For yet another season, the Royals have finished outside the select company of teams who play for the World Series Championship.
But come on, we knew that would be the case going into 2010. I think I’m among the more optimistic (at times) Royals fans out there, and I never gave us much of a chance to compete this year. There was an outside chance we might finish third in the division, but not much more than that. In our season preview on Kings of Kauffman back in April, Wally predicted a 68-94 finish, I predicted a 75-87 finish and Jon Twibell predicted the Royals to finish 67-95. So both Jon (who nailed it) and Wally (who was quite close) had a more realistic view going into the season.
And that’s fine. That’s what being a fan is, enjoying your team how you choose. I chose to hope for the best and the Royals let me down. I’m getting used to that.
Despite the poor record and another last place finish, there were bright spots. I’ll try to glance at a few of them now, and confine my focus to the major league roster, as the advancement of the minor leagues has been discussed enough for now (though I still enjoy it every time).
The Royals hit on Scott Podsednik
At the time of his signing, most were critical of bringing in Scott Podsednik, citing 2009’s numbers as an unrepeatable stat line. Podsednik came on to have a blistering April and continued to perform at a high level all season. His defense was suspect but his offensive contributions were enough that he commanded a solid return at the trading deadline, which was all the Royals really wanted in the first place, I suspect.
Joakim Soria had a career year (or another career year)
With 43 saves and a 9.7/2.2 K/BB ratio, Soria just edged out his stellar 2008 campaign where he saved 42 games, carried a 1.60 ERA and an 8.8/2.5 K/BB ratio. He gave up more basehits in 2010, as his WHIP of 1.051 looks significantly higher than 2008’s 0.861, but it’s hard to really complain about that.
Yuniesky Betancourt wasn’t completely worthless
Okay, he led the team in homers and tied for the team lead in RBI. He still made an out 71.2% of the time.
Mike Aviles showed 2008 wasn’t a fluke
I’m all in on Mike Aviles. He’s not a good defensive player, and no, like every other Royal, he doesn’t walk much. But he can hit – though his power numbers could be better. After a lost 2009 due to Tommy John surgery, Aviles showed he can play every day and should be even healthier in 2011, which should help him regain some of the power he displayed in 2008.
Robinson Tejeda, when healthy, can be electric
While Tejeda was more hittable in 2010 than in 2009, he slashed his walkrate from 6.1 BB/9 last season to 3.8 BB/9 in 2010. It’s still a bit high, and he’ll never really do much better, but he was still an above average middle reliever and carried a high K/9 all season. He’s a strong favorite for a setup role next season if Tim Collins, Greg Holland or Louis Coleman don’t win it in spring training. If that’s the case, Tejeda will play the mid-game stopper where he’s been effective.
Kila Ka’aihue got playing time
Sure it took a while to finally happen, but he got into the lineup everyday towards the last few weeks of the season and produced after pressing early on. His eight homers in just over 200 plate appearances are a good sign, and he finished tied for fourth on the team in that category despite hardly playing at the major league level.
Billy Butler improved
It’s easy to look at a decline in doubles and homeruns hit and say that Butler regressed. I argue the exact opposite.
While Butler hit five less homeruns and six less doubles this year than last, he walked more (10.2% of PA vs. 8.6% in 2009), struck out less (11.5% of the time vs. 15.3% in 2009) and increased his OPS and OPS+ from 2009 to 2010.
He also improved his fielding percentage and statistical range factor. According to Baseball-Reference.com, he was even 2 runs above average as a defender at first base.
Ned Yost gets it
So we can roast him for the Jason Kendall batting second stuff, and trotting Yuni out there every day, but Yost compiled a 55-72 record in his time as manager this year, a winning percentage of .433. It’s not great, but it looks a lot better compared to the Royals overall .414 this year and .401 last season.
Now that we’re in the offseason, here’s the plan for Kings of Kauffman. Much of October will focus on the minor league prospects performances in the Pan Am games and in fall leagues. But we’ll also deconstruct the 40 man roster, look at what changes to make for 2011 at the major league level, and by that point, we’ll hit Hot Stove Season and the winter meetings.