Tag Archive | "John Mayberry"

Hispanic Heritage in KC: All-Time Hispanic Team

In a by-gone era, there was a bit of a perception from the outside looking in that the Kansas City Royals were a franchise opposed to minorities.

Black pitchers were essentially unheard of in Kansas City. But John Mayberry, Hal McRae, Frank White and Amos Otis, prominent black position players in the 1970s, more than made up for it.

Hispanics, on the other hand, played almost no role with the Royals for decades. Tracing the history of Mexican-born and Latin-born Royals makes for a short story.

So to make a Royals All-Star team of Hispanic players is difficult. But in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s worth a try.

The first problem was what to do with new members of the team Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar. Perez is already the greatest Hispanic catcher in team history. He has virtually no competition. But he’s not even played a full season in KC.

So for the sake of the exercise, the team will exclude current players who haven’t played at least two seasons for the Royals. And to keep it simple, the team will only include players born outside of the U.S.

Catcher: Perez will own this spot in no time. But the Royals first All Star was Puerto Rican Ellie Rodriguez. Someone had to make the All-Star Team in 1969. Why not a guy who hit just .236 with 2 homers in that inaugural season?

He gets the sentimental nod over Dominican Miguel Olivo, who hit 35 homers and had 106 RBIs while sharing the catching duties for two seasons. Olivo was probably a lot better than Rodriguez, but he never could unseat John Buck, which tells you something.

1B: Wow. Almost no options here at all. Tempting as it is to go with Orlando Cepeda based on his Cooperstown credentials, the truth is the Puerto Rican slugger did nothing in 33 games in KC, and played strictly DH.

The nod goes to… Mendy Lopez. The Dominican played a handful of games at firstbase in 2003, when he hit .277 with 3 homers.

2B: Lots of choices here, including some decent contributors like Jose Lind, Jose Offerman and Carlos Febles. But one of the most beloved Royals ever was Cuban Cookie Rojas. The diminutive, bespectacled Rojas made four trips to the All-Star Game for KC.

SS: The one position where the Royals have employed tons of Hispanics is shortstop. Alcides Escobar will claim this honor after this season. But before that there was a host of nightmarish options to choose from: Yuniesky Betancourt? Neifi Perez? Angel Berroa? Angel Salazar? Onix Concepcion?

I’ll go with Puerto Rican Rey Sanchez because he hit .294, .273, and .303 in his three seasons in KC.

3B: Two options here, which seem basically interchangeable. I’ll go with a tie: Dominican Wilson Betemit and Venezuelan Alberto Callaspo, who both hit reasonably while in KC.

Outfield: Not a lot of options here, surprisingly, so the choices are obvious. Puerto Rican Carlos Beltran is arguably the second greatest Royal in history, and has a chance to go into Cooperstown wearing a Royals cap.

Mexican Jorge Orta played four solid seasons and was a key contributor on the 1985 World Series champs. In that series, he reached first base safely (wink) on the most important play in team history.

And the third outfielder is Melky Cabrera, who rejuvenated his career in 2011. The Dominican hit .305, socked 18 homers, collected 201 hits and played solid defense in his one year in KC. Busted for PEDs in 2012, we may never know how legit those stats were, but it was a darn good season.

DH: Like it or not, Dominican Jose Guillen claims this spot. He belted 45 homers as one of the only power sources in the KC lineup from 2008 to 2010.

Starting Pitchers:

1), Hipolito Pichardo, Dominican Republic: 42-39, 4.48 ERA, 67 starts. Not many pitchers have a plus .500 win percentage recently. Pichardo has more wins than Luke Hochevar in half as many starts.

2) Bruce Chen, Panama: 35-32, 4.59 ERA. One rotten season (1-6, 5.78 ERA in 2009) sullies his otherwise solid numbers.

3) Luis Aquino, Puerto Rico: The first Hispanic pitcher to play a significant role, from 1988-92, Aquino made 55 starts over five seasons. His career mark is 22-19. He pitched in 114 games in KC.

4) Runelvys Hernandez, Dominican Republic: Hernandez was given every opportunity to succeed. But on some teams that had almost no other option, he still wore out his welcome. Hernandez posted a 25-33 mark in 78 starts before eating his way into early retirement.

5) The options are so bleak, Hernandez makes the rotation, but no one else is worthy of consideration. (Jose Rosado and D.J. Carasco are ineligible because they were born in the U.S.)

Relief Pitchers:

1) Joakim Soria, Mexico: Without a doubt the greatest Hispanic pitcher in Royals history. Soria’s160 career saves rank third in team history, and only arm injuries keep him from being one of the best relievers of his era.

2) Roberto Hernandez, Puerto Rico: The first Hispanic closer in team history. Hernandez notched 54 saves in two seasons, but was never really welcome in KC.

If minorities were discriminated against in some form or fashion in KC, hopefully that day has passed. Salvador Perez, and Alcides Escobar are getting every opportunity today, as Joakim Soria was before he was knocked out by an arm injury. The Royals have made more effort to sign Latin talent in the past few years, so hopefully more Hispanic players will bolster the current youth movement.

But as can be seen by this “All-Star Team,” the number of Hispanic stars in KC’s history is shockingly small. Not much history to celebrate in National Hispanic Heritage Month.

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Black History Month: The All-Time Royals

The history of African Americans in baseball may not be represented better anywhere in the world than it is in Kansas City with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. From Buck O’Neil to Josh Gibson, you can learn about a plethora of black baseball players that excelled before they were allowed to compete in the ‘Major Leagues’. However, I’m not sure we in Kansas City fully recognize how incredible the history of the black player in MLB has shaped Kansas City. Sure, we all idolize Frank White, and we remember Willie Wilson with affection, but hopefully this article will help some realize just how important the black player was to the golden age of the Kansas City Royals.

It is easy to forget, mostly because of how rare black players have become in Kansas City, and all of MLB. While the World Champion Royals featured a lineup that was 55% black, in 2011 the Royals played just 3 black players, and none of them for more than ¼ of the season. The decline of the presence of black players is not the focus of this article, however. No, to honor Black History Month I thought it would be appropriate to honor the best black players in Royals history. Some positions were easier (outfield) than others (catcher, pitcher) but that is probably more of a statement of our society than the players themselves. Without further ado, I present the Royals All-Time Greatest Black Players at each position:

Outfield

Amos Otis (42.3 WAR)- A.O. played 14 seasons for the club and to this day ranks second All-Time in WAR, runs, total bases, walks, stolen bases, and runs created. More surprising is that he’s third All-Time in home runs and RBI. He led the league with 52 SB in 1971 and twice led the league in doubles. Otis went 11/23 in the 1980 W World Series with 3 Home Runs and 7 RBIs.

