Category Archives: Kansas City Royals Gear

Peter Moylan Jersey

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Jorge Soler’s record-settin’ dinger mashin’ earned him a third consecutive Royals Player of the Month award, while Danny Duffy was named Pitcher of the Month.

Soler, 27, led the Royals in September with 10 home runs and 20 RBI, his second straight 10-homer, 20-RBI month. Prior to August, the last Royal to hit 10 homers in a month was Mike Sweeney in June 2001. Soler’s first home run of the month, on September 3 vs. Detroit, was his 39th of the season, which broke a tie with Mike Moustakas (38 in 2017) for the Royals’ single-season record. Soler homered in consecutive games three times in September and had a pair of multi-homer games, on September 11 in Chicago and on September 28 vs. Minnesota. He reached safely in each of his last 14 games and recorded a hit in each of his last eight, including a home run in Game 162 to finish the season with 48, becoming the first Royal ever to lead the American League in home runs.

Former Royals reliever and coffee maker Peter Moylan has nominated himself to manage the Royals following the retirement of Ned Yost:

pic.twitter.com/IRiVw2LrqO

— Peter Moylan (@PeterMoylan) October 1, 2019
The Washington Nationals advanced in a playoff situation, coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 8th to defeat the Brewers 4-3.

Sheryl Ring at Beyond the Boxscore talked to “baseball cop” Eddie Dominguez, who wrote a book about his time as an investigator for MLB’s department of investigations. It was, apparently, an ugly job.

“After fifteen years I saw that… It’s an ugly business. There’s a lot of corruption,” Dominguez said. “It wasn’t all bad. But if I could take it back I would love to. I’ve lost my love for sports. It’s not the same. That was my primary reason for writing the book – to express what I saw that a lot of people don’t see. There’s a lot more to it, but that was my primary reason.”

Also at BtBS, a look at Tyler Duffey’s adjustments making him a weapon for the Twins, written by Patrick Brennan. WAIT, we know Patrick Brennan!

Former Royals pitcher Brian Bannister, now the Red Sox VP of pitching development, was among those who talked to David Laurila of FanGraphs about developing his own changeup:

I originally had a four-seam grip, but I realized that created backspin, which was bad. So I went to a two-seam grip and tried to see how much I could turn it over, how much I could pronate my arm — similar to how Max Scherzer describes his. I tried to think about how much depth I could put on it, instead of how slow I could throw it. That was the difference for me.

The Angels followed their firing of manager Brad Ausmus by firing their pitching coach and bench coach.

Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball now works for the Reds, too.

Tremendously excited to join the Cincinnati @Reds.

A few things:

1) I will remain at @DrivelineBB.
2) I am Director of Pitching Initiatives // Pitching Coordinator.
3) I work almost entirely in the minor leagues, so fortunately, I won’t see @BauerOutage any more than I have to. pic.twitter.com/QMD7voD6Mm

— Kyle Boddy (@drivelinebases) October 1, 2019
If Nashville landed an MLB team, their home might look like these renderings.

‘Sesame Street’ is 50 years old, which means many Royals Review readers grew up with it. Here’s a fascinating look at what went into developing a curriculum for it.

Dolphins are returning to the Potomac River following a prolonged watershed restoration and cleanup effort.

The Highwomen are BACK as the Wednesday song of the day. The little bounciness in the chorus in the “lucky penny” line delights me every time. I want to see someone do a jaunty quickstep to this song.

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This post is part of a series concerning the 2020 Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot, covering executives and long-retired players whose candidacies will be voted upon at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on December 8. It is adapted from a longer version included in The Cooperstown Casebook, published in 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books. For an introduction to JAWS, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

2020 Modern Baseball Candidate: Ted Simmons
Player Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Ted Simmons 50.3 34.8 42.6
Avg. HOF C 54.3 35.1 44.7
H HR AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+
2472 248 .285/.348/.437 118
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
Ted Simmons was one of baseball’s true iconoclasts. He denounced the Vietnam War, wore his hair long, nearly became a test case for the Reserve Clause, and was as conversant in 18th century fireplace utensils (yes, really) as he was the tools of ignorance and the curveballs of opposing pitchers. Oh, and he could switch-hit well enough to rank among the position’s best offensively. With eight All-Star appearances, he was hardly unheralded, but Simmons nonetheless tended to get lost among the bounty of great catchers from the 1970s. Seven of the top 16 in the JAWS rankings hail from that decade, including three of the top four, namely Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Carlton Fisk. Simmons wasn’t quite their equal, but he ranks 10th, just ahead of Modern Baseball ballot-mate Thurman Munson (12th), with Gene Tenace (13th) and Bill Freehan (16th) not far behind.

Such a concentration of top-tier players at a single position in a given time period is hardly unprecedented, even among those already enshrined. Using the Hall’s own definition of activity — at least one game played in a given season — five enshrined catchers were active every year from 1929-37 except ’30. Every other position except third base (which like catcher, has just 15 enshrinees, the lowest at any position besides relievers) has stretches with six or seven active players, with the seven left fielders from 1975-76 the largest of the recent concentrations.

While BBWAA voters elected Johnny Bench on the first ballot in 1989, the electorate otherwise did a pretty lousy job of handling his contemporaries. Before they needed two ballots to elect Fisk (in 2000), or six to elect Carter (in 2003), they completely botched the job when it came to Simmons, who fell off the ballot after receiving just 3.7% in 1994. Not until 2009, after his BBWAA eligibility would have lapsed, was he eligible to be considered for an Era Committee ballot; he’s now appearing on his fourth one. While he didn’t escape the “less than” pack on the 2011 or ’14 Expansion Era ballots, he fell just one vote short of joining Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, both elected via the ’18 Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot. If he can find that elusive 12th vote, he’ll either become the first player elected after going one-and-done via the writers or share the honor with Lou Whitaker, a 2001 victim of the same Five Percent Rule, who’s making his committee ballot debut this year.

Born in 1949 and raised in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Simmons was the son of a harness horse owner and trainer. He played basketball, hockey, and football as well as baseball as a youth, and was talented enough as a halfback to be offered a scholarship to the University of Michigan. He was even better at baseball, so good that the Cardinals drafted him with the 10th pick of the first round in 1967 (nine picks before Bobby Grich) and signed him for a $50,000 bonus. He hit exceptionally well in the minors given his age: .331/.415/.570 with 28 homers at A-level Modesto as an 18-year-old in 1968, then .317/.365/.495 with 16 homers at Triple-A Tulsa the following year. Both seasons ended with big league cameos; he was just 19 years and 43 days old when he debuted on September 21, 1968, going 1-for-2 with a walk against the Dodgers’ Claude Osteen.

