We’re all staying home—flattening the curve—and spending our days on the interwebs reading about our favorite players or greatest whatever. But the Royals have something of a dubious history between their pennant-winning seasons. There wasn’t a lot of “great.”
How about a look at the most putrid seasons in Royals’ history by an individual hitter. The most offensive offense, so to speak.
For the purposes of this exercise, the players had to have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title and play the entire season in Kansas City. No small sample sizes here. This is pure, unadulterated awfulness. I’m ranking them by OPS+ at Baseball Reference. To find them, I searched the Play Index for seasons with Royals’ hitters who posted an OPS+ of 75 or lower. There have been 24 such individual seasons in franchise history.
First, the runners up.
It’s difficult to recall the Vince Coleman era in Kansas City and with good reason. Honestly, if you asked me to list my five least-favorite Royals players (personal preference) Coleman would be near the top. I mean, if I remembered. Just one of those guys who seemed to be going through the paces in Kansas City. His speed meant he was overrated as an offensive contributor, although his 50 steals in ’94 was his most since he led the NL for six consecutive seasons, ending in 1990. He basically stopped running as much when he left St. Louis.
Jackie Hernandez was a harbinger for the Royals issues in finding someone who could field and hit at the shortstop position. Acquired from the Twins in the expansion draft to build the franchise, Hernandez was overmatched at the plate as his career line of .208/.256/.270 will attest. He was packaged in a trade with the Pirates that brought Freddie Patek to Kansas City. Patek became a key player in the Royals initial glory years and Hernandez, while he failed to ever hit much better, earned a ring in ‘71. That’s a win-win, which, let’s be honest, is rare in stories like this.
You are all well acquainted with Alcides Escobar. He had some brutal seasons as the plate, none worse than his 2013 season when both his OPB and slugging percentage were about 40 points below his final career averages.
Angel Berroa was three years removed from winning the Rookie of the Year award when he cratered offensively. Fun fact: Berroa and Escobar both own a career walk rate of 3.8 percent with the Royals. That’s tied for second worst in franchise history, behind… Salvador Perez at 3.5 percent.
That’s four individual seasons where an everyday Royals’ batsman was between 41 and 48 percent worse than league average. Brutal. But there’s one very special awful season that was even worse.
In 2002, the Royals gave 585 plate appearances to Neifi Perez, who posted a 44 OPS+. Since the Royals joined the league way back in 1969, that’s the second worst offensive performance by OPS+. No serious baseball club would dare give that many plate appearances to someone that inept with the bat. It’s better than only Matt Walbeck who somehow posted a 37 OPS+ in the strike-shortened 1994 season for the Twins.
There is just so much to unpack from Perez’s stat line from that season. His rate states are in line with what we saw in Berroa’s and Escobar’s worst seasons, but the league was, ahem, hitting a little better that season, so Perez’s OPS+ suffers. Greatly. He was also a liability on the bases, getting thrown out nine times in 17 attempts.
Because this is the Royals, and because the foibles of 20-some years ago still ring familiar at times today, Perez spent most of the first half of the 2002 season hitting in the second spot behind Chuck Knoblauch. When Tony Muser was fired and Tony Pena took over, Perez was dropped to the lower third of the lineup on the regular.
(That proceeding paragraph undoubtedly contains some triggers for longtime Royals watchers. Apologies.)
The 2002 season was the first time in franchise history the Royals lost 100 games. Perez, let’s just say, played a large part in the milestone.
Perez also owns a special place in Royals lore as he was acquired from the Colorado Rockies for Jermaine Dye at the 2001 trade deadline. It was perhaps the lowest point in franchise history at that point. At least until those 100 loss seasons started piling up. It was certainly the worst trade of the Allard Baird Era. The rumor at the time was David Glass gave Baird 36 hours to ship Dye somewhere… anywhere. Supposedly the best Baird could do was… Neifi Perez? My god. If you’re determined on looking on the bright side (seriously, why are you reading this?) you could be comforted by the fact the Rockies turned around and shipped Dye to Oakland in exchange for Todd Belitz (12.2 career major league innings pitched with a 5.52 ERA), Mario Encarnacion (76 career major league plate appearances; .203/.276/.217) and Jose Ortiz (498 career major league plate appearances; .243/.305/.379). That’s an embarrassing return. But is it more embarrassing than Perez? I’m not sure about that.
Imagine that. An outfield of Dye, Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon and the major league pieces Baird got in return was Perez, John Buck, Mark Teahen, Mike Wood, Berroa, Roberto Hernandez and AJ Hinch.
Enough darkness. That’s a story for another day.