Willie Wilson (35.7 WAR)- Wilson may possibly be the most underrated Royal of All-Time. Wilson, in 1980, had one of the greatest seasons of any Royal not named George Brett, leading the league in runs, hits and triples while stealing 81 bases and batting .326. That does not even cover Wilson’s incredible defensive skill. Per Baseball Reference, Wilson has the best Range Factor/9 innings in Major League history for a left fielder, the position he played most until 1983. Wilson ranks second all-time in Royals history for Defensive WAR and triples as well as holding the career and single season club records for stolen bases.

Jermaine Dye (10.3 WAR)- I really wanted to select Bo Jackson or Danny Tartabull for this final spot…until I realized that Tartabull was Puerto Rican and Jackson was a far inferior player to Dye. While he played 4½ seasons with the club, it was 1999-2000 that really separated Dye from the pack. In those two seasons, the right fielder hit 60 home runs and drove in 237 runs with an OPS+ of 127. He led the league in assists in 1999 and when the league stopped running on him in 2000, he won a gold glove. Bo may have been flashier, but Dye was the superior player.

Third Base

Terry Pendleton (-0.8 WAR)- Pendleton was a good, if not great major league player for 15 years. For the Royals he was a less than miserable below replacement level 3B/DH. But when George Brett, Kevin Seitzer and Joe Randa have taken up almost 50% of your franchise’s years at 3B, the choices aren’t too plentiful. As a tease for later in the article, there was one position that was much tougher than this one.

Shortstop

U.L.Washington (7.3 WAR)- Shortstop has been a dreadful position for the Royals for seemingly the eternity of the franchise. Save the sentimental vote for Freddie Patek, Washington may just be the best SS in the franchise’s history. Never much of a force offensively, Washington did finish third in the AL in triples in 1980. Sadly, he was traded before the Championship in 1985.

Second Base

Frank White (26.9 WAR)- White is the all-time leader in Defensive WAR and places in the top 10 in nearly every offensive category due to the fact that he played 18 seasons with the club. After 5 All Star Games and a 1980 ALCS MVP, his 3.8% in the 1996 Hall of Fame vote was a complete disgrace to the process.

First Base

John Mayberry (20.2 WAR)- In 1975 Mayberry finished second in the MVP voting to Fred Lynn despite besting him in home runs and RBIs. Sure, Lynn beat him in WAR but no one had even heard of that statistic in 1975. Mayberry also led the league in OPS+ in 1975…but no one had heard of that either.

Catcher

Okay, this is your chance to make me look foolish. I can’t find a single black player to ever play catcher for the Royals. So, unless someone proves me wrong, I’ll pick TJ Young, a catcher for the Kansas City Monarchs.

Pitcher

Tom “Flash” Gordon (15.8 WAR)- Gordon played on a lot of terrible teams, but went 17-9 with a 3.64 ERA in 1989, striking out 153 in 163 innings.

Player/Manager

Hal McRae (26.1 WAR) – McRae was an outstanding DH for the Royals and one of the greatest hitters in the organization’s history. What I’m not sure he gets enough credit for is his career as a manager. In 4 years with the Royals, McRae was 9 games over .500. Since that point no manager has come anywhere close to that mark.

So there you have it, an all-time black Kansas City Royals lineup. What struck me about this lineup is how great it is. Considering the 2012 Royals will have one starter that is black, and maybe a couple of role players, it is fairly astounding to look at this group. Sure, George Brett is the greatest Royal ever…but would the white team stack up to this one? No way would the Hispanic team. I guess it’s fitting that the home of the NLBM is also a glaring example of how strong the black presence used to be in baseball, and just how weak it is now.

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All-Star DNP

At least a dozen people will be glued to their TV sets on Tuesday night to see if Aaron Crow gets into the All-Star Game as a pitcher for the American League team.

Don’t hold your breath.

The first ever Royal in an All-Star Game – catcher Ellie Rodriguez – recorded just one statistic in the 1969 exhibition. DNP. Disappointing for the fledgling franchise. But the team would soon be well represented by stars like Amos Otis, Cookie Rojas and John Mayberry, who made significant contributions in the game in the early 1970s.

Then came George Brett, Frank White and Hal McRae, and the Royals were all over the All-Star field.

But it seems fitting looking back that the first Royal All-Star recorded a DNP, because that appears to be a new trend.

Five of the last nine KC “representatives” in the midsummer classic never left the bench.

2010: Joakim Soria – DNP. 2007: Gil Meche – DNP. 2006: Mark Redman – DNP. 2003: Mike Sweeney and Mike MacDougal – DNP.

Having lacked a legitimate “star” for years, it’s been a long time since Royals fans had much reason to care about the All-Star Game. So all the DNPs seem to have gone by without much notice. Lesser players are often forced to wait until late in the games to pinch-hit, or are held out for extra innings. So most casual fans have gone to bed by the time the benches start clearing.

But it would seem that American League managers haven’t felt compelled to get the KC representatives into the games in recent years.

Is there a conspiracy here, is this just a coincidence, or is it a consequence of how the All-Star Game is played?

One could argue that while every team is allotted a representative to the roster, there is no guarantee that players from every team should play. Some players may just not be deemed worthy of participation.

One could make that argument particularly in the case of Redman, who was probably saved from embarrassment. Imagine the PA announcer introducing the Royals rep in 2006:

“Now entering the game, your Kansas City Royals All-Star, with a 5-4 record and a 5.27 ERA…”

It’s possible that because the Royals tend to be represented by pitchers, there is more of a likelihood that their rep won’t get in the game. Every year an average of 8.5 pitchers don’t play. (This is based on the past decade. For more statistics on pitcher DNPs, see below.)

But it could also be that no one feels compelled to insert into the game the representatives of a lack-luster franchise in fly-over territory. After all, five DNPs in eight years seems high if it is just a coincidence.

During a 13-year stretch – 1990 to 2002 – when the team was pretty bad, the Royals had just one DNP – Jeff Montgomery in 1996. So based on that fact, it would appear Royals representatives are not getting into the games as frequently as they once did.

And it wasn’t that all the Royals representatives were legitimate stars (see Jose Rosado in 1997 and 1999 and Dean Palmer in 1998).

It all started with what looks like the biggest slap in the face back in 2003. In the one season when the Royals were actually good – leading the Central Division with a 51-41 mark – the Royals sent legit slugger Sweeney and lights-out closer (at the time) McDougal to the game.

Neither played.

In defense of Mike Scioscia, the AL manager that year, seven other AL guys didn’t play either. But to keep two guys from the same team out seemed a bit much.