In the offseason, Simmons attended the University of Michigan. Ineligible for intercollegiate athletics, he absorbed the surroundings of campus life amid a hotbed of anti-Vietnam sentiment. He was finally called up for good in late May ’70, after finishing his Army reserve duty. His arrival forced Joe Torre, the Cardinals’ regular catcher, to third base. While he didn’t hit much as a rookie, he batted .304/.347/.424 with seven homers and 3.3 WAR in 1971, earning him down-ballot MVP consideration; meanwhile, Torre survived the transition to the hot corner and won the NL batting title and MVP award. Simmons improved to .303/.336/.465 with 16 homers and 4.5 WAR in 1972, but his season was more notable for something else: he became the first playing holdout in major league history.

After making $17,500 in 1971, Simmons received a raise to $25,000 under the Cardinals’ unilateral right to renew his contract under the Reserve Clause — but he wanted $30,000, in part because at the request of management, he had bypassed winter ball and the extra money that would have entailed. Instead of sitting out the regular season, he continued to play. As Marvin Miller, the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, later explained, “Simmons refused to be bluffed into signing a new unsatisfactory contract in order to be ‘allowed’ into uniform. The union advised [him] that once his contract was renewed, he was under contract and could not be barred from spring training or from the regular season, even if he refused to sign that contract.”⁠

Simmons suggested that he could take his case to court. His lack of a signed contract raised the question of what would happen if he made it through the entire season without one. Would he be a free agent, since the Reserve Clause, which allowed the team “to renew the contract for the period of one year”⁠ — a clause that the owners interpreted as “in perpetuity,” with each one-year period rolling over to the next — would no longer be in effect? Wary of allowing him to test a case that carried ramifications for the entire industry, the Cardinals signed him to a two-year, $75,000 deal on July 24.

Simmons went against the grain in other ways. A 1978 Sports Illustrated profile by Ron Fimrite introduced him as the St. Louis Art Museum’s newest trustee, described his and wife Maryanne’s collection of early 18th century furniture, and summarized his early-career rebelliousness:

[H]e was unyielding even when it became evident that his views did not sit well in a community as conservative as St. Louis. He denounced the Vietnam war and was outspoken in his contempt for the Nixon Administration. He allowed his hair to grow to his shoulders; that gave him a leonine look and earned him the nickname Simba… At that time, he was a lion roaring his defiance.

Simmons’ iconoclasm was hardly a detriment to consistent performance. Even with a mediocre 1976 season (five homers and a .394 slugging percentage), he averaged 17 homers a year from 1971-80 while hitting a combined .301/.367/.466 for a 131 OPS+ (16th in the majors). Aided by occasional appearances at first base or left field, he averaged a hefty 148 games for that stretch, and topped a .300 batting average six times, cracking the league’s top 10 five times, including a second-place finish in 1975 (.332). Meanwhile, he made the top 10 in on-base and slugging percentages four times apiece.

His defense was a bit rougher. Though Simmons led the league in passed balls three times, he was basically average according to Total Zone (-2 runs behind the plate for the decade, and -9 in limited infield and outfield duty), and average or better when it came to throwing out would-be base thieves in seven out of those 10 seasons. When combined with the value of his bat, he ranked among the league’s top 10 in WAR five times, and either first or second in WAR among NL catchers eight times. His 44.7 WAR for the stretch ranked 11th in the majors, and second among catchers behind Bench (54.7).

Simmons made six All-Star teams across that decade, and in 1978, replaced an injured Bench as the NL starter, thereby breaking his nine-year stranglehold on the honor. Alas, he remained stuck on a team that hadn’t been to the postseason since 1968, in part because they traded away Steve Carlton, heir apparent to Bob Gibson as the staff ace. The Cardinals finished second in the NL East three times with Simmons, winning as many as 90 games, but slipping below .500 three times, including in 1978 and ’80.

In mid-1980, Whitey Herzog joined the Cardinals, first as manager and then adding general manager duties. He and Simmons didn’t click, to say the least, but his main beef wasn’t the catcher’s hair length or taste in antique furniture — it was his defense. In a league where stolen base attempts were about 70% more common than today, and where the 116 steals allowed by Simmons ranked as the second-highest total (albeit with a league-average 31% caught rate), Herzog viewed Simmons’ throwing as a liability. In his 1999 memoir, You’re Missing a Great Game, the White Rat expounded:

Ted Simmons, God bless him, was a fine person who cared about winning. But he had one major weakness as a ballplayer: poor arm strength. Unfortunately for the Cardinals organization, that one flaw was a bigger disaster than anybody around me seemed to realize. Ted’s fluttery throws to second were enough to scuttle the Cards and keep the fans away… Because Ted threw poorly to second, every team in the world knew they could swipe that base in the late innings.

To a degree, Herzog may have had a point; the numbers back up his assertion that the Cardinals were weak in defending the stolen base in the late innings. Per Baseball-Reference.com, from 1971-80, they ranked sixth out of 26 teams in terms of both stolen base rate from the seventh to ninth innings (prorated to 0.61 per nine) and success rate (68%). Even so, the cost was minimal. Using a typical era-appropriate linear weights value of 0.2 runs for a successful steal and −0.4 runs for an unsuccessful one,⁠ Cardinals’ opponents gained a net 4.6 runs via late-inning steals, where the average team’s opponents cost themselves 2.8 runs — a difference of 8.4 runs for the decade, or 0.84 runs per year. For 1980, the team allowed the second-highest stolen base total of any NL team in innings 7-9 (46, at a 74% success rate); the difference via linear weights between the Cardinals and the average team amounts to 2.0 runs, with Simmons catching 76% of the team’s innings — so perhaps 1.5 runs, in a year when his offense was 24 runs better than the average hitter (not average catcher). Herzog’s suggestion that the combination not only had a significantly deleterious effect on the Cardinals’ chances of winning but on their attendance, which rose and fell with their record but was generally in the middle third of the league, is a gross exaggeration.

Herzog considered moving Simmons to first base and 1979 NL co-MVP Keith Hernandez to left field, a plan that was received lukewarmly, and rightly so. Instead, in a busy week in December 1980, he signed free agent Darrell Porter, a nominally superior defender who had caught for his Royals teams, and in the third in a series of three blockbusters traded Simmons to the Brewers, the only team truly interested in keeping him at catcher, no small consideration for a player who could use 10-and-5 rights (10 years of major league service time, five with the same team ) to block any deal. Also heading to Milwaukee were Rollie Fingers (whom Herzog had just acquired from the Padres) and Pete Vuckovich, for the much younger David Green, Dave LaPoint, Sixto Lezcano and Lary Sorensen.

In his 1983 Baseball Abstract, Bill James depicted the Herzog-Simmons breakup as a matter of exerting managerial authority (“If I had to trade that man for five cents on the dollar, I’d trade him… If Whitey Herzog didn’t have the guts to run Ted Simmons out of St. Louis, he might as well have quit on the spot”). Dan Okrent gave a more nuanced depiction in his classic Nine Innings, where he caught up with Simmons as a Brewer in 1982. Per Okrent, Simmons’ reluctance to move had everything to do with fear that he would embarrass himself attempting to replace Hernandez, an 11-time Gold Glove winner who’s second all-time in fielding runs among first basemen. The dropoff would have stood out, to say the least.

