After another night that showcased to the world that Jeff Francoeur is still on fire (.333/.394/.778 in his last 17 games), it occurred to me that Francoeur and Alex Gordon might just be the best corner outfielders the Royals have had in a long while, at least to this point in the season. They may even constitute the best set of corner outfielders in the league. I would extend this to Melky Cabrera, but he’s seemingly floating around the expected production at this point.
So, let’s look through the last several years of the Royals and see what we find. And then I want to compare to some of the big corner outfield names around the league and see how we’re doing.
Here are the contenders for best corner outfielders early in the season throughout Royals history and their combined lines through May 4, since that’s an easy way to look at it.:
- 2011: Gordon and Francoeur – .321/.371/.568; 22 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 44 RBI in 56 total games
- 2010: Scott Podsednik and David DeJesus – .300/.356/.420; 11 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 21 RBI in 52 total games
- 2000: Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye – .318/.378/.608; 15 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 38 RBI in 54 total games
- 1997: Bip Roberts and Dye/Damon – .324/.352/.410; 11 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 20 RBI in 60 total games
- 1989: Bo Jackson and Danny Tartabull – .281/.360/.535; 10 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 31 RBI in 52 total games
- 1984: Darryl Motley and Pat Sheridan – .324/.349/.576; 6 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, 14 RBI in 41 total games
Of course, this is all pretty objective. I just scanned through the seasons and the starts of the players to see who started seasons out with a hot streak. This also doesn’t show all of the details, such as Damon’s 12 steals to start 2000 without being caught or Jackson and Tartabull’s combined 46 strikeouts in that time span (though Tartabull was walked 17 times). Still, it gives you an idea of the best early-season production from the corner outfielders in Royals history.
Now, that being said, do Gordon and Francoeur take the cake? Well, they compete well with every season. They have the second-best OPS among this group, beaten only by Damon and Dye in 2000. They have by far the most doubles and as many or more triples than every set except Motley and Sheridan*. Their 10 homers are surpassed only by Damon and Dye. They really stand in there well.
*Motley and Sheridan would be a great band name.
I have to give them second place, though. That 2000 season that Damon and Dye put forth, especially at the outset, was pretty great. It’ll be hard for any group to beat that, but Gordon and Francoeur are a close second. Still, with 41+ years of Royals baseball in the books, being the second-best-producing set of corner outfielders in franchise history is a pretty solid feat, even with the team’s struggles in recent years.
Okay, so that’s out of the way. What about their rank among corner outfielders in the league in 2011? There are a few contenders for that crown, but I want to distinguish a certain group before I get there:
I want to highlight this group for one reason: their performance is carried by one of the players. Bautista, Braun, Ethier, and Kubel are having great starts to the year while their counterparts are playing, well, average. Instead of both performing, their group success depends on one of them. So…I’m discounting them.
That leaves four contenders, including Gordon and Francoeur:
-Cardinals: Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman – .401/.484/.667 with 18 2B, 0 3B, 13 HR, and 49 RBI in 52 total games
-Marlins: Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison/Emilio Bonifacio – .299/.383/.613; 15 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 28 RBI in 55 total games
-Rays: Sam Fuld and Matthew Joyce – .303/.364/.462; 16 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 20 RBI in 55 total games
-Royals: Gordon and Francoeur – .321/.371/.568; 22 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 44 RBI in 56 total games
I included the games that Bonifacio has played since Morrison was injured because Bonifacio has hit to the tune of .346/.404/.538 in that time.
Well, I think this is pretty clear, at least for who ranks first. The Cardinals’ corner outfielders are absolutely killing the ball right now. Holliday’s on-base percentage is up over .500 and Berkman’s slugging percentage hovers at .750. It doesn’t get much better than that.
So, it comes down to the Marlins and Royals for second place. The Royals’ duo is hitting better and have more extra-base hits, but still have a lower OPS. This is mostly due to the Marlins’ group taking more walks, but it’s worth noting that they’ve also struck out four more times than Gordon and Francoeur.
It really comes down to personal preference on choosing the second-place group. I would turn to the Royals for all of the doubles and apparent ability to knock in runners*. I just like the better consistency of their numbers, though the higher on-base percentage would be great.
*Yes, yes, the RBI stat is flawed. I know.
Either way, I think it’s been a while since the Royals’ corner outfielders have ranked second or third in the league. It’s something to enjoy about this team, especially if things do eventually go south.