Could it be that, now that the home field in the World Series is determined by the midsummer classic, more emphasis is placed on winning than on getting all the players into the game?

That may provide some motivation to the games’ managers, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be affecting the leagues teams or its star players. Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia felt it was more important to pitch in their teams’ last game before the break than to play in the exhibition. And Derek Jeter, healthy enough to go 5 for 5 last Saturday, isn’t feeling up to putting in a couple of innings.

No, winning doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal.

While no one outside of Topeka probably cares if Aaron Crow plays or not, it will most likely seem more important next year when the All-Star Game comes to Kauffman Stadium. Most likely the league will feel compelled to try to get a position player from KC into the game for a couple of innings.

For the record, when the game was last played in KC in 1973, Otis and Mayberry were in the starting lineup, with Rojas coming off the bench. As a group, they came to bat a total of 6 times in the game.

But you have to go all the way back to 2000, when Jermaine Dye started the game to find a Royal position player that recorded significant time in the field in an All-Star Game. So we’ll see if Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer or some other position player can finally see some time at a position in next years’ game.

Congrats, Aaron Crow. No matter what everyone says, you are an All-Star. I hope you get a chance to show it on the field.

But if you don’t get in the game, I doubt anyone will speak out in your defense. After all, you’re a Royal. Based on the last eight years, it appears no one cares whether you play or not.

Pitcher DNPs:

In the past decade, 264 pitchers were named to All-Star squads, with a high of 34 last season and a low of 22 in 2001.

178 pitched in the games, with a high of 23 in 2008 and a low of 15 in 2003 and 2006.

The lowest number of DNPs among pitchers came in 2008 with 2. The highest number came in 2010 with 15.

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The Good, Bad & Ugly In Royals Clutch Hitting History

I consider win probability added (WPA) to be the ultimate “story” stat—it tells you exactly who the heroes and goats were. Sabermetricians have pretty well disproved the myth of consistently clutch players; players are generally who they are regardless of the situation. Due to random variation, some players are going to have extremely clutch or un-clutch seeming games and seasons when they do or do not come through in crucial situations. I think of RBI in much the same why I think about WPA. RBI numbers do not tell us a great deal about a player’s individual talent, but they do tell the story of who knocked in the runs when guys were getting on base ahead of them. But WPA paints a more exact picture of how players performed in all of the contexts presented to them.

Here is a full explanation of WPA. Here is my short version: the sum of the change in a team’s chance of winning before and after each plate appearance. (It can be applied to pitchers as well, but for this post, I will only focus on hitters.) Keep in mind that for hitters it is a purely offensive number; defense does not enter into it.

I have parted ways with two American dollars for the pleasure of diving into the best and worst WPA performances in Royals history via the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index Tool. The most gob smacking find is Neifi Perez’s horrific 2002 WPA. Royals fans know the shortstop received in exchange for Jermaine Dye was an abomination, but they may not know his -6.8 WPA that year is the worst in at least the last 60 MLB seasons, and possibly of all time. (WPA is not available prior to 1950 on Baseball-Reference.) No other season in the last 60 even comes close. Perez’s plate appearances in 2002 decreased the Royals chances of winning by 682%, or close to seven games worth.

Worst MLB WPA single seasons, 1950-2010:

Rk Player WPA PA Year Tm G AB H HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Neifi Perez -6.819 585 2002 KCR 145 554 131 3 37 .236 .260 .303 .564
2 Sam Dente -5.181 654 1950 WSH 155 603 144 2 59 .239 .286 .299 .585
3 George Wright -5.053 393 1985 TEX 109 363 69 2 18 .190 .241 .242 .483
4 Gary Disarcina -5.051 583 1997 ANA 154 549 135 4 47 .246 .271 .326 .597
5 Ronny Cedeno -4.570 572 2006 CHC 151 534 131 6 41 .245 .271 .339 .610

Neifi actually had a pretty good opening day in 2002. He went 3-for-5, moved some runners over with a single, knocked in a run with a triple, and scored two runs himself. His .047 WPA was good for second best on the Royals lineup that day. However, a sign of things to come occurred on the last play of the game: Neifi was up in the bottom of the ninth, Royals down 6-8, two on and two out. The Royals clung to a 10% win expectancy, but Neifi popped out and the game was over. On April 24th, he was the Royals WPA hero with a 3-for-4, three RBI game. But the good days were a rare exception in this season from hell.

Neifi hurting the team again...assumedly

Our Neifi came to the plate 585 times that season. Crucial moments of games seemed to find him. Alas, he was rarely up to the task. After only five percent of his plate appearances did he leave his team in a better position to win. Five percent! I do not even understand how that is possible when he got on base 26% of the time, but there it is. He had a few especially disastrous games, but he achieved the historic low more by being consistently bad day in and day out. With runners in scoring position, his already dreadful offensive skills tumbled even lower to the tune of .221/.246/.270. The Worst Season A Royals Player Ever Had may have hit its nadir when Perez refused to enter a game:

Perez…created a major clubhouse incident by refusing to enter a Sept. 9 game against the Chicago White Sox as a defensive replacement for rookie Angel Berroa. Perez later said his refusal was a joke that was misinterpreted, but his action caused a rift with several teammates. Many privately called for his immediate dismissal from the club.–Bob Dutton, November 19, 2002 Kansas City Star

Neifi makes Angel Berroa look like a golden god. Here are the Royals worst WPA single seasons:

 

Rk Player WPA PA Year Tm G H HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Neifi Perez -6.819 585 2002 KCR 145 131 3 37 .236 .260 .303 .564
2 Angel Berroa -3.448 503 2006 KCR 132 111 9 54 .234 .259 .333 .592
3 Angel Salazar -3.437 332 1987 KCR 116 65 2 21 .205 .219 .246 .465
4 Greg Gagne -2.923 581 1993 KCR 159 151 10 57 .280 .319 .406 .724
5 Tony Pena -2.902 536 2007 KCR 152 136 2 47 .267 .284 .356 .640
6 Jason Kendall -2.832 490 2010 KCR 118 111 0 37 .256 .318 .297 .615
7 Cookie Rojas -2.828 409 1970 KCR 98 100 2 28 .260 .296 .326 .622
8 John Buck -2.818 430 2005 KCR 118 97 12 47 .242 .287 .389 .676
9 David Howard -2.805 485 1996 KCR 143 92 4 48 .219 .291 .305 .595
10 Jermaine Dye -2.756 283 1997 KCR 75 62 7 22 .236 .284 .369 .653

Jason Kendall sighting! Kind of ironic that Jermaine Dye makes the list.

