A brainchild of Royals Review reader "daveyork", the Mark Quinn Award is given annually to the most disappointing Royal hitter. Last season, Ryan Shealy, the preseason favorite, took home the hardware, thanks to a .221/.286/.308 campaign highlighted by a .113/.186/.208 that served notice that he wasn't messing around.
But to truly be a Quinn candidate, you can't just be bad, you have to truly disappoint when many held high hopes for you. While the Royals have had more than their share of disappointments over the years, it takes a special combination of circumstances to truly be a Quinn candidate. Essentially, you need to quickly rise to glory, then almost immediately fall off the face of the planet. Remember, here's the Mark Quinn career path:
Mark Quinn Through the Years:
1999: .333/.385/.733, 6 HRs (64 PAs)
2000: .294/.342/.488, 20 HRs (535 PAs)
2001: .269/.298/.459, 17 HRs (465 PAs)
2002: .237/.301/.368, 2 HRs (81 PAs)
Quinn peaked at age 26 and played his last Major League game at age 28.
Unfortunately, the composition of the current roster -- a blend of exciting young players and fairly generic veterans -- isn't conducive to the true spirit of the Quinn Award. Mark Grudzielanek, for example, might have a bad year, but he's 500 years old, and we all knew it had to end sometime. No, we were excited by Quinn, who peaked at a time when it seemed like the Royals could just generate hitters indefinitely (this was the Damon/Beltran/Sweeney Era), then completely fell apart.
Nevertheless, the show must go on, so without further ado, Royals Review is proud to announce the 2008 pre-season early-season nominees!
Mark Teahen: Royals fans were so high on Mark Teahen last off-season that they were too confident even to consider him a Quinn candidate. Despite being jerked around by team management, getting demoted to Omaha and being Canadian, Teahen returned to the lineup in June of 2006, and became Alex Rodriguez, hitting .333/.411/.599 over the next 74 games, before slowing down over the final two weeks and eventually being shut down due to injury. The "it" Royal or Brian Bannister of his day, Teahen became the source of numerous articles and blog posts, as baseball scientists wondered if his jump from a .685 OPS to a .874 mark (which included his dreadful start) was genuine. Well, it wasn't, at least not all the way: the power disappeared again (Teahen dropped from a .517 SLG to a .410 ) but he did hit for decent average (.285) and was essentially the only Royal who drew any walks, aside from DeJesus. Everyone was let down, but for whatever reason not violently so. Teahen got a lot of credit for being cheap, doing many things well, and being a flexible player, power or no power. Judging from the comments this weekend however, as the offense continues to flounder, I sense that Teahen's semi-adequacy may no longer be enough. I'm not even a very dedicated blogger and I've written far too much about him over the years, so what the true expectation is at this moment precisely is I don't know. I do know that the anger is building.
David DeJesus: Like Teahen, DeJesus has become one of the faces of the franchise, and was the first of the post-Beltran players to receive a contract extension with the team, signing a "lockup contract" in March of 2006. Grumblings began last season, when DeJesus scuffled through the worst season of his career, at age 27, hitting .260/.351/.372. He still took his walks, but lost a needed 30 points of batting average and 70 points of slugging, from a solid 2004-6 beginning to his career.
|DeJesus through 2006||.292||.362||.434|
Storm clouds actually began forming before the '07 season, when PECOTA saw him stagnating, which seemed alarming and silly at the time. Royals Review made him a pre-season nominee for the Quinn Award, which he would have likely won, had not Shealy turned in his memorable performance. Thanks to the struggles of Teahen and DeJesus however, the Royals fielded one of the worst lineups and baseball, and managed the lowest home run total in the American League since the 1994 strike. Finally, like Teahen, DeJesus isn't an ideal, or rather, typical Quinn candidate, because a significant portion of the fanbase has already soured on him. Still, he's supposed to be one of the foundations of the team's rebirth according to most blueprints, and still the only definitive major league ready, or near ready, centerfielder in the organization. If DeJesus really can't be the guy, then the Royals are in trouble.
Billy Butler: This nomination isn't suggesting that Butler will be out of baseball in two seasons, but he's the closest approximation to a pure Quinn candidate on the roster, thanks to Alex Gordon already disappointing us and lowering expectations last season. Butler gets constant criticism for his baserunning and defense, but I can't recall a single sentiment expressed that he will do anything other than mash. Last season, at the age of 21, Butler hit .292/.347/.447 in less than idea circumstances. At this moment, he's the second youngest player in the American League (Phil Hughes is a few months younger), and is hitting well. If Butler struggles a bit, which is likely, there'll be more than a few people a tad disappointed. Most will understand that you don't become Manny Ramirez overnight, but we'll still be let down nevertheless.
John Buck & Alex Gordon (Honorable Mentions): Buck is just a lesser version of the Teahen/DeJesus storyline, a supposed building block that may or may not actually ever get better. Buck flashed some impressive power last season in the first half, then slumped badly, a downturn caused, according to some (Buck included) by Buddy Bell. Zooming out a bit, Buck has been a remarkably consistent player, .230/.300/.400, more or less. Moreover, he's actually run hot and cold in just about every season of his career, posting some huge monthly splits, followed up by being completely hapless. (2006, for example) Still, the Quinn Award is all about perception, so if the same old Buck is suddenly seen as not good enough, or if he loses time to Olivo in a major fashion, he couls sneak in and win the award. As for Gordon, despite being totally un-Quinn like (like everyone else) he might have been a candidate last year, and his struggles have seemingly lowered his overall ceiling from Hall of Famer to perennial All-Star according to some projection systems. Gordon's disappointing campaign has already happened, but if he doesn't truly break out this season, at age 24, people might become nervous.
Breaking down the odds: The 2008 season is shaping up as an epic battle between Teahen and DeJesus, two generally well-liked players who may prove to be just not quite good enough. Despite a lack of any telling quotes about roles or expectations, it does seem like Moore/Hillman still don't quite know what they have in Teahen, and what they seem to want -- hitting him 3rd and 6th exclusively this years -- seems to be either a) the team's overall best hitter or a middle of the order "run producer". This is unfortunate, because his only established skill set is as a pretty classic two hitter. Another single-digit HR campaign for Teahen-as-3-hitter is going to make people unhappy. DeJesus is harder to evaluate because he's been out of the lineup and will most likely be held to an appropriately lower standard than Teahen, since he's a center-fielder. DeJesus also has a lower imagined ceiling than Teahen, but is also coming off a more alarming season in some respects. Butler really shouldn't win under any circumstances, but being let down is being let down, justified or not.
Here's how this typing in his mother's basement idiot sees the 2008 odds:
Odds of Winning the 2008 Mark Quinn Award
Mark Teahen- 41%
David DeJesus- 39%
Billy Butler- 8%
Note: The pitching version of this honor is the Andy Sisco Award. Last season's winner, in a surprising and controversial announcement, was... Andy Sisco, even though he wasn't even a Royal. Stay tuned for the nominees for the Sisco Award.