Lucky for all of you, fellow writer and baseball fan Adam Peterson and I decided to do a review of the KC Royals season–and in the ever-popular blog crossover format!
The Royals finished 71-91 on the year, which was good enough for 4th place in the perennially weak AL Central and a four game improvement over last year’s record. That’s not good, of course. But anyone who’s paid attention to baseball this year knows that the intrigue surrounding the Royals these days has little to do with their current record and nearly everything to do with the young players who look poised to lead a resurgence. We’ll see if KC can actually make the playoffs again in the next few years–which would be their first appearance since 1985, sadly–but there’s an excitement surrounding the team that we haven’t seen in quite a while. One, I felt, warranted the first ever sports post here on the site.
Below are three questions I asked, answered by Adam. On his site, Stock Photography Museum, you can find the three answers I provided to questions asked by Adam. Pretty simple.
Without further ado, here are a bunch of words about the Royals.
Adam Peterson is the co-editor of The Cupboard, a quarterly prose chapbook series. His series of short-shorts, My Untimely Death, is available from Subito Press, and his fiction can be found in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, Indiana Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.
TW: On a scale from 2-70, how good has the Royals starting outfield been this year? There are all the doubles (136 combined), all the outfield assists (49!), the stolen bases (59), the consistency. They’re averaging a 20/20 hitter with plus defense, and all this from a group who came into the season without much in the way of positive expectations aside from Alex Gordon’s often mocked promise to “dominate.” One he followed through on, by the way. Personally, I would have thought it was more likely that all three of these guys would be playing in the minors or Japan by now than what we saw on the field. It seems improbable that Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, and Jeff Francouer will all be able to sustain their production after all three had career years this summer. Perhaps the better question, then, is which of the Royals outfielders will regress back to the mean next year, and by how much?
AP: Well, I think you did a pretty good job of illustrating exactly how good they were this year, Gordon especially who might (and certainly should) get some down-ballot MVP votes. Advanced stats have him being as valuable to the Royals as Melky and Francouer combined which is pretty remarkable when you think that both were also having career years. Now, if I can have my own Gordon-like moment of redemption, here’s what I wrote about him before this season started:
Here’s what I’ve been saying about Gordon recently: he’s either going to shock people or fall apart completely. And this is the season. I don’t think he’s going to be just average. There’s too much talent and too much that says his problems are mental. I think he either becomes a .280/.370/.500 guy or is somewhere in Nebraska hanging out with Eric Crouch next year. And, frankly, I still think he’s going to put it together. Yes, I know this is stupid, but I don’t care.
Well, well, well, look what wasn’t stupid. Alex’s line on the season was .303/.376/.502. Yes, I predicted Alex Gordon’s remarkable season to within .08 of his OPS (though, and I’ll take full responsibility for this stunning failure, his actual numbers were slightly more batting average driven. I’m sorry). I’m just kidding about my stunning prediction—well, not really, I feel pretty good about it—but what I didn’t predict would be the much lower offensive environment this season and how it makes Gordon’s numbers even better. Over on Royals Review they’re arguing that he put up the best season of a Royal since Beltran in 2003 which was itself the best season by a Royal since Brett in 1985. Yep. We should all be talking about this more: Alex Gordon is one of the best players in baseball. Finally. If I were him, I’d be screaming it at everyone in Kansas City. Hell, I’m not him and I’m still bragging about predicting his numbers.
Which I did. I totally did.
But next season is next season. I’m not worried about Gordon (except in getting him resigned). He may not be this good again, but he’s a player who could play a key role on a contending team and the Royals need to hold onto all of those they can get. Frenchie has already been locked up—for some reason—and I’m honestly okay with this. Nothing about his season seems like it couldn’t be repeated and there’s no one in the system that he’s blocking anyway. And hey, maybe he figured something out and will continue to walk a bit more and stay away from stupid pitches. (I have no confidence in this happening. I want to get him and Miguel Olivo in a room then lower a baseball from a ceiling to see which one swings at it first).
Melky is a different story. I want Lorenzo Cain. I love Lorenzo Cain. I love his name, his attitude, his scouting report, everything. Melky is the one outfielder most likely to regress and a smart GM would take this opportunity to sell high and try to get back some starting pitching. He’s a terrible defensive CF (despite the arm) and Kauffman stadium requires someone with some range out there. I don’t think he will be traded and Cain himself seems more likely to go (as does, gulp, Gordon). I hold no ill will towards Melky. He was great this year at the plate and that signing was by any accounts a brilliant one by GMDM, but he’s got to go.
Gordon, Cain, and even Francouer could be a part of a competing Royals ballclub in 2013 but Melky won’t be. The only way he resigns to the type of deal the team would want would be if he struggles and if he struggles, what would the point of having him on the team this year be when there’s a perfectly capable player at AAA? Hell, Dyson is a perfectly capable player at AAA too. Melky needs to go, and I have every reason to believe this won’t happen and instead he’s out there again next year only without the bat to justify his waddling defense.
TW: Should Steve Balboni be nervous about next year? (He holds the Royals single-season record with 36 home runs, in 1985, for those who don’t know.) I know you’re on record saying that Billy Butler is due to hit 30 some day, and there are three other guys I see as capable of hitting 30 or more homers—those being Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. Is 2012 the year that the Great Balboni’s record falls? And, for bonus points, do more than one guy surpass Balboni’s total the year his 36 comes off the books as the Royals’ best?
