Tag Archive | "Otis"

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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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.

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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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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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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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Famous Amos And The One Handed Catch

“AAAAAAAA-OOOOOOOOO”

“AAAAAAAA-OOOOOOOOO”

There hasn’t been much to cheer or chant about around Kauffman over the last decade. The circumstances were much different four decades ago as baseball broke in the funkadelic 1970s with green plastic grass and much bigger hair. During those days, it was hard to make it to a game not featuring a chorus of enraged fans chanting in unison…

“AAAAAAAAA-OOOOOOOOO”

“AAAAAAAAA-OOOOOOOOO”

A hungry fan base surrounded the 1969 expansion Kansas City Royals. One of the first player’s die hard Royals fans latched onto was “AO,” center fielder Amos Otis. Otis played 14 years for Kansas City and was instrumental transforming an expansion club into a perennial pennant contender less than a decade later.

Otis, a Mobile, Alabama native, was a highly sought after prospect in high school. His graduation fatefully aligned with the inaugural MLB Amateur Draft in 1965. Despite participating with the Mets in scouting camps, the Red Sox drafted Otis as a shortstop in the fifth round.

At 18, Otis played his first year of professional baseball Rookie League, where he shifted to third base. In 1966, the Red Sox left Otis unprotected and the Mets seized the opportunity they had squandered a year earlier and drafted Otis in the 1966 Minor League Draft.

New York immediately promoted him to AAA and moved him into the outfield. The Mets quickly realized the potential Otis possessed. Met’s Farm Director and third base coach, Whitey Herzog, labeled Otis as “the best piece of property we’ve got.”

Otis, now 20, made his MLB debut during a 1967 September call-up. The Mets sent him back to AAA for 1968, but the front office had apparently taken Herzog’s sentiments to heart. In 1969, when the Braves were shopping catcher Joe Torre, GM Johnny Murphy refused to make a deal involving Otis, marking him as ‘untouchable.’

The Gold Glover had already made five All-Star squads, and because of Murphy’s unwillingness to part with Otis, went on to make four more All-Star appearances and win an MVP with St. Louis.

Mets Manager, Gil Hodges, already had his outfield penciled in for 1969. With a hole at third, the Mets felt it was time to debut their versatile prospect at the hot corner.

“I was a shortstop originally and played all positions in high school,” said Otis in an interview with Baseball Almanac’s Harold Friend. “The Mets wanted me to play third base. In 1969 they had Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, and Ron Swoboda in the outfield.

I was supposed to be the Opening Day third baseman that year but Gil Hodges, the Mets manager, thought that I would be too nervous and I didn’t play. I really wanted to play center field, not third because I had been an All-Star center fielder in the minors. I was one of the fastest players on the team so why did they want to put me a third base?”

The Mets quickly sent Otis back to AAA in search of a big league third baseman. Their eyes ultimately turned to New York native Joe Foy, 26, whom the Royals had selected from the Boston Red Sox with their fourth pick of the expansion draft. In 1965, Foy dominated the International League winning the MVP and Rookie of the Year by leading the league in hitting, .302, while adding 14 HR and 73 RBIs.

Foy produced three solid years to start his career in Boston. In his first and only year with Kansas City, Foy his .262, 11 HR, 37 SB, and a career high 71 RBI. Coming off a 1969 World Series Championship, the Mets saw Foy as an upgrade at third on a squad already set, making Otis available.

The Mets sent Otis and pitcher Bob Johnson to Kansas City for Foy. In 1970, Foy hit .236, 6 HR, and 37 RBIs. He was criticized in the clubhouse for his marijuana use and was out of baseball a year later.

“I was watching the Today Show, recalled Otis, “when Joe Garagiola announced that Amos Otis had been traded to the Kansas City Royals, along with pitcher Bob Johnson, for third baseman Joey Foy. I was caught off guard but it was December 3, 1969, which is my father’s birthday, and he said it was for the best. I went from the team that had won the World Series to an expansion team that had just finished its first season.”

Royals GM Cedric Tallis jumped on the opportunity to bring in Otis, but had his eye on more young talent to shape the infantile franchise. During his tenure Tallis is credited with bringing in the likes of Otis, Lou Piniella, Buck Martinez, Cookie Rojas, John Mayberry, Hal McRae, and would deal Bob Johnson a season later for Freddie Patek.

Tallis chose Charlie Metro to lead the 1970 Royals.

