The Five Best “Batting Third” Seasons In Royals History Reviewed by Momizat on . Here’s my ranking of the best seasons by a number three hitter in Royals history. If you missed last week’s post, I’ll review: I used baseball-reference.com’s r Here’s my ranking of the best seasons by a number three hitter in Royals history. If you missed last week’s post, I’ll review: I used baseball-reference.com’s r Rating:
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The Five Best “Batting Third” Seasons In Royals History

The Five Best “Batting Third” Seasons In Royals History

Here’s my ranking of the best seasons by a number three hitter in Royals history. If you missed last week’s post, I’ll review: I used baseball-reference.com’s records of batting orders for this series. I just looked at whichever player had the most starts in the particular spot in the order (or both players if there was a tie). Thankfully, bb-ref has batting order position as a split, so that made this series easy. Therefore, all stats listed are for the player in that particular spot in the order.

You probably can guess who is on this list the most often…

1. George Brett, 1980
501 PA, .389/.455/.651, 83 R, 22 HR, 109 RBI, 30 2B, 9 3B

Obviously.  Actually, when I started thinking about this particular spot in the order, I thought Brett’s 1985 season might be a little better.  Nope. Of course this is the best batting average in this spot, but it’s also the highest on-base percentage and slugging percentage. I think my favorite stat for Brett this season is the .494 average he put up in July. Yep, one hit every other at-bat. He struck out ONCE in 98 plate appearances that month. That is locked in. If I could build a time machine, the summer of 1980 would be high on my list of times to visit.

Oh, if you’re wondering, Brett batted fourth in two games in 1980 (going 5 for 11) and had three pinch-hitting appearances in the eighth spot (going 1 for 3). That’s why his average as a number three hitter wasn’t the famous .390.

2. George Brett, 1985
663 PA, .336/.437/.588, 108 R, 30 HR, 112 RBI, 38 2B, 5 3B

In a way, this is more impressive than Brett’s 1980 season. See, in 1980, Brett was surrounded in the lineup by Willie Wilson (113 OPS+), Willie Aikens (116 OPS+), Hal McRae (124 OPS+) and Clint Hurdle (120 OPS+). Throw in a 115 OPS+ from John Wathan, and it’s clear that Brett had lots of help. But in 1985, Brett was the whole darn offense. OK, McRae had a 118 OPS+ and Steve Balboni had a 112 OPS+. But every other starter was below 100, meaning they were below average offensively for their position. Heck, Onix Concepcion had a 39 OPS+, and the Royals let him bat 349 times. The best demonstration of how much the 1985 Royals depended on Brett? He was intentionally walked 31 times that season.

As a reward for carrying this team to a World Series title (sure, the pitching was pretty good too), Brett was runner-up for the MVP award to Don Mattingly. Sure, Brett had a higher average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. But Mattingly had more RBIs. When Royals fans complain about “East Coast bias,” this is Exhibit A.

3. Mike Sweeney, 2000
610 PA, .340/.416/.516, 88 R, 22 HR, 125 RBI, 26 2B, 0 3B

Even by the hyper-inflated offensive standards of the late 90s and early 2000s, this was quite a year. You probably know this is the highest-scoring team in Royals’ history. Obviously Sweeney was a big part of that. At age 26, Sweeney was coming into his prime during this season and, contrary to his reputation as injury-prone, played in 159 games in 2000. But he would never play in 150 games in one season after this year. Oh Mike, if only you could have stayed healthy.

4. George Brett, 1983
523 PA, .310/.384/.563, 90 R, 25 HR, 91 RBI, 38 2B, 2 3B

The 1983 Royals had a lot of things go wrong. Dennis Leonard tore his patellar tendon in late May, and the team couldn’t find a reliable fourth or fifth starter after that. Larry Gura got old in a hurry, as his ERA went up almost a full run from 1982. On offense, Amos Otis, John Wathan and Willie Wilson all had subpar years. Oh yeah, and then there was all the cocaine usage.

All of that somewhat overshadowed an outstanding year from Brett (although he missed a few weeks in June and a couple more in September). When you think of great Brett seasons, 1983 might not come to mind, but a .947 OPS is pretty good (it was actually the third-highest of his career). And of course, there was this great moment.

5. Carlos Beltran, 2001
367 PA, .341/.402/.586, 63 R, 14 HR, 64 RBI, 23 2B, 8 3B

This was a tough call, actually. When ranking these, I tend to favor seasons where a player batted in the particular spot for the vast majority of the season. Beltran only batted third for 84 games in 2001 (he hit leadoff and second a bunch). But those numbers were too good to keep off the list.

Honorable Mention

George Brett, 1988

George Brett, 1982

Billy Butler, 2009

Amos Otis, 1973

George Brett, 1976

And one that stunk…

Richie Scheinblum, 1972
321 PA, .268/.368/.357, 30 R, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 9 2B, 3 3B

“Stunk” is probably too strong of a word here, but this was the lowest OPS season by anyone who batted third most often in one year. These really aren’t terrible numbers, especially in 1972. In fact, Scheinblum’s total OPS+ for 1972 was 140. Mostly it’s the complete lack of power that lands him here—the on-base percentage is pretty good considering the relatively low average. I like to see some power hitting in the middle of the order, though. I’d like to know the thought process behind the batting orders in this season; Amos Otis batted third the vast majority of the time in 1970 and 1971, then the Royals added Scheinblum, whose career average to that point was .208. And suddenly he’s batting third most of the time. But he did end up hitting .300 in the 1972 season, before the Royals traded him for Hal McRae. So I suppose it worked out.

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About The Author

Darin Watson

I grew up in Topeka, and learned to love the Royals over many summer nights listening to Denny and Fred. Of course, the Royals were much easier to love back then. They got their claws in me some 30 years ago, then they went to the playoffs in 1984 and won it all in 1985. And I thought to myself, “This is easy. This team is always going to be good!” Sigh. But what can I say? If I’ve made it this far, I suppose I will always be a fan. But whenever they get good again, I’ll be sure not to take it for granted. I promise. I’m also a fan of the Chiefs, Jayhawks (even the football team) and the Nashville Predators. By day, I’m a mild-mannered project manager for a publishing company, and every night I’m lucky to come home to my amazing wife Michelle. We’ve been married since 2005 and live in Overland Park. Fun fact, she grew up in Memphis watching many future Royals when Kansas City’s AA team was there. So it didn’t take much to make a Royals fan out of her. We don’t have kids, but we’ve got three cats (one named after Alex Gordon) and a dog. Follow me on Twitter! @Darin_Watson

Number of Entries : 282

Comments (2)

  • Darin Watson

    Darin Watson

    I came very close to putting Brett’s 1993 season in the “One That Stunk” category, actually. A .739 OPS and especially a .309 OBP really aren’t good enough to bat third in 138 games. The Royals probably would have been better off letting Wally Joyner hit third that year. And yeah, it would be interesting to see how Brett, White, Otis, McRae and guys like that would have been treated by the internet.

  • Greg Schaum

    Greg Schaum

    On the other hand….the Royals definitely held on to Brett to long in the 3rd spot. I am not sure if you can blame them but I remember my dad had me do an assignment for him where I looked at Brett versus the other #3 hitters in the league (I think this was maybe 92-93) and Brett was near the bottom of the list…I wonder how the blog world and twitter verse would have tremendous some of the Royals greats at the end of their careers?

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