AP: He should certainly be nervous, but I’ll go ahead and say that next year isn’t the year. You named the three players capable of breaking his record (and, yes, I’d optimistically add Billy to that list as a darkhorse candidate), but only Gordon seems particularly likely of making it happen next season. But I say he hits 31 and we’re all very happy.
That’s not to say Hosmer and Moustakas aren’t capable of doing it next year. I mean, Hosmer this year showed remarkable power when he came up, and I don’t think anyone was expecting so much so soon. Could he keep it going and shatter the record? Absolutely. Will he? I don’t think so. Something tells me that, while he’ll be great next year and solidify himself as a future star, he’s still going to have moments where he struggles and there’s a reason why this record, even though it’s pathetic, has lasted so long. Kauffman Stadium is just unforgiving on homeruns and while Hosmer will get his 36+ one season, I don’t think it’s next season. He still seems like Adrian Gonzalez 2.0 to me—though he certainly started faster—and just as Petco sapped Gonzalez’s power, I think the same think will happen to Hosmer. Still, Gonzalez managed to hit 36 or over twice there, and I’d expect the same from Hosmer.
Moustakas, actually, might have a better chance, as stupid as that is to think (and it is stupid and yet I do sort of think it). He’s all power, and is certainly capable of having one of those Hank Blalock-y kind of seasons where he hits .250 with few walks yet somehow ends up with 30 homeruns. You know, the sort of hitter Mike Jacobs was supposed to be. Let’s stop talking about this, actually. It’s making me sad.
To sum up: I think two of three will hit 36 homeruns someday while in a Royals uniform, but I don’t think any will do it next season.
TW: Of all the great rookie performance in 2011, which excited you the most? There’s a lot to choose from here. The game-changing, all-around play of Hosmer; Moustakas finally coming around to show the kind of hitter he is; Salvador Perez arriving a year early and looking like he’ll be an All-Star catcher sooner rather than later; the bullpen throwing fire, and showing great depth; the fact that Johnny Giavotella is not Chris Getz. A lot to choose from, a lot to like.
AP: Absolutely a lot to choose from but I’m just going to go ahead and ignore the bullpen. Not that they’re not great, just that, you know, they’re the bullpen. I’m certainly going to be happy to have them when this team is ready to compete, but I’m so concerned with the rotation that my enthusiasm for guys like Holland and Coleman and Tiny Tim Collins is a little bit tempered. It was, however, great to see Crow come up and perform. I have no idea what this means for his future—I’m not sure the Royals do either—but you’ve got to move him to rotation. I don’t even think it’s a discussion.
So Hosmer, obviously, excites me the most. One of the other smart things I said before the season was that Hosmer was our best prospect because guys like him never miss. And it’s true (it’s also what everyone was saying so I’m not going to take too much credit). I already threw out the Gonzalez 2.0 which is no faint praise no matter what people in Boston are currently thinking about him. Hosmer is good. He will likely be great. It would shock no one if he’s one of the best players in baseball as early as next season, and any reasonable observer should have him in the top-2 of his Rookie of the Year ballot. (Which he certainly has a shot at winning, but he’s not a sure thing given when he came up. A small part of me hopes he doesn’t win it for motivation/curse reasons, but he probably deserves it).
I’ve already talked about Moose, but I should say this: I’m not resigned to him being a .250/.300/.480 hitter, but I think it’s a distinct possibility. That’s still a useful player, especially if he can play a serviceable third base. But, unlike with Hosmer, I think there’s a real chance that line is in play and possibly even optimistic on both his on-base and slugging percentages. I think he can still put up great numbers and be a legitimate clean-up hitter, but next year is going to be telling. Can he make enough contact and can he walk enough to be a star? The jury is still out, obviously, but there are some question marks with him both offensively and defensively that there aren’t with Hosmer. If nothing else, it might just take him longer to get it figured out. I still want him to be Butler with power and the ability to play third. We’ll see. That potential hasn’t gone anywhere.
Perez? Who knows, honestly. Nobody thought he was going to perform like that offensively. The Royals love the kid and I sort of do too. I don’t expect him to hit nearly that well going forward, but if he’s even average, then he’s a great young player and can lead this team from behind the plate. I’m a fan. Future all-star? It’s possible though something tells me he’ll have problems standing out on this Royals team. If this were a bigger market? Absolutely in play.
Giavotella is really the hardest to predict. He certainly didn’t set the world on fire when he came up though, you’re right, not being Getz is its own special skill. I don’t think the Royals are very high on him, frankly, and it’s not hard to see why (though it does make me wonder what they thought they were getting when they took him in the 2nd round a few years back). I’m rooting for him, and there was certainly a time when I, like any fan, thought he could be Pedroia-lite but…I don’t know. He’s still a trainwreck defensively (though it does seem to be mental as much as anything) and offensively his skill set might be a tougher sell in the majors than it was in the minors (doubles power with a high batting average). Could he be a .300/.350/.420 hitter? Sure. I’m not holding my breath, however, and I think the Royals would love for Colon to step up and take over 2nd as soon as he’s ready (sadly, that doesn’t seem to any time soon).
And let me end by putting in a good word for Lorenzo Cain. I like Lorenzo Cain. The last and least smart thing I said in my Royals preview was this: He sounds like a guy who beat up a train. Like, in a folk song. Who wouldn’t want that on their team?
Don’t forget to check out the other part of this literary, Royals, TW, AP, crossover event here, at the Stock Photography Museum and blog. We both had a lot of fun putting this together, and hopefully a few of you enjoy it too.