 OPS+.

1993-97

8.0 Gary Gaetti 3B
7.6 Mike Macfarlane C
7.0 Greg Gagne SS

Gary Gaetti, ladies and gentlemen! 8.0 WAR is the lowest total for any number one spot on these lists.

1994-98

8.2 Jose Offerman 2B
5.4 Jeff King 1B
5.3 Jay Bell SS
5.3 Gary Gaetti 3B

Those numbers are awful, but I like how the whole infield is represented.

1995-99

9.6 Johnny Damon CF
8.2 Jose Offerman 2B
5.8 Jeff King 1B

1996-2000

14.8 Johnny Damon CF/LF/RF
8.2 Jose Offerman 2B
8.0 Mike Sweeney C/1B/DH

1997-2001

14.8 Johnny Damon CF/LF
11.8 Mike Sweeney 1B/C/DH
11.3 Carlos Beltran CF

1998-2002

15.5 Mike Sweeney 1B
15.2 Carlos Beltran CF
12.9 Johnny Damon LF/CF

1999-2003

22.4 Carlos Beltran CF
18.0 Mike Sweeney 1B
11.6 Joe Randa 3B

2000-04

20.0 Carlos Beltran CF
16.2 Mike Sweeney 1B
11.8 Joe Randa 3B

2001-05

19.2 Carlos Beltran CF
14.2 Mike Sweeney 1B
8.9 Joe Randa 3B

2002-06

13.3 Carlos Beltran CF
10.1 Mike Sweeney DH
8.7 David DeJesus CF

2003-07

12.0 David DeJesus CF
9.4 Carlos Beltran CF
6.0 Joe Randa 3B

2004-08

15.9 David DeJesus CF
6.6 Mark Grudzielanek 2B
4.3 Emil Brown RF/LF

2005-09

18.0 David DeJesus CF
6.6 Mark Grudzielanek 2B
4.3 Emil Brown RF/LF

Brown’s 4.3s are the lowest numbers on any of these lists.

2006-10

16.8 David DeJesus CF/LF
6.6 Mark Grudzielanek 2B
5.1 Billy Butler 1B

Whew.

Because that’s not enough to wade through, I have played with the numbers some more. If you award three points for every number one ranking, two points for second, and one point for third, you get a convoluted leader board that looks like this:

44 George Brett
17 Carlos Beltran
15 Amos Otis
14 Mike Sweeney
14 Mike Macfarlane
13 David DeJesus
12 Willie Wilson
10 Johnny Damon

The list punishes players who played with other good players. More recent players like Beltran, Sweeney and DeJesus just did not have as many good teammates as guys like Wilson, White, Mayberry, etc., which skews things. Just think of it as a reflection of how much players dominated their own Royals era.

If there is any “usefulness” to all of this (there is not), it may be in judging who is deserving of induction to the team hall of fame. If you are the best Royals player for a five year stretch, you at least have a case.

Five year periods at number one:

14 George Brett
4 Carlos Beltran
4 Mike Macfarlane
4 David DeJesus
3 Amos Otis
3 Johnny Damon
1 Mike Sweeney
1 John Mayberry
1 Kevin Seitzer
1 Gary Gaetti
1 Jose Offerman

There are exceptions, and their names are Gary Gaetti and Jose Offerman. Other than those two, Beltran, Macfarlane, DeJesus, Damon, Sweeney and Seitzer are the players that have not been inducted. Macfarlane and Seitzer are the only ones eligible right now. Both of those guys might be borderline, but this gives their cases a little boost.

Another way to look at these numbers is to see at which positions players have and have not yielded top Royals seasons. Using the 3-2-1 scoring system again, you can see which positions have been strengths and weaknesses:

60 3B
59 CF
38 1B
22 2B
20 C
10 RF
9 LF
7 SS
4 DH

With that Brett guy clogging up so many lists it is not surprising that third base comes out on top. However, plenty of other third basemen help out, including Paul Schaal, Kevin Seitzer, Gary Gaetti and Joe Randa. Centerfield is just about as strong thanks to Amos Otis, Willie Wilson, Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran and David DeJesus. It is downhill from there, and, no surprise to Royals fans, shortstop talent has been next to impossible to find in KC. No shortstop has ever had the most or second most WAR among position players in a five year period. Yikes.

Looking ahead to the nearly completed period of 2007—11, centerfield, third base and first base will again be relative strong points.

2007—11 (through August 3, 2011)

13.3 David DeJesus CF/LF
8.1 Alex Gordon 3B
7.1 Billy Butler 1B

I will try to get to a similar post examining pitchers at some point.

Aaron Stilley also blogs here and Tweets here.

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- who has written 56 posts on I-70 Baseball.


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2 Responses to “Royals Five Year Bests: Position Players”

  1. todd fertig says:

    That was pretty amazing work, Aaron. Keep it up!

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