“I was standing in the outfield not far from the right-field foul line when I saw Charlie Metro walking toward me,” said Otis in a 1971 interview with the New York Times. “I didn’t even know what to say to him and so I headed toward center field. I looked again and he was coming my way. Finally he pinned me against the left-field fence. ‘Amos,’ he said, ‘you’re my center fielder for as long as you can hold the job.’”

Although it was Metro who couldn’t hold his job, Otis held on to his for the next 14 seasons. After only 52 games, Bob Lemon was selected to talk over as the Royals skipper.

“AO’s” impact was immediate. In his first full season Otis tied for the most doubles (36) in the league along with 11 HR, 33 SB, and 58 RBI. Otis reached base in 136 of his 159 games and earned his first All-Star appearance. He made the one-hop 12th inning throw from center field that was an instant late to catcher Ray Fosse. By the time the ball got to the plate Pete Rose had already separated Fosse’s shoulder and earned a victory for the NL.

Otis told the Sports Collectors Digest, his nickname, Famous Amos was credited to the play, “because I made that great throw from center field. It was a one-hop throw. That’s the way baseball’s supposed to be played.”

Famous Amos had arrived.

The next season Otis improved on nearly every offensive category, leading the Royals to their first winning season in franchise history. In 1971, Otis led the league with 52 stolen bases; five came in a single game against the Brewers on September 7th.

“It was the first time in forty-four years that someone stole five bases in a game,” said Otis. “I beat out three infield hits and stole second each time. Going to the bottom of the seventh, the score was 3-3. With two outs and no one on, I hit a line drive single to center, stole second, stole third, and scored the eventual winning run when catcher Darrell Porter threw wildly to third trying to throw me out.

Otis went on to hit .301, 15 HR, and 79 RBIs. It was good enough for his second All-Star appearance and first Gold Glove Award. A lurking defender in center field, Otis had become the complete player everyone expected in the Mets system.

By 1973, Otis had made an impact throughout the league. Known for his speed and defense, Otis showed off his power potential in ’73, crushing 26 homers while knocking in 93 RBIs. Otis’ power surge helped the Royals win a record 88 games. He was also selected to his fourth consecutive All-Star game while winning his second of three Gold Gloves.

It was enough to inspire Royals Manager Jack McKeon to describe Otis as, “The best center fielder in baseball. No question about it. Amos is the most complete player in the majors, one of the most complete I’ve ever seen.”

Otis slipped a bit in 1974, hitting .284, 12 HR, 18 SB, and 73 RBIs, but still won his third and final Gold Glove. The Royals fell under .500 again at season’s end. Some grumblings from officials and fans started trickling in about Otis’ casual and nonchalant style of play.

“I can’t help it if I make things look easy,” said Otis in response to his play to Joe McGuff. “Even in 1973, when I had my best year, people said I could do better. Last year I didn’t have the year I wanted to have. I got to pressing. It was just something I couldn’t overcome. Everything I do on this team, I’m first or second. I can’t do much more than that. I know I didn’t have the year I wanted, but you can’t always do it. I got so I hated to come to the park. It was embarrassing.… As soon as you came out of the dugout, they were on you. After a while, you just hated to play.”

Otis had popularized a common practice in MLB outfields today, the one handed catch. Many saw Otis one handed antics as lazy or showy, Otis claimed it helped him get to the ball and release it quicker.

“I had always caught using two hands,” said Otis, “but we had an outfielder with the Royals named Pat Kelly, who was Cleveland Browns’ star running back LeRoy Kelly’s brother. Pat used to get nervous trying to catch a fly ball. His hands started to shake and he dropped too many of them. I told him to wait for the last second and then catch the ball with one hand. He was successful. Using one hand let me get rid of the ball faster. Sometimes, when I had to be sure, I would use two hands. It was actually Rico Carty who started catching with one hand the year before.”

With the talent in place, Tallis made a final move which sparked the Royals. He replaced Jack McKeon with Whitey Herzog at the helm. Herzog was instrumental in Otis’ development as a youngster during their time together with the Mets. Herzog’s aggressive style on the base paths and on defense was a perfect fit for Otis’ game.

Otis played his fewest games of the 70s in 1975, because of a midseason tonsillectomy. He hit a career low .247, but still produced an OBP of .342 while swiping 39 bags. They Royals won a team record 91 games, but finished seven games behind Oakland.

Tallis saw things differently, tired of coming up short, he sparked a deal with the Pirates which would send Cookie Rojas and Otis to Pittsburgh for rising star 1B/OF Al Oliver.

Because of Rojas’ league status, 10 years in the league and five with one team, league rules allowed Rojas to veto the deal.

Otis roamed the Kauffman turf until 1983, while Rojas held on until 1977, playing only 127 games in his final two seasons.

