06 April 2013

Royal legacy -- the new #29, the 2012 Royals (72-90)

OK, we're up to date. The countdown to this point:

1. 1985 Royals
2. 1980 Royals
3. 1977 Royals
4. 1976 Royals
5. 1978 Royals
6. 1984 Royals
7. 1981 Royals
8. 1975 Royals
9. 1982 Royals
10. 1989 Royals
11. 1979 Royals
12. 1973 Royals
13. 1971 Royals
14. 1994 Royals
15. 1988 Royals
16. 1987 Royals
17. 1993 Royals
18. 2003 Royals
19. 1991 Royals
20. 1972 Royals
21. 1995 Royals
22. 1974 Royals
23. 1983 Royals
24. 1990 Royals
25. 1986 Royals
26. 1992 Royals
27. 2000 Royals

28. 2011 Royals
29. 2012 Royals***
30. 2008 Royals 

31. 1996 Royals
32. 1969 Royals
33. 2007 Royals
34. 1998 Royals
35. 1999 Royals
36. 1970 Royals
37. 1997 Royals
38. 2009 Royals
39. 2010 Royals 

40. 2001 Royals 
41. 2002 Royals
42. 2006 Royals
43. 2004 Royals
44. 2005 Royals

The Royals finished a game better in 2012 than they did in 2011, and finished third instead of fourth, but I still slotted them just behind their 2011 counterparts. There was just something missing in 2012. It was the injuries, the sophomore slumps, the fact that the front office brashly marketed 2012 as "Our Time" when the team was coming off another 91-loss season and hadn't proven itself quite yet. The team had pieces in place -- young pieces at that -- but the only stalwart part of the 2011 team was the bullpen. Offensive steadiness from Alex Gordon and Billy Butler was joined by up-and-coming seasons from Eric Hosmer and the late surge of Salvador Perez, but OF surprise Melky Cabrera got shipped to San Francisco in the big Dayton Moore trade of the offseason with the idea of Lorenzo Cain taking over CF. A dismal starting rotation only got a dose of control-deficient lefty Jonathan Sanchez, tho midseason pickup Felipe Paulino had pitched well in 2011 and Danny Duffy was getting worked into regular action with the organization hoping he would take a step forward in 2012. Rather than do any more to shore up the offense or the rotation, the Royals' philosophy going into 2012 seemed to be let's add a couple more bullpen pieces and cross our fingers that the young guys continue to improve and stay healthy. Hey, they had momentum and 2012 was the year the All-Star Game returned to KC for the first time since the '70s, they expanded the playoffs by a couple teams...surely the stars were aligning in the Royals' favor, right? No dice there, KC. For that reason I put 2012 behind the promising 2011, but ahead of the pitching-richer, offense-lacking 2008 squad. As Royals fans harbor hopes for 2013 relevance, it should be noted that Dayton Moore has yet to post a season that has ranked in the top half of this countdown, and he's been here since mid-2006.

The Royals ended 2011 with a winning September, then made the Melky trade, picked up setup guy Jonathan Broxton and bullpen piece Jose Mijares, but really didn't add any more impact guys to the mix. The first big blow to "Our Time" came in the spring when closer Joakim Soria, who had finished a 2011 season that was more Clark Kent than his prior Superman work, came up with an elbow injury that required the Red Badge of Pitching Courage -- Tommy John Surgery. Within the first couple weeks of the season, Cain suffered a groin injury making a great catch in center and would have problems getting healthy (he played only 61 games), and within a short time of each other in June, Duffy and Paulino both suffered their own elbow injuries that required TJS. The guys Moore tried to add to the mix -- C Humberto Quintero, OF Jason Bourgeois, the return of IF Yuniesky Betancourt like a vampire rising from the grave to suck the life out of the offense, utility guy Tony Abreu -- didn't work out. The bullpen was once again great but the rotation was even worse than in 2011. "Our Time" had fallen apart by June and became a punchline.

An offense that had been top 5 in many categories in 2011 really lost some of its shine in 2012 despite finishing top 5 in the AL in doubles (3rd, 295), triples (2nd, 37), hits (3rd, 1,492) and batting average (4th, .265). The team OBP dropped 12 points to .317 for 8th in the 14-team AL, and slugging dropped 15 points to a 10th place .400 mark. The team OPS of .716 was also 8th in the league. Kansas City was decidely anemic in runs (676, 12th), homers (broken record, 131, 13th), walks (404, 14th and dead last, but Moore 'knows the importance of OBP'), and strikeouts (1,032, also last). Pitching was an equally dismal landscape as the team's 4.30 ERA was 10th in the league, the staff gave up a 13th place 1,504 hits, walked 540 batters for 12th, and finished with a 13th place 1.41 WHIP (9 thousandths ahead of last place Cleveland). The .673 team defensive efficiency rating (tracking the number of balls in play turned into outs) was dead last in the league and this time was joined by a league-worst .981 fielding percentage.