While Herzog’s multiple deals laid the groundwork for the Cardinals’ 1982 championship, the Simmons trade actually helped Milwaukee more than St. Louis. Fingers won AL Cy Young and MVP honors in the strike-torn 1981, Vuckovich won the Cy Young in ’82 (thanks to strong run support), and the Brewers made the postseason for the first and second times in franchise history. Simmons scuffled in the strike year (.216/.262/.376, 0.3 WAR), but rebounded (.269/.309/.451 with 23 homers and 3.4 WAR) to help the Brewers win the 1982 AL pennant. Facing Herzog’s Cardinals in the World Series, he received a warm welcome from St. Louis fans and homered in each of the first two games there, but finished just 4-for-23 in a losing cause.

Simmons earned the AL starting catcher nod for the 1983 All-Star Game and accumulated 4.0 WAR even while DHing in 66 games; his performance crashed through the floor in 1984, his age-34 season. With the much more defensively adept Jim Sundberg joining Milwaukee via trade, Simmons couldn’t find a comfort zone at first base, third base, or DH and wound up hitting a woeful .221/.269/.300 (61 OPS+) with just four homers in 132 games. His -2.6 WAR was not only the worst in the league, it remains tied for the 15th-lowest in the post-1960 expansion era. While he recovered somewhat the next year (104 OPS+, 1.0 WAR), he spent his final three seasons with the Braves, pinch-hitting and spotting at catcher and first base. He retired following the 1988 season and remained in baseball, working as a coach, scout, and executive (including as general manager of the Pirates from early 1992 to mid-1993, when a heart attack forced him to step down) but never landing a managerial job.

Simmons figured to have a legitimate shot at election to the Hall of Fame when he reached the BBWAA ballot in 1994 given his standings on the hits leaderboards for catchers (second at the time) and switch-hitters (sixth), as well as his eight All-Star appearances. His score of 124 on James’ Hall of Fame Monitor, based on common statistical benchmarks and accomplishments for old-school stats, is near “virtual cinch” territory (130), between contemporaries Fisk (120) and Carter (135). Yet with 300-win pitchers Carlton and Don Sutton making their ballot debuts, Phil Niekro a holdover, and Orlando Cepeda in his final year of eligibility, Simmons got lost in the shuffle, receiving just 3.7% of the vote. Not only was that not enough to return for the 1995 ballot, it eliminated him from consideration in front of the Veterans Committee through 2008; with the Hall of Famer-engorged Veterans Committee in flux, he didn’t get onto another ballot until the smaller ’11 Expansion Era committee.

What happened? On the BBWAA front, one has to wonder if Simmons’ early-career contract rebellion, long hair, and his not being cut from the typical major league cloth hurt his standing among an older generation of writers who saw him as too radical. That’s pure speculation on my part, as I found no mention of such factors in the election coverage. His missing the cut by just four votes (receiving 17, when 21 were needed) took many by surprise, including the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Bob Broeg, who covered Simmons during his career, voted for him, and called his shortfall “a shame” while noting that had the Five Percent Rule been in place earlier (it was adopted in 1979), players such as Bob Lemon and Red Ruffing wouldn’t have been elected by the writers.

His sinking without a trace didn’t entirely escape notice. In 1996, writers within the BBWAA mounted an effort to petition the Hall of Fame’s board of directors to restore the eligibility of Simmons, ’91 candidates Larry Bowa and Al Oliver, and ’93 candidate Bill Madlock, all of whom had fallen short of 5% in their first year on the ballot. As had been done with Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Ron Santo and eight others for the 1985 ballot, the plan was for them to get another chance to clear 5%. While the Hall board was receptive to the idea, the proposal was never formalized, and Simmons et al never got a second chance.

When Simmons finally got his chance for reconsideration in 2011, as fate would have it, Herzog was among the eight Hall of Famers sitting on the 16-man panel appointed by the Hall’s board of directors, which elected executive Pat Gillick and came within one vote of electing Miller, the former union head. The group gave eight votes to one former player, Davey Concepcion, whose former teammates Bench and Tony Perez were on the committee. The eight other candidates (including Simmons) all received fewer than eight votes, though the Hall didn’t announce their actual totals.

Herzog was still on the committee when Simmons came up on the 2014 Expansion Era ballot. Bench and Perez were gone, but fellow catcher Fisk and Simmons’ former Brewers teammate Paul Molitor were both on the committee. It made no difference. The committee unanimously elected managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Torre; none of the six players (including Concepcion and Simmons) or three non-players (Miller, Billy Martin, and George Steinbrenner) received more than six votes. While it’s not hard to imagine Herzog’s view of Simmons carrying considerable weight among those undecided, two other Post-Dispatch writers have reported that it was Simmons’ short stay on the BBWAA ballot that hurt him. Said Rick Hummel, who has served on the Historical Overview Committee that puts together the ballot, “The first question these Hall of Famers ask you is, ‘How many ballots was he on for the writers’ election? One? They must not have liked him very much.”

Wrote Derrick Goold, “[The voters] have a chance to prove the writers wrong —and they should… and instead they choose to use that vote to legitimize theirs. It’s maddening.”

Viewed today, Simmons’ merits are clear. He ranked among his league’s top 10 in WAR five times, and in one of the three slash stats (average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) a combined 15 times. Among his contemporaries, Bench ranked among the top 10 in WAR eight times, Carter six times, and Fisk four; in terms of slash stats it’s Bench six times, Carter four times, and Fisk nine times. Simmons’ 118 OPS+ ranks “only” 13th among catchers with at least 5,000 plate appearances, but his ranking climbs significantly when playing time is considered: 10th at the 6,000 PA cutoff, seventh at the 7,000 PA cutoff. In terms of batting runs (i.e., runs above average), which accounts for his offensive excellence and playing time in one fell swoop, he’s 10th among catchers at 172, just ahead of Fisk (168) and Carter (160).

Simmons’ defense, so maligned at times during his playing days, wasn’t nearly as costly as it was made out to be. Among catchers in the post-1960 expansion era, his 182 passed balls rank second, and his 0.11 per nine innings third; meanwhile, his 1,188 stolen bases allowed is sixth, but his stolen base rate of 0.71 per nine is 16th. Carter (0.78 per nine) is eighth in that category, and just below Simmons is Tony Pena (0.69), widely considered among the best defenders of his day; Simmons’ 34.0% caught stealing rate is less than a point behind Pena’s 34.8%. While not as complete as more modern metrics — we don’t have any estimates of his pitch framing — his blocking and stolen base prevention is captured in Total Zone. While he was 34 runs below average for all of his defensive work, he was just eight below average for his time behind the plate; he was much worse in small samples at first base, left field, and third base. That’s not insignificant, but neither is it grounds for eliminating him from consideration, particularly with Piazza (-63 runs overall, offset by particularly strong framing), Mickey Cochrane (-40), and Ernie Lombardi (-12) enshrined.

