Top 10 Seasons in Royals History by Position
In spite of an exciting win on Saturday night and the Royals playing better overall, sometimes it’s just more fun to take a look back at the good ol’ days of Royals baseball and look at the best individual seasons in Royals history. You look at the names who have taken the field at Royals and then Kauffman Stadium and you realize there’s really such a rich history in the organization around the diamond. I thought about just going 1-10 and doing the best seasons in history, but I think it’s more fun and challenging to do this with individual seasons. Unfortunately, what this highlights is the lack of talent the Royals have historically had at certain positions. But some of these numbers are phenomenal. There might be a name or two you’ve heard of. What I ask of you, the loyal readers, is any additions you might have to some of these because, truth be told, I wasn’t around yet for a lot of these.
2009 Zack Greinke: 16-8, 2.16 ERA, 229.1 IP, 195 H, 242 K, 51 BB, 1.073 WHIP
I’m not going to need any help with this one. Watching Zack Greinke in 2009 was one of the greatest things I’ve experienced as a Royals fan in my life. He started the year on such a roll and just kept it going throughout the season. He did it all in 2009. He would go deep into games, throwing seven or more innings 19 times. He gave up more than three earned runs in a game just five times all season. Unfortunately one of those games was the last one against the Twins which led to him not having a sub-2.00 ERA. It was still an amazing year. I think I ended up going to all of his home starts, which many tried to do, and every time, I knew I was going to see something special. My favorite run of starts for him from 2009 was when he struck out 15 Indians in a game in August. The next start, the Royals were in Seattle. Greinke gave up a hit and a walk in the second inning. And then he didn’t give up anything else the rest of the game. While there was never any drama, that’s the closest I’ve come to seeing a perfect game in its entirety. What a season.
Honorable Mention: 1985, 1987, 1989 Bret Saberhagen; 1992, 1993 Kevin Appier; 1988 Mark Gubicza; 1994 David Cone
1979 Darrell Porter: .291/.421/.484, 20 HR, 112 RBI, 101 R, 121 BB, 65 K
I remember talking to someone a few years back and chatting about catchers and about their role. Offense for a catcher is typically secondary to what they do with working with a pitching staff and being the field manager. The general consensus of catchers is that what they provide offensively is gravy. Well in this conversation, we talked about Darrell Porter’s 1979 season, and that was a year he did it all. He wasn’t a truly great receiver, but he was pretty good and he did a fantastic job of catching would be base stealers. He was always a good hitter with a good eye, but never had a season like 1979. He had a career high in runs, hits, triples, homers, runs batted in and walks. And if you look above, he did it all while only striking out 65 times! What a year.
Honorable Mention: 1978 Darrell Porter¬†
1975 John Mayberry: .291/.416/.547, 34 HR, 106 RBI, 95 R, 119 BB, 73 K
Big John had multiple great seasons for the Royals, and is probably the best first baseman in team history. 1975 is the best of his career. He only got to 30 homers one other time in his career (in 1980 with the Blue Jays), but it was more than just the homers for Mayberry in 1975. He had a total of 73 extra base hits with the 38 doubles and triple he had in addition to his 34 homers. He had a career high in runs and hits as well as walks in 1975 in addition to the aforementioned doubles and homers. To top it all off, 1975 was one of Mayberry’s best defensive seasons of his career.
Honorable Mention: 1972, 1973 John Mayberry; 2002 Mike Sweeney
1998 Jose Offerman: .315/.403/.438, 7 HR, 66 RBI, 28 2B, 13 3B, 102 R
Jose Offerman may not be remembered as one of baseball’s all-time good guys, but he had a few very good seasons after the Royals made the smart decision and moved him off shortstop. All things considered, Frank White’s 1982 may actually belong here due to all he did for the Royals and how close it is to this season, but that wouldn’t be very fair to the list, now would it? Offerman committed 16 errors as a second baseman, which may seem high, but in Frank White’s 1982, he committed 17. Offerman was never great defensively, but he was just slightly below average in 1998 while Frank White was just a bit above average in 1982. Offerman’s 1998 provided a little bit of everything and he was excellent at the top of the lineup.
