The KC Royals are commonly considered a “team without a superstar”. Yet, they have won two consecutive American League pennants with many pundits—and even opposing players—citing their “chemistry” as a big reason.
Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, like many KC Royals fans, would like to have a recognized superstar on the team. When asked this off-season what one player he would like see join the KC Royals, Moustakas replied:
"“Mike Trout. We have a great center fielder already but we’d find somewhere to put him.”"
Any type of statistical analysis will suggest that adding Mike Trout would be a big help to the KC Royals. Trout’s numbers are out of this world. He’s generally considered the best player in the game no matter what method you use to analyze hitters.
Trout slashed an outstanding .299/.402/.590 with 41 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and 90 RBIs. He led the American League in OPS+ at 176 (76% above league average). He posted a fine 5 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in center-field and second in the major-leagues with 9.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) behind NL prodigy Bryce Harper.
Mike Trout finished second in the AL MVP vote behind Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson, and won a Silver Slugger as the AL’s best hitter at his position.
Trout is a no-doubt superstar.
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Yet, Trout’s Los Angels Angels fell just short of the 2015 playoffs when the Texas Rangers defeated Trout’s Angels to prevent their drive for the AL’s last wild card.
And Trout isn’t the only great player whose team couldn’t beat the Kansas City Royals. AL MVP Josh Donaldson’s Toronto Blue Jays fell to Kansas City in the ALCS. AL Rookie-of-the-Year Carlos Correa didn’t get the job done either. Correa’s Astros lost depite pushing the Royals to Game 5 of the ALDS. The Astros almost eliminated the KC Royals in Game 4 after holding a four-run eighth inning lead, in large part due to two dingers from Correa.
In 2014, left fielder Alex Gordon finished seventh among position players in MLB with 6.6 WAR. Lorenzo Cain ranked eighth in position player WAR in 2015 and finished third in the AL MVP vote. Wade Davis became the first reliever in major-league history to pitch back-to-back seasons with more than 60 innings pitched paired with an ERA 1.00 or below.
Gordon, Cain, and Davis achieved superstar level production in those championship seasons. The reason many people think the KC Royals don’t have a superstar is because these three players lack the superstar attitude.
I presume part of the reason is that Gordon, Cain, and Davis don’t have the superstar ego. Few fans outside Kansas City consider them “superstars” afer all of them struggled for multiple seasons before delivering high-level performance.
The final part of the equation is perception. Fans and pundits underestimate the ability of KC Royals players because they provide much of their value in hard-to-quantify ways like defense, base running, and—in Davis’ case—the extra value that elite closers bring beyond statistical measures like WAR.
KC Royals fans, you’ve been watching some bona fide superstars the past two seasons—except most of us have failed to recognize it.