The Five Best “Batting Third” Seasons In Royals History
Hereâ€™s my ranking of the best seasons by a number three hitter in Royals history. If you missed last weekâ€™s post, Iâ€™ll review: I used baseball-reference.comâ€™s records of batting orders for this series. I just looked at whichever player had the most starts in the particular spot in the order (or both players if there was a tie). Thankfully, bb-ref has batting order position as a split, so that made this series easy. Therefore, all stats listed are for the player in that particular spot in the order.
You probably can guess who is on this list the most oftenâ€¦
1. George Brett, 1980
501 PA, .389/.455/.651, 83 R, 22 HR, 109 RBI, 30 2B, 9 3B
Obviously.Â Actually, when I started thinking about this particular spot in the order, I thought Brettâ€™s 1985 season might be a little better.Â Nope. Of course this is the best batting average in this spot, but itâ€™s also the highest on-base percentage and slugging percentage. I think my favorite stat for Brett this season is the .494 average he put up in July. Yep, one hit every other at-bat. He struck out ONCE in 98 plate appearances that month. That is locked in. If I could build a time machine, the summer of 1980 would be high on my list of times to visit.
Oh, if youâ€™re wondering, Brett batted fourth in two games in 1980 (going 5 for 11) and had three pinch-hitting appearances in the eighth spot (going 1 for 3). Thatâ€™s why his average as a number three hitter wasnâ€™t the famous .390.
2. George Brett, 1985
663 PA, .336/.437/.588, 108 R, 30 HR, 112 RBI, 38 2B, 5 3B
In a way, this is more impressive than Brettâ€™s 1980 season. See, in 1980, Brett was surrounded in the lineup by Willie Wilson (113 OPS+), Willie Aikens (116 OPS+), Hal McRae (124 OPS+) and Clint Hurdle (120 OPS+). Throw in a 115 OPS+ from John Wathan, and itâ€™s clear that Brett had lots of help. But in 1985, Brett was the whole darn offense. OK, McRae had a 118 OPS+ and Steve Balboni had a 112 OPS+. But every other starter was below 100, meaning they were below average offensively for their position. Heck, Onix Concepcion had a 39 OPS+, and the Royals let him bat 349 times. The best demonstration of how much the 1985 Royals depended on Brett? He was intentionally walked 31 times that season.
As a reward for carrying this team to a World Series title (sure, the pitching was pretty good too), Brett was runner-up for the MVP award to Don Mattingly. Sure, Brett had a higher average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. But Mattingly had more RBIs. When Royals fans complain about â€œEast Coast bias,â€ this is Exhibit A.
3. Mike Sweeney, 2000
610 PA, .340/.416/.516, 88 R, 22 HR, 125 RBI, 26 2B, 0 3B
Even by the hyper-inflated offensive standards of the late 90s and early 2000s, this was quite a year. You probably know this is the highest-scoring team in Royalsâ€™ history. Obviously Sweeney was a big part of that. At age 26, Sweeney was coming into his prime during this season and, contrary to his reputation as injury-prone, played in 159 games in 2000. But he would never play in 150 games in one season after this year. Oh Mike, if only you could have stayed healthy.
4. George Brett, 1983
523 PA, .310/.384/.563, 90 R, 25 HR, 91 RBI, 38 2B, 2 3B
The 1983 Royals had a lot of things go wrong. Dennis Leonard tore his patellar tendon in late May, and the team couldnâ€™t find a reliable fourth or fifth starter after that. Larry Gura got old in a hurry, as his ERA went up almost a full run from 1982. On offense, Amos Otis, John Wathan and Willie Wilson all had subpar years. Oh yeah, and then there was all the cocaine usage.
All of that somewhat overshadowed an outstanding year from Brett (although he missed a few weeks in June and a couple more in September). When you think of great Brett seasons, 1983 might not come to mind, but a .947 OPS is pretty good (it was actually the third-highest of his career). And of course, there was this great moment.
5. Carlos Beltran, 2001
367 PA, .341/.402/.586, 63 R, 14 HR, 64 RBI, 23 2B, 8 3B
This was a tough call, actually. When ranking these, I tend to favor seasons where a player batted in the particular spot for the vast majority of the season. Beltran only batted third for 84 games in 2001 (he hit leadoff and second a bunch). But those numbers were too good to keep off the list.
George Brett, 1988
George Brett, 1982
Billy Butler, 2009
Amos Otis, 1973
George Brett, 1976
And one that stunkâ€¦
Richie Scheinblum, 1972
321 PA, .268/.368/.357, 30 R, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 9 2B, 3 3B
â€œStunkâ€ is probably too strong of a word here, but this was the lowest OPS season by anyone who batted third most often in one year. These really arenâ€™t terrible numbers, especially in 1972. In fact, Scheinblumâ€™s total OPS+ for 1972 was 140. Mostly itâ€™s the complete lack of power that lands him hereâ€”the on-base percentage is pretty good considering the relatively low average. I like to see some power hitting in the middle of the order, though. Iâ€™d like to know the thought process behind the batting orders in this season; Amos Otis batted third the vast majority of the time in 1970 and 1971, then the Royals added Scheinblum, whose career average to that point was .208. And suddenly heâ€™s batting third most of the time. But he did end up hitting .300 in the 1972 season, before the Royals traded him for Hal McRae. So I suppose it worked out.
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