Another year is in the books for the Kansas City Royals.
They had ups and downs, highs and lows, and many, many growing pains.
2011 was judged a success from many within the organization, and more outside of the organization. Having a record of 71-91 isn’t normally looked at as a good thing. However, the progress made by the young players on this squad is more than anyone could have hoped for at the beginning of the year.
With that being said, it’s time to hand out some awards:
The award for Best Player isn’t an easy one to give out for the 2011 Royals. Several players had stellar seasons, especially the top 5 hitters in the Royals lineup (Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, and Jeff Franceour). Each of those players had at least 18 Homeruns, 78 RBI’s, a .285 average, and a .799 On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS). With the exception of Hosmer, who was called up a month into the season, they all had at least 44 doubles.
At the end of the day, I have to give the award to Alex Gordon. He said he was going to “dominate” after the 2010 season, and he did not disappoint.
Gordon put up career highs in HR’s (23), Doubles (45), RBI’s (87), Runs Scored (101), and Batting Average (.303). He did all of this from the leadoff position for most of the year, which was a brand new spot for him in the batting order.
Not only did Gordon have a career year with his bat, he also got it done with his glove. This was the first full season of playing Left Field for Gordon in his career, but you would have never known with how smoothly he did it.
He recorded an MLB-best 20 outfield assists, which also set the Royals’ franchise record. He only committed 3 errors all season and his .991 fielding percentage was tops for American League Left Fielders.
Overall, Gordon’s numbers on both offense and defense were too much to ignore when selecting the Royals’ Best Player. He should also be considered for a Gold Glove this year and perhaps the A.L. Comeback Player of the year.
Honorable Mentions: 2)Hosmer 3)Butler 4)Cabrera 5)Francoeur
A lot of people will surely disagree with my choice for the Best Pitcher on the 2011 Royals: Luke Hochevar.
Of course, Bruce Chen was the fan favorite and had the Royals’ best win total (12) and ERA (3.77) among starting pitchers. He also battled injuries early in the season. Joakim Soria had a decent year notching 28 but he also had 7 blown saves. Aaron Crow was the Royals’ representative at the All-Star Game, but faded after the break. Greg Holland turned out to be the best bullpen arm and was the guy who the Royals used as their “fireman” throughout the season. However, I had to go with Hochevar for a couple different reasons.
Hochevar’s numbers weren’t anything special, but his Post-All Star Break numbers showed that he finally figured something out. He improved greatly throughout the season and gave Royals fans a look at a good Number 3 (maybe a Number 2) starter in the rotation.
Before the break, Hochevar went 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA. After the break, he was 6-3 with a 3.52 ERA. His numbers in all aspects were much better after the break and he rarely had the “big inning” that fans were accustomed to seeing at the beginning of the year. Also, he lasted 6 innings or more 11 times in his 12 starts post-break.
When Ned Yost gave Hochevar the ball for Opening Day, he showed a ton of confidence in the 27-(now 28)-year-old. He wanted Hoch to be the leader of the rotation and, in my mind, he was for the entire year. If you wanted somebody to give you the absolute best chance to win, with the best “stuff,” it had to be Hochevar.
Honorable Mentions: 2)Chen 3)Holland 4)Felipe Paulino 5)Soria
Rookie of the Year
I’m going to go ahead and rename this one as “Rookie of the Year-Not Named Eric Hosmer.” Obviously, Hosmer wins this award for the Royals. Hands-down. No vote needed. He is one of the top candidates to win A.L. Rookie of the year, and should in the minds of every Royals fan out there.
Hosmer’s final numbers look like this: 19 HR’s, 27 Doubles, 78 RBI’s, 66 Runs Scored, 11 Stolen Bases, .293 Batting Average, and .799 (OPS).
Stud. Absolute stud. Everybody knows about him and how good he his, so let’s get to the “Rookie of the Year-Not Named Eric Hosmer.”
For this award, I have to go with Greg Holland.
There were a lot of good choices for this award just like all the others. Mike Moustakas’ last couple months were what fans were ready to see when he was called up in early June. His power finally came around in the last month of the season, but it wasn’t quite enough to give him this award.
Aaron Crow’s ridiculous start to the season was overshadowed by his struggles after the All-Star break. Tim Collins and Louis Coleman were good, but inconsistent throughout the season. Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Perez made an instant impact when they were called up, but they didn’t play enough to solidify themselves as candidates for this award. (Although Perez’s offense and defense were much better than expected).
In the end, it had to be Greg Holland. If there was one pitcher you had to pick to get one out this year, it would have to be Holland. When any other young bullpen arm would come into the game, most fans had to be at least a little nervous that run might be given up. Not with Holland. I felt more comfortable every time he was on the mound than any other reliever.
