Most KC Royals fans have at least heard of George Brett’s .390 batting average in 1980 and his other two American League batting championship seasons, but there are many other individual seasons time may force fans to forget.
Brett won batting titles in 1976, 1980 and 1990, all seasons in which he hit .329 or higher, but his 1980 effort overshadowed another all-time Royals season for outfielder Willie Wilson.
Wilson made 745 plate appearances (705 at-bats) and collected 230 hits—all team single season records. His 133 runs were a record at the time, but Johnny Damon’s 136 in 2000 is now the top mark. Wilson’s 79 stolen bases that season are second only to his own 83 steals in 1979. His 15 triples trail his own 21 in 1985 and Brett’s 20 in 1979. Wilson hit .315 for the season as the Royals made it to their first World Series in club history. He earned Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and finished fourth in American League MVP voting.
A righthanded starter unexpectedly won 20 games for the 1988 KC Royals.
Righty Mark Gubicza won 135 games in 13 seasons with the Royals, but 1988 was the only time he won more than 15 in a season, notching a 20-8 record with a 2.70 ERA. The 20 wins are tied for fourth-most in Royals history behind Bret Saberhagen (23 in 1989), Steve Busby (22 in 1974) and Dennis Leonard (21 in 1980). His ERA is seventh-best and his winning percentage is sixth. Gubicza’s 269.2 innings pitched rank sixth, and his four shutouts are tied for fourth.
The 1988 All-Star Game was the first of two for Gubicza and he finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting. He led AL pitchers with a 7.8 WAR. Only Paul Splittorff and Leonard won more games in their Kansas City careers than Gubicza, who is now a member of the club’s Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
KC Royals catcher Darrell Porter had a big season for the club in 1979.
In his first two seasons with the Royals (1978 and ’79), Darrell Porter established himself as one of the best hitting catchers in club history. Then, in ’79, he had a career year. The bespectacled catcher played 157 games (141 at catcher), hit .294 and slugged 20 home runs. He made the Royals all-time charts with a .421 on base percentage (third all-time, but first then), 112 RBIs (tied for ninth all-time, but tied for first at the time) and 121 walks (second all-time to John Mayberry’s 122).
Porter also had 10 triples and made the All-Star team.
An original club member had an historic season pitching for the 1972 KC Royals.
Righthander Roger Nelson was a journeyman pitcher entering the 1972 season. He had been left unprotected for 1968’s major league expansion draft and KC took him first. Nelson’s first three seasons in Kansas City were mostly unmemorable, but in 1972 that changed as he assaulted the club record books with marks that still stand. In 34 appearances (19 starts), Nelson posted a 2.03 ERA for a club record that has survived for nearly 50 years.
His 6.231 H9 is still a club best and his 1.61 BB9 is fifth. Nelson’s six shutouts are also a club record. His 3.871 SO/W and 0.871 WHIP both led the AL.
Let us know what other outstanding Royal seasons you think are often overlooked.