Royals Seasons – 1B

snoopy17wf
facebooktwitterreddit

Welcome to the 3rd installment of Royals Seasons!

 

Over 40 seasons, 17 different players have held the title of starting 1B for the Royals.  The longest tenured starter at the position was John Mayberry 1972-1977.  Four players are tied for second in terms of tenure with 4 seasons each.  Those players are; Willie Aikens, George Brett, Wally Joyner, and Mike Sweeney.

 

Their 1st three seasons of existence saw three different players as the starting 1B. 

1969:  Mike Fiore had a solid OPS+ 138 season as a 24 year old.  The Royals took him in the expansion draft from the Baltimore Orioles organization.  He had only 17 major league at bats prior to coming to the Royals.  In May of 1970, the Royals traded him to the Boston Red Sox for Tom Matchick.  Fiore had 556 career at bats overall, and 339 of them were with the 1969 Royals team.  If you are curious, Tom Matchick hit .196 in his 158 Royals ABs.

1970:  Bob Oliver hit 27 HRs with a .260/.309/.451 line and an OPS+ of 109.  He finished 27th in AL MVP voting.

1971:  Gail Hopkins put up the best season of his 7 year career for the Royals.  He hit .278/.364/.431 and had an OPS+ of 126.

 

1972-1977:  The John Mayberry era.  The Royals traded for Mayberry and Dave Grangaard in December of 1971, sending Jim York and Lance Clemons to the Houston Astros.  In his 6-year run as the Royals starting 1B, Mayberry was named to the All Star game twice and received MVP votes in four of his seasons.  In 1973 he finished 7th in the MVP voting, and in 1976 he finished a distant 2nd to Fred Lynn of the Red Sox.

 

1978-1979:  Pete LaCock

 

1980-1983:  Willie Aikens was acquired from the California Angels along with Rance Mulliniks in exchange for Al Cowens, Todd Cruz, and Craig Eaton.  He put up 4 very solid seasons in his 4 years with the Royals.  In his 8-year ML career he has an OPS+ of 123 with .272/.354/.455 career averages.

 

1984-1986:  Steve Balboni hit 93 home runs in his 3 seasons as the Royals primary 1B, and finished 19th in the AL MVP voting two of those years.  In December of 1983 the Royals sent Mike Armstrong and Duane Dewey to the New York Yankees to acquire Balboni and Roger Erickson.  He hit home runs, had real good range factor, and that was about it.

 

1987-1990:  George Brett.  I will let you in on a little secret.  Brett has the best season at 3B in Royals history.  In fact, he just might have a few spots in the top 10.  He will be covered extensively when I get to the 3B edition of Royals Seasons, but I will mention that as a 1B he won a Silver Slugger award, was named to an All Star game, and received MVP votes twice.

 

1991:  Todd Benzinger was average, and his lone season was exactly OPS+ average.  He was a .257 career hitter in 9 ML seasons.

 

1992-1995:  Wally Joyner had long and solid career.  He played 16 ML seasons with a .289/.362/.440 line.  His 4 years with the Royals all fell in the middle 20 seasons at 1B, during which he was solid but unspectacular.  He does however have one of the greatest first names of all time.

 

1996:  Jose Offerman was the starting 1B before his two years as the starting 2B.  His 1998 season at 2B is the best in Royals history.  Offerman’s main contribution to Royals history at 1B was his 24 stolen bases.  The next best SB total by a Royals 1B was 17 by Jeff King in 1997.

 

1997-1998:  Speaking of Jeff King, he was the Royals starting 1B for 2 seasons and hit 52 home runs over that span.  There wasn’t much else of significance during his time with KC.  A bad back basically ended his career much like …

 

1999-2002:  Mike Sweeney possesses the most famous lower back in KC sports history.  Before the back became a problem, his 4 year run as the Royals starting 1B was off the charts.  He was named to the All Star team 3 years and another 2 as the Royals DH.  He also received MVP votes in 3 of his 4 seasons at 1B.

