On August 24th Reggie Sanders played his last game of the 2006 season, going 0-3 with a walk in an 8-4 loss to the Indians. Reggie's time with the team has been truly special and before we close the file on him for this year, in the interest of justice we should reflect back on all he's done in blue and white, including his growing legacy in Royal history.
Reggie finished the year with an incredible .246/.304/.425 line in 358 plate appearances, which, along with some tremendous baserunning (7 steals, 7 caught stealings) computed to a -2.8 VORP. Some guy who I think played here once named Jermaine Dye leads AL RFs with a 58.3 VORP. By that measure, only 54 right fielders have been better in 2006. Frankly, I don't find it believable that many teams supposedly have two RFs who are better than Reggie Sanders. No way. That would mean that guys like Aaron Guiel, Gabe Kapler, the desiccated remains of Shawn Green and Adam Hyzdu have had better seasons. Not buying it. Sure, the average American Leaguer is hitting .275/.340/.437, but can they play the demanding position that is right field? Can they steal bases at a 50% clip? Can they regale the clubhouse with stories about alternating good seasons and bad? Can they discuss real estate markets nationwide? I don't fricken think so.
To further investigate this, lets see how Reggie stacks up against other American League RFs with a minimum of 100 plate appearances (24 guys, at the moment):
Batting Average- .246 (22nd): Reggie's .246 leaves him well behind his nearest competition in the batting average category, as #21 Eric Hinske has managed a .264 average and #20 Shane Costa stands at .267. For good measure, the Royals have given Sanders 7.2% of the team's PAs, while Costa has only been granted 3.8%. Nice how those numbers work out.
On-Base Percentage- .304 (20th): This is where Reggie's veteran leadership comes in handy. Why get on-base only to watch John Buck and Angel Berroa strand you again? It'd be really bad for team morale. The grudge match with Costa continues here, as Reggie juuuuuust edges him out thanks to Costa's sub .300 OBP of .299. Reggie can reflect this winter that he was better than 4 other semi-regular AL rightfielders. He doesn't have grandchildren, but he will tell them this someday.
Slugging Percentage- .425 (20th): Being outslugged by Bernie Williams is nothing to be ashamed of. Oh wait, it isn't 1999. Still Sanders towers over Ichiro (.401), about whom everyone still insists "he could hit homers if he wanted to". Well, Sanders wants to. And thanks to a free-swinging ethic at the plate, he just barely made it to double digits, a feat he's accomplished 15 straight seasons. Truly an impressive and wholly worthwhile stat in everyway. I'm sure Elias dug it up. I wonder what his Tuesday/Night/Road split is?
Doubles- 23 (5th): A surprisingly strong category from Sanders, who has as many doubles as does fringe-MVP candidate Jermaine Dye, and trails Magglio by only 3, despite Mags' rough 100 PA advantage. Did half his homers turn into doubles in 2006? Is doubles hitting a skill or a reflection of a shortcoming? Depends on where you start I guess. Sanders out-doubled Ichiro (16) big time despite, again, the reputation of the latter. Michael Cuddyer of all people leads AL RFs in doubles with 33. For the curious, Sanders managed only 1 triple in 2006.
Runs Created Per 27 Outs- 3.96 (23rd): How much would a lineup of all Reggies score? Something like 3.96 runs per game, a mark bested by only 22 other right fielders with more than 100 PAs. Bobby Abreu's work as a Yankee tops the field, with an incredible 10.87, followed by Dye (8.68) and Vlad Guerrero (7.45). Even Kevin Mench is over a run and a half better than Reggie, at 5.73. Hell, Matt Stairs as a Royal was better. Still, we'll be talking for generations about the battle between Sanders and Damon Hollins (3.75) for 23rd place. Only Hollins and Franklin Gutierrez have been worse than Reggisimo.
BB/K- 0.33 (21st): The Sanders/Hollins/Gutierrez battle really heats up here, with Gutierrez lapping the field with an incredible 3 walks to 17 Ks. Of course, it's a small sample, whereas Sanders whifftastic 28/86 line represents a long term relationship between Reggie and strike three. But again, the strikeouts don't matter because getting on-base isn't important. Buddy Bell once guffawed, "there's so much more to this game than just stats and OPS, PMS, whatever it's called". Right on Buddy! And right on Reggie!
But beyond Sanders pursuit of Top 30 RF status there's also his historical legacy to consider. Specifically, his growing legacy as one of the historically great Royals. Lets take a look at how he ranks all-time.
Home Runs- 11 (tied 84th): There's a battle between Reggie Sanders, Joe Foy, Tony Graffanino, Phil Hiatt and Gail Hopkins (who? Early `70s 1B apparently) here. Graffanino is still active, as is Hiatt I guess in some sense of the word, although he hasn't appeared in a big league game since 2001. Graffy looks dangerous, since the Royals have a historical affinity for retreading guys, as, in fact, they've already done it with Graffy before. Next season, when Reggie hits homer #12 as a Royal, he'll move into 83rd place, inching closer to luminaries such as Greg Zaun, Keith Lockhart and A.J. Hinch at 13.
RBIs- 49 (tied 108th): My my my Reggie's tied with none other than long time fan favorite Neifi Perez here at 49. He finishes 2006 one rbi short of Bill Buckner and 6 ahead of still-current-and-playing Mark Grudzielanek. He's 4 rbis short of the immortal T-Long, who clocks in at tied for 101st at 53. By the way, Mike Sweeney currently ranks 5th (784), Emil Brown 44th (154) and David DeJesus 50th (138).
Strikeouts- 86 (98th): More of a power category for Reggie, as he made good use of half a season of playing time here. Tragically, he finished the year one K short of the exiled Ruben Gotay. The 50-100 all-time K leaders for the Royals is a cornucopia of random, generally bad baseball. Bip Roberts is there (91 Ks, 93rd) as is Luis Alicea (90, 94th), Pat Tabler (104, 84th), Rey Sanchez (126, 76th), Desi Relaford (126, 76th) etc. Angel Berroa already ranks 16th at 384 whiffs, and by the time you read this, will have likely passed Brian McRae (388, 15th). Berroa should pass John Mayberry by mid-May 2007 and Joe Randa by the All-Star break.
Doubles- 23 (tied for 101st): We mentioned above that Reggie actually had an OK year doubles-wise, whatever the larger implications of the stat. Well, little did we realize that Dougie and Reggie were waging a battle for our historical hearts all season long!! Minky currently sits at 100th all-time with 24 doubles, one above Reggie's 23. I think we can say 2007 just got a lot more interesting.