Here is a happier list, the Royals best WPA single seasons:

Rk Player WPA PA Year Tm G H HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
1 George Brett 6.154 515 1980 KCR 117 175 24 118 .390 .454 .664 1.118
2 George Brett 6.048 701 1979 KCR 154 212 23 107 .329 .376 .563 .939
3 George Brett 5.498 665 1985 KCR 155 184 30 112 .335 .436 .585 1.022
4 George Brett 5.108 705 1976 KCR 159 215 7 67 .333 .377 .462 .839
5 Mike Sweeney 4.762 545 2002 KCR 126 160 24 86 .340 .417 .563 .979
6 Darrell Porter 4.684 679 1979 KCR 157 155 20 112 .291 .421 .484 .905
7 John Mayberry 4.618 683 1975 KCR 156 161 34 106 .291 .416 .547 .963
8 Amos Otis 4.569 567 1978 KCR 141 145 22 96 .298 .380 .525 .905
9 Johnny Damon 4.552 741 2000 KCR 159 214 16 88 .327 .382 .495 .877
10 George Brett 4.045 681 1988 KCR 157 180 24 103 .306 .389 .509 .898
George increased the team’s WPA in 40% of his plate appearances in 1980. With runners in scoring position, he upped his line to .469/.542/.815. He of course dominates the Royals all-time list as well:

 

Rk Player WPA PA From To G H HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
1 George Brett 52.107 11624 1973 1993 2707 3154 317 1596 .305 .369 .487 .857
2 Amos Otis 27.275 7969 1970 1983 1891 1977 193 992 .280 .347 .433 .780
3 Mike Sweeney 15.970 5278 1995 2007 1282 1398 197 837 .299 .369 .492 .861
4 Hal McRae 15.666 7361 1973 1987 1837 1924 169 1012 .293 .356 .458 .814
5 John Mayberry 13.528 3752 1972 1977 897 816 143 552 .261 .374 .448 .822
6 Danny Tartabull 10.832 2684 1987 1991 657 674 124 425 .290 .376 .518 .894
7 Carlos Beltran 9.043 3512 1998 2004 795 899 123 516 .287 .352 .483 .835
8 Darrell Porter 8.194 2262 1977 1980 555 514 61 301 .271 .375 .435 .809
9 Paul Schaal 5.541 2340 1969 1974 606 525 32 198 .263 .360 .368 .728
10 Kevin Seitzer 5.110 3163 1986 1991 741 809 33 265 .294 .380 .394 .774

 

At the other end of the spectrum is another team hall-of-famer. Frank White reached a positive WPA in just two of his 18 seasons. Good thing he had that golden glove.

 

Royals worst career totals:

 

Rk Player WPA PA From To G H HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Frank White -16.325 8467 1973 1990 2324 2006 160 886 .255 .293 .383 .675
2 David Howard -9.272 1586 1991 1997 547 320 8 130 .229 .289 .302 .591
3 Cookie Rojas -8.135 3354 1970 1977 880 824 25 332 .268 .314 .346 .660
4 Neifi Perez -8.045 805 2001 2002 194 179 4 49 .238 .265 .303 .568
5 Freddie Patek -7.601 4867 1971 1979 1245 1036 28 382 .241 .309 .321 .630
6 Angel Berroa -7.287 2496 2001 2007 627 606 45 235 .263 .305 .384 .689
7 Brent Mayne -7.187 2200 1990 2003 664 483 20 205 .244 .305 .322 .627
8 John Buck -7.104 2116 2004 2009 584 450 70 259 .235 .298 .407 .705
9 Greg Gagne -7.092 1472 1993 1995 386 358 23 157 .266 .317 .392 .708
10 Onix Concepcion -5.841 1130 1980 1985 389 248 3 80 .238 .277 .293 .570

Bringing things to the present, here is how 2011 Royals hitters are shaping up this season:

 

PA WPA ▾
Jeff Francoeur 151 1.0
Wilson Betemit 112 0.5
Matt Treanor 80 0.3
Melky Cabrera 161 0.2
Jarrod Dyson 26 0.2
Alex Gordon 155 0.2
Billy Butler 150 0.1
Chris Getz 132 0.1
Mitch Maier 16 0.1
Eric Hosmer 22 -0.0
Kila Ka’aihue 96 -0.0
Brayan Pena 62 -0.3
Mike Aviles 108 -0.4
Alcides Escobar 142 -2.1
Team Total 1413 -0.3

Escobar is bringing up the rear in all of the majors, and is on pace to enter some seriously unpleasant territory. At his current pace, if he equaled Perez’s 585 plate appearances, he would end up with -8.7 WPA. Ruh-roh.

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Charting Royals Decades

A recent post on the Giants blog Bay City Ball featured a fantastic chart plotting every Giants season by team OPS+ and ERA+. It inspired a similar chart at The Hardball Times of World Series champions (which seems to prove the maxim that pitching and defense win championships). It also inspired me to make this chart of every Royals team by OPS+ and ERA+ for my blog (playoff teams in red):

Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that after 42 seasons, only six teams are above the AL average in both OPS and ERA, and those six teams all fell in a seven year stretch between 197581. The chart is good for identifying outliers, such as the anemic offense of the expansion team in ’69 and ’70, the all-around greatness of the ’77 club, the pitching staff in ’93 and ’94, and the misery of ’05’06. But most seasons get lost in a muddle of too much information. So in an attempt to glean more info out of the chart, I’ve separated the seasons out by decade to take a closer look at the ups and downs in Royals offense and defense over the years:

1969—79


The first two seasons of Royals baseball had identical numbers (82 OPS+, 99 OPS+) and featured surprisingly strong pitching and defense, but the offense was non-existent. Lead by Paul Schaal, Amos Otis, Freddie Patek and Cookie Rojas, the ’71 offense took a leap toward respectability while the pitching staff soared and the third year expansion team had a winning record and a second place finish. The addition of John Mayberry for ’72 helped push the offense into a strength, but run prevention took a dive (93 ERA+). GM Cedric Tallis left the club in ’74, but he had built up a powerhouse that fired on all cylinders between ’75’80, including four first place finishes and two second place finishes. As far as the regular season is concerned, these were the glory days.

1980—89


The offense of the mid-to-late ’70s started to dry up, but after a dip in ’83, the Royals pitching & defense remained a major strength between ’84’89 thanks to guys like Bret Saberhagen, Charlie Leibrandt, and Mark Gubicza. When it comes to post-season success, run prevention is the name of the game, so it should not be surprising the team’s lone championship came in the season with the club’s best ever ERA+, a 119 in 1985.

