Hey, another year in review article!
In all seriousness, 2011 was a remarkable season for the Royals. Sure, they only finished fourth in the AL Central, but enthusiasm for the team hasn’t been higher since the summer of 2003. Unlike that crazy year, this time the excitement is based on something beyond smoke and mirrors (or at least we hope so).
It’s made for an exciting time in writing about the team, and as I reflect on the last 12 months, I’ve been reminded of many past articles that have shaped the narrative of the year, offseason and all. I wanted to compile those that I was particularly proud of. All of us here do this in our spare time – we have a group of regular guys who have jobs, families, classes (in some cases) and share our opinions and passion for the Royals because we can’t help it.
If you’ve had half the fun reading Kings of Kauffman in 2011, well, we’ve had twice as much fun writing as you have had reading.
If you’d like to take a trip down memory lane with me, check out a month-by-month rundown of our best links for the year:
- Literally minutes into the new year, I was contacted by Josh Kusnick, agent of Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress, both newly acquired for Zack Greinke. He was generous enough to give me an hour or two of his time to talk about his clients, the Royals and baseball. Negotiating Royal Blue Waters is the result of that interview.
- Kevin Scobee joined the crew and shared his background in pitching and relating it to Zack Greinke. There’s No Crying in Baseball links Kevin’s own social anxiety with his previous experience as a pitcher in high school and college to try to understand the much-publicized condition of Greinke.
- In Leading the Pack, Gage Matthews analyzed who might end up as the Royals leadoff hitter in 2011. His prediction? Lorenzo Cain and Chris Getz as the top two in leadoff at bats. Oops. Hindsight. 20/20. Then again, nobody really anticipated Alex Gordon leading off most of the year, if at all.
- The Royals are one of many teams these days embracing social media, blogs and other sources of baseball discussion. This led to their reaching out to a group of bloggers to cover events at Royals FanFest in the winter. I was fortunate to represent the Twitterati in this initial event hosted by the Royals and my account is presented in Let’s Get Digital.
- Kevin Scobee is a big Alex Gordon fan. Follow him on Twitter during the season and the adoration is obvious. He wrote a letter to Alex stating that, at the time, he was Still Believing in Gordon.
- As the offseason progressed toward the regular season and prospect rankings started popping up everywhere, the Royals, obviously, were at the top of almost every list. Gage broke down the implications for the Royals in light of how other top-ranked farm systems developed in recent years in Seeing the Crown for the Jewels.
- I think it’s a little embarrassing that the Royals are the only team with a single-season home run record below 40 homers. I looked at who was close in the past, as well as who would be Chasing Balboni in 2011 and beyond.
- Luke Hochevar had one of the most effective sliders in the game in 2010. Meltdowns aside, that’s pretty impressive and with that in mind, I analyzed his use of the pitch, advising him to Use the Force, Luke.
- My big project in February was profiling our top 25 Prospect Rankings.
- Gage took an extensive look at pitching staffs of previous seasons in Make the Pitch, pointing out trends and what it could mean for the 2011 season. In hindsight, he was a bit pessimistic, as the rotation wasn’t as bad as he was expecting – but they weren’t that good either, of course.
- Was Kevin finally Trusting the Process?
- This is the fun part of looking back over these articles, because nobody expected a relatively poor season from Joakim Soria, especially considering that he looked like the next great closer going into the year. Gage asked Is So the New Mo? and compared Soria to future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera.
- Gage also asked about the potential of signing free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols. He wasn’t too far off on the eventual contract that Pujols signed with the Angels.
- As the season grew closer and the roster started to take shape, I became outraged at the thought of the Royals offering Promises, Promises to Melky Cabrera for playing time over Lorenzo Cain. I was wrong about Melky’s eventual success, of course, though I still don’t like the way the Royals came to find out he would be great in 2011.
- With those roster construction questions in mind, I looked at how Timing is Everything when it comes to rookies and service time.
- Because he’s stuck behind both Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer, I pitched the idea of Clint Robinson as trade bait. After another big season in Omaha, he’s still a good piece to include in a deal, I think.
- The cliches of “best shape of his life” and “so-and-so has turned the corner” are nearly as traditional as the chalk on the baselines and pine tar on the bat. Kevin dug into those Sounds of Spring in relation to preseason cheerleading for the Royals.