If 2011 was the year for Alex Gordon to bask in the spotlight, then 2012 belonged to DH Billy Butler. He posted career high power and RBI numbers, got some well-deserved national pub and following for his hitting prowess, and his supporters ignited a firestorm of sorts by standing up for him at the All-Star Game. They booed Robinson Cano into an embarrassing appearance in the Home Run Derby as Billy got passed over for participation in the derby by Cano, who had made casual assurances Billy would be included. Overall Billy hit .313 (his third season over .300)/.373/.510 (career high)/.882 (career high, 140 OPS+), with 192 hits (led team), 32 doubles, 29 HR (career high, led team) and 107 RBI (led team). His performance would earn him a Silver Slugger. LF Gordon wasn't as stellar as he was in 2011 but put together another good season en route to his second straight Gold Glove. Gordon's line was .294/.368/.455/.822 (125 OPS+) and he added 93 runs scored (led team), 189 hits, 51 doubles (led league), 5 triples, 14 HR, 72 RBI, 10 SB and 73 BB/140 K (both leading team). In the outfield, he led the league in putouts in left for a second straight year and also led all AL left fielders with 17 assists to earn the Gold Glove. The only other regular with an above-average offensive season was C Salvador Perez, as the Royals would cut loose Quintero mid-season to make room for on the 25-man. Perez hit .301/.328/.471/.798 with 16 2B, 11 HR, and 39 RBI in 76 games. When healthy, Cain wasn't awful at .266/.316/.419/.734, and Falu came off the bench to hit .341/.371/.435/.806, including a triple for his first MLB hit, but only got in 24 games. After that there wasn't much to brag about. SS Alcides Escobar's 2nd KC season saw him hit .293 with a .721 OPS and he led the team again with 7 triples and 35 SB. He added 30 doubles but also drew only 27 BB with 100 K. 3B Mike Moustakas was next as he hit .242/.296/.412/.708 but did club 34 doubles (second on the team) and 20 HR (also second) with 73 RBI (also a distant second to Butler) while providing serviceable defense at third. It was a year of what could have been for Mike as he struggled to a .586 OPS over the last 70 games. He posted a .909 OPS in April but wouldn't crack .700 after June. Next on the OPS ranks for KC was actually 2B Chris Getz, who hit .275 with a .672 OPS over 64 games while sharing time with Falu and Johnny Giavotella (paltry .574 OPS with .238 BA in a 53-game failed audition). 1B Eric Hosmer couldn't build on 2011 as he ground out a .232/.304/.359/.663 line (82 OPS+) with 22 doubles, 14 HR, 16 SB, 56 BB/95 K. His patience at the plate and eye give me hope that the local media is right in comparing his second year to that .675 OPS blip in the radar of Carlos Beltran in 2000. So far, so good in 2013. OFs Jarrod Dyson and Jeff Francouer weren't far behind Hosmer with OPS numbers of .650 and .665, respectively. Dyson stole 30 bases in 102 games while filling the hole left by Cain, and Francoeur returned to a sub-.300 OBP but cranked out 45 extra-base hits. He only drove in 49 runs tho in 148 games. The bench had little to offer as Betancourt hit for a .656 OPS in 57 games, Quintero's .598 OPS made him an easy cut for Perez, C Brayan Pena did no better with a .583 OPS, and Abreu filled in at several positions while posting a .641 OPS in 22 games. Bourgeois posted a .626 OPS as 4th OF.

