Owning the Royals

Last week it was announced that longtime Minnesota Twins stalwart Joe Mauer would be retiring after 15 seasons in the big leagues. When it became official, a small smirk spread across my face but not for the reasons you think. 

No, I don’t hate Joe Mauer; in fact it’s quite the opposite. I have immense respect for Mauer and everything he did in baseball. The smirk wasn’t even about Twins fans, as I have no issues with them either. I even feel their pain when it comes to Joe, since this is probably going to be eerily similar to what happens next year involving Alex Gordon.

Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

No, I smirked because when I picture Mauer, I picture him getting another hit off of a Kansas City pitcher. I know it isn’t the truth, but it feels like he got a hit off of the Royals every time he came to the plate against them. So no, he isn’t hitting 1.000 off of Kansas City for his entire career, but it felt like it. 

It felt like it because Mauer owned the Royals. He was that guy who came up to the plate and in my brain I instantly thought ‘he’s going to get a hit right here’; more times than not he did. Lifetime against the Royals, Joe hit .319/.401/.442 with an OPS+ of 104.

Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

But this got me to wondering what other players have owned Royals pitching over the years. I’m sure most of us can rattle off a few player’s names that always appeared to do damage against Kansas City, but will the numbers actually agree with our initial perceptions? 
  

I decided to set a baseline. I went with batters with 180 or more plate appearances against the Royals, since that would show a more consistent level of sustained success. While it might not be everyone’s first choice for determining success, I started with batting average:

Credit: Baseball-Reference.com

Based on our criteria, Dustin Pedroia has the highest batting average against the Royals for batters with 180 plate appearances or more. Out of active players, Mike Trout is 9th, Jacoby Ellsbury is 10th (yes, he is technically still active), Adrian Beltre 19th and Erick Aybar 20th. A few other notables include Michael Brantley, Francisco Lindor and Ian Kinsler.

How about the most hits against Kansas City pitching?

Baseball-Reference.com

While Hall of Famer Rod Carew leads the pack here, it’s interesting to see Victor Martinez right behind, trailing by only 11 hits. It makes more sense when you remember that Martinez played almost his entire career in the American League Central, playing for Cleveland or Detroit for 15 of his 16 seasons. 

Mauer sits in third here, followed by two Paul’s, Molitor and Konerko. When I started down this path, Konerko was one of the names that instantly popped in my head, so no real surprise here.

Credit: Associated Press

  Let’s move on to home runs:

Baseball-Reference.com

Alex Rodriguez is a surprising winner in this category, hitting 50 career bombs against Royals pitching. Not surprising is Jim Thome in second with 49 and the dreaded Paul Konerko in third with 45 homers. For active players, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Santana are tied with 27 long-shots, although one has moved on to the National League and the other has begun the downside of his illustrious career. 

In a bit of a shock, Grady Sizemore hit 25 career home runs off of Kansas City while posting an OPS+ of 131. Maybe it’s just slipping my mind but I don’t remember Sizemore being that much of a thorn in the Royals side.

Credit: Ron Vesely

Time now for the most total bases:

Baseball-Reference.com

‘Royal Killer’ Paul Konerko compiled the most total bases against Kansas City at 418. He is followed by Cal Ripken Jr. with 410 and then A-Rod with 378. With Martinez and Mauer retiring, the highest total on this list for an active player is Cabrera with 322, followed then by notorious villain Ian Kinsler with 263.    

That leads us to the highest tOPS+ all-time against the Royals:

Baseball-Reference.com

And the winner is….Gerald Laird? Okay, I figured at some point we would run across a name that came out of left field and we just got it. He is followed by a couple other odd names in Chris Singleton and Craig Monroe.

Diving deeper down the list, the highest active player is Dustin Pedroia at 147, and a few more notches down you get Erick Aybar at 145 and Carlos Santana at 144. With tOPS+ being an adjusted stat and not a cumulative one, it makes sense it would be the one with players that wouldn’t just pop into your head. But considering we are basing this off of more than 180 plate appearances, it is still impressive at what Laird, Singleton and Monroe did against the Royals over the years.


