The Greatest Center Fielder in Royals History

For a franchise that has been around now for 50 years, you would expect some big names to fall under the radar when talking franchise best’s at certain positions. The Kansas City Royals are no different and while positions like third base or second base are no-brainers when it comes to the best in Royals history, other positions aren’t quite as easy.

For instance first base feels like a dogfight between Mike Sweeney and John Mayberry. At shortstop, arguments can be made for both Freddie Patek and Alcides Escobar. Even left field could get interesting, although Alex Gordon numbers tend to topple someone like Johnny Damon pretty easily.

But initially I thought center field would be a nice little battle, as the Royals have had some great players manning the middle the of the outfield in their history. It would be easy to see how someone could imagine a tug-of-war going on for the best at that position between Amos Otis, Willie Wilson and Carlos Beltran. Unfortunately, there is a blow away winner and he quite possibly might be the most underrated player in team history.

In fact, when I started this post I fully expected a nice back and forth between these three players before one of them would decidedly pull away and be considered the best center fielder. Instead, it didn’t take long looking at the numbers to see that Amos Otis is not only the best at this position, but that the other two aren’t really keeping it a close competition.

The other interesting part to this is that I’ve long felt Otis was vastly underrated when it comes to talking Royals legends. Royals fans spend a lot of time praising the usuals like Brett, White and Saberhagen but sometimes we forget what guys like Leonard, Cowens and Otis did during their time in Royal blue. In fact what I say next might even be the most shocking thing I mention today: Amos Otis might be the second best Kansas City Royal of all-time.

Before we get to that, let’s look at just how great his career was. Otis is second in Kansas City history in bWAR for position player, offensive WAR, runs scored, total bases, walks, stolen bases, runs created, times on base, sac flies, RE24 and WPA. Otis is also third in games played, plate appearances, hits, triples, home runs, RBIs, adjusted batting runs, adjusted batting wins, and first in Power-Speed #. In other words, he not only did a great job with accumulative stats, but also the ones that mattered in the most important situations.

I really thought Willie Wilson was going to make this a closer race, even while knowing that his power numbers weren’t going to even come close to the level that Otis had. While Wilson’s WAR numbers were right behind Amos (and defensively, Wilson had the higher total while Otis didn’t even crack the top ten), most of the other ones lagged behind a bit. It does say a lot about Willie, as he sits just under Otis in all-time Royals hits and runs scored, and even tops Otis in triples, stolen bases, and singles.

But stats like extra base hits and total bases I expected to be quite a bit closer and even runs created was a big gap between the two outfielders. It does appear that when Wilson’s numbers started declining in the mid 80’s, it was a lot more drastic than Otis’ gradual decline. While both men are mainstays when it comes to many of the Royals all-time offensive statistics, there is a noticeable gap between the both of them.

Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

When it comes to Carlos Beltran, his short stay in Kansas City ends up hurting his chances of taking top center field honors. In fact Beltran’s power numbers easily top Otis (he is top five all-time in slugging and OPS), but he also left the Royals in his prime and played in an era that was a bit more offensive driven. I do think that if the Royals had been able to lockdown Beltran rather than trade him ( and maybe that was possible if Kansas City ownership had made him more of a priority) this conversation could be a lot different. Instead, we are stuck with ‘coulda, shoulda’ type discussion that leans heavily toward ‘what could have been’.

Which leads us back to Otis. It seems clear that he was the second biggest offensive force in team history and the argument for being the second best player is close as well. According to Baseball-Reference WAR, Otis sits at 44.8 while pitchers Kevin Appier and Bret Saberhagen are at 47.1 and 40.7 respectively. If you wanted to say Appier or Sabes are right behind George Brett, I’m not sure I would put up much of an argument.WAR isn’t the be-all, end-all, but it does give you some weight on their overall value. To be fair, a stat like WPA holds quite a bit of weight with me and Otis and Appier are pretty close there too, 27.5 to 25.4.

So if we say Otis is the second greatest statistical Kansas City Royal of all-time, then it raises a number of questions on why he isn’t mentioned more often. I have to believe that his strained relationship with the media was a big part of it, as back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the media could make you or break you. It probably also hurt him that he played on a team with flashier players like Brett or Hal McRae. Whatever the reason, even within Royals circles, Amos Otis isn’t talked about as much as he should be.

Credit: Royals.com

As a younger fan, I just hardly ever knew much about Amos. Maybe it was because he left the Royals after the 1983 season and I started following baseball in 1984, but over the years Otis isn’t put on the same pedestal that other former Royals are. In fact most of us talk more about Bo Jackson (and justifiably we talk about this once in a lifetime athlete) than we do a guy who should be at least considered for the team’s Mount Rushmore. Amos Otis was very close to being a five-tool player (his power numbers were a bit lacking) and finished 3rd in the MVP voting in 1973 and 4th in 1978. For some reason, Otis has fallen into a background character rather than one pushing his way near the front of the line.

Credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images

There is also a story that shows the person that Amos Otis really was:

On September 12, 1977, with Kansas City cruising to its second straight American League West crown, a game in Royals Stadium was postponed because of a drenching storm. As 16 inches of rain swamped the city and flooded many areas, eventually resulting in 25 deaths, Otis came across eight wet, frightened boys. He piled them into his Lincoln Continental, fed them, and lodged them for the evening. One of the youngsters to whose aid Otis came, Richard Brown, eventually became a Missouri state legislator and in 2017 sponsored a proclamation commemorating the flood and honoring Otis as a Good Samaritan and humanitarian. “I was doing what any other dad would have done,” Otis said

So while many us talk about George and Frank, Quiz and Bo, Sabes and Splitt, I hope moving forward that the name ‘Otis’ will get floated out there as well. The Royals have great, rich history and it feels like a shame that one of the biggest names doesn’t even get brought up as much as he should. Amos Otis is the greatest Royals center fielder in team history, case closed. Let’s hope we start talking about it more, Royals fans.

 

 

 

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Credit: Kansas City Star

I really thought I wasn’t going to write again until September at the earliest.

It was really going to take something big to force me to write.

David Glass selling the Kansas City Royals falls into the ‘big’ category.

Also, being on vacation makes it easier.

And yet here we are.

Here’s the thing: I wrote a whole big article about Sherman buying the Royals. 1500 words were spilled, easily one of the longest articles I have written in a long time. But then the auto-save feature here shit the bed.

All of it was gone. All but 172 words. I haven’t felt this kind of frustration in quite awhile. It was soul crushing for someone who hadn’t written in two months.

So you won’t get my in-depth look at the move. I just don’t have the energy or time to re-write my thoughts. It was a good article too. It made me feel better about the fact I hardly write anymore. I can still do this, which I was starting to question.

So instead, here is the abbreviated version: I like the move. Sherman seems like a good fit, even if it feels almost too good. Yes, that is probably the worry of a Royals fan from before 2014. Trust me, it never completely goes away.

Back to Sherman. The move feels as good as we could expect. Honestly, I feel better about the new ownership than I would have if Dan Glass took over for his dad. While I’m thankful for the Glass’ keeping the team in Kansas City and making moves to put together a championship team, even this year ‘Good ol’ Dave’ couldn’t bear to eat money in a move that would have helped the future of the organization.

It always felt like Glass was more concerned about his bottom line than the product that was presented on the field. It’s unfortunate, but when I can point to numerous times he wouldn’t eat money in a trade (and I covered all this in the lost article. Zobrist, Cueto, Soria, and even a possible Kennedy trade just a month ago) than there is proof that Glass never believed in the saying ‘to make money in baseball, you have to spend money’. Hopefully that is not lost on the new ownership.

What does this mean for GM Dayton Moore or Manager Ned Yost? There is no way to know for sure, but a new owner might want his own people. Or he might want to stay with the old guard that went to back to back World Series’ and won a world championship. All we know for sure is that once we hit November and the sale officially goes through, it could turn out to be a wild winter. You can’t run from it, changes are comin’.

So that is the short version of what I wrote. Since we are only at 500 words, lets run through a few things since I haven’t written in months. It’s been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog. In fact, it’s been so long that I look like this now:

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Credit: Hollywood Reporter

Okay, maybe I don’t look that old. But it feels like it. Also, that is Gandalf from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies. I’m not as cool as him. Or talented. I’m quite a bit shorter and not nearly as thin. What was I talking about again?

Oh yeah. I was going to bring up a few other items related to the Royals. Let’s start with Jorge Soler.

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Soler currently sits at 38 home runs (as of this writing), which ties him with the Royals single season record that Mike Moustakas set back in 2017. So once Soler hits #39, he will be the new Moose. Who was the new Balboni. Who was the new Mayberry. 

The unfortunate part of all of this is that Kansas City is the only team to never have a 40-home run season from one of their hitters. Never. With Soler just two away, that record could go bye-bye as well. It’s amazing to think we are witnessing the greatest individual home run season in team history and it feels like a blip because balls are flying out of parks all across America at an alarming rate. And to think, just a couple seasons ago fans were ready to give up on Soler.

Looks like the Royals won this Wade Davis trade as well.   

