Royals Rotten Decade (2008)

During the 2000s, no major league team lost more games than the Kansas City Royals.  It was a decade where the negatives far outweighed the positives.  This is the ninth installment of the 11 part Royals Rotten Decade series.  I will briefly examine each season in the last decade before wrapping up the decade in the 11th and final part.

Part 9, the 2008 Royals (75-87) 691 RS / 781 RA

Payroll:  $58.2 million (24th) / Attendance: 1,578,922

Draft:  1B-Eric Hosmer (1st), LHP-Mike Montgomery (1st), 2B-Johnny Giovatella (2nd), RHP-Tyler Sample (3rd), RHP-Tim Melville (4th), LHP-John Lamb (5th)

Top Prospect:  3B-Mike Moustakas

Major League Debuts:
SS-Mike Aviles (27)
1B-Kila Ka’aihue (24)
C-Matt Tupman (28)
RHP-Yasuhiko Yabuta (35)
RHP-Devon Lowery (25)
RHP-Carlos Rosa (23)

Above 110 OPS+ (Minimum 50 AB)
151 1B-Ryan Shealy (28):  0.301/.354/.603 in 73 AB
121 SS-Mike Aviles (27):  0.325/.354/.480 in 419 AB
118 LF-David DeJesus (28):  0.307/.366/.452 in 518 AB

Above 110 ERA+ (Minimum 49.0 IP)*
272  RHP-Joakim Soria (24):  1.60 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 8.8 SO/9 in 67.1 IP
165  RHP-Ramon Ramirez (26):  2.64 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.8 SO/9 in 71.2 IP
146  RHP-Leo Nunez (24):  2.98 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 4.8 SO/9 in 48.1 IP
126  RHP-Zack Greinke (24):  3.47 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.1 SO/9 in 202.1 IP
125  LHP-Ron Mahay (37):  3.48 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 6.8 SO/9 in 64.2 IP

*Bumped the IP requirement down by 1 so I could include Leo Nunez.

Mike Sweeney’s $11 million per year salary came off the books at the end of the 2007 and accounted for much of the drop in the team’s payroll from $67.1 million in 2007 to $58.2 million in 2008.  Overall attendance dropped by just under 38,000 from the 2007 season.  The signings of Jose Guillen, Yasuhiko Yabuta, Ron Mahay, and Miguel Olivo clearly didn’t energize the fan base enough, and the loss of fan favorite Sweeney certainly didn’t help.  On December 14th, 2007 Dayton pulled off his second best trade* when he sent 2004 2nd round pick, RHP-Billy Buckner, to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  In return, the Royals received 24-year old switch hitting infielder Alberto Callaspo.  It looked like a questionable deal at the time thanks in large part to the off-the-field issues surrounding Bert, but his performance on the field in 2008 and 2009 have tipped the scales in Kansas City’s favor.

*For those of you who don’t know, Ambiorix Burgos for Brian Bannister is universally regarded as Dayton’s best trade.

Coming off a 2007 season which saw the team score 706 runs, the 2008 team dipped slightly and scored 691.  With Sweeney gone, David DeJesus did his best to step up and lead the team and in the process, turned in the best OPS+ season of his career.  In addition to DJ, Mike Aviles forced his way into the lineup and turned in the finest season by a SS in Royals history.  Alex Gordon cut his SO, increased his BB, and showed a nice improvement across the board over his rookie season.  His progression was reflected in his OPS+ which climbed from 90 in 2007 to 109 in 2008.  Mark Teahen, Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo, Jose Guillen, Miguel Olivo, and Mark Grudzielanek each finished the year with an OPS+ in the 90s.  The team had enough of an offense that a middle of the order impact bat could have made a huge difference.  Jose Guillen was brought in to be that guy and he did hit 20 HR, but his line of 0.264/.300/.438 didn’t come close to making him the offensive force Dayton Moore was banking on.  In fact, Aviles, DeJesus, and Olivo all out-slugged Guillen on the year.  Seven Royals hit 10 or more home runs on the season including the following:  Guillen (20), Gordon (16), Teahen (15), Olivo (12), DeJesus (12), Butler (11), and Aviles (10).  Joey Gathright led the team with 21 steals but contributed little else.  DJ was the only other Royals player to steal more than 10 bases, and finished with 11.  Gordon led the team in runs with 72 while Guillen led the team in RBI with 97.

The pitching staff held serve in terms of runs scored allowing 781 after allowing 778 in 2007.  Zack Greinke made 32 starts and established himself as one of the best pitchers in the AL.  Gil Meche and Kyle Davies gave the Royals two more above average starters finishing with an ERA+ of 109 and 107 respectively.  The real bright spot for the future was in the bullpen.  Nunez, Ram-Ram, and Robinson Tejeda gave the team 3 relievers, all younger than 26, who pitched at a very high level.  Joakim Soria proved that his rookie campaign in 2007 was no fluke, and established himself as one of the truly elite closers in baseball.  23-year RHP-Carlos Rosa appeared in only 2 games but showed fans why he was such a highly regarded prospect in the process.  Thanks to the bullpen the 2008 Royals were above 0.500 in one run games with a record of 20-18.

Kansas City closed the season on a high note with a September record of 18-8.  In the final standings the Royals wound up 13.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox (89-74) who needed a one-game playoff to claim the division title from the Minnesota Twins.  In addition to a good September, the Royals also finished with an above 0.500 record in June when they went 16-11.  In terms of runs scored and runs allowed, the 2008 results were very similar to those in 2007.  The difference in the W-L record between the two seasons was due to the fact that in 2008, they won 3 more games than their Pythagorean Win-Loss suggested.  You may recall that the opposite was true in 2007 when they won 5 fewer games than their Pythagorean W-L.

Heading into the offseason it was clear that the Jose Guillen signing was a mistake, and that he was incapable of being the offensive leader and impact bat the team needed.  Despite Dayton’s swing and miss on Guillen, a legitimate major league roster continued to take shape.  The Royals looked to have 3 starters in place with Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, and Kyle Davies.  Luke Hochevar and Brian Bannister figured to improve in 2009 and were the logical candidates to round out the 2009 rotation.  The bullpen also looked to be nearly set with veteran LHP-Ron Mahay and a slew of young RHPs Nunez, Ramon Ramirez, Tejeda, Rosa, and Soria.  On offense Butler, Gordon, Callaspo, and Aviles looked like they were ready to join the steady presence of Teahen and DeJesus.  Kila Ka’aihue, coming off a monster season in the minors wasn’t overmatched in 21 late season at bats and appeared to provide the team an in-house 1B/DH option for 2009.

There appeared to be little need to really mess with the roster.  We all know that Dayton Moore couldn’t help himself, but that is a story for another day.

(Wally Fish is the lead blogger for Kings of Kauffman and FanSided’s MLB Director.  Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)

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Tags: AL Central Alberto Callaspo Alex Gordon Baseball Billy Butler Carlos Rosa David DeJesus Devon Lowery Joakim Soria Joey Gathright Jose Guillen Kansas City Royals KC Kila Kaaihue Kyle Davies Leo Nunez Mark Gruzielanek Mark Teahen Matt Tupman Miguel Olivo Mike Aviles MLB Ramon Ramirez Ron Mahay Royals Ryan Shealy Yasuhiko Yabuta Zack Greinke

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