Though Simmons is short of all three WAR standards, he’s nonetheless 10th in both career WAR and JAWS, and a respectable 15th in peak. At a position that both BBWAA and committee voters have given short shrift, that’s more than good enough. He faces a ballot crunch, competing for votes with the likes of Whitaker and Dwight Evans, both of whom are getting their long-awaited first chances; Miller, who like Simmons previously missed by one vote, and four other players (Munson, Dale Murphy, Steve Garvey, and Dave Parker) who each won MVP awards. That’s fierce competition, but if Simmons can sustain momentum from last time around – and I have no evidence that’s a thing in this format – he’ll make history and get his rightful spot in Cooperstown.

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The Royals have activated shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, catcher Cam Gallagher, and pitcher Danny Duffy from the injured list as Major League rosters are allowed to expand to include anyone on the 40-man roster. The Royals have also recalled pitcher Heath Fillmyer.

Mondesi went on the Injured List back on July 17 with a left shoulder subluxation after diving for a foul ball. He spent ten days on rehab assignment with Omaha, smacking a home run in his last game on Friday.

Mondesi exits stage right with a 2-run BLAST to up our lead to 4-0 in the 5th! (and yeah, we think he knew)

Mondesi will be limited in his activities. He can play the field, but is under orders not to dive for any balls or slide head-first into bases. Mondesi is in his first full season in the big leagues and is hitting .266/.294/.433 with seven home runs, 31 steals and a league-high nine triples.

Danny Duffy suffered a hamstring injury while jogging on the field before a game back on August 5. He rejoined the club this week after making a rehab start last weekend with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Duffy has a 4.93 ERA in 18 starts this year with 90 strikeouts and 36 walks in 100 1/3 innings, after missing the first month of the season with a shoulder injury. Duffy will start Sunday afternoon against the Royals. The Royals have talked about ending the year with a six-man rotation, with Jakob Junis, Glenn Sparkman, Mike Montgomery, Jorge Lopez, and Eric Skoglund getting starts this week. Brad Keller has been shut down for the year to limit his innings.

Cam Gallagher went on the Injured List back on August 8 with an oblique injury. He was hitting .238/.312/.365 with three home runs in 45 games. All three catchers on the Royals’ roster – Gallagher, Nick Dini, and Meibrys Viloria – are rookies.

Heath Fillmyer returns after posting a 5.11 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings for Triple-A Omaha. He had been pitching much better out of the bullpen after returning from a shoulder injury, giving up just six runs over his last 17 innings. The 25-year old right-hander gave up 15 runs in 15 innings in a stint with the Royals back in April.

Newly acquired first baseman Ryan McBroom is also expected to be added to the Major League roster, and more callups could happen after minor league seasons end on Monday. Dayton Moore told Bob Fescoe on 610 Sports that he expected some pitchers on the 40-man roster to be promoted, but no surprises, so that likely means Kansas City fans won’t see top pitching prospects Jackson Kowar or Brady Singer get a cup of coffee in September.

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Thursday’s press conference and announcement of Mike Matheny as the 17th manager of the Kansas City Royals was not a surprise.
The surprise is the reaction from a Kansas City Royals fan base that should be excited about the future of the organization rather than question the decision.

Mike Matheny was hired at the end of the 2018 season as special adviser for player development. Ironically, it was the same position Ned Yost had prior to replacing Trey Hillman at the beginning of the 2010 season.

For those that forget, Yost was fired by the Brewers with just 12 games remaining in the 2008 campaign. That same year the Brewers made it to the NLDS where they lost to the eventual World Series Champion Phillies in five games.

Both managers have taken the same path to becoming managers of the Royals to include being the only managers ever fired during the season with winning records.

Thursday’s press conference gave most us the first chance at hearing from Matheny since he was relieved by the Cardinals. His message was very clear; Mike Matheny loves the game of baseball. Not only did he loved it as a player, but he loves to manage. That is important to winning in Kansas City.

The majority of the criticism that has been placed on Mike Matheny has come from the fans of the St. Louis Cardinals, who have grown accustom to being over critical and quick to place blame when their team doesn’t win.

We have heard all the stories that Matheny was fired by the Cardinals because the culture in the clubhouse eroded. He was criticized for what was believed to be hazing towards younger players and being stubborn to make changes in the lineup.

Hazing has no place in today’s society period, but being stubborn describes most managers in MLB. Not just Mike Matheny.

As the special adviser for player development, Matheny has had the chance to reflect and decide if he indeed was ready to make the return to the dugout. He has had the ability to spend time in the Royals farm system to evaluate and be a part of the development of some of the younger players that are critical to success of the franchise’s future.

It’s a future that appears very similar to a decision to hire Ned Yost in 2010. It was a decision by Dayton Moore that ultimately landed Kansas City a World Series and most likely the number 3 retired next to Dick Howser‘s number 10 in left field.

Matheny spent nearly six seasons as the Cardinals’ skipper and had a winning percentage of .555 with appearances in four playoffs to include one World Series in 2013. Not a bad resumé if one simply ignores all the critics.

Thursday, Matheny was quoted as saying “I don’t think you can ever trust a leader without a limp.” Royals fans shouldn’t give him a cane or crutch, but rather give him a chance. He has probably learned from his mistakes and might just get the Royals back to the playoffs sooner rather than later.

Remember that the Cardinals and their fans also ran off a guy by the name of Joe Torre.

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Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas has a great chance to break Steve Balboni‘s franchise record for home runs in a season. That is, as long as he stays healthy.
The Kansas City Royals single season home run record may well be one of the more pathetic marks in baseball. Set by Steve Balboni in 1985, the burly slugger hit 36 home runs as the Royals won the World Series. While a few players have come close, no one has surpassed Balboni’s mark, leaving the Royals as the only team without a 40 home run hitter in their history.

That could be changing this year. Third baseman Mike Moustakas already has 32 homers on the season, and seemingly has Balboni dead to rights. It would take an injury or a sudden power outage for Moustakas to keep from passing Balboni, and possibly becoming the first Royal to get that elusive 40 homers. Well…

Mike Moustakas was battling a sore knee after the fluid drained from getting hit by Bruce Rondon. Something appears to be hindering him.

It appears as though the Ghost of Steve Balboni will not go down without a fight. As Moustakas was in the lineup on Tuesday, albeit as a designated hitter, that soreness from being hit by a Bruce Rondon pitch does not appear to be serious. But, if there is something hindering the Royals slugger, Balboni Watch may bear watching for another reason.

At this point, Moustakas is the Royals best, and likely, only chance to end Balboni’s reign of terror. Salvador Perez, the only other member of the Royals with more than 20 homers, is on the disabled list with an intercostal strain. It is all up to Moustakas if the Ghost of Balboni will finally be exorcised.

Fortunately for the Kansas City Royals, Mike Moustakas’ injury does not appear to be major. But it does serve as a reminder that Steve Balboni will not go down without a fight.

