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The Royals certainly had a disappointing season, losing 100+ games for the second year in a row. However there were some bright spots, namely three stars on offense. Jorge Soler won the American League home run title, Hunter Dozier emerged as one of the top hitters in the league, finishing 24th in wRC+, and Whit Merrifield led the league in hits for the second year in a row.
The offensive feats of the trio is impressive, but considering the context of the offensive environment, it is not even among the top five offensive trios in Royals history, in my opinion. I took a look back in Royals history and tried to find the top trio of hitters on each team. I took into account their numbers in the context of their era, their ability to get on base, their power, and their speed on the basepaths. I tried to find three very good players (as opposed to 1980 George Brett and two random guys). Who were the best offensive trios in Royals history?
1975 John Mayberry/George Brett/Hal McRae
1983 George Brett/Willie Aikens/Hal McRae
1990 George Brett/Bo Jackson/Danny Tartabull
2011 Alex Gordon/Melky Cabrera/Jeff Francoeur
2015 Kendrys Morales/Lorenzo Cain/Eric Hosmer
2019 Jorge Soler/Hunter Dozier/Whit Merrifield
5. 1982 Hal McRae/George Brett/Willie Wilson
Hal McRae .308/.369/.542 27 HR 133 RBI 147 OPS+
George Brett .301/.378/.505 21 HR 82 RBI 141 OPS+
Willie Wilson .332/.365/.431 3 HR 46 RBI 37 SB 118 OPS+
The 1982 and 1983 teams both had really good trios – I gave a slight edge to the 1983 edition. It is one of just four Royals clubs ever to have three qualified hitters hit .300 or better, and it is just one of eight Royals teams ever to have three 4+ Offensive WAR players. Willie Wilson captured the batting title in 1982, hitting .332 with a league-high 15 triples. He was still a threat on the bases, swiping 37 bags, fifth-best in the league, and he finished sixth in overall WAR among position players.
George Brett was still in his prime, finishing seventh in Offensive WAR, seventh in runs scored, and tenth in OPS. With Wilson and Brett on base all the time, Hal McRae led the league in RBI with 133, doubles with 46, and he finished top ten in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS.
4. 1987 Danny Tartabull/George Brett/Kevin Seitzer
Danny Tartabull .309/.390/.541 34 HR 101 RBI 142 OPS+
George Brett .290/.388/.496 22 HR 78 RBI 131 OPS+
Kevin Seitzer .323/.399/.470 15 HR 83 RBI 128 OPS+
The 1987 season was a juiced-ball year, with home runs going up suddenly 16 percent over the previous season. Sounds familiar, huh? That even applied to the club hitting in the large confines of Royals Stadium, with Royals home runs going up 22 percent to what was then a club record 168 team home runs in 1987.
Some of that was a juiced ball, but some of that was due to the acquisition of a young slugger from Seattle by the name of Danny Tartabull. The outfielder smacked 34 home runs, finishing tied for third in the league, and was also top ten in hits, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases. But perhaps even more promising was rookie third baseman Kevin Seitzer, who was named an All-Star in his first year and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to slugger Mark McGwire. He led the league with 207 hits, threatening the MLB rookie record and finished sixth in batting average. He was fourth in Offensive WAR, eighth in on-base percentage, ninth in runs scored, and eighth in Runs Created.
3. 1977 George Brett/Al Cowens/Hal McRae
George Brett .312/.373/.532 22 HR 88 RBI 142 OPS+
Al Cowens .312/.361/.525 23 HR 112 RBI 137 OPS+
Hal McRae .298/.366/.515 21 HR 92 RBI 136 OPS+
Only two Royals teams have ever had three qualified hitters post a 135 OPS+ or better, the 1972 club in an extreme pitcher’s environment, and the 1977 club. Hal McRae finished just shy of hitting .300, which would have made this club just the 12th team in baseball history to have at least three .300 hitters all with 20 or more home runs. Still, McRae had an impressive season leading the league in doubles with 54, setting a club record that still stands. McRae, who played in all 162 games, finished seventh in hits and fourth in Runs Created. Cowens also played in all 162 games and had a career year, finishing second in MVP voting to Rod Carew and ending up in the league leaders in RBI (fourth), hits (ninth), and slugging percentage (eighth).
But George Brett was still the driving force of this team, finishing fifth in the league with 6.0 Offensive WAR despite playing just 139 games. Brett was tenth in batting average, sixth in slugging percentage, eighth in OPS, and eighth in total bases. The 1977 Royals won a club-record 102 games and with these three pacing the offense, it is easy to see why.
2. 2000 Jermaine Dye/Mike Sweeney/Johnny Damon
Jermaine Dye .321/.390/.561 33 HR 118 RBI 135 OPS+
Mike Sweeney .333/.407/.523 29 HR 144 RBI 131 OPS+
Johnny Damon .327/.382/.495 16 HR 88 RBI 136 R 46 SB 118 OPS+
The 2000 Royals scored the most run in club history with 879, although you have to consider it was at the height of the silly-ball/PED era. Still, it was good for fifth-best in the league, one of just two times the Royals have finished top five in runs scored since 1982 (the other was in 2003). The 1999-2000 Royals were the only two clubs in franchise history to have three 100-RBI hitters, with Joe Randa joining Dye and Sweeney in 2000.
Both the 1999 club and 2000 club had gaudy numbers, but when you factor in the context of the league, the 1999 club falls short while the 2000 club still looks good. Johnny Damon finally lived up to his star potential, leading the league in runs scored and stolen bases and finishing tenth in batting average, second in hits, tenth in doubles, third in triples, and ninth in total bases. Mike Sweeney finished just one run batted in short of leading the league, setting a club record in the process. He also finished third in hits, and tenth in Runs Created. Jermaine Dye became the first Royals hitter in over a decade to be voted into the All-Star team with a team-high 33 home runs. He finished seventh in the league in hits and fifth in total bases.
1. 1976 Hal McRae/George Brett/Amos Otis
Hal McRae .332/.407/.461 8 HR 73 RBI 153 OPS+
George Brett .333/.377/.462 7 HR 67 RBI 144 OPS+
Amos Otis .279/.341/.444 18 HR 86 RBI 26 SB 93 R 128 OPS+
The first team in club history to make the playoffs did so with a tremendous offensive trio. The home run totals may not seem like much by today’s standards, but remember this was a pitcher’s era. In 1976 just ten AL hitters even hit 20 home runs, and only 42 AL hitters managed even 10 home runs. Otis actually finished 11th in the league in home runs with 18, combining power with enough speed to swipe 26 bases. He also led the league with 40 doubles, was fifth in runs scored, and seventh in total bases.
But it was Brett and McRae that really paced the team offensively, as the two battled for the batting title that would have a controversial finish. Both Brett and McRae would finish in the top five in the American League in OPS+, with Brett leading the league in hits, triples, total bases, and McRae leading the league on on-base percentage and OPS. Brett would also led all hitters in Offensive WAR and was second in overall WAR, but finished second in MVP voting to Yankees catcher Thurman Munson (who was probably the third- or fourth-best player on his own team).
This was a difficult list to put together, so there is plenty of room for debate. What trios would you have as the best in Royals history?