The Five Best “Batting Sixth” Seasons In Royals History
The sixth spot in the order, like the ones that follow it, could be tricky for this exercise. After all, if a player performs well in that spot, heâ€™s likely to move up in the order some. Thatâ€™s especially true for a franchise that historically has not fielded juggernaut lineups. But there were a few standout seasons to discuss.
1. Steve Balboni, 1984
306 PA, .253/.330/.527, 36 R, 18 HR, 51 RBI, 17 2B, 0 SB
Ignore the batting average (I hope most of you know to look beyond that anyway) and check out the .857 OPS, which is pretty good anywhere in the lineup. But thatâ€™s even more true in the sixth spot, in 1984. Dick Howser was a terrific manager, but I find it funny that he kept Balboni hitting sixth for roughly half the season when he was the Royalsâ€™ only real power threat other than George Brett. Of course, it didnâ€™t matter in the end, since the Royals rode their pitching staff to a division title.
2. Joe Randa, 2000
355 PA, .330/.379/.466, 46 R, 10 HR, 57 RBI, 10 2B, 5 SB
Man, that 2000 team could hit (as you probably know, they scored more runs than any other team in franchise history). Itâ€™s too bad about the pitching. Anyway, the sixth spot in the order was a perfect spot for a Joe Randa-type player: the solid hitter with some power who can clean up any scoring chances left over by the middle of the order. Randa thrived in the six spot in 1999 and 2000, even though he was overshadowed offensively by the Damon/Beltran/Dye/Sweeney machine.
3. Mike Moustakas, 2011
207 PA, .333/.380/.487, 18 R, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 12 2B, 2 SB
Itâ€™s funny to see Mooseâ€™s numbers like this, since I think most people felt his overall numbers were a bit disappointing in his rookie season. Which might be an object lesson on hype. But for some reason, in the 49 games he hit sixth, he was good. It was the other 40 games that were a problem. Letâ€™s hope we see more of this Moose in 2013, wherever he ends up in the order.
4. Darrell Porter, 1977
200 PA, .273/.355/.477, 21 R, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 8 2B, 1 SB
It makes sense that the winningest team in franchise history would have a solid-enough lineup that a catcher with an OPS+ ofÂ 116 would hit sixth or seventh most of the season. I think an interesting argument can be made that Porter still stands as the best catcher in franchise history, even though he was only a Royal for four seasons. I have high hopes that Salvador Perez will be better, but heâ€™s got work to do to get there. For the record, Porter does have the highest career bWAR of any Royals catcher, leading Mike Macfarlane 15.8 to 11.8. Salvyâ€™s already at 4.2, though.
5. Jeff Conine, 1998
202 PA, .289/.351/.478, 22 R, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 19 2B, 3 SB
What a shame that the Royals let Conine get away in the 1992 expansion draft. They had the foresight to draft him (in the 58th round!) and held on to him while he raked in the minors. And then, he was gone. And they got nothing in return. I think Herk Robinson would probably like to have that decision back. Then, in typical late-90s Royals fashion, they brought him in as a â€śveteran presenceâ€ť to try and patch a hole (the shiny 1997 World Series ring on his finger was irresistible, I bet). I donâ€™t think it worked the way they hoped, as Conine only played in 93 games. And then he was gone again.
Danny Tartabull, 1989
Gary Gaetti, 1994
Alex Gordon, 2008
John Wathan, 1980
Joe Randa, 1999
And one that stunkâ€¦
Frank White, 1988
282 PA, .248/.279/.313, 23 R, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 8 2B, 5 SB
I donâ€™t want to say too many unkind things about Frank White, but this was the season where he finally looked old. In keeping with the franchise tradition, White never was the most patient hitter, so when his batting average dropped, his on-base percentage plummeted as well. And at age 37, his bat was slowing down, so his power numbers declined too. Of course, he was still pretty good defensively (in fact, Harold Reynolds was accidentally awarded Whiteâ€™s Gold Glove for this season and never has had the decency to give it to its rightful owner), so he needed to play regularly. The Royals probably would have been better off flipping White and Bo Jackson (who hit seventh most of the year) in the order.
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