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Ian Kennedy spent last offseason training to return from injury as a starter, having held that role throughout his MLB career. He entered the spring in a good physical place despite recent hamstring and oblique strains.

But the 34-year-old received news he didn’t expect — or want to hear — when he arrived at Royals camp. General manager Dayton Moore, manager Ned Yost and pitching coach Cal Eldred informed him he would serve as a relief pitcher moving forward.

From an organizational perspective, it made sense for Kansas City to try something else. Kennedy had pitched to a 5.06 ERA the previous two years, and his durability waned in that time. The rebuilding Royals were eager to provide more starts to younger pitchers.

Still, Kennedy felt an initial wave of hurt. He had served one function his whole career, and he had been good at it for long stretches. His team was telling him to give up his identity.

“I was going back and forth,” Kennedy told Sporting News. “It was a mental battle more than anything.”

MORE: Twins’ playoff success tied to Jose Berrios

That Eldred once made the same transition from starter to reliever helped Kennedy eventually agree to the change. He realized joining Kansas City’s bullpen was his only sure path to continued big league security. The Royals also had a strong track record of molding lockdown closers from lost members of their rotation.

As long as the club helped him learn his new responsibilities, giving him specific pointers to smooth the process, Kennedy would follow what his higher-ups requested.

“When you know you’re not really in control of it,” Kennedy said, “you’ve got to surrender and just kind of be like, ‘OK, this is what I’m going to do. If this is where I’m going to pitch, then OK. I’m going to do the best I can.’”

That acceptance has worked out pretty well for him.

Kennedy won the closer’s job for good in June by performing well in seventh- and eighth-inning appearances. He has recorded 30 saves so far this year. He boasts a 3.28 ERA this season, his best mark since 2011, and is striking out a career-high 10.4 batters per nine innings.

The right-hander’s mindset toward late-inning outings is different now. He said he feeds off an energy level he never used to reach as a starter, which minimizes the pressure of ninth innings by keeping him too amped to consider what could go wrong.

An important part of Kennedy’s success has been condensing his large collection of pitches into a potent, streamlined power surge. He upped his fastball usage, and because short appearances let him give max effort each pitch, the heater has crept from the low-90s to mid-90s on the radar gun. He does not have to get tricky or shuffle through an array of offerings anymore. He ditched his changeup to simplify his approach.

“You’re not trying to get Matt Chapman out three times in a game,” Kennedy said. “You’re just trying to get him out once. Just do that.”

Kennedy watched from afar when the Royals turned middling starter Wade Davis into the league’s best closer earlier this decade. One of his best friends, Luke Hochevar, also improved his stock by making the transition to the bullpen.

Now a part of the relief pitcher experience, he said he’s hooked on the position.

As he tried to describe why he enjoys it so much, and why he hopes to spend the rest of his career out of the bullpen, his mind wandered to his ninth-inning perspective from the mound. He mentioned the urgency apparent from opponents in the batter’s box, and the way crowds seem to expand or deflate with each pitch. He noted how fans stand up whenever he’s a strike away from completing a save.

“It’s a totally different adrenaline rush,” Kennedy said. “I really, really like it.”

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It may seems hard to believe sometimes, but it was just five years ago that the Royals got hot and made a run for the post-season that would take them all the way to Game 7 of the World Series and would ultimately leave them just two runs short of winning a championship. They would cross that threshold the following season, but the 2014 season was a magical season that gave Kansas City its first taste of post-season baseball in three decades.

We all remember the stars from that team – Hos, Moose, LoCain, Esky, Gordo, Salvy, Big Game James, Yordano, and HDH. But you may have forgotten about some of the players that came up for just a bit that year, contributing a few plate appearances, or maybe an inning or two out of the pen. For nostalgia’s sake, let’s take a look back at some of the players from the 2014 Royals you may have forgotten about.

Pedro Ciriaco
The Royals selected Ciriaco off waivers from the Padres in 2013, and he appeared in five games with the Royals that season as a utility infielder. He made the Opening Day roster in 2014, but appeared in just one game, where he scored a run as a pinch-runner, before the Royals designated him for assignment. He cleared waivers and was back up in May, replacing an injured Omar Infante. He appeared in 25 games, starting 11, and hit .213/.229/.255 with four stolen bases before the Royals designated him for assignment again at the end of June.

Where is he now? Ciriaco spent the rest of that season in Omaha, before playing with the Braves in 2015. He bounced around in the minors with the Tigers, Marlins, and Rangers and last played before playing in the Mexican League. Pedro signed with the Sussex County Miners in the independent Can-Am League to play with his brother Audy, but Pedro has been out with an injury all year.

Justin Maxwell
Maxwell is best-remembered for his walk-off grand slam off then-Rangers pitcher Joakim Soria as the Royals tried to hang around the Wild Card race in 2013. Maxwell was a solid right-handed bat off the bench who could play all three outfield positions. He made the Opening Day roster the following season, but he didn’t find much playing time and failed to hit when he did get game action. He hit .138 in 16 games before the Royals sent him down in mid-May, coming back up for a few games in June before the Royals designated him for assignment to make room for Raul Ibanez.

Where is he now? Maxwell found more playing time with the Giants the next season. He spent a year in Boston’s system before briefly going to Korea. He retired after 2016 and is planning on attending dental school.

Erik Kratz
The Royals picked up Kratz in late June along with pitcher Liam Hendriks for third baseman Danny Valencia, a move done mostly to get Valencia out of the clubhouse, but also to provide an upgrade at backup catcher over Brett Hayes. Kratz would become the Maytag repairman, appearing in just 13 games over the last two months, with Salvy starting 35 of the final 36 games of the year.

Where is he now? Kratz did not make his MLB debut until age 30, but is still going strong at age 39, having played in 21 games for the Giants and Rays this year. He has appeared in 316 games for nine teams, and is currently playing for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate.

Jimmy Paredes
The Royals won Paredes in a waiver wire war in the off-season before the 2014 season that took him from Houston to Miami to Baltimore, and finally to Kansas City. Paredes could play all over the field, and the Royals brought him up in late April to replace an injured Jarrod Dyson. Paredes appeared in just nine games before he was back on the waiver wire, again claimed by Baltimore.

Where is he now? Paredes had a solid season as a reserve for the Orioles in 2015, and he would play a bit for the Phillies and Blue Jays before going overseas to play in Japan and Korea. Still just 30, Paredes plays for the Somerset Patriots in the independent Atlantic League.

Carlos Peguero
The Royals purchased Peguero from the Mariners the winter before the 2014 season, and the 27-year old outfielder had a monster season for Omaha that year, smacking 30 home runs. He came up as a September call up and appeared in four games with the Royals that fall. The team flirted with the idea of having him in the mix as a starting right fielder in 2015, but released him just a few weeks later.