‘Scoop’ Oliver remained a fixture in the middle of the lineup. From 1975-83, Oliver crushed the baseball, .312/.355/.466, 306 2B, 128 HR, 757 RBI. Over the nine year span Oliver made six All-Star appearances, won three Silver Slugger Awards, and finished in the top 20 of MVP voting seven times.

Otis bounced back in 1976, he hit .279, 40 2B, 18 HR, 26 SB, and 86 RBI and earned his final All-Star appearance. More importantly the Herzog/Otis influence helped the Royals to 90 wins and cracked the postseason for the first time in franchise history.

When the Royals clinched their first division title Otis recalled the near trade, “Cookie gets his Series share and 10% of mine. We were on the verge of winning the championship, and I didn’t want to go with another club. I had been with this club during the building years. You don’t want to be a part of something, and then be shipped out before your ship comes in.”

Otis recorded one at-bat against the Yankees in the 1976 ALDS before injuring an ankle. The Yankees went on to a five game victory.

At 31, Otis had questionably his greatest season in 1978. Despite not being selected to All-Star team, he hit .298, 30 2B, 22 HR, 32 SB, and 96 RBI. Otis finished fourth in the MVP voting, the highest of his career.

After winning 102 games in ’77, the Royals won 92 in ’78. Both regular season triumphs ended the same as 1976, a Yankee defeat in the ALDS.

In 1980, with production starting to slip Otis managed .251, 16 2B, 10 HR, 16 SB, 53 RBI. With Otis and McRae the only major pieces still left in place from the first youth movement made by Tallis, a new wave of homegrown youngsters Frank White, Willie Wilson, and George Brett finally busted through the Yankees.

Their reward was a World Series showdown between the Philadelphia Phillies. After years of playing bridesmaid to the Yankees, Otis wouldn’t be denied his chance to be a champion. Otis hit .493 along with two doubles, three dingers, 22 total bases, four runs, and seven RBIs in the six games. Still it wasn’t enough as Steve Carlton mowed down seven in seven innings en route to a 7-1 clincher.

“Winning the World Series is the ultimate goal,” said Otis. “1980 was a heartbreak, because we led in each of the first five games, but the Phillies kept coming back on us and when we lost Game 5, we went into Philadelphia trailing, three games to two. We got ten hits off Carlton in Game 2, but we couldn’t hold a 4-2 lead going into the eighth. You don’t get to Carlton like that too often. He pitched a much better game and won Game 6. It was disappointing.”

In 1981 Otis hit .259, 9 HR, 16 SB, and 57 RBI. The Royals got swept out of the LDS by Oakland in the strike shortened season. It would be the final taste of the postseason for Otis, who had endured repeated playoff ‘heartbreak.’

Otis would be with the club through 1983, but when it came time to pick up his option, the club turned to a younger and speedier candidate, Willie Wilson. Wilson had already been with the Royals for six seasons and the 28 year old was deemed more suitable than the aging Otis. Wilson went on to be a similar fixture, helping the Royals to their 1985 World Series Championship.

Otis found work in Pittsburgh, whom had tried to trade for him nearly a decade ago. Otis only played in 40 games with the Pirates and decided to retire.

Over his 17 year career Otis hit .277, 374 2B, 193 HR, 341 SB, and 1,007 RBI, along with his three Gold Gloves and five All-Star nominations.

In the Bill James Baseball Abstract 1984, James described Otis’ legacy as well as anyone could.

“Amos Otis was an intensely private man leading an intensely public life. He disdained showmanship—probably he hated showmanship—of any type and to any extent. He could never quite deal with the fact that his business was putting on a show. This is what is called ‘moodiness’ by the media.

Yet there was a rare, deep honesty about him that was the defining characteristic of him both as a man and as a ballplayer. He could not stand to do anything for show. He could not charge into walls (and risk his continued existence as a ballplayer) after balls that he could not catch. He could not rouse the fans (and risk his continued existence as a baserunner) with a stirring drive for a base too far.

He never in his career stood at home plate and watched a ball clear the fence. McRae and Brett, they did that sort of thing; Otis would sometimes turn away interview requests with a sardonic comment, ‘Talk to Brett and McRae. They’re the team leaders.’

Famous Amos can be found at the top of nearly every offensive Royals All-Time Leaders list. Only George Brett and Frank White have played more games for Kansas City. Of all the numbers I believe the one which reflects Otis’ tenure the most is this: Otis was the centerfielder for nine of the eleven teams in Royals history which won 85 or more games.

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