199099

The ’90s carried on a similar theme from the ’80s with a collection of stellar pitching think Appier, Cone, Montgomery, Gordonbetween ’91’96, but the offense was just too putrid for it to translate into any overall success. That ’94 staff was something special until the lockout came. By ’98, the pitching had dried up, the spiral into the black hole of the next decade had begun…

200010


Do not look at that graph for too long…like the sun, it might melt your eyeballs. The ineptitude is stunning. The only dot that peaks into positive territory is the 2007 ERA+ of 102, which the Royals rode all the way to a 69-93 record. Sadly, last year’s perfectly mediocre OPS+ of 100 was the team’s best since 1991…and they still lost 95. Here’s to the the next decade of Royals baseball moving towards the upper right quadrant…

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Royals In Municipal Stadium

Joe Keough, 1969

Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium hosted professional baseball from 1923-1972 on the corner of 22nd & Brooklyn. It is most widely associated with the Kansas City Blues, Monarchs and Athletics, but was also home to the Royals for their first four seasons. The Royals opened their time at the park on April 8th and 9th, 1969 against the Twins. It was an auspicious start – a pair of 4-3, extra inning, walk-off wins for the home team. On the 8th, Joe Keough knocked in the winning run in the 13th inning, and on the 9th, Lou Piniella was the hero in the 17th inning. Just two games old and the franchise had played 30 innings. The Royals went on to play a total of 318 games at Municipal over those four years, and won exactly half of them.

Their was a surprisingly stable group of core players that were with the expansion team all four years in Municipal, including Lou Piniella, Ed Kirkpatrick, Paul Schaal, Bob Oliver, Joe Keough, Tom Burgmeier, Dick Drago, Jim Rooker and Mike Hedlund. Piniella played the most games at Municipal as a Royal (280). Amos Otis joined the team in 1970. Paul Splittorff pitched there between ’70-’72. (This was pre-DH, so he hit there too.) Fred Patek plied his trade as a Royal for the final two years in Municipal. Big John Mayberry began his reign as a Royal in ’72.

Dimensions at Municipal circa 1972. It played as a neutral hitter's/pitcher's park during the Royals time there.

Public bonds had been issued in 1967 to build what would become the Truman Sports Complex, and according to Curt Nelson, Royals Stadium was initially slated to open for the 1972 season, but was delayed a year by a construction strike. The team did not seem to mind playing in Municipal that year–they posted a 44-33 record at home. The Royals played their final Municipal game on October 4, 1972, and went out in style with a 4-0 shutout by Roger Nelson, who allowed just two hits to the Rangers. The stadium sat empty for four years before it was demolished in 1976.

The following leader-boards include only stats racked up by Royals players at home games in Municipal Stadium:

Games:

Lou Piniella 280
Ed Kirkpatrick 245
Paul Schaal 233
Amos Otis 223
Bob Oliver 206
Cookie Rojas 173
Fred Patek 149
Joe Keough 146
Pat Kelly 125
Jackie Hernandez & Tom Burgmeier 111

Plate appearances:

Lou Piniella 1119
Amos Otis 937
Paul Schaal 904
Ed Kirkpatrick 839
Bob Oliver 754
Cookie Rojas 691
Fred Patek 635
Pat Kelly 511
Joe Keough 430
Jackie Hernandez 402

Runs:

Amos Otis 123
Paul Schaal 107
Lou Piniella 101
Ed Kirkpatrick 92
Bob Oliver 78
Fred Patek 77
Pat Kelly 74
Cookie Rojas 65
Jackie Hernandez 42
Joe Keough, Joe Foy &
John Mayberry
36

Hits:

Lou Piniella 318
Amos Otis 259
Paul Schaal 202
Cookie Rojas 177
Ed Kirkpatrick 171
Bob Oliver 160
Fred Patek 149
Pat Kelly 118
Joe Keough 91
Jackie Hernandez 88

Doubles:

Lou Piniella 53
Amos Otis 48
Paul Schaal 45
Ed Kirkpatrick 31
Cookie Rojas 30

Triples:

Lou Piniella 12
Amos Otis 11
Fred Patek 8
Bob Oliver 8
Paul Schaal 7

Home runs:

Ed Kirkpatrick 26
Bob Oliver 18
Lou Piniella 17
John Mayberry 13
Amos Otis 11
Paul Schaal 6
Pat Kelly 5
Joe Foy 5
Mike Fiore 5
Richie Scheinblum &
Gail Hopkins
4

RBI:

Lou Piniella 168
Ed Kirkpatrick 120
Bob Oliver 95
Amos Otis 91
Paul Schaal 83
Cookie Rojas 68
John Mayberry 49
Joe Foy 48
Richie Scheinblum 34
Pat Kelly & Fred Patek 31

Stolen bases, caught stealing, success rate:

Fred Patek 58 11 84%
Amos Otis 57 12 83%
Pat Kelly 38 13 75%
Joe Foy 21 10 68%
Paul Schaal 11 6 65%

Walks:

Paul Schaal 120
Ed Kirkpatrick 104
Amos Otis 82
Pat Kelly 72
Lou Piniella 56

Strikeouts:

Bob Oliver 135
Ed Kirkpatrick 108
Lou Piniella 95
Pat Kelly 84
Jackie Hernandez 84

Batting average (min. 100 PA):

Richie Scheinblum .329
Amos Otis .312
John Mayberry .311
Lou Piniella .309
Steve Hovley .306
Cookie Rojas .283
Rich Severson .281
Gail Hopkins .279
Mike Fiore .276
Joe Foy .273

On-base percentage (min. 100 PA):

Richie Scheinblum .425
Mike Fiore .423
John Mayberry .403
Pat Kelly .379
Steve Hovley .378
Joe Foy .374
Amos Otis .371
Paul Schaal .363
Gail Hopkins .354
Jerry May .349

Slugging percentage (min. 100 PA):

John Mayberry .531
Richie Scheinblum .457
Amos Otis .436
Lou Piniella .434
Rich Severson .406
Ed Kirkpatrick .401
Joe Foy .400
Gail Hopkins .398
Mike Fiore .388
Steve Hovley .378

On-base plus slugging (min. 100 PA):

John Mayberry .934
Richie Scheinblum .881
Mike Fiore .811
Amos Otis .807
Lou Piniella .777
Joe Foy .774
Steve Hovley .756
Gail Hopkins .752
Pat Kelly .749
Rich Severson .743

Total bases:

Lou Piniella 446
Amos Otis 362
Ed Kirkpatrick 288
Paul Schaal 279
Bob Oliver 237

Wins:

Dick Drago 23
Tom Burgmeier 16
Mike Hedlund 16
Jim Rooker 15
Paul Splittorff 13

Losses:

Dick Drago 26
Jim Rooker 19
Wally Bunker 12
Mike Hedlund 11
Bill Butler 11

ERA (min. 50 IP):