Since this whole article is about change, it’s nice to see the team go and finally embrace the young talent and give them an opportunity in what has otherwise been a lost season. It was depressing as hell to see the team trot out the likes of Wily Peralta, Billy Hamilton and Lucas Duda for as long as they did. I get what the front office was thinking but it also felt like a colossal waste of time.

Look, this is a team that needs to know what they have with some of their fringe talent. Guys like Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling just need the opportunity to go out and get some experience at the major league level. Whether they sink or swim is undetermined, but at least give them a fighting chance. Putting out replacement level veterans (at best) to fill holes until some one is “ready” is so 2018. We all predicted what Hamilton would do. Most knew Peralta was going to be a dumpster fire.

If I’m going to watch my team go out and lose 100 games, at least give me the decency of doing it with players that may or may not be a part of the future. Penciling Lucas Duda’s name into the lineup from the beginning should have been a no-go. Instead, we got to see 119 plate appearances from a guy who wasn’t a league average hitter a year ago when he was in Kansas City and was even worse this year.

I know, it sounds like I am dumping on the front office and to some degree I am. They wanted to put up the illusion of contending (or at least flirting with .500), thinking the vets would perform better than expected and then they could turn around and flip them at the trade deadline. Problem was, most of them (if not all) regressed. Homer Bailey was the one true find and his pull from the trade with Oakland wasn’t much. 

The problem was that most of us as fans could tell it wasn’t working by mid-May at the latest. Instead of something being done soon after, we were forced to sit through two more months with these players that were just taking up space. I have no clue whether or not the Royals would have won a bunch more games if they would have sped up this process. For all we know, they would still be sitting with the same record they are at now, looking at another ‘Top 5′ draft pick. The point is that some of us would have preferred seeing the Phillips’ and Starling’s and Lovelady’s more than we have. Let the kids play, as they say.

Whew. Sorry about that. I’ve had months of that built up. Just needed to vent.  

So a month is left in the season. I want to see if these kids will flourish. Last year at this time was a fun time to watch Royals baseball, as they looked like a spry team looking to knock off some Goliath’s. That might not happen this year but a good ending to the season could be just the positive this team needs.

Maybe Bubba will start knocking the baseball around and Jorge Lopez will look like a competent reliever. Maybe Brett Phillips will make us forget about Moose and Richard Lovelady will look like the dominant reliever he was in the minors. Or we can just relish in the fact that we aren’t the Tigers. I’m game for that.

Also, maybe Dish Network and Fox Sports can settle their differences here soon. Sean would like to watch his Royals again before the season is over. Please?    

The Royals Just Don’t Walk the Walk

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Even in the middle of a calamity there appears a glint of hope. For the Kansas City Royals 2018 season, that glint would be the performance of Jorge Soler and more to the point, his ability to draw walks. The problem is, the Royals as a whole just aren’t big fans of a patient eye.

I’m not spilling any major secrets when I say that Kansas City has not been a team to embrace the ability to work a count and take a free base. For years this team has almost looked at patience at the plate with a “well, I guess if we have to” type mentality. The Royals championships teams of the last few years were built on making contact with an emphasis on putting the ball in play.

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Credit: Getty Images

Over the course of the Royals 50 year history, they have had only six instances of players with 100+ walk seasons, with John Mayberry’s 122 walks back in 1973 being the ultimate peak. In fact, the numbers don’t get much better when discussing walks and the Royals. 2013 was the last time the team wasn’t last in the league in walks and 2010 was the last time they were able to breach the top ten in the American League.

In fact the highest walk total for a Royals player in the last decade was Billy Butler’s 79 back in 2013, which garnered an 11.8% walk rate. The highest walk rate in club history was Mayberry’s 19.1%, which he compiled back in the before-mentioned 1973 campaign. This leads us to what Soler is doing and why it is so special.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals
Credit: Getty Images

So far Soler has 18 walks in his 24 games, putting him 6th in the American league for his total and 11th in actual walk rate. His rate currently sits at 18.2%, which if he was able to maintain it would give him the second highest walk rate among qualified batters in Royals history, just a smidgen above Darrel Porter’s 17.8% back in 1979.

So what Soler is doing so far is something that Royals’ fans haven’t seen in many moons but is something we should see more often, if I’m being frank. I’ve long been a proponent of the ability to produce a walk and tend to believe there is a direct correlation for teams that take more walks to produce more success.

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Credit: Steve Mitchell

Looking back over the last five years, every year the team that led the league in bases on balls also made an appearance in the playoffs.  2012 was the last year that the team who led all of baseball in walk rate (the Tampa Bay Rays) didn’t make it to the postseason. Before that it was 2006, when the Red Sox led all of baseball but fell short to the Yankees. In most years, the teams that rank near the top of the leader-board in walks are the ones who continue to play into October.