Credit: AP Photo/Genevieve Ross

Finally, a look at the total offensive contribution with Runs Created:

Baseball-Reference.com

A-Rod had the most Runs Created all-time against Kansas City with 170.9, followed by Jim Thome and Frank Thomas. Mauer is fifth with 145.4 and Konerko right behind him with 144.7. To find an active hitter you have to travel all the way down to 18th on the list, where Miguel Cabrera sits with  118.9.

In fact the next active player that currently resides in the AL Central (and that doesn’t mean current free agents, like Michael Brantley) is Jason Kipnis at 81 with 72.8. It looks like there will have to be a new crop of players to replace the guys like Mauer and Martinez who have been pouncing on Kansas City pitching for years. 


Credit: Brian Davidson/Getty Images 

So what did this experiment teach us? For one, it shows us that we don’t need numbers to know that Mauer, Konerko, Martinez, etc., were abusing the Royals all these years. The eye test didn’t betray us in this regard.  

It has also showed us what the unbalanced schedule has done to skew the numbers on this list. While it’s understandable why MLB has moved away from the balanced schedule, you do wonder if some of these numbers would be different if each team didn’t play the other teams in their division 19 times each year.  

Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The perfect example is the total hits against the Royals. Would Victor Martinez only be 11 hits behind Rod Carew if they had the balanced schedule? Probably not. Could you imagine if Carew, after all those years with the Twins and Angels (who were in the American League West with Kansas City at the time) had played the Royals 19 times a season? It’s all a matter of preference, but the shift in the schedule does make one wonder what might have been.

What it does probably tell us is that the Royals having a lot of bad pitching over the last 20 years probably helped some of these numbers as well. It also tells me I won’t miss watching Joe Mauer spray hits into the outfield against Kansas City. Joe is a true baseball treasure, but he also owned a portion of the Royals, whether David Glass was aware of it or not.

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Hey Now, You’re an All-Star: How I Went Through the Possible Royals All-Star Selections & Loathed Smash Mouth

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This Saturday Major League Baseball will announce the selections to the 2013 All-Star Game that will be played at Citi Field on July 16th. This is always a rough road if you are a Kansas City Royals fan, as for years we can expect just one selection to the game, and sometimes it’s not even someone we want to cheer for(I’m looking at you, Mark Redman). In fact 2003 was the last year that the Royals had more than just one selection. A full listing shows that before Billy Butler was chosen last year, the Royals hadn’t even had a position player get selected since Mike Sweeney in 2005. To say we’ve had some lean years would be an understatement. So with the selections just a coupe days away, let’s look at some possible selections for the Royals and what the odds are they will get selected. Also, make sure Smash Mouth is running through your head while you read this.

1) Alex Gordon

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A month ago, this seemed like a lock. Most of us are aware that Gordon has been one of the most underrated players in baseball. Most of us can agree that A1 should have been selected for the All-Star Game back in 2011. Instead, Gordon is still searching for his first appearance, and this really seemed like the year it could happen. That is if the last month hadn’t been such a train wreck. While the Royals shook up their coaching staff and paid more attention to struggling youngsters Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, Gordon numbers took a taildive. The fact that his numbers are still pretty good are a sign of just how good of a season Gordon was having. Gordon was so far ahead of the rest of the team statistically that it almost seemed like as long as we had Alex, anything could happen. A month later and now there is a big question mark as to whether or not Alex will get selected for the mid-summer classic. Like last year, when Billy Butler seemed deserving just as much on past play as his play in the first half of the season, Gordon should be selected just as much on his consistency over the last few years. I would say at this point there is still a chance Alex Gordon could be the Kansas City Royals All-Star selection.

