The Kansas City Royals were once again near the basement of the American League Central a season ago, but they were perhaps the most interesting 71-91 team in recent history.
Entering the 2011 season, the Royals had added a couple of veteran outfielders, traded away their Cy Young award-winning starter, and paved the way for another season of futility whilst awaiting the arrival of a plethora of gems in their minor league system. Both Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur exceeded expectations in Kansas City and helped lead an offense that was better than league-average, scoring 4.51 runs per game. The Royals lead the league in triples and ranked second in doubles, but with just 129 home runs; the fourth-lowest total in the AL.
While the wins weren’t as frequent as they would have liked, manager Ned Yost oversaw the introduction of budding starts like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer to the everyday lineup, as well as the breakout campaign of former bust Alex Gordon, who garnered his first all-star selection and even some MVP votes after his fine season in left field.
Still, the Royals couldn’t overcome the lack of quality pitching. Only the Twins and Orioles, both last-place clubs, allowed more than the 762 runs yielded by the Royals’ staff in 2011. The bullpen underwent a massive overhaul from the previous year and replaced a few veteran arms with youngsters. Closer Joakim Soria ran into trouble early before righting the ship later in the year and the club wound up converting only 63% of their save opportunities. Still, there were plenty of live arms running out of that Royals bullpen on a nightly basis; ones that only figure to improve with time. The biggest problem was that they had to be used so often.
Not a single Kansas City starter worked at least 200 innings in 2011, but former number one pick Luke Hochevar came close at 198. Veteran left hander Jeff Francis, signed on a one-year deal prior to the 2011 season, made it through the schedule healthy, but suffered through a 4.82 ERA and 16 losses during his 31 starts. Sadly, Francis’ efforts were light years better that the numbers put up by right handers Kyle Davies and Sean O’Sullivan.
Davies made only 13 starts before being released by the club. A 1-9 record and ERA of 6.75 through 61.1 innings will do that. O’Sullivan was actually worse than Davies in 2011, posting a 6.96 ERA in 10 starts covering 54.1 innings. He was also shelled in two relief appearances.