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 eighth 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 8, the 2007* Royals (69-93) 706 RS / 778 RA
*I apologize that it has been 13 days since I published the 2006 installment in this series. I’m hoping to get these wrapped up soon, so I can start rolling out my prospect rankings.
Payroll: $67.1 million (22nd) / Attendance: 1,616,867
Draft: SS-Mike Moustakas (1st), RHP-Sam Runion (2nd), LHP-Danny Duffy (3rd), RHP-Mitch Hodge (4th)
Top Prospect: 3B-Alex Gordon
Major league debuts:
DH-Billy Butler (21)
3B-Alex Gordon (23)
LHP-Neal Musser (26)
RHP-Joakim Soria (23)
RHP-Luke Hochevar (23)
RHP-Billy Buckner (23)
Above 110 OPS+ (Minimum 50 AB)
138 OF-Reggie Sanders (39): 0.315/.412/.493 in 73 AB
Above 110 ERA+ (Minimum 50.0 IP)*
186 RHP-David Riske (30): 2.45 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 6.7 SO/9 in 69.2 IP
184 RHP-Joakim Soria (23): 2.48 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 9.8 SO/9 in 69.0 IP
151 LHP-Jimmy Gobble (25): 3.02 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 8.4 SO/9 in 53.2 IP
124 RHP-Zack Greinke (23): 3.69 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.8 SO/9 in 122.0 IP
124 RHP-Gil Meche (28): 3.67 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 6.5 SO/9 in 216.0 IP
120 RHP-Joel Peralta (31): 3.80 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.8 SO/9 in 87.2 IP
118 RHP-Brian Bannister (26): 3.87 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 4.2 SO/9 in 165.0 IP
After bumping the payroll $10.4 million from 2005 to 2006, the Royals increased it another $19.8 million from 2006 to 2007. As the team moved from 26th to 22nd in major league payroll, much of that money was spent to bring in the talented Gil Meche. Despite coming off back to back 100 loss seasons, and 3 out of the last four, attendance was up almost 250,000 from the previous season. Royals fans were in full support of both Dayton Moore and the increased financial commitment of ownership.
After scoring 56 more runs in 2006 than in 2005, the team regressed scoring 51 fewer runs in 2007 than in 2006. No Royals regular finished with an OPS+ above 110. Billy Butler made his major league debut at 21 years of age and posted an impressive OPS+ of 108 in 92 games. Mark Teahen and Mark Grudzielanek finished the year with an OPS+ of 101 and 103 respectively. John Buck hit 18 HR to lead the team while Alex Gordon hit 15. They were the only two players to break double digits. Gordon led the team in SB with just 14, with Emil Brown, Mark Teahen, Esteban German, and David DeJesus all finishing with 10 or more. Brown took the team’s RBI crown with a whopping 62 and DeJesus led the team in runs scored with 101. Tony Pena Jr’s season was also of note as he somehow managed to hit 0.267 and fooled the team into thinking he could actually hit at the major league level. TPJ’s 0.284 OBP should have been a harbinger of what was to come, but we all know that someone on Dayton’s staff spends their time clipping OBP out of all the scouting reports.
The pitching staff made huge strides in 2007 behind the arms of Meche, Bannister, and Zack Greinke who returned to the rotation for 14 of his 52 appearances. 9 of the 13 top pitchers, in terms of innings, finished the year with an ERA+ of 110 or better, while Brandon Duckworth was just about league average with an ERA+ of 99. The rejuvenated staff allowed 778 runs to score marking an improvement of a whopping 193 from the franchise record of 971 runs allowed in 2006.
Kansas City finished the season 27.0 games back of the 1st place Cleveland Indians (96-66) who tied with the Boston Red Sox for best record in the AL. The Royals were just three games back of the 72-90 Chicago White Sox for 4th place in the division standings. The team’s Pythagorean record* of 75-87 actually bested Chicago’s 67-95 mark.
*Pythagorean Win-Loss (pythWL) is the expected Win-Loss record for a team based on the number of runs scored and runs allowed.
Outside of the seven-game improvement in the W-L record, all signs were that progress was being made. Greinke reestablished himself while Meche and Bannister made their marks in their first season in Kansas City. The solid to excellent major league debuts of Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and Joakim Soria further bolstered hopes that the team was turning a corner. Luke Hochevar also made his debut on September 8th and finished the season with a 2.13 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 12.2 innings pitched. Optimism was in the air as Dayton Moore led the team into his second offseason as the team’s GM.