Will this season be 2012 all over again for the KC Royals?

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /
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KC Royals,
KC Royals, /

The 2012 KC Royals weren’t good, but their better moments foretold a brighter future.

Kansas City fans didn’t see much good baseball in 2012. The Royals improved by a game, finishing 72-90, posted two losing season halves, lost 12 games in a row once, and their longest winning streak was four (although they accomplished that feat four times). The club was above .500 for only a day (in April) and at worst were 19 games under (in late July). They allowed 15 runs twice.

Jeremy Guthrie was the only starter with a winning record (5-3 in 14 starts); Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Luis Mendoza, Will Smith and Jonathan Sanchez combined to win 34 games, but lost 55.  Second base remained a gaping hole–Chris Getz, Yuniesky Betancourt and Johnny Giavotella shared time there, joining the long, long line of second base also-rans the club employed only to be disappointed when none could hold much of a candle to Frank White.

Left fielder Alex Gordon won his second Gold Glove and hit .294 with 14 home runs but was, really, the only outfielder with a long-term hold on his position. Jarrod Dyson stole 30 bases in 102 games, but was losing ground to Lorenzo Cain, whose seven homers were seven better than Dyson’s; he stole 10 bags in 61 games and hit six points better than Dyson’s .260. Francouer hit 16 homers, but his .235 average suggested he wouldn’t last much longer; he was, for the most part, supplanted the next season by David Lough and Justin Maxwell.

Lurking not so far beneath the club’s mediocre record, however, were additional signs that the dark days were near an end.  DH Billy Butler had his best big-league season with career highs in home runs (29) and RBI (107) and OPS+ (138), and posted his second-best full-season average (.313); he earned his only All-Star berth and Silver Slugger award. Mike Moustakas hit 20 homers in his first full season. Alcides Escobar strengthened his hold on the shortstop job and hit a career-high .293. Eric Hosmer declined some after a superb rookie year but his spot in KC’s future was secure.

Perez had become the club’s present and future catcher and the much-anticipated arrival the season before of Moustakas at third and Hosmer at first, and Escobar’s emergence as a serviceable regular shortstop, collectively promised better days.

And although the pitching left much to be desired, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera were establishing their credentials as superb relievers–Holland was 7-4 with 16 saves and a 2.96 ERA in 67 games, Herrera 4-3 with a 2.35 ERA in 76. And there was even a silver lining to the cloud that was Luke Hochevar‘s 8-16, 5.73 ERA record–it prompted the club to make his 32 starts his last and to convert him to the successful reliever he became in 2013.

The good underlying 2012’s bad provided the foundation for 2013, the season the KC Royals returned to winning…and contention. The 2013 club improved to 86-76 and contended until late in the season. Will 2012 be the same for Kansas City?