It was a strange and unsettling year in the Royals rotation. Paulino led the way by going 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 3 HRA and 15 BB/39 K in 7 starts and 37 2/3 IP before hurting his elbow. Duffy was 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA and 1.59 WHIP with 2 HRA and 18 BB/28 K in 6 starts and 27 2/3 IP, before hurting his elbow. 2011 leader Bruce Chen faltered in 2012 to go 11-14 with a 5.07 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 33 HRA, 47 BB/140 K in 34 starts and 191 2/3 IP. Young lefty Will Smith went 6-9 with a 5.32 ERA in his first extended MLB look and put up a 1.61 WHIP with 12 HRA and 33 BB/59 K in 16 starts and 89 2/3 IP. Luke Hochevar also had another sub-par season at 8-16 with a 5.73 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 2 CG (the only KC pitcher to have one), a shutout, 27 HRA, and 61 BB/144 K in 32 starts and 185 1/3 IP. The worst starter, however, was new addition Sanchez, who made no indication of being happy to be in KC and went 1-6 with a 7.76 ERA, 2.04 WHIP, 8 HRA, 44 BB/36 K in 12 starts and 53 1/3 IP. He went down to AAA midseason then actually helped the Royals most by being a trade chip that brought in Rockies SP Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie would be the best Royals starter in 2012 in going 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9 HRA, 19 BB/56 K in 14 starts and 91 IP. Luis Mendoza was marginal at 8-10 with a 4.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 15 HRA, 59 BB/104 K in 30 appearances (25 starts) and 166 IP. With the injuries in the rotation several other pitchers got a shot but none could step up. The void left by Soria's injury in the bullpen meant that Broxton became the closer instead of the 8th inning set up guy that was in place, but he responded. He went 1-2 with a 2.27 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 23 SV, 1 HRA, 14 BB and 25 K in 35 IP. It wasn't like Soria in his prime, but good enough to allow KC to trade him to the Reds for a couple prospects and hand the closer role back to Greg Holland, who did well there in 2011. Holland went 7-4 with 16 SV, a 2.96 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 2 HRA, 34 BB/91 K in 67 IP. Mijares added a 2-2 mark with a 2.56 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 3 HRA, 13 BB/37 K in 38 2/3 IP before the Royals let him go to the Giants via waivers. Kelvin "Absolute Zero" (haven't given up on that nickname) Herrera generated a good first season of numbers at 4-3 with a 2.35 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 3 SV, 4 HRA, 21 BB/77 K in 84 1/3 IP; Tim Collins posted a 3.36 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with 8 HRA, 34 BB/93 K in 69 2/3 IP; Aaron Crow had a 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 22 BB/65 K in 64 2/3 IP; Louis Coleman put up a 3.71 ERA and 1.31 WHIP but allowed 10 HR with 65 K in 51 IP; and Nate Adcock had a 2.34 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 34 2/3 IP. The only other contributor was former RotF report staple Everett Teaford, who had a 4.99 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 61 1/3 IP.

There would be no hot start in 2012 and the Royals didn't spend one day in first place in the AL Central. They started the season 3-2, then rattled off a 12-game losing streak, including their first 10 at the K. That start helped them to a 6-15 April, but they would post winning records 3 of the next 4 months. They went 15-13 in May, and 14-13 in June but hung around 6 games back of the division lead. After the injuries to Paulino and Duffy in June, a 7-19 July pretty much finished off their playoff hopes and dropped them 13 1/2 games back. Behind Guthrie, the team would go 17-11 in August but were still 13 games out at month's end. There would be no September surge in '12 as KC posted a 12-17 mark to stumble to a third-place finish, 16 games out. The team was 2 games better at home than on the road. Attendance was similar to 2011 at 1.7 million at the K, but that mark was two spots better for 10th in the AL.

The Royals pretty much held pat as far as major transactions go through most of the 2012 season. In June, they drafted U of San Francisco righty Kyle Zimmer with the 5th overall pick, then added Vandy lefty Sam Selman in round 2, Louisiana HS lefty Colin Rodgers in round 3, Stanford SS Kenny Diekroger in round 4 and Illinois HS C Chad Johnson in round 5. In July the major moves started with the trade of Sanchez to Colorado for Guthrie, then Broxton was sent to the Reds for two prospects. Betancourt was released in August and that was it for regular season moves. Moore began working on the 2013 Royals by trading a minor league P for Angels starter Ervin Santana and resigning Guthrie as a free agent in November. The big move came on Dec. 9, 2012, when top overall prospect OF Wil Myers, P prospects Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi and SS prospect Patrick Leonard were jettisoned to Tampa Bay in exchange for starter James Shields, P Wade Davis, who the Royals would try to convert back to a starter, and later, IF Elliot Johnson. Other role players were added here and there as usual. Moore was content to enter 2013 with an improved rotation on paper and what looks to be another strong bullpen, but held the line on the offense. The Royals responded with the best record in the Cactus League in the spring and a middling early going of the regular season. We'll see what 2013 brings. 

2012 Pipeline Royals MVP -- Billy Butler. "Country Breakfast" is becoming one of the all-time nicknames for Royals and Billy continues to back up the rep he had coming out of high school as a hitter. Anyone following the early days of the Royals on the Farm reports on this site can say they've tracked his progress through the system, so we all knew what Billy could do at the plate. It was nice to see the rest of the country get the picture too.

2012 Pipeline Royals LVP -- C'mon, it's gotta be Jonathan Sanchez here, right? Though how worthless can he be if he brought in Guthrie in trade? Nah, I'll stick with Sanchez. We'd seen glimpses of what he could do with the Giants but I think it was pretty clear he wanted no part of KC and by about May, KC wanted no part of him either. Here he is at right, wondering where it all went wrong.

Here are your 2012 Royals....

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