Top 10 Royals Outfielder Seasons

There is no doubt that Alex Gordon‘s 2011 campaign ranks among the best seasons by Royals outfielders. Being the Royals addict that I am, I wanted to find out exactly where I think it ranks. Here is what I consider the top ten:

10. Danny Tartabull ∙ 1991 ∙ RF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+
132 .316 .397 .593 171

Tartabull is the only right fielder to slip onto the list (Al Cowens ’77 and Jermaine Dye ’00 were in the running). This is the best purely offensive season a Royals outfielder has ever had, but his lack of speed and defensive range cut harshly into Tartabull’s overall value. He also only played 132 games. But when the bat was in his hands, Tartabull was a force in this last of his five years in KC. If you did not give him anything to hit, he would gladly take a walk or 65. If you gave him something to hit, look out: 33 doubles, 31 homers, and a league-leading .593 slugging percentage. His 171 OPS+ is third in Royals history and tops among outfielders.

9. Amos Otis ∙ 1971 ∙ CF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+ SB/Attempts
147 .301 .345 .443 124 52/60

In his second year with the Royals, Otis lead the league with 52 stolen bases, went to the All-Star game, garnered some MVP votes, and took home a gold glove.

8. Willie Wilson ∙ 1982 ∙ LF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+
136 .332 .365 .431 118

Greased Lightning takes up an impressive three of the top eight seasons. Rate-wise, this was his best hitting season, putting up career highs in average, on-base percentage and slugging. His .332 average was tops in the majors.

7. Willie Wilson ∙ 1979 ∙ LF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+ SB/Attempts Total Zone runs above avg
154 .315 .351 .420 106 83/95 21

Wilson was not especially impressive with the bat this year, but had the best defensive year in Royals history by Total Zone runs and set the team steals record (at an 87% success rate) to put together an overall fantastic season.

6. Carlos Beltran ∙ 2001 ∙ CF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+
155 .306 .362 .514 122

After a rookie of the year campaign in ’99 and a disappointing ’00, Beltran bounced back in a big way in ’01 and has not looked back since in what could end up a Hall of Fame career. As good as he was overall in ’99, his hitting was close to average. Beltran put it all together in ’01: average, walks, power, stolen bases and tremendous defense. He was caught stealing ONCE in 32 attempts.

5. Johnny Damon ∙ 2000 ∙ CF/LF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+ WPA
159 .327 .382 .495 118 4.6

Damon’s last year in KC was also his best, including league-leading totals in stolen bases (46) and runs (136) and a career high OPS+. He came through in the right spots too: his win probability added matched Amos Otis’s 1978 for best total for a Royals outfielder.

4. Alex Gordon ∙ 2011 ∙ LF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+
151 .303 .376 .502 141

The season that inspired this list ends up all the way down at four. It has been a schizophrenic season for the Royals marked by a ton of losing but also excitement about several individual performances. And as good as Cabrera, Francoeur, Hosmer and others have been, Alex has been in another dimension. He really never slumped, steadily dominating in both halves of innings. He has been the best left fielder in the AL and given the Royals their best season by a position player since, well, the next spot on this list…

3. Carlos Beltran ∙ 2003 ∙ CF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+
141 .307 .389 .522 132

The surprising team success in 2003 is largely considered a fluke, but Beltran’s superlative contributions to the team were very real.

2. Amos Otis ∙ 1978 ∙ CF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+ WPA
141 .298 .380 .525 150 4.6

Game-for-game, I would take this season ever so slightly as the best ever by a Royals outfielder. It was the best by win probability added (4.6). But Otis missed a handful of games, giving the slight advantage to…

1. Willie Wilson ∙ 1980 ∙ LF/CF

G AVG OBP SLG OPS+ SB/Attempts
161 .326 .357 .421 113 79/89

This incredible season is overshadowed by George Brett’s 1980, the best year a Royals player ever had. Wilson deserves more recognition for his ’80 season though. It is probably the best by a Royals position player other than Brett’s best years. Willie’s team records set in 1980 for plate appearances (745) and hits (230) still stand, and his stolen bases and runs scored (133) are both second in franchise history. Willie did not walk a lot, but he did not need to when he was putting up as many hits and stealing as many bases as he was in 1980. On top of all those hits, Willie reached base on errors 17 times, a reflection of how terrifying his speed was to the opposition.

Author: Aaron Stilley

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