Ted Abernathy 2.23
Bob Johnson 2.46
Moe Drabowsky 2.62
Dave Morehead 2.72
Tom Burgmeier 3.06

Games started:

Dick Drago 63
Jim Rooker 36
Mike Hedlund 31
Bill Butler 28
Paul Splittorff 28

Innings Pitched:

Dick Drago 476.2
Jim Rooker 267
Mike Hedlund 239
Wally Bunker 202
Paul Splittorff 197
Bill Butler 194
Roger Nelson 179.2
Al Fitzmorris 166.1
Tom Burgmeier 156
Bruce Dal Canton 137.2

Hits allowed:

Dick Drago 449
Jim Rooker 254
Mike Hedlund 220
Wally Bunker 186
Al Fitzmorris 178

Runs allowed:

Dick Drago 177
Jim Rooker 123
Mike Hedlund 96
Al Fitzmorris 93
Wally Bunker 89

HR allowed:

Dick Drago 30
Wally Bunker 23
Mike Hedlund 17
Bill Butler 17
Al Fitzmorris 11

Walks allowed:

Dick Drago 127
Jim Rooker 119
Bill Butler 100
Mike Hedlund 76
Al Fitzmorris 68

Strikeouts:

Dick Drago 247
Jim Rooker 151
Bill Butler 125
Paul Splittorff 125
Bob Johnson 123

Strikeouts per 9 IP (min. 50 IP):

Bob Johnson 9.2
Moe Drabowsky 7.2
Dave Morehead 6.6
Ted Abernathy 5.9
Ken Wright 5.9

Shutouts:

Dick Drago 7
Jim Rooker 7
Bill Butler 4
Paul Splittorff 3
Roger Nelson 3

Saves:

Ted Abernathy 19
Tom Burgmeier 16
Moe Drabowsky 6
Ken Wright 5
Al Fitzmorris 3

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Butler, Ka’aihue Provide Caravan With A View From First Base

Fans lined up in towns throughout the Royals’ region to meet current and former players on the 2011 Royals Caravan. Among them, Billy Butler and Kila Ka’aihue gave fans their perspective from the vantage point of first base.

The first-base tandem made appearances as part of the annual caravan in Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas, as did Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Jason Kendall, Mitch Maier and Royals former greats George Brett, John Mayberry, Jeff Montgomery, Joe Randa and Frank White.

The caravan gives fans young and old the opportunity to shake hands with a major league ballplayer, get an autograph, and ask a few questions about the Royals.

“The Royals are my favorite team, so I wanted to come see them,” said 10-year-old Michael Ruhlman of Springfield. “I hope they do better this year than they usually do, maybe make it to the World Series.”

A World Series would appear out of reach in 2011 for the accumulation of young, unproven players the Royals will field this season. But Butler and Ka’aihue weren’t telling fans to give up on this season just yet.

“Our expectation is to win and win now,” Butler said when asked if the players see 2011 as a rebuilding season. “If we thought any other way, we wouldn’t be doing ourselves any good. People don’t expect a lot out of us. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to pack it up and go home. We’ve still got a season to play. Everyone is 0 and 0.”

Butler embarked on the Royals Caravan while the ink was still drying on a 4-year extension to his contract which could earn him as much as $30 million. That signing comes on the heels of the trade of Zack Greinke, who wasn’t up for waiting out the process. Without criticizing his former teammate specifically, Butler insisted that he is committed to helping the Royals build.

“I can’t speak for Zack, but obviously at one point he wanted to stay here,” Butler said, referring to the contact Greinke signed with KC two years ago. “But for me, I don’t imagine myself playing anywhere else. And I’m saying that after four years of not being very competitive and losing a lot of games.

“I realize what the organization has done for me. And I’d rather play my whole career trying to build one winner than to go somewhere else where it’s already been built. I’ve put too many years of hard work in to leave what we’re trying to do here.”

Ka’aihue didn’t agree with Greinke’s assessment that the Royals are in for several more bitterly unsuccessful seasons.

“That’s just Zach’s opinion and that doesn’t affect the rest of us. We’re moving forward,” the big Hawaiian said, reassuring fans that this team can compete with the new pieces now in place. “I’m not expecting to fail. I’m going in with the mindset to win and win right away. It might sound crazy or like on paper it can’t be done, but there’s enough talent on this team that we could make a push. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t.”

Perhaps Greinke was too busy analyzing the timetable for developing the talent that has made the Royals’ farm system the best in baseball. Butler said players don’t need to think about the process, but rather to focus on winning games today.

“Players don’t need to put too much into whether this is a rebuilding process. That’s not their job, to say if we’re in a rebuilding process. If they don’t want this to be a rebuilding process, then go out there and play better. Go out there and win ballgames. That’s Dayton (Moore)’s job. I believe in Dayton and everything we’re doing here.”

What Butler believes Moore is doing is assembling the kind of depth in the farm system that could make the Royals a contender in just a few years.

“I feel like I am part of a long-term process,” Butler said. “We’ve got a lot of really good prospects that are on the brink and we made some good trades, and we’re just building for the future. And it’s going to start this year.

“We have the number one minor league organization for a reason. There’s a lot of guys that are expected to do a lot of great things. And that means very soon here we’re going to be contending on a regular basis.”

When Butler arrives at spring training, he’ll have to introduce himself to a host of new players after the Greinke trade and several other moves changed the roster drastically. Most significantly, Moore added Alcides Escobar to play shortstop, three new outfielders, and Jeff Francis and Vin Mazarro to the pitching rotation.

“What we had before didn’t work, so we had to change, and we changed pretty much every part of it,” Butler said. “That’s nothing against the guys we had before, but we just didn’t have the right mix.

“Now we have a lot of young talent, and it’s all about how we translate the talent onto the field. The bottom line is that we have the talent to do it. Now we just have to go out there and do it.”

The Royals will enjoy having manager Ned Yost from day one this year. Yost joined the team on May 13 after Trey Hillman stumbled to a 12-23 start to last season.

“Ned’s definitely very detailed and very prepared at what he does,” said Butler. “I know when we get done with spring training with him we’re going to be prepared for everything the opponent is going to try to do to us.”

“What we experienced during the season was a calmness about him, but an expectation to win,” Ka’aihue added in regards to Yost. “He seems like a players’ manager, and he gives us a relaxed feeling in the clubhouse.”

Butler and Ka’aihue weren’t interested in arm wrestling for the first base position, as was suggested on the caravan. They both look forward to playing as much in the field as possible, but are willing to bat in the DH spot when necessary.

“Of course I want to play 162 games at first base, but when you’re looking at the long haul of a whole career, it may be smart to split some time at DH,” Butler said. “I played 125 games at first last year, and it probably made me a lot healthier at the end of the season.”

