Say what you will about Dayton Moore, but at least that season was fun. Well, more fun than a 100 loss season at least. The Royals had their highs (15-5!) and lows (MAY!), but in the end we had our best season in over two decades. Still, the team fell short of a post-season spot, and we had our share of angst and frustration at the club here at Royals Review. We'll return with the usual Royals Review sunny optimism next week with the ten best stories, but for now, here are the ten worst stories from the Royals in 2013.
Dishonorable mention: Alcides Escobar's bat, Elliott Johnson is terrible, Steve Physioc/Rex Hudler are paid to talk about baseball, Christian Colon looks like a bust, John Lamb is broken, Felipe Paulino's back.
10. Second Base is Still Terrible
We Getz it already. Chris may have hit his first home run since the Eisenhower administration, but he was still awful overall, posting a 55 OPS+. Chris has now played 332 games in a Royals uniform, with a slugging percentage under .300. Elliott Johnson fared even worse when given the chance to start, and before too long he was let go. Miguel Tejada provided some offensve performance, but it turned out he as a big cheater who cheats (or is simply forgetful about renewing his paperwork). Royals second basemen overall hit .243/.296/.304, second worst in the league behind Toronto (common thread: Emilio Bonifacio!). The Royals second basemen have been bad for a long time. Finally upgrading this position should be a high priority for Dayton Moore.
We'll always have Atlanta, Chris.
9. Ned's Managing Down the Stretch
I have generally been a Ned apologist, but in September, Ned engaged in a bizarre performance art piece known as "Questionable Manageral Decision in the Heat of a Pennant Race", a repeat performance from the work he had done in Milwaukee several years earlier. The heat of a Wild Card race seemed to get to Ned as he used platoon splits to explain some lineup decisions, and ignored platoon splits when it did not suit him. He fiddled with the rotation to get "veterans" more starts at the expense of Danny Duffy. He pinch hit Carlos Pena with less than two outs and the tying run at third, probably the absolute worst player to put up in a contact situation. He automatically pinch ran Jarrod Dyson for Billy Butler in late game situations. Ned has pretty much proven in two stops that he is a good manager for a young team, when looking at the big picture and player development is a greater priority than winning every game. He seems to be a less than optimal manager when every win matters and you need someone maximizing the team's potential to win ballgames.
8. Eric Hosmer's Slow Start
There was a wager on one of the sports talk radio shows as to which would happen first - if Mike Moustakas would reach the Mendoza Line, or Eric Hosmer would hit a home run. Unfortunately, that bet lasted til early May. Hos did not pop one out until May 9. He didn't hit his second until June 12. Fortunately he was still useful getting on base and hitting bloop singles, but the lack of power in the first half was a major red flag and a contributing factor to the awful May that put the Royals in a hole.
7. Jeff Francoeur in a Royals Uniform
Why, oh why did he even begin the year with this team? It took the Royals 59 games to see what everyone else already knew - Jeff Francoeur was toast. After a -2.3 WAR season in 2012, Jeff Francoeur went out and adjusted his swing at least a half dozen times to post a line of .208/.249/.322 with immobile defense and lackluster baserunning. Craig broke down the numbers to show just how completely worthless Jeff Francoeur really was. The Royals paid him $6.5 million to smile and not hit, and he probably cost the Royals a game or two early on that would have ended up being pretty crucial in the Wild Card race.
Don't tap your nads for me, Argentina.
6. Billy Butler's Power Decline
Billy's snub at last year's Home Run Derby at the hands of Robinson Cano may have sent him into a tailspin. While he hit a career high 29 home runs last year, Billy barely hit half as many this year, despite being healthy all year. While last year was an outlier and his 15 round-trippers this year is probably closer to his career norms, the alarming trend is the steep decline in doubles. Billy hit just 27 two-baggers in 2013, the lowest total in his career since 2008. Billy slugged just .412, a lower percentage than that of Brian Dozier, Daniel Murphy, Brett Gardner, Brad Miller, Neil Walker, and teammate David Lough. His .123 ISO was worse than A.J. Ellise, Zack Cozart, Jean Segura, Omar Infante, and again - David Lough! For a player whose value is tied up entirely in his hitting skills, Billy needs to add a bit more pop to the lineup.
