23 February 2007

Royal legacy #26 -- the 1992 Royals (72-90)

Here we are, nearing the end of the George Brett era as well as marking the first full season of the Hal McRae-as-manager era in our countdown. The 1992 Royals may be the "best of the bad" among Royals squads, even with a somewhat anemic offensive attack led by George Brett and the "fruits" of the Bret Saberhagen trade. The '92 pitching staff hurled their way to a 3.81 team ERA, which was good for sixth in the AL, allowed only 106 homers (best in the league), issued only 512 walks (third) and, with the defense, allowed only 667 runs (fourth). The problems came in missing bats (only 834 Ks for 11th in the league) and a lack of durability from the starters as only one pitcher -- Kevin Appier -- threw more than 200 innings and nobody else was over 150. The offense didn't help, as the team batted .256 for 10th in the AL while getting on base at a .311 clip (13th) and slugging only .364 (12th). The team hit a league-worst 75 HRs but led the league in doubles and triples. Making contact wasn't the problem as the team led the league in fewest Ks with 741, but drew only 439 walks (13th). All this added up to only 610 runs, which placed KC 12th in the 14-team AL.

It was a hot stove league of infamy for Herk Robinson heading into 1992. He kicked it off in December 1991 by signing free agent 1B Wally Joyner (4 OK years in blue), and then, two days later, traded Todd Benzinger to the Dodgers for Chris Gwynn, traded Storm Davis to the O's for Bob Melvin and, in the "blockbuster"
, gave up Sabes and Bill Pecota to the Mets for a package of 3B Gregg Jefferies (one and done with KC, traded after '92, played subpar D), OF Kevin McReynolds (had OK '92, worse '93, was never accepted for costing KC Sabes, and was traded for Vince Coleman after '93) and IF Keith Miller (decent '92 and then nothing more). Meanwhile, Saberhagen, who was coming off a great '91, gave the Mets some great pitching for 3 1/2 seasons and was in the league until 2001. Not one of Herk's brightest moments. In March, Herk traded a washed-up Kirk Gibson to Pittsburgh and then released Kevin Seitzer, who would bounce back to have a few more productive seasons with Milwaukee and Cleveland. Herk actually did something right in the '92 draft as he got Johnny Damon with the 35th pick and, even with 3 first-rounders, didn't miss anybody huge that round. He picked Jon Lieber in the second round (passing up Jason Giambi) but included him in the Stan Belinda deal in '93 so he didn't develop much with KC. As the team struggled along in the middle of the pack, Robinson finally jettisoned all-time free agent bust RP Mark Davis (one of John Schuerholz's bleakest moments as KC's GM) in a trade in July, taking over $9 million in Royals money with him for what at best resulted in a 4.45 ERA. One of Herk's best decisions was made after the season when he signed free-agent pitcher David Cone, who would help lead the team to two winning seasons before being included in a horrible trade for a second time as a Royal.

With the mediocre team batting totals, there wasn't much to crow about on KC's offense. McReynolds led the team with a .775 OPS while Jefferies (.733 OPS) and a 39-year-old Brett (.727 OPS) led the team in batting at .285. The highlight of the season came September 30 when Brett went 4-5 versus the Angels and, in the process, notched his 3,000th hit with all coming in Royal blue. The Royals' other offense came from C Mike Macfarlane (.755 OPS) and Miller (.741 OPS) with not much punch coming off the bench. On the flip side, SS David Howard hit .224 with a .554 OPS with decent defense, OF Brian McRae didn't quite match dad Hal by hitting .223 with a .593 OPS and OF Jim Eisenreich didn't do much with a .653 OPS. Four bench players failed to make .300 in OBP and only Chris Gwynn came off the bench to slug over .400. To put it simply, guys like Rico Rossy, Kevin Koslofski and Gary Thurman got big playing time for the '92 Royals and, needless to say, didn't contribute.

The performances from the Royals' pitchers, on the other hand, were good. Appier went 15-8 with a 2.46 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, and Hipolito Pichardo, Mike Gubicza and Rick Reed (in on a one-year deal) all posted sub-4 ERAs but combined for only 19 wins. The other three main starters, Luis Aquino, Tom Gordon (in his pre-closer years) and Mike Magnante had ERAs over 4.5 while combining for a 13-25 record. SP Dennis Rasmussen was signed mid-season and pitched well in 37 innings with a 1.43 ERA in 5 starts. The bullpen was led by closer Jeff Montgomery, who in his prime at 30 posted a 2.18 ERA and 39 saves in 82 IP. Two other relievers -- Rusty Meacham and Steve Shifflett -- pitched well with ERAs of 2.74 and 2.60, respectively, while going 11-8 in 101 and 52 IP. No one was out-and-out horrible coming out of the pen for the '92 Royals other than, of course, Mark Davis, who posted a 7.18 ERA in 36 IP (all for $3.62 million, second highest-paid player on the team) before getting traded.

Hal McRae was in his first full season as Royals skipper after doing most of the managerial w
ork in guiding the team to an 82-80 record in '91. The team enjoyed a home-field advantage by going 44-37 in the friendly confines and a paltry 28-53 while away from KC. A 9-game losing streak helped the team stumble out of the gates to a 3-17 April and the team was 4 games under .500 from then on. The Royals were shut out 13 times but shut out the opposition 12 times. On May 1 the team was in last and 11 games out but had bounced back to 5th in the AL West by July 1 (even though they were now 13 1/2 games out) and would hold to that standing. With the signing of Cone and a couple other key additions, the team would be set for bigger and better things in '93 and '94 before the strike helped end the Royals' winning ways.

1992 Pipeline Royals MVP -- Gotta go with Kevin Appier, again. Seven games over .500 with that offense meant he was doing some nice work.

1992 Pipeline Royals LVP -- Mark Davis. What to say....thanks for carelessly throwing money at him, Schuerholz, and thanks for nothing in return, Mark. (That line originally blamed Herk for the signing when Schuerholz was actually the GM -- I need to give bad credit where it's due.)

Here's the '92 Royals.

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