He finished with a 1.80 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. If he can keep this up next year, he could become an even more important of the pitching staff.
Honorable Mentions: 2)Moustakas 3)Crow 4)Perez 5)Giavotella
Play of the Year
Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Francoeur. Right?
When you think of the Royals’ top plays this year, you think of Francoeur. His cannon of an arm was second to none in the Majors this year.
However, with all of Frenchy’s awesome defensive plays, Alcides Escobar has been greatly overshadowed. Maybe it’s because we were spoiled all year by Escobar’s unreal defensive prowess. Maybe it’s because of Frenchy’s constant smile that makes him look like a 10-year-old playing in Little League.
Those two guys would be the main attraction in the Royals Top 10 plays of the year.
For the best of the best, I have to give this award to FrencHy Gunning down Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers at 3rd base on August 7th. On this play,l Francoeur had to run to his left, field a base hit, square up his body towards 3rd and make the throw. He did all of those things and the throw was on a line right to Mike Moustakas’ glove. The Royals were up 4 to 3 and instead of having runners at 1st and 3rd with one out, the Tigers then had a runner at 1st with two outs. Unreal.
2)Alcides Escobar’s diving stop and throw on former Royal Alberto Callaspo on June 1st. Escobar robbed Callaspo with a dive deep in the hole between 3rd and short. He got up, made the throw, and Hosmer made an incredible scoop on a double hop. The score was 0-0 in the top of the 8th with 2 outs and the bases loaded.
3)Francoeur makes the rare 9-3 putout against the A’s on September 7th.
4)Francoeur robs Dustin Ackley of a homerun on September 9th. Frenchy climbed the wall, and made the catch with his back towards homeplate.
5)Giavotella to Escobar to Hosmer for the double play against the A’s on September 5th. Gio dove to his left, caught the ball on one hop, threw it to Escobar who caught it bare handed, and made the throw to hosmer for the 4-6-3 double play.
Game of the Year
Again, there are a ton of choices for this award. At the beginning of the year, it seemed like the Royals’ first 20 wins came on walk-offs. During the middle of the year, the team was struggling but still fighting back to win games. At the end of the year, the Royals had their 2012 lineup in full effect and showed flashes of greatness.
My Game of the Year Award goes to Royals vs. Rays on July 23rd 2011.
The Royals fought back from a 2-0 and 4-2 deficit to win the game 5-4 in 10 innings.
This game was Mike Moustakas’ breakout game as he went 2-3 with a double and 3 of the Royals’ 5 RBI’s.
Down 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th, the Royals were facing Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth pitched for the Royals the previous two years and was not loved by fans, to say the least. Down to their last out, the Royals had Alex Gordon coming up to the plate with Alcides Escobar on 1st. Gordon doubled to deep right center to score Escobar and hand Farnsworth his 4th blown save. It was really nice for fans to watch Farnsworth melt down like he did so many times for the Royals.
Then came the top of the 10th. Aaron Crow came in, walked two batters, and was pulled from the game. Soria came in and gave up a single to load the bases. With no outs, everyone in Kauffman Stadium was nervous about what would happen next.
Soria, who was shaky all season, got a comebacker and two strikeouts to get out of the jam. The score was still 4-4 going into the bottom of the 10th.
With Mike Aviles on first base, Eric Hosmer smacked a double to deep left center. Aviles got on his horse and scored all the way from first.
This game was the game of the year because of:
A)Rallying back from 2-0 and 4-2 deficits
B)Alex Gordon with the game-tying double with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th against Kyle Farnsworth
C)Soria getting out of a no-out bases-loaded jam
D)Hosmer with the walk-off double in extras
2) Royals 2, Angels 0 June 1st
Butler with a walk-off HR, Escobar saves the game with his glove in the 8th
3) Royals 7, White Sox 6 September 16th
Bullpen blows 3-run lead, Hosmer walk-off double
4) Royals 2, Twins 1 July 15th
Hosmer game-winning 2-run HR in the top of the 9th
5) Royals 3, Red Sox 1 (F/14) July 25th
Great pitching all night from 6 Royals pitchers, Mike Aviles with the botched squeeze bunt over Adrian Gonzalez’s head to score Hosmer in the 14th
That does it for this year’s awards. Each one of these was difficult to pick and an argument can be made for each pick.
The best thing about these awards is that there were so many great players, plays, and games this year. In past years, awards would be much easier to hand out because of the lack of talent and passion that has plagued the Royals before.
2011 was the start to a new era in Royals baseball. The entire organization has taken a step forward so look forward to next year’s awards being even tougher to pick.
Please share your thoughts and let us know who your awards would go to.