With last decade now ever, we’ve seen a spate of “best of the decade” lists. MLB.com had an all-decade best MLB team (two, actually), and it got me to wondering who would be on the team for a Royals All-Decade team.
To create this, I’m taking the best single season per player per position, and taking a full 25 men (13 pitchers and 12 position players, as per the standard Royals practice during much of the decade).
Unless you only started watching the Royals in 2019, you probably know that Salvador Perez will win this hands down, specifically 2013 Salvy who posted 3.5 fWAR in 138 games hitting .292/.323/.433. The next most valuable catcher was Brayan Pena in 2011, but when adjusting for playing time the best was 2016 Drew Butera at 0.8 fWAR in 56 games. That would have Drew handling the full catching duties in 24 games, and splitting catching in an additional 32, which given the handling feels about right.
This one will also not likely come as a shock, with Eric Hosmer’s 2017 campaign topping the charts. He posted 4 fWAR that season, batting .318/.385/.498.
It feels like a trend where the answer is already known by most. Whit Merrifield’s 2018 tops the list for second basemen. He posted 5.2 fWAR. He’s truly been the bright spot on the team for the past few seasons, and deserves his place on the All-Decade team.
Also probably not a surprise, Mike Moustakas’s 2015 campaign tops this list. He posted 3.8 fWAR and batted .284/.348/.470 with a 22 home runs. Hopefully we can find someone who is a bit of a surprise eventually.
I’m not certain if this is a surprise, but Alcides Escobar posted 3.5 fWAR in 2014, topping this list. Despite constant criticism about batting lead-off, he managed a respectable .285/.317/.377.
Alex Gordon (6.6 fWAR in 2011) and Lorenzo Cain (6.1 fWAR in 2015) are both sure, obvious locks for outfield. For right field it becomes a bit more complicated. Technically Jorge Soler’s 2019 season (3.6 fWAR) is the best season by a right fielder for the Royals in the 2010s, but since he started so few games last season at that position it feels disingenuous to use him.
Those of us who were around as fans at the beginning of the decade can well remember the revolving door that was right field. Frenchy, David Lough, Nori Aoki, Alex Rios. Choosing the best season from those isn’t terribly difficult, but it leaves us saying Jeff Francoeur’s 2011 (2.7 fWAR) was the best season by a Royals right-fielder of the 2010s, and that’s a tough pill to swallow. This is a position I’d love to see improved upon in the next decade.
The fourth outfield spot goes to Jarod Dyson (2.4 fWAR in 2014). I could give this to Melky Cabrera (3.9 fWAR in 2011) but that was a full season of playing left field, or Dyson’s 2016 (2.9 fWAR but he started significantly more due to Gordo’s injury), but I really feel like Dyson deserves to be on this list, so he is.
Billy Butler had a very good year in 2012 (2.7 fWAR, batted .313/.371/.510) and is generally underrated by the fan base (in my opinion) and I really want to have room for him on this list, but Jorge Soler’s 2019 season was remarkable. His 3.6 fWAR is almost a full win better than any DH the Royals had in the 2010’s, and he broke the single season home run record while doing it, earning his a gold star for drama. Perhaps it’s recency bias but I’m going with Soler (sorry, Billy).
The starting pitching for the decade was overall pretty poor. The Royals had 12 instances where a pitcher posted over 2 fWAR, which is considered to be an “average” player. The top five performances are as follows.
Zack Greinke in 2010 (just barely making the cut) tops our list. He posted a 4.17 ERA but managed to put up 4.9 fWAR over 33 starts (220 innings). His FIP and xFIP were both nearly full run lower than his actual ERA.
James Shields 2013 is next on our list. He checks in with 4.1 fWAR over 228.2 innings putting up a 3.15 ERA. His 2014 season would also be very good, but not quite as good as his 2013.
Up next we have a tie between the late Yordano Ventura and Edison Volquez. Both posted 2.7 fWAR in the 2015 championship run, making them perfectly adequate middle rotation pitchers that season.
Ervin Santana rounds out our list of starting pitchers with his 2013 campaign of 2.5 fWAR.
A full season of 162 games consists of 1,458 innings that must be pitched (barring the occasional rain-out and extra inning games, which I’ll allow to just cancel each other out). Our starting rotation staff covered 1,021.1 of those innings, leaving 436.2 innings to be covered by the bullpen and spot-starts. We have 160 starts from the starters as well, meaning I will need to find a spot starter for the other two.
Our swing man is Luke Hochevar. He will pitch 12.2 innings in two spot starts for .1 fWAR, leaving our bullpen to cover 424 more innings (of which he will be part of the group).
I’ll cover Luke Hochevar first because I’ve already given him some innings as a swing starter. His 2013 base stats were 1.1 fWAR in 70.1 innings. I’m knocking him back to 42 innings and when combined with his starts, he’s posting 0.8 fWAR.
Wade Davis is an obvious slam dunk as the closer. His 2014 was so dominant I’m not going to mess with it. He posted 3.1 fWAR in 72 innings pitched that year.
Greg Holland is also a slam dunk. Likewise I won’t mess with his 2013, where he posted 3.1 fWAR in 67 innings.
The next spot obviously goes to... Mike Minor? Minor was fantastic of 77 2⁄3 innings with the Royals in 2017, posting 2.2 fWAR. He’s going to take an innings hit as he will not be the primary setup or closer in this bullpen. He’s going to pitch a solid 60 innings and provide 1.7 fWAR.
Next is the final member of HDH, Kelvin Herrera. His 2016 was fantastic, posting 2.1 fWAR in 72 innings. He also will take an innings hit as he is primarily the seventh inning guy, but with this rotation he will be needed less. He will also pitch 60 innings and provide 1.7 fWAR.
Joakim Soria’s 2010 was worth 1.9 fWAR in 65.2 innings. We’re dropping that to 41 innings for a total of 1.2 fWAR.
Ian Kennedy’s 2019 is next on this list. He posted 1.4 fWAR in 63.1 innings. Adjusting to 41 innings this is .9 fWAR.
The last spot in our bullpen I’m giving to a lefty. With Minor being the only lefty in the bullpen, it feels necessary to have another. I’m giving it to Tim Collins and his 2013 season where he posted 0.7 fWAR in 53 1⁄3 innings, adjusted to 41 innings that’s 0.5 fWAR.
The final spot
So far I’ve given a list of 24 players. Starting in 2020 there will be a 26 man active roster, but through all of the 2010’s it was a 25 man roster, meaning we have one spot left to give to a utility infielder.
Usually you want your utility infielder to be able to play short stop, third base and second base at least passably. Offense is less important than defense. However, in the end, who we really choose to put here is trivial, given we already have Whit Merrifield who can cover so many positions.
Christian Colon only appeared in 43 games with the Royals in 2015. He posted 0.2 fWAR, but he gets the nod because of his post season heroics, being the winning run in the 2014 Wild Card game as well as hitting a go-ahead RBI in the final game of the 2015 World Series in extra innings. In my mind, it’s not even close who this spot should go to.
So now the question is, how good would the Royals All-Decade team be? If we use 47 wins as a baseline (zero-WAR team), we find this collection of individual seasons from the last decade would have 70.6 fWAR and win approximately 117 games. That’s... pretty, pretty good.
So how do you feel about this exercise? Do you think someone was left off the list who shouldn’t have been? I debated Jason Vargas instead of Ervin Santana, if for no other reason than to give the rotation a lefty. Same with Danny Duffy over Luke Hochevar, but in the end went with the stats.