 

2003-2004:  Ken Harvey provided some of the most ridiculous bloopers in Royals 1B history and on more than one occasion injured one of his teammates.  I know that Jason Grimsley will never forget him.  Even though he won a batting title at pretty much every level in the minor leagues, his major league career was less than impressive.

 

2005:  Matt Stairs, beer league softball player and primary 1B for the Royals for one season.  At 37 he held it down, and was solid hitting .275/.373/.444 with an OPS+ of 118.  Compared to what came before and after him he was Albert Pujols.

 

2006:  Doug Mientkiewicz … let’s move on …

 

2007-2008:  Ross Gload’s two year run has me flashing back to the Royals Seasons SS article I did.  Gload can be summed up as a good pinch hitter, decent utility player, and awful ML regular.

 

Putting these 10 seasons in order of 10 to 1 was extremely difficult.  The lists for 2B and SS were straightforward and followed OPS+ very closely, but 1B proved to be a very different animal.  You can tell by the OPS+ numbers of the top 10, and bottom 10, that 1B is definitely a premium offensive position compared to league average.  This is one case where commonly accepted wisdom and statistics send the same message. 

 

The top 10 seasons at 1B are:

#10:  George Brett (1987)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

34

115

71

18

2

22

78

72

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

47

0.290

0.388

0.496

6

131

0.993

10.60

 

#9:  Mike Sweeney (1999)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

25

150

101

44

2

22

102

54

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

48

0.322

0.387

0.520

6

128

0.981

8.92

 

#8:  Willie Aikens (1983)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

28

125

49

26

1

23

72

45

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

75

0.302

0.373

0.539

0

149

0.989

9.86

 

#7:  Mike Sweeney (2001)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

27

147

97

46

0

29

99

64

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

64

0.304

0.374

0.542

10

132

0.989

9.99

 

#6:  George Brett (1988)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

35

157

90

42

3

24

103

82

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

51

0.306

0.389

0.509

14

149

0.992

10.01

 

#5:  George Brett (1990)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

37

142

82

45

7

14

87

56

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

63

0.329

0.387

0.515

9

153

0.993

9.55

 

#4:  Mike Sweeney (2000)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

26

159

105

30

0

29

144

71

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

67

0.333

0.407

0.523

8

131

0.991

9.65

 

#3:  John Mayberry (1972)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

23

149

65

24

3

25

100

78

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

74

0.298

0.394

0.507

0

168

0.995

10.23

 

#2:  John Mayberry (1975)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

26

156

95

38

1

34

106

119

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

73

0.291

0.416

0.547

5

168

0.988

10.09

 

#1:  Mike Sweeney (2002)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

28

126

81

31

1

24

86

61

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

46

0.340

0.417

0.563

9

148

0.991

9.72

 

I selected Sweeney’s 2002 over Mayberry’s 1975 largely on the basis of the across the board advantage in BA/OBP/SLG that Sweeney’s season possessed.

 

Sweeney played his 1st ML game at 1B in 1999 and his defensive numbers improved every season until he was moved to DH.  All four of his years as the primary 1B for the Royals (1999-2002) made the top 10 list.  In this 4 year run he played 150, 159, 147, and 126 games respectively for an average of 145.5 games per season.   In April of 2002, the Royals signed Sweeney to a contract of 5 year $55 million.  He chose to sign at under market value to stay in Kansas City, and the Royals made the absolutely correct decision to sign him when they did.  He proceeded to give the Royals their best season ever at the position of 1B.  Unfortunately July 26th 2002 was also the 1st time he was ever placed on the DL with the beginning of many lower back issues that ruined his career.  2003-2007 he spent a majority of his time at DH and injured.

