Continuing with Kansas City Royals pitchers, this Flashback Friday great spent his entire career with the Royals, sitting down batters from the mound.
It’s time for another Kansas City Royals Flashback Friday. This week, the theme of great pitchers who blessed the Royals with their outstanding abilities is going to continue as a look is taken at the Royals lifer, Dennis Leonard.
Leonard started his career with the Kansas City Royals in 1972 when he was drafted by the team in the Amateur Draft. He had previously played at Iona College in New York. Leonard got to work, moving around the minor league system in 1972-74, seeing 22 major league innings in ’74.
In 1975, other than a few games in the minors, Leonard saw 32 games in the majors, starting 30 of those. From that season Leonard took off. He put up outstanding numbers and gave the Royals great production until he started to see some issues in 1982.
Leonard had been putting in a lot of work in previous years and it seemed as though it had caught up to him. His ERA shot up over 5 and he just didn’t seem to have the same stuff he once had. He spent some time in the minors during this season for the first time since 1975.
He managed part of the season in 1983, looking as though he was back to his old self, but injuries got the better of him. Leonard missed the 1984 season and a majority of the 1985 season as well. In 1986, Leonard returned for one last season.
He was able to last, starting 30 games for the Royals, but he wasn’t as productive as he had once been. After the 1986 season, Leonard retired from baseball and was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1989.
Leonard finished his career with the Royals with a record of 144-106 and an ERA of 3.70 over 2187.0 innings pitched and 1323 strikeouts.
Leonard had an outstanding career. Though he never won a Cy Young, he finished fourth in voting twice, and seventh once, seeing MVP votes in two years as well. For the Royals, he is ranked first all-time in complete games (103) and shutouts (23), second in wins (144), and third in innings pitched (2187.0), strikeouts (1323), and games started (302).
Leonard didn’t have as long of a career as some have, in part due to missing a few seasons, but he was able to put up impressive numbers showing that in his prime, he was a workhorse. Leonard started in 30 or more games from 1975 to 1980 and again in 1986, starting 37, 40, 32, and 38 in consecutive years.
Leonard also pitched over 200 innings in six consecutive years from 1975 to 1984, peaking at 294.2 innings in 1978. Adding to the already impressive numbers, while racking up all these innings, Leonard did it partially by throwing complete games, completing 16, 21, 20, and 12 in consecutive years from 1976 to 1979.
It should be no surprise to anyone that Leonard had a shorter career than some. The numbers he was putting up were outstanding but also wearing on his body. No pitcher could last forever under those conditions. In the time he had though, Leonard made the best of his career, and cemented his place in the Royals’ history.
Dennis Leonard started his career in Kansas City and finished wearing the same number 22. The Royals Hall of Famer is one of the many examples of the great players the Royals had, and those players that helped keep everyone, Forever Royal.