2) Salvador Perez

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He hits. He throws. He leads the pitching staff. He blocks balls that no one else should even be near. He can jump buildings in a single bound…okay, maybe not that last one…I think. Salvador Perez might be the most complete Royal in a long, long time. As much as experts have touted Hosmer over the last few years as being a building block of this franchise, Perez is THE building block of this and future Royals teams. Perez’s argument for an All-Star selection is easy to see, but his biggest problem won’t be a slump, or even him missing some time due to a death in the family. No, Salvy’s biggest detriment against him going to Citi Field this month is who else could be picked behind the dish for the American League. Joe Mauer looks like he will get the fans vote. There is a good shot that Baltimore’s Matt Wieter’s will get in, and even a chance that Cleveland’s Carlos Santana could be an All-Star selection. If you counting on your fingers, that is three possible American League catchers on this team, and I highly doubt they will go for a fourth. Hey, there is still a chance Perez could get picked; he is not the secret he once was around baseball. Baseball people have noticed how good Salvy is and realize how good he is going to be for the forseeable future. But he might have to wait one more year. So we could see Salvy come July 16th; but don’t be surprised if he barely get’s passed over.

3) James Shields

James Shields

I know, I know. The numbers just aren’t really there for James Shields. Actually, he is the perfect example of how the ‘wins’ statistic is an overrated stat. The Royals so far just haven’t been very supportive of him offensively. The numbers stress that fact. But most of us Royals fans can agree that Shields has probably been the best pitcher on the revamped Royals pitching staff. When you consider that Shields pitched with a lead last week against Minnesota, it was the first time since April he had pitched with a lead of more than one run. One run. Shields has been as hard luck as they come. So despite the lack of run support, he is still worth being mentioned as a possible All-Star. He has pitched like the ace the Royals wanted him to be, and he has kept this team floating around .500 like they were hoping to be. Players and coaches can look past won-loss records if you are pitching magnificiently. Just ask Zack Greinke of 2009. Shields would be another case and I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him selected for this year’s All-Star game.

4) Ervin Santana

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When Dayton Moore acquired Ervin Santana last winter, who would have thought he was in the conversation for an All-Star selection? Raise your hands. Not so fast, slap-nuts. Very few could have seen this coming. In fact I thought he would be injured by now. Goes to show you what I know. But Ervin has pitched above and beyond what we all expected, and has been a big part of why the Royals are still in the conversation in the American League Central. Santana has dealt with run support issues like Shields, but it hasn’t deterred him as much. Santana has averaged 7 innings a start this year and no one would have seen that coming as well. When it comes down to it, Santana has just as good a case for selection here as Shields. In fact, I am willing to say I think there is a great chance Ervin will be the selection for the Royals this year. If so, it will be a bonus for the Royals. If this happens, I can easily see Kansas City shipping him off at the trade deadline, flipping him for a bat in the outfield. Santana’s stock goes up if he is selected, and that might just be another reason why you could see him in New York on July 16th.

5) Greg Holland

Greg Holland

Remember that first week of the season? Remember all the “Royals fans” who wanted Holland gone? This is why that never happened and why certain “fans” should never be allowed to make decisions like that. Outside of that first week and a few very small hiccups, Greg Holland has been lights out for the Royals. Like insanely lights out. Go ahead, look at the strikeouts per 9 number. 15.1!!  31 innings, 52 strikeouts. I believe we call that dealing. Holland has been the steady closer the team has needed this year out of the pen, and the team has been rewarded for their patience. With those numbers, no one could blame Jim Leyland for picking him for the All-Star game. In fact, reading those numbers now makes me want him picked. Holland has made lots of fans ask ‘Joakim who‘ and showed why it was okay to let him leave this winter. Managers love relievers on the smaller teams for their All-Star selection, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see number 56 at Citi Field in just a few weeks.

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Sure, this All-Star game won’t mean as much to Royals fans, just because it isn’t in Kansas City. But it would still be a nice treat if more than one Royal could get selected. I tend to think it won’t happen, but there is an outside chance it could. It’s nice to know I can compile a list of five guys off this team that could have serious consideration. Tell me the last time that happened? Hopefully they’ll do the Royals justice and we’ll see more than the one selection at the mid-summer classic. Oh, and before I forget–to quote the band Smash Mouth: “all that glitters is gold, only shooting stars break the mold.”  Then again, don’t listen to them; they also have the lyrics “your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb.” Idiots.

 

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