 

Best Royals 1B Seasons by Category:

Games

161

John Mayberry

1976

At Bats

618

Mike Sweeney

2000

Runs

105

Mike Sweeney

2000

Hits

206

Mike Sweeney

2000

Doubles

46

Mike Sweeney

2001

Triples

8

Jose Offerman

1996

Home Runs

36

Steve Balboni

1985

RBI

144

Mike Sweeney

2000

Walks

122

John Mayberry

1973

Strikeouts (fewest)

13

Gail Hopkins

1971

Batting Average

.340

Mike Sweeney

2002

On Base %

.420

Mike Fiore

1969

Slugging %

.563

Mike Sweeney

2002

Stolen Bases

24

Jose Offerman

1996

Fielding %

.998

George Brett

1989

 

.998

Wally Joyner

1995

Range Factor 9

10.74

John Mayberry

1973

 

The worst 10 seasons at 1B are:

#10:  John Mayberry (1977)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

28

153

73

22

1

23

82

83

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

86

0.230

0.336

0.401

1

99

0.995

9.88

 

#9:  Doug Mientkiewicz (2006)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

32

91

37

24

2

4

43

35

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

50

0.283

0.359

0.411

3

99

0.996

9.81

 

#8:  Ken Harvey (2004)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

26

120

47

20

1

13

55

28

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

89

0.287

0.338

0.421

1

95

0.994

9.46

 

#7:  Steve Balboni (1986)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

29

138

54

25

1

29

88

43

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

146

0.229

0.286

0.451

0

96

0.987

9.97

 

#6:  Todd Benzinger (1991)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

28

78

29

15

3

2

40

17

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

46

0.294

0.338

0.386

2

100

0.996

9.55

 

#5:  Ross Gload (2007)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

31

102

37

22

3

7

51

16

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

39

0.288

0.318

0.441

2

95

0.996

8.90

 

#4:  Pete LaCock (1979)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

27

132

54

25

4

3

56

37

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

26

0.277

0.334

0.380

2

91

0.997

9.89

 

#3:  Ken Harvey (2003)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

25

135

50

30

0

13

64

29

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

94

0.266

0.313

0.408

2

84

0.988

9.72

 

#2:  John Mayberry (1976)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

27

161

76

22

2

13

95

82

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

73

0.232

0.322

0.342

3

94

0.996

10.10

 

#1:  Ross Gload (2008)

Age

G

R

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

32

122

46

18

1

3

37

23

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

SB

OPS+

FP

RF9

39

0.273

0.317

0.348

3

79

0.995

9.02

 

It’s really not at all surprising that Ross Gload’s 2 seasons as Kansas City’s primary 1B are both in the top 5 of worst all-time Royals seasons.  He is a decent bench player when used correctly, but absolutely terrible as a starter.  Not only was Gload sub par for the position at the plate, he occupies spots 1 & 3 in terms of worst range factor by a Royals 1B in a season.  Only Mike Sweeney’s 1999 RF9 of 8.92 kept Gload from having the top 2 slots.  Maybe this will be the spring they finally have enough depth that they can cut him and send him packing.  The Royals have no need for Ross Gload when they have Mark Teahen and Willie Bloomquist on the roster.

 

Worst Royals 1B Seasons by Category:

Games

78

Todd Benzinger

1991

At Bats

293

Todd Benzinger

1991

Runs

29

Todd Benzinger

1991

Hits

82

Gail Hopkins

1971

Doubles

13

John Mayberry

1974

Triples

0

6 Seasons Tied

 

Home Runs

2

Todd Benzinger

1991

RBI

35

Mike Fiore

1969

Walks

16

Ross Gload

2007

Strikeouts (most)

166

Steve Balboni

1985

Batting Average

.229

Steve Balboni

1986

On Base %

.286

Steve Balboni

1986

Slugging %

.342

John Mayberry

1976

Stolen Bases

0

6 Seasons Tied

 

Fielding %

.981

Mike Sweeney

1999

Range Factor 9

8.90

Ross Gload

2007

 

How quickly a team’s fortunes at a position can change.  With a healthy Sweeney, the Royals had 4 of their top-10 all time 1B seasons.  Following Sweeney, Royals fans were subjected to the 6 year run of Ken Harvey, Matt Stairs, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Ross Gload.  That 6 year run has produced 5 of the 10 worst seasons at the position in their history. 

 

With Mike Jacobs, Ryan Shealy, Billy Butler, and Kila Kaaihue as options at the position, it seems safe to say that 2009 will not be added to the list of 10 worst seasons.  Of course after what Ross Gload subjected us all to last year, we really have nowhere to go but up anyway.

facebooktwitterreddit