The KC Royals have been home to lots of great players over the past decade, but some stand out above the rest. Let’s see who gets the top spot.
Welcome back to the KC Royals top players and pitchers of the decade. As a quick reminder, we are traveling our way through the past decade of Royals teams, and attempting to pick out the top position player and pitcher from each year.
We completed the 2010 season in a previous article, so we will move onto 2011. Of course, as noted in the previous article, these choices are ultimately based upon opinion. If you think a different player could have taken the top spot, it is encouraged for you to let us know in the comments. It’s always good to get a conversation started and see where other Royals fans line up.
That being said, let’s push onward and look back to 2011. The Royals had improved slightly from the 2010 record of 67-95 to post a record of 71-91 in 2011. The area where it was noticed the most though, might be in the runs scored/runs allowed stat. In 2010, the Royals scored 676 and allowed 845. In 2011, the team closed that gap, scoring 730 runs and only allowing 762.
Over the offseason, the Royals traded Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Milwaukee Brewers for Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi. While the record may not reflect the greatness that this team was building, 2011 started them on a road that would lead the team to the World Series.
The Royals had an interesting lineup in 2011 and they saw a decent amount of production. Escobar showed up in his first season with the team, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez saw some time in the majors, and the Royals again had a few .300 hitters.
The team was starting to take form and move in the direction of postseason contention and in 2011, there were two players that really battled for the top spot; Alex Gordon and Melky Cabrera. Offensively, the two players stuck right with each other. Jeff Francoeur could likely be added to this comparison as well, but he falls short in a few categories, causing Gordon and Cabrera to edge him out a bit.
Gordon finished the year with a slash of .303/.376/.502 over 151 games, with 45 doubles, 23 home runs, 87 RBIs, 67 walks, 187 hits, and 101 runs scored. Cabrera answered with a slash of .305/.339/.470, over 155 games, with 44 doubles, 18 home runs, 87 RBIs, 35 walks, 201 hits, and 102 runs scored. There are some differences, but the similarities stand out more.
At first glance, their defensive statistics look similar as well, both holding a fielding percentage of .991 in their time in the outfield, recording 3 errors each. Where they start to fall away from each other is in looking at the defensive runs saved by each. Cabrera sat a -5, while Gordon sat at 20. This is likely one of the reasons there is a big difference in their listed WAR for the season as well, with Cabrera at 4.4, with Alex at 7.3.
With these stats in mind, the top position player spot for 2011 goes to Alex Gordon. 2011 was really a breakout year for Gordon in which he finished 21st in MVP voting and won his first of many Gold Gloves.
With Zack Greinke leaving through trade, the 2011 Royals had to look elsewhere for their ace, and like during 2010 season, their starting pitching struggled. Only one pitcher kept an ERA below 4.00, the veteran Bruce Chen. The theme that most fans will remember stuck though, a solid bullpen.
2011 brought a bullpen full of pitchers who were able to keep their ERA under 4.00 and clean up what the starters left behind. While the entire bullpen may not have been up to par, there were some consistent arms that could be counted on to pull most of the innings.
Some of the names that come forward for the top spot are Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Louis Coleman, and Greg Holland. All kept an ERA of 3.63 (Collins) or lower, with Holland recording the lowest at 1.80. One thing that sets a few of these guys apart, though, is their issue with giving up free bases.
While they all kept a strikeouts per 9 above 9.00 (except Collins at 8.1) a few of them also carried walks per 9 of 6.4 (Collins), 4.5 (Crow) and 3.9 (Coleman). One could look at this in a positive light by crediting their ability to control the game and get things back on track, but for these three, it also sets them aside from Holland.
Holland, who takes the top spot for pitchers in 2011, ended the season with an ERA of 1.80 over 60.0 innings pitched, 74 strikeouts, a strikeouts per 9 of 11.1 and a walks per 9 of 2.9. Holland showed dominance in the pen that the Royals needed, and he cemented his place in the Royals bullpen for the future.
Continue to follow along and we will keep working through the decade to find the best Royals players from each year.