Where is he now? Peguero bounced around in Triple-A with the Rangers, Red Sox, and Cardinals before becoming a slugger in Japan for Rakuten for three seasons. The 32-year old has spent this year playing in both Korea and Mexico.

Jayson Nix
The Royals claimed Nix off waivers from the Pirates at the end of August, days before the deadline to be eligible for the post-season, as the Royals wanted a veteran middle infielder. Nix would not record a hit in his nine plate appearances, but did make the post-season roster, and even made two plate appearances in the World Series, going hitless.

Where is he now? Nix’s last MLB game was in that World Series. He hung it up in 2015 after a full season in Triple-A. It is not clear what Nix is up to now, but he can be proud of his seven-year MLB career that included two post-seasons.

Johnny Giavotella
Some Royals Review readers were pining for Giavotella to be the starting second basemen, but you may have forgotten he was still on the 2014 team. He was called up in April after Omar Infante was hit in the face with a pitch, and came up again as a September callup, appearing in 12 games overall, hitting .216/.268/.324. He became an enthusiastic cheerleader in the dugout, and can be seen in many photos supporting his teammates during the post-season run.

Where is he now? Johnny’s stint with the Royals came to an end after that season as he was traded to the Angels to briefly serve as their starting second baseman. He appeared in a few games in Baltimore, and spent all of last season playing for the White Sox’ top affiliate before retiring to get his MBA from Tulane. He did bring back most of his Royals buddies back for his wedding in 2018.

Lane Adams
Adams was a speedy former 13th-round pick who came up for the Royals as a September callup to play the outfield. He never started a game, coming into six games as a substitute, and going hitless in three plate appearances.

Where is he now? Adams spent another year in the organization before going on waivers and bouncing around a bit. He stuck with the Braves in 2017 enough to get into 85 games that year and spent most of this year playing in Triple-A with the Phillies before they let him go in June, leaving him to re-join the Braves.

Francisco Pena
The son of former manager Tony Pena, and brother of former shortstop Tony Pena, Jr., Francisco signed as a minor league free agent with the Royals and spent nearly the entire season in Omaha. When Salvador Perez injured his hand in May, the Royals brought Pena up as a precaution. He entered just one game, as a defensive replacement for one inning before being sent back down. Although he came back as a September callup, he never appeared in another game that year.

Where is he now? Pena got in a few more games with the Royals in 2015 before moving on to the Orioles and Cardinals. He has spent all of this season in Triple-A playing with the Cardinals and Giants.

Liam Hendriks
Along with Kratz, Hendriks was acquired from the Blue Jays for Danny Valencia. In his first outing with the Royals, Hendriks spun a terrific seven-inning start against the Twins. He appeared in just six games with the Royals, with a 4.66 ERA in 19 1⁄3 innings.

Where is he now? The Royals traded Hendriks back to the Jays after the season, and after a year in Toronto he became an excellent reliever with the A’s, and made his first All-Star team this year.

Casey Coleman
Coleman, no relation to Royals reliever Louis Coleman, did have big leaguers in his family – his father (Joe) and grandfather (also Joe) both played in the big leagues. After the Cubs released Casey in April, the Royals took a chance on the 26-year old and stashed him in Omaha. He had three separate stints with the Royals, giving up eight runs in 12 innings.

Where is he now? Coleman has yet to appear in the big leagues again, bouncing around in the minors with the Mariners, Rays, Astros, Cubs again, and this year, with the Mets.

Michael Mariot
Mariot was a Nebraska Cornhusker taken in the 8th round by the Royals. The Royals brought him up in April and he spent all of May and June with the club, getting 25 innings with a 6.48 ERA.

Where is he now? Mariot spent three innings with the Royals in 2015 before the Phillies grabbed him off waivers. He rejoined the Royals last summer and pitched in Double-A and Triple-A and has spent this summer in Mexico and with Sugar Land in the independent Atlantic League.

Justin Marks
Marks had been acquired from Oakland in the David DeJesus deal in 2010, but didn’t reach the big leagues until 2014. He came up for just one game in April and gave up three runs in two innings. The A’s wanted him back and purchased him from the Royals in May.

Where is he now? Marks got some more Major League action with the Rays in 2016 and 2017, retiring after that season.

Wilking Rodriguez
Two bits for anyone that remembers Wilking Rodriguez from the 2014 Royals. Rodriguez was once a Rays prospect, signed by the Royals before the 2014 season as a minor league free agent. He appeared in two games, tossing two shutout innings, was sent back down and released in August.

Where is he now? Rodriguez last appeared in affiliated ball in 2015 in the Yankees system, but he did pitch a bit in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2017 and 2018.

Donnie Joseph
Joseph was acquired from the Reds for reliever Jonathan Broxton in 2012, and made his MLB debut the next season, pitching in a handful of innings. The Royals brought him up in June, put him in the ninth inning of a game they were up 11-2, and he gave up six runs and made it an interesting ending.

Where is he now? The Marlins purchased Joseph later that year, and he spent the next two seasons in independent ball before hanging it up.

Aaron Brooks
Brooks was a ninth-round pick who made his MLB debut on May 3 that year, giving up six runs in the ninth against the Tigers. He would actually fare worse his next time out, giving up seven runs while recording just two outs in a start against the Blue Jays. The Royals had seen enough and he stayed in Omaha the rest of the year.

Where is he now? Despite an inauspicious beginning, Brooks came back up in 2015 to appear in 13 games, 9 of them starts for the Royals. He was traded to the Athletics as part of the Ben Zobrist trade and is now in the Orioles rotation, with a 9.41 ERA in six starts.

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On Sunday in Minneapolis, the Royals lost for the 100th time in 2019. That comes one year after losing 104 games. It is the sixth time in franchise history the Royals have reached triple-digits in the loss column.

Honest to the baseball gods, it used to be a point of pride in the Royals front office that the team never finished in last place, nor ever suffered 100 losses. They were an expansion team, for crying out loud! A 100 loss season and a last place finish were expected. In their expansion class, both the Expos and Padres lost 110 games and finished last in their respective divisions in 1969. The Seattle Pilots occupied the cellar in the AL West that year. Of course, the Pilots moved to Milwaukee and have played in all three AL divisions at one time and have since moved to the NL.

The first 100 loss Royals team was the 2002 edition. On offense, the lineup featured Mike Sweeney, Raul Ibanez and Carlos Beltran. Difficult to believe a team could crash to 100 defeats with that middle of the order. I wonder if we’ll someday look back on Merrifield, Dozier and Soler and think the same thing.

Interestingly enough, 2002 was also the first 100 loss season for the Pilots/Brewers franchise. The difference is, that remains the only century mark loss team in club history. Makes you think.

In the Dayton Moore Era, the Royals average won-loss record is 74-87. (It doesn’t add up to a full 162 because there’s still a week left in the current season.) That’s a .460 winning percentage. The club will finish fourth in the Central this year (thank you, Detroit!) so we can go ahead and average out their divisional finish in the Moore Era to roughly 3.5 place. This does not take into account the 2006 season where a 13-38 start got Allard Baird (a good baseball man!) sacked with Moore taking over at the end of May.