- I tried – in vain – to draw a parallel to the career paths of MVP Ryan Howard and Kila Ka’aihue. Let’s just move on from that Tale of Two Hitters.
- Ryan Wood started off discussing the Royals as a Faceless Franchise. He suggested Billy Butler or Joakim Soria as potential “faces” – of course at the time, we didn’t know that Eric Hosmer would be advancing so quickly.
- In what would become a theme in 2011, I asked if Billy Butler could or should change as a hitter.
- As opening day approached, Alex Gordon became a hot topic. It seemed everyone was discussing him. I compared him to Howard Johnson, another highly-touted prospect who took a while to turn into a star.
- FINALLY, opening day arrived. Gage Matthews produced an awesome infographic and I compared opening day starters for the Royals over the years.
- The Royals made a good decision in showcasing their Triple A and Double A teams at Kauffman Stadium in the Futures Game.
- Jeff Herr asked some more questions about the Process, focusing on the pace of calling up players and learning from past mistakes.
- The Royals started out hot, but Ethan Evans reminded us that 8 Games Do Not a Season Make.
- Almost on cue, Joakim Soria started to fall apart. It wasn’t clear what the problem was, but a look at his Pitch F/X suggested it was less movement and less velocity.
- It was still a pretty fun open to the year, as Royal kept winning in dramatic fashion, similar to a decade ago.
- Kila Ka’aihue struggled. Actually, that’s putting it lightly. Kila was a mess. Because he could hit the fastball but struggled with offspeed and breaking stuff, Gage asked if he was really Pedro Cerrano from Major League. They even look the same.
- As the month drew towards a close, the discussion of when to consider calling players up came into play.
- At one point over two games, Luke Hochevar had retired 31 straight batters. Then he suffered a complete meltdown.
- Gage attended an Omaha Storm Chasers game against the Nashville Sounds and took some excellent photos during a Zack Greinke rehab start.
- The Royals kicked off May by sweeping the Twins for the first time since 1999.
- In light of how the season turned out, Gage’s question of Do the Royals Have The Best Corner Outfielders in the League? looks silly. They had the best overall outfield in the league, with all three starters reaching 40 doubles and nearly had all three reach 40 doubles, 20 homers and 20 stolen bases. Meanwhile, Alex Gordon won a Gold Glove in left field.
- Oh yeah, Eric Hosmer got called up in May. I guess it was important that we talk about it a little bit. Kevin did a Live Blog during his major league debut and I compared past notable Royals debuts through the years. After the debut, Kevin wondered if it was part of a win-now approach or just Hosmer being ready, as well as how other callups may be affected.
- Of course, he warned later that teams cannot live on prospects alone. Sometimes the hope of prospects isn’t enough.
- Just like in January, the Royals held another social media event. I was invited along with Fake Ned Yost and others. Our accounts are here and here.
- The next day, Danny Duffy made his major league debut.
- Gage created another infographic, this time looking at Luke Hochevar’s work to that point.
- On May 25th, Royals Hall of Famer Paul Splittorff lost his battle with cancer.
- While the Royals saw a lot of prospects advance during 2011, one big name hit a setback. John Lamb was shut down in June and eventually had Tommy John surgery.
- Gage explained the importance of calling up Mike Moustakas only when he would have opportunity for regular playing time in If You Give a Moose a Call-up.
- Before Moose’s call-up, though, the Royals selected Bubba Starling with their fifth overall selection in the 2011 Draft. Ryan Wood ran a Live Blog for the first round’s selections, and we compiled early reactions to the selection of the Gardner, KS native.
- Gage examined A Catching Dilemma and tried to nail down the mysteries of interpreting catching ERA.
- That Moose guy was finally called up to the majors.
- Remember the theme of Billy Butler’s approach as a hitter? By June, the discussion was turning against him, as many fans questioned if he was any good at all. According to Kevin Scobee, it was matter of perspective and fans wanting Billy to be something he isn’t – Don’t Put Billy in a Corner.
- Jeff Herr suggested that Wil Myers is the Best Trade Chip in the Royals organization (and this offseason has suggested that he is correct).
- Lee Warren was nice enough to talk some Omaha Storm Chasers baseball with us on the Royalman Report.
That covers the first half of the year. The second half of the Royals season saw a lot of turnover and the debuts of many, many more rookies. The record didn’t get much better, but excitement picked up as the year went on.