Butler recently received the Les Milgram Award as the Kansas City player of the year after he batted a career high .318 with 15 homers and 78 RBIs. He is the closest thing the team has to a hitting star, with 590 career hits at the young age of 24.

Ka’aihue has yet to post significant numbers at the big league level, but he did start to get his wits about him by the end of 2010. He batted .274 with 6 homers and 18 RBIs in September.

“It’s exciting to have that little bit of success to build on and hopefully I can carry that into this year.” Ka’aihue didn’t think his approach to spring training would change this time around, however. “I’ve gone in every year hoping to win a job, and it doesn’t feel much different this time. I am expecting to play everyday and I’m going to prepare that way.”

While neither man is writing off 2011, they are not oblivious to the hope the franchise has placed in the farm system that is regarded as the best in baseball.

“It’s an exciting time, you know,” said Ka’aihue, who has played with some of the Royals’ top prospects in his minor league career. “A lot of the guys who came up together are finally going to be in the big leagues together. We all pulled for each other in the minor leagues and to do it together, it will be a great accomplishment.”

Butler relishes the help he could have in the batting order.

“We have Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas very close to the big leagues who are supposed to hit in the middle of the lineup, and what better than to see those guys hitting around me. It sounds real fun.”

Making the transition isn’t easy or smooth, according to both first basemen who were top prospects at one time themselves.

“It’s a different game up here,” said Butler. “There’s a transition process. But when you got guys around you who want to see you do good, and you’ve got the talent, that transition can be a lot shorter rather than longer. You’ve got to come up here and play the game like you always have, not putting too much pressure on yourself.”
Help from the minor leagues may be a ways away. But in January, the fans can be as optimistic as the players representing the team on the caravan. Getting an autograph and a chance to talk to a major leaguer, even if his team is expected to wallow through another rebuilding year, is worth waiting in line in freezing temperatures.

“I love it,” said Brooks Beattie, a 10-year-old from Nixa about getting to meet major league baseball players. “I heard about it and I said ‘I want to come.’ It’s exciting.”

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Who Would KC Pick For Cooperstown?

One of the unique features of the MLB All-Star Game is that at least one player is selected to represent each team in the league, no matter how undeserving that player might be to be considered a “star.”

Last week I wrote an article about how little consideration Royals players have received by the voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame. While four players who have worn Royals uniforms are actually in the Hall – Harmon Killebrew (1984), Gaylord Perry (1991), George Brett and Orlando Cepeda (1999) – no other Royal has even received a significant enough number of votes to be considered a potential inductee.

I wonder if, similar to the All-Star Game, the Royals were given the chance to name their next most deserving candidate for enshrinement, who would that person be?

We all know Buck O’Neil should be in the Hall of Fame. It’s a shame he’s not, and there are probably other KC Monarchs who deserve the honor as well. But that has been hashed and rehashed in other venues. I will try to stick with the current Royals franchise for the sake of this argument.

As I stated last week, Vada Pinson actually recorded the most votes of any former Royal not in the Hall. In his final two seasons, Pinson played well enough for the Royals in 1974, but struggled before hanging it up in 1975. His best seasons were in a Cincinnati Reds uniform, so he does not gain consideration here.

Vida Blue and Juan Gonzalez also recorded enough votes to remain on the ballot past their first year of eligibility, but they get disregarded for the same reason as Pinson. Blue is regarded fondly for his value to the Royals pitching in the early 1980s, but Gonzales won no support for the dismal 33 games he played in KC, which cost the team $4 million.

No, it must be someone who actually is remembered as a Royal, first and foremost. If the team were to choose their own representative to the Hall, he must be one of them. John Mayberry, Lou Piniella and David Cone need not apply. Things to consider are not only a player’s statistics, but how they performed on the big stage and what they mean to the Royals franchise.

None of the players considered in this article actually garnered any support from the Hall of Fame voters. Disregard vote totals and just ponder what each man did as a Royal, counting on an All-Star Game-like ticket to admission. There are plenty to choose from, but for the sake of time and space, I will narrow the candidates to just 7, listed here in alphabetical order:

Hal McRae – One could argue that since he always played second fiddle to the only true Royal in the Hall of Fame, George Brett, then he should stand second in line. Starting in 1974, McRae had 13 really good seasons, primarily as a DH. He finished with a .300 average in six of those seasons, with a low mark of .272. He nearly won a batting title in 1976, and finished his career with more than 2000 hits and 1000 RBI.

McRae gets a boost in support for serving as the Royals manager from 1991 to 1994 when the team was still attempting to field competitive teams. He loses credit, however, for not playing in the field and for only driving in 100 runs once, which is strange considering he was hitting behind Willie Wilson and George Brett for many of those seasons.

Amos Otis – AO probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his 14 excellent seasons in KC. Otis was a great fielder (two Gold Gloves) and base-stealing threat (five seasons with more than 30 steals). He hit leadoff for many of the great Royals teams and had solid average and on-base percentage. He also provided some power, hitting 193 homers. He actually finished 3rd in the MVP voting of 1973, when he led the young Royals with a .300 average and 26 homers. Otis finished with nearly 2000 hits in KC, and played in the third most games in team history.

Dan Quisenberry – This one is intriguing. Bruce Sutter, who is actually IN the Hall of Fame dominated the National League at generally the same time period Quisenberry was mastering the American League. Over his best six-year span, from 1979-1984, Sutter saved 192, led the league in saves five times and played in one World Series. From 1980 to 1985, Quisenberry notched the same 192 saves, leading his own league five times, played in two World Series, and in most of those comparable seasons had a lower ERA than Sutter. Quisenberry’s career was a bit shorter than Sutter’s, and he ranks just 31st on the all-time saves list. Quisenberry’s numbers over that period compare quite favorably to those of Rollie Fingers and comparably to those of Goose Gossage, both Hall of Famers from the same era.

“The Quiz” was a true ambassador for the team, and his untimely death makes him a sentimental favorite with Royals fans. He finished in the top five in Cy Young voting five times during that six year stretch, and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 1984. In the 1985 World Series he pitched in four games, won one, and allowed only one run. Quisenberry did not reach the big leagues until he was 26, and by 33 he was beginning to lose his golden touch, thus accounting for his lesser career totals.

Bret Saberhagen – Two Cy Young Awards and a 2-0 record in a World Series earn you a spot on this list, regardless what the rest of your career was like. When he won the Cy Young and Series MVP at just 21, he stood on top the baseball world. At 25 he had already recorded 92 wins and was on his way to being not just the greatest Royals pitcher of all time, but a true Hall of Famer. Injuries reduced his effectiveness, however, and he spent as many seasons playing outside of KC as in it.