That’s a lot of losing.

The AL Central occupies a unique place in the baseball world. Without a big-market club in the mix (seriously, what the hell is wrong with you Chicago?) it’s a bunch of scrappy bottom feeders. The windows of contention theory apply here more than just about anywhere else in baseball. That’s seen in how the divisional races have played out over the last decade. The Tigers were the dominant team from 2011 to 2014. They were passed by the Royals for a year, who were then passed by Cleveland who led the way for three years. Now the baton has been passed to Minnesota.

Here’s how the teams in the division have fared since 2007.

AL Central Titles in the Moore Era
Team Division Titles Wild Cards AL Pennants World Championships
Chicago 1 0 0 0
Cleveland 4 1 1 0
Detroit 4 0 1 0
Kansas City 1 1 2 1
Minnesota 2 1 0 0
This is nuts. It’s as if the AL Central exists to get sand kicked in their collective faces by the bullies in the East and West. Get hot in October and maybe you’ll ride it to the World Series. But a title? Forget about it.

And White Sox? My god. You should be embarrassed.

(I should drop in here that Minnesota’s total of division titles will increase to three sometime this week. Maybe another Wild Card for Cleveland. It will be another few weeks before we can close out the rest of the columns for 2019.)

It’s interesting to note that in the Wild Card Era (dating back to 1995) the AL Central won the a Wild Card exactly one time (Detroit in 2006) when they awarded just one. Now that the playoffs have been expanded to include two Wild Card teams, the Central has found a little more success.

If pennants are the aloe that soothe the scars of losing, what the hell happens when the aloe runs dry? There has been a ton of losing in the Moore Era sandwiched between a two year run to glory. The window of opportunity was open a shorter length of time than everyone thought it would be, but slammed shut with authority. And now, with the second consecutive 100 loss season, the organization once again feels adrift. Yes, the minor league system is looking up and the lower levels all celebrated championships this month. That’s something for the organization to hang their hat on, but low-A success is no guarantee for the future.

Ownership will likely change at some point this offseason which makes Moore future with the club somewhat uncertain. Despite David Glass’s proclamations that he hated losing and that “losing is for losers,” did you really ever believe that? I mean it would maybe make sense… except for all the losing. It’s doubtful new ownership will have the same tolerance as the current regime. (Although we would be wise to always keep the Bell Axiom in the dark recesses of our mind. The man knew a thing or two about losing.)

The Process 2.0 may be motoring along in the low minors, but it seems patience is rarely rewarded in the Central. Opportunity is made to be taken. Because that smart thing you’ve finally figured out? At least two division rivals are looking at doing the exact same thing. (Seriously, White Sox… What the hell?)

This is the space the Royals now occupy. They have the MLB hits leader, the AL league leader in triples, and the likely outright AL home run leader, yet can average only 4.25 runs per game. Adalberto Mondesi left Sunday’s game and is out for the rest of the season after re-injuring his shoulder. Jorge Lopez couldn’t pitch three innings. And the team that plays across the parking lot will consume 98% of the hot sports takes you hear on Monday. Hell, for all I know, I’m writing in a Royals vacuum.

Another 100 loss season. The Royals should be worried. Is anybody out there?

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Big league debuts are fun! With very few exceptions (hi, Eduardo Villacis!), every big league debut brings the promise of a long, prosperous career. Sometimes those hopes are very misguided and other times, they’re downright fantastical. And yet, a big league debut is the one moment where anything is possible. Just like the Royals found themselves on first place on Opening Day the last two seasons, a big league debut can always be the start of something truly great and historic.

In Royals history, 341 players have worn the blue and white (and sometimes, randomly, black) for their big league debut. Juan Rios and Bill Butler (not to be confused with good ol’ Country Breakfast) were the first. They both came in the franchise’s second game, a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins in 17 innings. Butler came on to start the eighth inning and then pitched five innings of scoreless, one-hit relief. Juan Rios came into the game to play second base in the top of the ninth after Pat Kelly pinch ran for Jerry Adair. He singled to Jim Kaat in the bottom of the 11th and then was pinch hit for in the bottom of the 12th. All in all, not too bad!

Erick Mejia is the Royals most recent big league debut, getting the start in center field in a 6-4 loss to the Tigers just a few short months ago. He went 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout. Not as good!

Okay, so here’s the deal on these numbers. They’re all using Baseball Reference’s version of WAR because they have the best database of big league debuts. Also, when I looked at their debut seasons, that’s all I looked at. Mike Trout was worth 10.5 WAR in his rookie season, but 0.5 WAR in his debut season. Just keep that in mind when you think I must have a miscalculation somewhere. And there are some numbers in here that may not be fair. The 2011 debut class, for example, is just the fourth best in the history of the franchise by career bWAR. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be third if this article is updated in 2029. Or maybe even second! Or maybe they drop to fifth if everyone starts falling off a cliff. You never know!

Let’s get to it.

Best Career WAR – Team Edition
The 1973 debuts led to the most bWAR accumulated by any group. A young infielder was called up that season who really set the tone for everything. Yes, that’s right, it was the season Frank White debuted. Okay fine, you want the real good stuff and it’s George Brett. White made his debut on June 12, 1973 and George followed a little under two months later. Of the 141.3 wins above replacement that group was worth, those two were worth about 87 percent of it. But you know who the best was? Not Frank or George. Nope, it was Doug Bird with 2.8 WAR that season. He ended his career third best in the group at 8.9.

The 1995 team, led by Johnny Damon has come the closest to 1973. That’s a sneaky group because it has Damon, Mike Sweeney and Joe Randa and is the only season in Royals history where three players have debuted and gone on to accumulate at least 20 WAR. The 1986 season was fun with David Cone, Kevin Seitzer, Scott Bankhead, Bill Pecota and Bo Jackson. Here are the top five career bWAR by debut season:

Best Career bWAR by Team
Season Total Career bWAR
1973 141.3
1995 121.3
1986 120.2
2011 96
1984 95
Best Career WAR – Individual
It’s Brett. Come on. He’s the best ever and he ended his career with 88.7 bWAR. It’s possible, but not probable that he doesn’t hold this title forever, though. Zack Greinke currently sits with 71.7 WAR throughout his career. He’s been worth 15.4 WAR over the last three seasons. He is under contract for the next two years and maybe he’ll go another two or three after that. I don’t think I’d bet on it, and even if he does, I have to say I doubt he’d average five wins per year, but if he does over four more seasons, George has to move over. Carlos Beltran, David Cone and Bret Saberhagen round out the top five.

