On Sunday afternoon, Greg Holland closed out the most exciting Royals season of my lifetime. Despite the depressing significance of that statement, I genuinely had more fun following this Royals team than any other team I can remember. While the season ended in disappointment, the Royals were able to keep Kansas City’s attention into the final week of the season, which is a nice change from the past 25 years. Of course, I’m always paying attention to the Royals this late into the season, but that’s mostly because my sports fandom is inherently masochistic.
I’ve seen a lot of chatter from other Royals fans on whether or not this season was a failure or a success. I’m typically not a proponent of applying pass/fail grades, but if I have to, it’s hard for me to say this team succeeded in reaching their goals. I think this team had hopes of making the playoffs, and they didn’t do that. So in that case, I suppose you could call it a failure. However, there were some successes seen that Royals fans could be encouraged about. Eric Hosmer’s resurgence. Salvador Perez’s 2nd half. Greg Holland’s excellence. Jamey Carroll’s 1000th hit. There were moments of greatness throughout this season. Sadly, the great moments ended before October once again.
The 2013 season had its highs and lows (and lots of both), and even though I’d love – or in some cases, hate – to go through every moment with you again, I thought it might be best to keep it brief and hand out some awards, even though our budget wouldn’t allow for actual prizes to be handed out. Hopefully a virtual tip of the cap will suffice.
Player of the Year – It’s hard for me to go with someone who wasn’t the best offensive player on the team, but Salvador Perez had the best overall season, so he gets the nod from me. He led the Royals in fWAR with 3.7, despite playing in fewer games than Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler. Perez had a slash line of .292/.323/.433. The only regulars with higher OPS totals were Hosmer and Butler. Add in the fact that Perez is one of the best defensive catchers in the game, and you get an idea for how big of an impact he had. And speaking of overall team impact…
Pitcher of the Year/MVP – The trade that brought James Shields to Kansas City will be debated and argued for years. How the trade will impact the Royals in the next several years remains to be seen, but what cannot be denied is how valuable Shields was to this team. As great as Greg Holland was this year (and he was really great), Shields was even better, posting an ERA of 3.15 (8th in AL), over 228.1 innings (1st), while accumulating 4.5 fWAR (9th). Shields had arguably the best season by a Royal pitcher not named Zack Greinke since Kevin Appier in the late 1990s. Shields was outstanding on the mound. I normally don’t like to talk about the intangibles a player brings, since they seem to be overstated far too often. However, it did seem like Shields’ intensity and leadership had an impact on this squad. How significant that impact was cannot be determined objectively, but all accounts from players make it appear that having Shields in the clubhouse was a huge boost to the younger guys on the team. Now, I’ll take off my seldom-used Old School Baseball hat to talk about the best trade Dayton Moore made last offseason.
Biggest Surprise – When the Royals traded for Ervin Santana last October, I loved the move. I saw a talented pitcher who was coming off an unsustainably bad season that cost the team nothing more than a few million dollars and a replaceable minor league reliever. Santana’s peripherals suggested he should bounce back and have a respectable season, which is why I wrote about him back in March. Despite my optimism, even I couldn’t have predicted Santana would have the 9th best ERA in the American League. Erv was huge for Kansas City this season, and along with Shields, the Royals had two legitimate starters at the top of their rotation. As a fan who remembers Scott Elarton, Mark Redman, and Runelvys Hernandez, this season was a beautiful sight. If those three names didn’t bring on some form of nausea, allow this next section to help.
Biggest Disappointment – Mike Moustakas. Need I say more? Moustakas posted an OPS of .651 this year, which wouldn’t be terrible if he were a backup middle infielder. Unfortunately for the Royals, Moose was counted on to be the starting third baseman on a team with playoff aspirations. His production didn’t have to be at an MVP-level, but he was so far below average that he actively hurt the team’s chances of winning games for most of the season. I thought earlier in the year he was starting to turn things around after a mechanical adjustment. From the date that article was posted through the end of the season, Moose put up a slash line of .237/.285/.372, which is technically higher than his full-season line, so maybe I could get partial credit? Maybe?
The most exciting Royals’ season in a generation should be followed by the most exciting Royals’ offseason in a generation. This club has several holes to fill in their lineup and in their rotation, and the organization seems to be in a better place for attracting bigger free agents. That last part could be nothing more than hopeful speculation on my part, but any move made by the front office will have to be made with the playoffs in mind. Rumors will surely be swirling all winter about what impact bat the team will look to add, or what starting pitcher Moore will target in a trade, or what over-the-hill journeyman utility player the Royals will try to sign for that much-needed veteran presence. Whatever happens, I know I’ll be anxiously waiting for the months to pass, for the snow to melt, and for baseball to return once again.