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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Royals Offseason Needs: Right Field

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Most people who follow the Kansas City Royals know that there are three major needs this off-season for Kansas City to be a contender in 2014: a starting pitcher to replace Ervin Santana(which is pretty much a probable), a second baseman and a right fielder. Today I’ll take a look at possible candidates for right field. It’s safe to say that a right fielder with some pop would be nice, and might be the way Kansas City goes. But for the sake of this article, let’s take a look at some major candidates for the Royals to either sign or trade for.

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Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran is probably not only the best candidate for Kansas City, but the sentimental choice as well. Now, we should preface the rest of this with the point that Beltran is probably a long shot to sign with the Royals this off-season. But he would be a great choice and who wouldn’t want the greatest playoff hitter in baseball history on their team come September? Many a Royals fan was crushed when Beltran was traded to Houston, especially since he was such a great talent. Kansas City would welcome him back with open arms and his bat would be great to have in the middle of the Royals lineup, which tends to lean very light when it comes to power. There would be issues, though. For one, Beltran will be turning 37 within the first month of the 2014 baseball season, so he is not a spring chicken. Defensively, he is not the outfielder he used to be. Sure, you can give him the occasional start at DH, but then you are sitting Billy Butler(or Eric Hosmer if Billy is moved to first). Sure, you can replace Beltran late in games and let David Lough or whoever else is the backup outfielder get some time in the field, but then you are taking his bat out of the game. I still think Beltran would be the best choice, but I also think that is highly unlikely. It would be neat to have him sign with Kansas City, hoping to be the guy who returns to his old stomping grounds and take them to the playoffs for the first time since 1985. Yes, he would be a certifiable God in Kansas City if that happened. But it is probably a giant ‘IF’.

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Shin Soo Choo

Choo had a great 2013 season, his first in Cincinnati. Choo brings a lot of weapons to the table, mainly his potent bat and the ability to get on base at the top of the order. The Royals are very familiar with Choo after his tenure in Cleveland, on top of the Royals hitting him numerous times over the years, much to the displeasure of  Mr. Choo. Part of me wishes he had taken care of Jonathan Sanchez right then and there. Anyway, Choo will be a free agent here within the next few weeks and will looking to be cashing in. Like, REALLY cashing in! So more than likely, Choo is out of the Royals price range. I know Dayton Moore said that Kansas City was going to stay at the same payroll for 2014, but they said the same thing last winter and went out to spend where they felt they needed to. I personally believe the same for this winter, but even with that said, Choo will be too expensive. Scott Boras gets his clients the most money humanly possible. That just isn’t Kansas City.

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Kyle Blanks/Chris Denorfia

There is a reason I mention both Blanks and Denorfia. Earlier this summer the Royals sent scouts out to check out a number of players on the San Diego Padres. At the time second base and right field where both still major issues(funny how some things don’t change). I’m pretty sure both of these guys were scouted, as was Will Venable, another Padres outfielder. Venable’s value took off not too long after that, so I’m sure he is probably off the market. But I would have to think both Blanks and Denorfia are there for the taking. Blanks had a rough year, as he spent most of the year injured or benched. Blanks has very raw talent, but he also has the main thing the Royals need: power. Denorfia had his best season in the big leagues in 2013, but his numbers just won’t jump out at you. He doesn’t have the power Blanks has but seems to be a bit more consistent. I’m not sure either guy is better than a David Lough/Justin Maxwell platoon, but I could see Moore taking a flyer on either one of these guys. Remember, Moore did the same thing with Maxwell and he turned out to be a good acquisition.

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Giancarlo Stanton 

Stanton is the long shot of all long shots. It will take a HUGE package of players to acquire Stanton in a deal, and I do mean HUGE. But the Royals have the prospects to pull it off. Now, the only problem would be a deal like this would probably kill the farm system and it could take all the top players in your system(Zimmer, Bonifacio, Ventura, Mondesi,etc.). I LOVE Stanton’s power, which is just ridiculous and would solidify the middle of the Royals order. But…if it took all of those prospects to make the deal happen, it’s probably not worth it. I would like the Royals to stay in contention for years to come; not one good year and then have to wait a number of years before winning again. Once again, this would be a very long shot, so don’t expect this one to happen.

Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz   

Yes, THAT Nelson Cruz. The one who was suspended from the Biogenesis scandal. But it is also the same Cruz that has played in the postseason and has had success in it. Cruz’s power is very intriguing and is the kind of bat Kansas City needs. But I have my worries with him, and it’s not just the Biogenesis thing. For one, he is a streaky hitter. Sure, when he is hot, he is hot. But when he is cold…it’s like Hoth and he has no Tauntaun to cut open and stay warm inside of. Cruz is also not the greatest defender in the world and, after having Jeff Francoeur out in right the last few years, we all know how that goes. To add to this, I’m not real big on how he has acted in the past. I don’t always put a lot of value in character, but we all know Moore does. Cruz’s value is about as low as it’s been in quite awhile, so there is probably at least a chance he could wind up in Royal blue.

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Corey Hart

Out of all the guys I have mentioned so far, THIS is the one who I think has the best chance of being a Royal in 2014. For one, he is coming off of an injury filled season in 2013, one where he didn’t even play in a single regular season game. This would also mean there is a good chance Hart could be had on the cheap, maybe even a contract with a lot of incentives. Two, Hart played under Royals manager Ned Yost, so Yost already knows what kind of player he would be getting. Hart hits for power, drives in runs and puts up a good batting average. His defense isn’t great, but it’s not awful either. He’s versatile as well, as he could play any of the outfield positions and first base if needed. As long as Hart is healed, I could see him patrolling right field at Kauffman in 2014. The Royals could actually do a lot worse.

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Jacoby Ellsbury/Curtis Granderson   

I know what you are thinking: aren’t these guys center fielders? Yes, yes they are. They are also both free agents this off-season. Yes, my interest would be for them to play center field. So who would play right? Lorenzo Cain. Royals management prefers Cain in right field, where they feel he is better suited. If that is the case, why not acquire a center fielder and shift Cain to right? I would have to assume Ellsbury will take a large chunk of money to be signed, so he would be a long shot. But Granderson? Sure, he isn’t the guy who used to be a perennial All-Star and put up huge power numbers. But he still has power, has a bit of his speed left, and could be had at a realistic price. I don’t know if he would want to play in Kansas City, but the Royals are closer to a playoff spot at this point than the Yankees are. It is at least another option, one the Royals should at least consider.

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No matter which direction Kansas City goes in, it is obvious that they do need an upgrade at the position. I like both David Lough and Justin Maxwell, and a platoon of them isn’t the worst idea in the world, but if the Royals want to reach the playoffs they will need a more potent bat. There are options out there; one can only hope Dayton Moore does his research and makes a move that not only improves the Royals, but is smart for the team as well. If he wants an extension of his own, making a shrewd move here would be in his, and the Royals,  best interest.

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