Best Career bWAR by Individual
Player Career bWAR Debut Season
George Brett 88.7 1973
Zack Greinke 71.7 2004
Carlos Beltran 69.6 1998
David Cone 62.3 1986
Bret Saberhagen 58.8 1994
Best Debut Season WAR – Team
Not sure if you’ve heard this, but the Royals had a heck of a farm system in the early part of the decade. And as a follow up, you may not be aware of the World Series title that came with many of those players in key roles. Six players who debuted in 2011 were on the 2015 championship roster, and their total WAR of 8.6 in their debut seasons set the stage for it. Here’s a couple fun facts to show just how well great debut seasons correlate to later success. The best debut season of the bunch that year belonged to Aaron Crow, who remains a huge big leagu…huh? For real? Okay fine. But after him, it was Louis Coleman who remains a stud reli…no? Okay fine, but it really was Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas rounding out the top five debut WARs in 2011. And, again, as proof of how important it is, the next three best seasons were 2007, 2004 and 2008. Clearly it was a sign of amazing things to come.

Best Debut Season bWAR by Team
Season Debut Season bWAR
2011 8.6
2007 5.7
2004 5.1
2008 5.1
1981 4.5
Best Debut Season WAR – Individual
Without thinking about it, I think most people would probably think one of the rookies of the year the Royals have had would top this list, but remember, this is debut season and not necessarily their full rookie year. So that changes things a bit. The best debut season ever for a Royals player belongs to the indomitable Mike Aviles. He overcame Trey Hillman to put up a .325/.354/.480 rookie season and even played a pretty solid shortstop. He’d never replicate that success again, but he did finish fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. I was always extra impressed by Aviles because he did a great job of adjusting. It seemed like every time he was about to hit a wall, he’d make a quick adjustment and get hot again. It was fleeting, but it was fun. And he remained in the big leagues up until 2017, so he had himself a solid little career. He was followed by Zack Greinke, Brad Keller, Jose Rosado and the legendary Rich Gale.

Best Debut Season bWAR
Player Debut Season bWAR Debut Season
Mike Aviles 4.7 2008
Zack Greinke 3.7 2004
Brad Keller 3.6 2018
Jose Rosado 3.4 1996
Rich Gale 2.9 1978
At this point, you’re probably wondering some other debut season stats for the Royals over the years. Maybe you want to know which team had the highest average debut season bWAR. That one did belong to the 2007 squad with an average of 1.0. Joakim Soria (2.4) and Alex Gordon (2.0) led the way with Billy Butler, Luke Hochevar, Billy Buckner and Neal Musser all positive. In fact, 2013 was just the fifth season in which no Royals player had a negative bWAR in their first taste of big league baseball. The others were 1972, 1991, 2007 and 1994. Now why would I have mentioned 1994 last when the others seemed to be chronological?

Of course it’s because there wasn’t a single Royals player to make his debut in 1994. If that seems odd, well, don’t forget that there was a little strike that ended the season in mid-August. And if a season ends in mid-August, that means there’s no such thing as September baseball and no such thing as expanded rosters. Add in that the average age of that team was over 30 and it definitely wasn’t a young team. In fact, only two players appeared who were younger than 25. They were Hipolito Pichardo, who threw 67.2 innings and Jeff Granger, who threw all of 9.1 innings. And while they had the league Rookie of the Year in 1994, unfortunately Bob Hamelin debuted a year earlier and The Hammer didn’t turn any heads in a .224/.309/.408 debut over 55 plate appearances.

Think back to a few minutes ago when you read that 1995 was the only season in which three players who debuted went on to accumulate more than 10 WAR. That wasn’t the most prolific season for double digit WAR gatherers in Royals history, though. That honor belongs to the 2011 Royals who currently have four players in double digits with Salvador Perez (22.3), Mike Moustakas (17.1), Danny Duffy (16.0) and Eric Hosmer (15.3) all showing very solidly. If Kelvin Herrera can rebound from a rough 2019, he’ll make a fifth as he’s sitting at 9.7 right now.

Of course, not all debuts can be stellar. Ignoring the fact that 2019 is currently the worst for career WAR at -2.2, 2009 is the second-worst cumulative debut season for the Royals. That pairing of Dusty Hughes and Victor Marte had a career WAR of -1.1. The next worst was 2006 which featured Bobby Keppel, Steve Andrade, Jose Diaz, Ryan Braun (no, not the Brewers player) and MITCH! Maier was the best of that group with a 1.5 career bWAR. The only other team to have negative career WAR from debuting players was the 1985 Royals. They were pretty busy with winning a World Series, though. In total, 18 different Royals teams debuted players who ultimately accumulated fewer than 10 wins above replacement as a group, though the last three years are in there and might be able to sneak out of that group before it’s all said and done.

A couple weeks ago, we looked at what players might make their big league debuts in 2020. Maybe we see Jackson Kowar, Brady Singer and Daniel Lynch all come up and put up 20+ WAR careers. And maybe Khalil Lee comes up and treats us all to a 23.2 WAR career like David DeJesus. And Nick Heath can be a 15 WAR player like Jarrod Dyson. And Daniel Tillo gives us a 10 WAR career like Greg Holland. Could it be that 2020 ends up the most successful debut season in Royals history? Hey, you never know. Every debut has a chance, no matter how small, to be the start of something great.

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Royals Rumblings – News for November 5, 2019

Pete Grathoff writes about former Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain finally winning a Gold Glove Award.

“It feels great to finally win a Gold Glove after all these years. It’s something I’ve always wanted to win. Now, I finally have one. If I never win another one, at least I’ve got one.”

Mike Gillespie at Kings of Kauffman looks at the best trades in club history, like the one that sent Joe Foy to the Mets for Amos Otis.

Fans need to look no further than the Royals’ all-time records to understand the Foy-Otis trade’s remarkable long-term impact on the club. Otis ranks second in stolen bases, total bases, runs scored, walks and sacrifice flies; third in hits, triples, home runs, RBI’s, at-bats, and total plate appearances; and fourth in games played, doubles and extra-base hits. He earned more Royals Player of the Year awards than any other player.

Joe Foy never recaptured the form that landed him the third base job in Boston and was out of baseball after 1971. Otis, on the other hand, flourished and became a star in Kansas City, making the Foy-Otis deal one of the best trades the Royals ever made.

Inside the moments that flipped the World Series.

J.D. Martinez will not opt out of his contract.

The free agents that received Qualifying Offers.

Keith Law (INSIDER) ranks his top 50 free agents.

MLB Trade Rumors gives predictions on where the top 50 free agents land.

The BBWAA announces its finalists for post-season awards.

The Nationals had fun visiting the White House, although not everyone attended.

There is a new era in Nationals fandom.

The 2019 Astros join a list of great failures.

Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy are part of the ten candidates that will get a second look at the Hall of Fame on the Modern Baseball Era ballot.

Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns continue their spat on social media.

An Ethiopean couch surfer with no sponsor finished third at the New York Marathon.

Facebook has a new logo, which will fix all its problems.

Fake local news sites are taking advantage of people’s trust in local news.

HBO’s His Dark Materials doesn’t reach the heights the book did, but is that even possible?

Your song of the day is Barenaked Ladies with If I Had $1,000,000.