Honorable Mention: 1982 Frank White¬†
1980 George Brett: .390/.454/.664, 24 HR, 118 RBI, 33 2B, 9 3B, 87 R, 117 G
Like this would be anybody else in any other season. The greatest season in Royals history is this one by the greatest player in Royals history. What amazes me most about this season is the fact that he missed time with injury and still was able to put up the counting stats he did. I don’t know that I need to talk much about this season, but I will say that if not for this particular season, this position could go to any of seven or eight seasons from George Brett.
Honorable Mention: 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1988 George Brett; 1987 Kevin Seitzer
1997 Jay Bell: .291/.368/.461, 21 HR, 92 RBI, 89 R
It isn’t that this season by Jay Bell isn’t excellent, but the fact that there’s really only one other season that could be considered here says a lot about the Royals history at shortstop. 1997 was an interesting season after the Royals traded for Jeff King and Bell and then acquired veteran Chili Davis as well. Bell had better defensive seasons with the Pirates, but he was very good defensively in 1997 as well. He only had one other season in his career with more homers and with more runs batted in. All in all, this was a fantastic season.
Honorable Mention: 2008 Mike Aviles; 1971 Freddie Patek
Here’s the part where I wasn’t exactly sure what to do if I should break it up the way the gold glove voting now does and pick an outfielder for each position or if I should pick three. Well, I looked at the top three seasons, and I made the executive decision that if I was fielding a team, I could fit the top three into one outfield in spite of the fact that the best three seasons came from two positions. Maybe I’m cheating, but I’m okay with that.
1980 Willie Wilson: .326/.357/.421, 3 HR, 28 2B, 15 3B, 49 RBI, 79 SB, 133 R, 230 H
2011 Alex Gordon: .303/.376/.503, 23 HR, 45 2B, 4 3B, 87 RBI, 17 SB, 101 R, 185 H
1978 Amos Otis: .298/.380/.525, 22 HR, 30 2B, 7 3B, 96 RBI, 32 SB, 74 R, 145 H
Before you get done drooling about how amazing defensively this outfield would be with Gordon in left, Wilson in center and Otis in right, just remember that Amos Otis probably doesn’t have the speed he used to. I’m convinced Wilson still does, though, for the record. The best season on this list is actually Willie Wilson because he was, believe it or not, even better defensively than Alex Gordon as a left fielder in 1980. He was also a plus defensive center fielder in the about 60 or so games he played there that season. His 133 runs scored were the Royals record until Johnny Damon broke that in 2000, the same year Mike Sweeney broke Hal McRae’s RBI record (no coincidence). Willie Wilson had his flaws as a player, but 1980 was one of the years where it was pretty tough to find them.
Alex Gordon’s 2011 was recognized by many of us as amazing, but I don’t think I realized just how great it was in the span of Royals history. His ability to take to the leadoff role and provide exactly what the Royals offense needed to get rolling during the 2011 season. His arm and range made for some great defense that earned him a gold glove. Well maybe earned is the wrong word since Brett Gardner deserved it, but Gordon was not undeserving at all. I think his amazing season in 2011 is what has some people a little down on him, but he’s having another excellent season. It just isn’t quite historically great in the context of the Royals.
Amos Otis might be the most underrated player in Royals history. I don’t think he was underrated when he played, but you don’t hear people mention him a lot when they talk about all-time great Royals, but he’s way up on the Royals lists for many of the counting stats. In 1978, he did a little bit of everything and actually had a very similar season to Gordon’s 2011. I moved Otis over to right field for this exercise because he played there later in his career. It might waste his speed a little bit, but I like the alignment of Gordon-Wilson-Otis better than the alternatives. And really, it doesn’t matter much. Just a great season from A.O.
Honorable Mentions: 1979, 1982 Willie Wilson; 2001, 2003 Carlos Beltran; 1999, 2000 Johnny Damon; 1971 Amos Otis
1982 Hal McRae: .308/.369/.542, 27 HR, 46 2B, 8 3B, 133 RBI, 91 R
I could have picked any number of other Hal McRae seasons or even the current season from Billy Butler, but the 1982 season from Hal McRae really stood out for me. He hit all those homers and all those doubles. He was just fantastic in 1982. You could make an argument that his 1976 and 1977 were actually better, but the counting stats here speak to me more than I’m thrilled to admit. The Royals have had a long history of very good designated hitters and McRae was the first of them.
Honorable Mentions: 1976, 1977 Hal McRae; 1997 Chili Davis; 2005 Mike Sweeney; 2012 Billy Butler
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