5. Royals Awful Cleanup Hitters
We gave a lot of attention to the puzzling lineups Ned posted with awful hitters in the #2 hole, but Royals #2 hitters overall hit a respectable .275/.322/.380, buyoed mostly by Eric Hosmer's 52 appearances in the second spot.
It was the cleanup spot where Royals hitters went to die. Despite batting talented hitters like Billy Butler and Sal Perez in the cleanup spot, the Royals got terrible production from the #4 hole. KC cleanup hitters hit just .252/.316/.352, dead last in the league. Their 11 home runs were less than half of what any other team got from the #4 hitters. Billy Butler hit almost 100 OPS points lower in the #4 spot than in the #3 spot and Sal Perez hit an awful .196/.235/.239 when hitting cleanup. Shuffling the lineup didn't help - Alex Gordon (.632 OPS), Eric Hosmer (.692), and Mike Moustakas (.288) all struggled to hit from that spot in the lineup as well.
4. The Hitting Coach Debacle
"There is just no reward here (for us) to try and hit home runs,"
That was the quote in this piece by Jeffrey Flanagan that got Royals co-hitting instructor Jack Maloof and his partner-in-crime Andre David
fired re-assigned to minor league instructor following the team's slow offensive start. Maloof dug his hole further when he tried to explain other team's had their swing down when they came to the K, so they could hit home runs, but Royals hitters did not. It still makes my brain hurt to try to think about it. The Royals then brought in George Brett (on a temporary basis) and Pedro Grifol to serve as hitting instructor, giving the club almost as many hitting instructors this year (4) than grand slams hit (5).
3. Wade Davis Was Not The Key to the Wil Myers Trade
As a Wade Davis believer, don't think this is as lopsided as some on Twitter. Will say again, he's key to this deal for Royals.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 10, 2012
Oh, those were the days. There were some reasons to be slightly optimistic about Wade Davis. As a rookie starter in 2010 he had been a serviceable 1.4 WAR starter. After struggling the next year, he had a dominating 2012 season as a reliever, leading some to believe that he had re-found his stuff and could return as a serviceable starter. How naive we were.
"Cool Stuff" posted a 5.32 ERA, the fifth highest in baseball among pitchers with at least 135 innings pitched. The only pitchers worse were two Astros (Jordan Lyles and Lucas Harrell), a pitcher let go twice this year (Aaron Harang), and Edinson Volquez. Its almost as if Kyle Davies snuck into Kauffman Stadium, put on a fake mustache, and pitched under an uncreative assumed name.
2. Mike Moustakas' Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Season
Mike Moustakas is 25, with nearly 1,500 Major League plate appearances under his belt, and its beginning to be hard to see how he's ever going to be a quality Major League hitter. He has a sub-.300 OBA for his career, which isn't all that surprising given his minor league track record. But its his lack of power that has been most alarming. Since last year's All-Star Game (remember when we thought he might be a snub!) Moose is slugging just .350 with 17 home runs over 206 games.
Moose was under the Mendoza Line as late as June 19 this year, and never seemed to get fully on track. With numbers resembling that of busts like Kevin Orie and Rick Schu, Moustakas is going to have to put together a terrific 2014 season or it may be time for the Royals to part ways with him.
1. WIL MYERS IS THE AWESOME
Dayton gambled the future when he dealt Wil to Tampa Bay for James Shields, and it was awfully tough to watch Wil take the league by storm by hitting .293/.354/.478 with 13 HR 53 RBI in half a season of play. Myers will be the odds-on favorite for American League Rookie of the Year, and while "The Trade" supporters are still right in that Wil could bust, the early returns are tough to swallow. This is the trade that will define Dayton Moore's tenure in Kansas City, and while this season was fun, an 86-win season just won't justify trading away a talent like this.