If you had made a checklist before the season started and populated it with items that would encourage you as a Royals fan, it would probably look somewhat like this:
- Continued development of the key prospects
- Alex Gordon plays all year in Kansas City
- Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera aren’t OBP sinkholes
- Alcides Escobar hits. At all.
There would be plenty more to toss in there, but those would address a lot of the question marks before the season.
Good news, Royals fans – in a lot of ways, this season has gone much, much better than expected.
Not only are the Royals hitting for power, but they’re doing so at franchise-record levels.
Already, Gordon, Cabrera and Francoeur have become the first outfield trio to collect 40 doubles each. All three have set career highs in numerous offensive categories as Gordon and Cabrera are enjoying career/breakout seasons (depending on where you land on that spectrum) and Francoeur may be a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year (even though Jacoby Ellsbury has probably had the nameplate created for that already.)
The Royals have had four players hit 20 homers or more in one season twice – 1977 and 1987. They have an opportunity to have five players do so this year. Gordon, with 22, is already there. Billy Butler and Francoeur are one away and Cabrera needs two more to reach 20. Eric Hosmer is sitting on 17 which isn’t bad considering he spent the first five weeks in Omaha.
There’s another milestone I’m watching.
The Royals have a chance to have four players hit 20 homers and 40 doubles in the same season.
Butler needs one more double to reach 40 (for the third straight season). If he and Francoeur both get their 20th homer and Butler hits double number 40, it will be the first time in Royals history that three players have accomplished the feat.
The franchise record is two players in the same season getting to 20/40. It was 1999 when Jermaine Dye and Mike Sweeney both did it. It’s only happened 12 times in Royals history and only eight different players have done it (counting Gordon).
*Brett also had 20 triples in 1979.
I’ll admit, that’s a fairly arbitrary number. Willie Mays only hit 40 doubles and 20 homers in the same season once in his career. Granted, he had a few seasons of 30+ doubles and 50 homers, so it’s not like he was punching singles most of the time.
For the Royals, though, doubles and homers will do. Kauffman isn’t a home run park, but it’s perfect for doubles hitters, with cozy gaps and deep fences. The potential 20/40 quartet don’t need to change their approach for the stadium, it fits their styles.
With eight games left, the clock is ticking. It won’t mean anything for the standings, but going into 2012, the Royals can point to the lineup and say they have five players (at least) capable of 60 extra base hits – and there’s upside for more.
This offense is starting to draw comparisons to the same group of young players from the late 90s and early 2000s – the group with Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon and Mike Sweeney’s names on the lineup card.
There have been a few players who got close to the 20/40 club, coming short by a homer or double here or there. That list looks like a who’s who of Royals hitters, as you would expect:
The 1999 Royals almost had three players get to 20/40, but Joe Randa fell four homers and four doubles short.
So if you’re looking for something to keep track of over the last week-plus of the season, this could be it.
Additionally, if Eric Hosmer increases his OPS by .001 (and keeps it there), he’ll be the fifth player with an .800 OPS. With eight more RBI, he’ll be the fifth with 80 (which would be a team record). Francoeur, Cabrera, Chris Getz and Escobar have eclipsed 20 stolen bases, and Gordon is three away from joining that club, too. Cabrera needs a hit a game to reach 200 on the year. He’s one of five players who have more than 190 hits this year.
Who would have figured back in March that any of those milestones would be within range?