My belief has always been that the value of drawing a walk goes beyond just getting another runner on base. If a batter is taking a number of pitches, that should be driving up the pitcher’s pitch count. The higher that pitch count gets, the earlier a team has to dip into their bullpen. The earlier you get into a team’s bullpen, the more taxed they become. Being a patient hitting team has a very immediate trickle-down effect.

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Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

There is also the whole “extra base-runner” thing which is always a positive. Just go back and look at the first inning of the Royals game on Monday. Whit Merrifield gets a hit, followed by a Soler walk and Mike Moustakas getting hit by a pitch to load the bases. Walks by Salvador Perez and Lucas Duda would follow and by the time the inning was done the Royals had put a three spot on the board.

Now if Kansas City was better at hitting with runners in scoring position that score would have been higher, but that isn’t the point here. The point is that the walks doled out led to extra base-runners which led to more scoring opportunities. More opportunities tend to led to more runs, which is the whole name of the game.

I also believe if the Royals were a bit more patient they might not be such a streaky offensive team. Remember last year’s scoreless streak? That might have been avoided (or at least halted a lot sooner) if the team took more walks. Patience is normally less streaky than hitting and if they had taken more walks the Royals might have been able to muster up a couple of more rallies and been able to squeak out a few more “W’s” during some close games.

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Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not saying that if this team walked more that their success would turn around or that what Soler is doing should be done by every player. I highly doubt we will ever see Alcides Escobar or Salvador Perez rack up walk totals like Joey Votto. But a heavier emphasis on patience, especially starting at the minor league level, could go a long way.

So maybe some of Soler’s teammates should take a cue from him and force the opposing pitchers to throw them strikes. It’s not a glamorous part of the game or even one that will gain you admiration from some in the fan base. But a few more walks could lead to a few more runs and at this point, the Royals need to cross the plate more often if they want to win more games this season.

If Not Dayton, Then Who?

Milwaukee Brewers v Kansas City Royals
Last week I took a look at five possible managerial candidates if(or when) Neddy Yost ends up fired. Many pointed out that as much as a new manager would be nice, Royals GM Dayton Moore shouldn’t be allowed to hire a third manager. I agree with that sentiment, that Moore should be fired before Yost(although both being gone would be fine for me). Rany Jazayerli has made the best argument so far for Moore’s dismissal, one that obviously I agree with. Here is the problem; I don’t see Moore getting fired soon. There is a far greater chance of Yost getting the heave-ho, which is why I took a look at possible replacements. With that said, it seems only fair that I take a look at possible replacements for Moore. But to be honest, you don’t read about possible general managers very often. There are the candidates you read about from time to time, most being assistant GM’s for other ballclubs. There are also those that are under the radar but make total sense when you think about it. I might not be up on possible replacements for GMDM, but I can tell what the Royals should be looking for. Here are some tips for Kansas City to use when perusing the classifieds for Moore’s successor.

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1)Pick Someone Who Has Worked for a Small Market Team

There are many reasons why I think Kansas City should look at other small market franchises when picking a new general manager. The most obvious is to pick from the ones who have a winning pedigree. Off the top of my head comes Tampa Bay, Oakland and Minnesota. These are teams that have worked with less and been successful in spite of it. The first two are obvious, but I have massive respect for Minnesota’s front office. You might not know it from the last few years, but there for a long time they produced player after player and when it came time for one to leave, there was another prospect to take their place. The funny thing is soon the Twins will be a force again, as they have been stockpiling talent in the minor leagues for a few years now. If the Royals bring in a candidate from one of these teams, they will already understand the restrictions placed under them and have a leg up on how they can work around it. There are some from bigger market teams that could still succeed, but they just aren’t as used to the parameters set on them as an executive from a smaller market franchise. There are a few exceptions to that rule, most notably being St. Louis and Boston. Both franchises work with a bigger budget and are able to do things the Royals realistically just can’t do. But both also focus on drafting and player development and then adding the rest of the pieces through trades and free agents. The formula is the same for Kansas City, just on a bigger scale in those two markets. No matter what, Kansas City needs to be looking for someone who isn’t conventional. Which leads us to the next thing they should be looking for…

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2) Pick a GM Who Will Be Creative

Honestly, this might be the most important thing for the Royals when hiring a new GM. Ever since Billy Beane started incorporating ‘Moneyball’, almost every team in baseball has either stolen ideas from him or tried to catch up to the way he structures a team. Beane’s biggest attribute has been to be creative and think outside the box when acquiring talent. This has allowed Oakland to be a perennial playoff contender despite the fact they have a small payroll, play in a crappy stadium and have a hard time convincing big-name talent to play for them. For the GM of a small market franchise, being creative should be an everyday staple. Unfortunately, I’ve never felt like Dayton was creative in his outlook of picking up pieces. Sure, Moore has had some good trades, some even great(Guthrie for Sanchez? Still a steal!). But most of what Moore does is thinking that most other GM’s would do as well. It’s almost like they follow the same handbook. That is what the Royals next GM should not do; follow a handbook. Instead he needs to be ahead of the pack, thinking in ways the other GM’s in the league aren’t thinking. Beane has made a living out of being unorthodox and it has paid off well. Whomever the Royals hire next needs to work along that same vein.

