Thursday, October 08, 2009

The five big surprises of the 2009 Kansas City Royals’ season

I’m not going to include Zack Greinke on this list because we’ve seen glimpses of his greatness over the past couple of seasons. Sure, his 2009 campaign was one of the best we’ve ever seen in a Royals’ uniform, but I don’t think any of us were stunned by it. He has dominant stuff, so it was just a matter of him staying focused on executing his game plan.

On to the list:

Billy Butler’s breakout season. It’s hard to call this a surprise because Billy Butler has hit at every level he’s ever played at, but in the first two years of his Major League career it looked like he may have met his match. Somewhere around the All-Star break, Butler caught fire. He looked more relaxed at the plate than I’ve ever seen him and he became a doubles machine. He hit .363 in October with a .459 OBP—good enough to win the AL Player of the Month for September. He ended up hitting 21 HR with 93 RBI and you have to think he is on the verge of establishing himself as the player we all hoped he would become.

Alberto Callaspo’s offensive numbers. As bad as Callaspo was on defense, he was able to stay in the everyday lineup because he can flat hit. He ended up hitting .300 (second highest on the team, with a .356 OBP (also second highest on the team). He also ended up with 41 doubles. He could be regarded as a mini-Billy Butler. Who would have expected that? Now, if the Royals could just figure out a way to put Callaspo and Frank White together during Spring Training next year to get Callaspo’s glove work figured out, Callaspo could be the long-term answer at second base.

Miguel Olivo had a career year at the age of 31, hitting 23 HR. In his nine previous seasons, he’d never hit more than 16 home runs. Granted, he’d only seen the bulk of the action in three of those nine seasons, but he was a back up for a reason. Toward the end of the 2009 season, he even began to take a few walks. The Royals and Olivo hold a mutual option for 2010 and I’d be surprised if the Royals pulled the trigger on their end. And I certainly don’t see them re-signing both Olivo and John Buck.

Robinson Tejeda’s effectiveness as a starter. He was pushed into the starting rotation late in the season after injuries to Gil Meche, Brian Bannister, and Kyle Davies and he went 3-1 in six starts with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He only averaged a tick over five innings per start, but that’s understandable since he came out of the bullpen. If you look at his career numbers as both a starter and reliever, they look quite similar (as a starter he’s 17-18 with a 4.52 ERA and as a reliever he’s 3-3 a 4.55 ERA), but the Royals would be foolish not to give him a shot at the rotation in the Spring.

The Royals led the American League in triples with 51, which seems pretty unlikely considering their lack of speed and below average ability to run the bases. No other AL team was even close (the Twins were second with 40). David DeJesus had nine triples; Willie Bloomquist had eight; so did Callaspo; Yuniesky Betancourt had six; and the Royals even had nine triples from catchers (Olivo had five and John Buck had four). I don’t know what to think of all the triples other than saying the Royals had a knack for finding the nooks and crannies of the various different AL ballparks.

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