Mike Sweeney – Similar to Quisenberry and Saberhagen, if you take a small segment of Sweeney’s career, he compares favorably with the best sluggers of his era. From 1999 to 2005, he hit for average and power, drove in a remarkable 144 runs in 2000, and would have had notched even better numbers had he not been plagued by injuries. Full seasons would have probably netted 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs in 2002-2006. Even so, Sweeney ranks 2nd all time in homers by a Royal and 2nd highest in batting average in team history. Injuries proved his undoing.

Most important of all, Sweeney doggedly stuck by the Royals during the 2000s when seemingly every other good player fled for greener pastures. He was a “captain” in every sense of the word and deserves the respect of KC fans for his loyalty.

Frank White – Probably the second “face of the franchise” behind Brett, White is a true Royal, having been signed in the summer of the team’s second season, a product of the Royals Baseball Academy, and a survivor of the team’s peaks and valleys. He deserves high marks for standing by the franchise through its doldrums, managing minor leaguers, working in the front office and on TV broadcasts. He probably deserved a shot at managing the big-league club.

White’s greatest on-field accomplishment was his eight Gold Gloves, earned as one of the greatest defenders in history at second base. He developed into a good, but not great hitter. White was named MVP of the 1980 ALCS and batted cleanup in the 1985 World Series. He ranks second on the team in all-time hits and games played.

Willie Wilson – Wilson was a demon on the base paths, leading the league in triples 5 times and keeping company with Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines in stolen bases in the early 1980s when baseball ran wild. Wilson still ranks 12th all-time in steals with 668

Wilson won a batting title in 1982 and hit over .300 five times in a six-year stretch. He also won two Gold Gloves and a stolen base title.

Wilson will lose credit due to a drug scandal that tarnished the Royals golden era. He also struck out too much and walked to infrequently for a leadoff hitter.

Tough choice. Each player has a special place in Royals lore, and each has some knock against him. Injuries hurt the case for several of them. White was a pretty one-dimensional player, as was McRae. Intangibles and off-field service to the franchise affect the choice as well.

But with all things considered, I surprise even myself with my selection. Part of what should be considered for the Hall of Fame, beyond sheer numbers, is how the player stacks up against great players of the same era. As I noted before, Quisenberry compares very favorably to three players who are currently in the Hall who played his same position at the same time. Sutter, Fingers and Gossage, all in Cooperstown, saved generally the same number of games (if not fewer). The Baseball Page .com places The Quiz behind only five Hall of Famers and Mariano Rivera on its ranking of all-time relievers.

Quisenberry got shockingly little love from Hall of Fame voters – just 3.8% in his only year on the ballot. There seems to be a process by which many players wait their turn, paying their dues before finally garnering the requisite 75% for admission. Because he didn’t get the minimum 5% in his first year to stay on the ballot, Quisenberry didn’t have time to build support.

Sutter started on the ballot in 1994 at just 23.9%. In 1996, Quiz’s one time on the ballot, Sutter got just 29.1%. His percentages stayed in the 20s and 30s for several years.

Gossage got 33.3% in 2000, his first time eligible. Then in 2001 both relievers started getting more support. Their numbers slowly edged upwards of 50% until finally in 2006 Sutter got in. Gossage was close behind, entering the Hall in 2008.

Compared to the slow climb of Sutter and Gossage, one has to wonder how high Quisenberry’s could have risen had his name been on the ballot over the same length of time.

White, Wilson, Otis and McRae made tremendous contributions to the great Royals teams of the 1970s and 1980s, Saberhagen and Sweeney were among the best in the game for a short spell. But Quisenberry actually stacks up well in comparison to actual Hall of Famers. He will not ever be voted into the Hall, but if we could get an All-Star Game-type representative in Cooperstown, I recommend it be the Quiz.

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The Balboni Line

After Adam Dunn’s recent signing with the White Sox, I pulled up his career stats, and could hardly believe his home run totals from the last seven seasons: 46, 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, 38. The consistency is stunning, but being a Royals obsessive, something else struck me: Adam Dunn has out-homered the Royals single season record for seven straight years. (The only other player I’ve been able to find with such a streak is Babe Ruth, who hit at least 41 for seven consecutive years, 1926—32.) Dunn’s incredible stretch prompted me to delve deeper into just how pitiful the Royals lack of home run power has been.

Steve Balboni

Royals fans have enjoyed some great players over the years, but the team has somehow never had a hitter bust out with even a 40 home run season. They are the only current franchise without a 40 homer hitter. The team mark is an embarrassingly low 36, set by Steve “Bye-Bye” Balboni in 1985. Barry Bonds’ all-time record of 73 is more than twice the Royals record.

Only ten times has a Royals player reached 30 homers:

Steve Balboni 36 1985
Gary Gaetti 35 1995
John Mayberry 34 1975
Dean Palmer 34 1998
Danny Tartabull 34 1987
Jermaine Dye 33 2000
Bo Jackson 32 1989
Danny Tartabull 31 1991
George Brett 30 1985
Chili Davis 30 1997

Some of the lack of power is explained by the home run graveyard that is Royals/Kauffman Stadium. In recent years, the Royals inability to hang on to power hitters has also helped keep the record intact: Carlos Beltran had 15 home runs with KC in 2004 before he was traded to the Astros—he finished the year with 38, and then peaked at 41 with the Mets in 2006. Ex-Royal Jermaine Dye knocked 44 in 2006. Health problems have also played a role: had Bo Jackson and/or Mike Sweeney been able to stay healthy, they may have taken a run at the record.

Only the Twins join the Royals in failing to have a player hit more than 36 home runs in a season since 1985. The Twins do at least have the memory of some huge home run years: Harmon Killebrew alone had nine seasons over the Balboni line.

Some astonishing numbers:

The average home run record for the 29 non-Royals franchises: 53
Average number of 37+ home run seasons per franchise: 15
Times a Yankee has hit 37+: 38
Number of individual seasons of 37+ home runs since 1985: 244
Average number of seasons of 37+ per team since 1985: 8 (In other words, if the Royals had kept pace with home run hitters around the bigs, Balboni’s mark would have been surpassed eight times in the last 25 years.)

I posted a few of these stats on Twitter recently, prompting this response from Jeff Parker of Royally Speaking: “You are bumming me out.” So, hey, how about some hope: I asked Greg Schaum of Royals Prospects what he thinks the chances are of someone currently in the Royals system breaking the record. Greg feels Mike Moustakas has the best shot: “Moose should have 3-4 peak years where he could break that record…But he still needs to prove he can handle big league pitching (especially breaking stuff). But he would be the guy with the best chance.” Moustakas’s final home run tally last year in the minors was…36.

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