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3) Build a Team Around Your Strengths

It’s conceivable here to make the argument that the Royals in a lot of ways have already done this. There is some truth to that statement. The Royals are a team focused around pitching and defense, which is a large chunk of this team. But if you look at the Royals teams of the 70’s and 80’s, they were catered to Kauffman Stadium. Their hitters were good hitters who knew how to hit the ball in the gap for extra bases. They had power, but not exactly power hitters(minus a John Mayberry or a Steve Balboni here and there). In some ways this Royals team is the same way-only the Royals hitters have forgotten how to hit. You very rarely ever see them hit the ball in the gaps, which means they seem to be a station to station team. Whitey Herzog understood this and helped build his Cardinals teams in the 80’s to play faster than everyone else. It helped that Herzog was one of the best managers in the history of baseball, but he understood playing to one’s strengths. The Royals will need hitters who can hit, not just hit home runs, although a power hitter would be nice for this team. Whoever ends up being the next GM needs to realize this and draft, trade and sign accordingly. Home Runs can happen at ‘The K’, but a team full of them probably won’t give them the success they want. A balanced lineup is really what this team needs to add to the already stellar pitching and defense.

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4) You Need to Charm David Glass

Sure, it seems as if it doesn’t take much to charm David Glass. I mean, Dayton has made him think that eight years is a perfectly fine amount of time to rebuild a team. But is he easier to charm than this David Glass?

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Or this David Glass, who seems to be looking for a good time?

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Now that I have given you nightmares, let’s get back to the point of this. I’m not so sure Mr. Glass really understands baseball, or at least understanding what a real GM should look and sound like. Moore was smart enough to get Glass to open up his pocket book over the last eight years, not only for major league talent but money for drafting and signing young talent. Moore had a plan lined out and even though it appears to be a total failure, I’m sure Glass was impressed that he had something lined up. If a candidate is going to interview for this job, they are going to have to show him they know what they are doing and give him a reason to hand him the keys to this struggling franchise. This is where it doesn’t matter one’s qualifications; it will come down to what Glass wants. I’m positive the Glasses know nothing about sabermetrics or just how unbelievable it is that team’s like the A’s and Rays compete year after year. But there is always hope that he will listen to other people within the Royals organization that know what they are doing and weigh his decision with them in mind. Or this is all for nothing and it is all about who can charm the pants off of a 78 year old man.

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5) Player Development Plan

I’m sure Dayton learned a thing or two about player development when he was with the Atlanta organization. Problem is, it hasn’t shown with Kansas City. So far, the only real players the team has developed and are high caliber major league players are Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura and Greg Holland…and even Ventura is questionable, since he has only been with the team a few months. There is obviously something wrong with the development of these players, otherwise why would guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas succeed in the minors then struggle so much once they made it to the big leagues? There is a chance the problem lies in the major league coaching staff, but there is also a chance that some things are fishy in the minor league development. At the end of the day, the next GM needs to have a plan outlined and hopefully it is one that has succeeded in the past. Look at a team like the Cardinals; they have a simple plan outlined for their entire minor league system and a lot of their success can be tied into that plan. Those players get to the majors and already know what they need to do to succeed. The Royals need a system like that, one in which there are simple plans to follow but also one that lets each player be an individual. Not every player is the same and what works for one player might not work for another. That is a big part of the entire player development program. The next Royals GM needs this to be a big part of his plan and be ready to implement it in any way possible.

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These are just some of the bullet points that the Royals should have in mind once Dayton Moore is shown the door. Most seem like simple things but just because something is simple doesn’t mean it works out that way. We are seeing that now, as GMDM’s ‘Process’ has turned into an eight year nightmare. Whomever is chosen needs to not make the mistakes that Moore has made over the last eight years. He needs to be not only creative when acquiring talent, but creative when putting together his master plan and no matter what they shouldn’t have a process. It just has a negative connotation now. All that Moore’s successor really needs is a winning formula. Do that and that person will be made in Kansas City.

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