The Five Best “Batting Eighth” Seasons In Royals History
We continue on with a look at the best seasons by a number eight hitter in Royals history. I thought compiling this list might be a slog through a lot of dreadful seasons, but I was slightly off on that one. While there arenâ€™t any MVP candidates here, there are some decent seasons. Almost without exception, the number eight spot has belonged to either a catcher or a middle infielder type. I suppose thatâ€™s not unusual, but itâ€™s pretty amazing to realize how dominant those two positions have been: in 44 seasons, the eighth spot has belonged to a catcher 20 times and a middle infielder 18 times. Breaking news: many times, managers put guys at certain lineup spots because of the position they play, not where they might fit best.
Here are links to the rest of the series:
1. Paul Schaal, 1973
249 PA, .308/.407/.471, 34 R, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 8 2B, 4 SB
I talked a little about Schaal in the previous entry. Here are a few more things you may not know about him:
A. Schaal has the fourth-highest WAR in Royals history for a third baseman, with 8.7. He trails George Brett, Kevin Seitzer, and Joe Randa. Yet he played only 606 games for KC; Seitzer played 741 and Randa played 1,019.
B. In June 1968, Schaal (then with the Angels) was beaned by Boston pitcher Jose Santiago. He spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and battled dizziness even after he was released. He only had two plate appearances (both pinch-hitting) for the rest of the 1968 season. I donâ€™t know, but I expect this is why he was available in the expansion draft.
C. Schaal is now a chiropractor in Overland Park.
2. Gregg Zaun, 2000
215 PA, .273/.395/.415, 27 R, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 10 2B, 6 SB
Zaun was acquired for basically nothing in spring training before the 2000 season. It turned out to be a pretty shrewd move, as he posted an .800 OPS (102 OPS+) in 83 games. Unfortunately, Zaun sprained his elbow in April and missed 38 games. Then he had rotator cuff surgery after the season. The injury may have bothered him during the season, as his caught-stealing percentage dropped from 46% in 1999 to 19% in 2000. So basically, he was Jason Kendall except he could hit.
3. John Buck, 2007
188 PA, .261/.356/.460, 18 R, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 11 2B, 0 SB
When I started this exercise, I never dreamed John Buck would make any of these lists. Yet here he is. I suspect the unusually-high OBP is a result of having Tony Pena, Jr. hitting behind him much of the time (although this was the one season when TPJ was just bad, not historically awful). Still, Buck didnâ€™t have to take all those walks. And 7 homers in 188 plate appearances is a decent rate.
4. Frank White, 1982
337 PA, .302/.323/.443, 45 R, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 30 2B, 6 SB
White certainly had an odd career arc on offense. His first five seasons, totaling 565 games, he was basically a non-entity on offense (.598 OPS in that time; for comparison, Chris Getz has a career .630 OPS). Then he spent four seasons as a passable hitter (.681 OPS), but his defense more than made up for it. And then five seasons, his age 31-35 seasons for crying out loud, when he was actually above average (102 OPS+), plus the usual outstanding glove work. That period culminated with a Silver Slugger award in 1986. Anyway, 1982 was the first season of that last group. Somewhere between 1981 and 1982, White discovered his power stroke, and he set career highs in home runs and doubles in â€™82.
5. Mike Macfarlane, 1990
266 PA, .270/.327/.414, 27 R, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 14 2B, 1 SB
1990 was the year I told someone I expected Macfarlane to make multiple All-Star appearances (no, I donâ€™t know why I remember this). I canâ€™t believe he never made even one. Of course, I didnâ€™t know about Sandy Alomar and Ivan Rodriguez yet. Anyway, Mac was a solid catcher for the Royals for many years in the â€˜90s. And I still maintain he was underrated.
Carlos Febles, 1999
Mike Macfarlane, 1997
Mike Macfarlane, 1996
Jamie Quirk, 1988
Jerry May, 1971
And one that stunkâ€¦
Angel Salazar, 1987
205 PA, .185/.208/.205, 12 R, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 4 2B, 2 SB
Salazar was your basic average-field, absolutely-no-hit-whatsoever shortstop. Kind of Tony Pena, Jr. v1.0. For whatever reason, even with Buddy Biancalana already in the fold, the Royals decided they needed another guy like that, so they went out and got Salazar before the 1986 season. Salazar was merely awful in 1986 (60 OPS+), but bottomed out in 1987 (23 OPS+). Remember, 1987 was a strange year in that offensive numbers around baseball had a one-year spike. It didnâ€™t help poor Angel Salazar, though. So the Royals traded Salazar and Danny Jackson to the Reds for Ted Power and Kurt Stillwell, who hit like Cal Ripken compared to his predecessors.
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