Heavyweights coming up for Royals


The Royals prepare to play host to the Yankees for four games this week. Besides being 39-26, there is an air of excitement because as they proved over the weekend, they don’t give up.

Some say the record is because of a weak schedule early, but that is what teams are supposed to do, beat worse teams, so we can accept it as it is. We may learn a lot this week as the Bronx Bombers are again bombing, leading the American League in wins with 45.

Aaron Judge leads the league in home runs with 23, which is more than Kansas City’s top two (Bobby Witt, Jr.) and (Salvador Perez) combined. Judge also leads the league in extra base hits with 44, 10 more than Witt, who is second. Things get worse as the Royals then travel to L.A. to face the Dodgers, the other big dogs of this year’s MLB.

Since I concentrate on history, I have been trying to compare this team with previous squads like the 2015 Royals or the 1985 version. I can’t see this as a World Series winning squad (with my heart I can, with my brain, not so much.) But I use the premier Royals teams in history to try to compare, but neither works.

It finally dawned on me; this team far more resembles the Kansas City teams of the mid-1970s. Using those teams as a guide, we might see an interesting comparison. Granted, we are only some over one-third of the way through the year, but 66 games is a big enough sample to shape some comparisons.

This year’s team is built on starting pitching, defense, speed and a couple great bats. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Royals’ pitching staff has a 3.66 ERA. The team fielding percentage is tied for the best in baseball at .988 and KC leads the league in stolen bases with 63.

The team is led by Witt with a .322 average, Perez is next at .304. The team is batting .254.

For comparison, the 1975 Royals posted a 91-71 mark, but finished seven games back of the A’s in the AL West standings. The pitching staff posted a 3.47 ERA, the defense posted a .976 fielding percentage, the team was third in the league in stolen bases with 155. The team batted .261 led by Hal McRae at .306 and George Brett at .305.

Starting pitching was the strength with Steve Busby posting 18 wins, Al Fitzmorris logging 16 and Dennis Leonard putting up 15. The bullpen was less impressive with Doug Bird leading the team in saves with 11 while posting a 9-6 record.

The year of 1976 was the year the team broke through to win a division crown with a 90-21 mark, 2.5 games better than Oakland. The team ERA was 3.21, the fielding mark was .978 and the team was second in the league with 218 stolen bases.  Brett won the league batting title at .333 and McRae just missed with a .332 mark. There was a third .300 hitter that year, Tom Poquette batted .302. Interestingly, that was the year Frank White took over at second base and his first year was not stellar as he hit .229.

The team ERA was 3.21 and Leonard led the team with 17 wins, followed by Fitzmorris with 15 and Paul Splittorff with 11. The bullpen was better with Mark Littell saving 16 and Steve Mingori 11.

Of course, in 1977, the Royals set the team record with 102 wins. The team batting average was .277, Brett and Al Cowans each batted .312, Leonard won 20 games and the team ERA was 3.52.

There are some interesting comparisons here, which makes this week’s match up with the Yanks all that more interesting. I don’t believe we should be thinking about sweeping the big-city guys, but being in every game with a chance to win may tell us a lot. A week from now, we will know much more about the physical and mental toughness of the 2024 Royals.


Notes: If the Royals play well over the next couple weeks and approach July still in contention, a thought for player of the month might be mother nature. The Royals were struggling through a 2-7 stretch and had just dropped a come-from-ahead loss to the Cleveland Guardians when the game on June 5 was rained out. The Royals came out the next day and topped the division leaders and then came home to win three from the AL West leading Mariners, upping their record and having momentum going into the Yankees series. Had there not been that rainout, the entire atmosphere around the team might have been different.

I find it interesting that the marketing department has some neat giveaways during the Yankees series. I can understand in the respect that it is celebrating four decades of Yankee rivalry, but the promotions for the Mariners series were negligible. If you ask me, which they didn’t and won’t, I would put the promotions against teams like Seattle which will likely draw fewer people instead of giving stuff away to a bunch of Yankees fans who would be at the game anyway.

J.P. Crawford led off Sunday’s game with a home run, his second leadoff home in two days, Saturday’s coming on the first pitch. I don’t recall the last time I saw the same player lead off two games with home runs, I’m sure its not incredibly rare, but it isn’t that common either.

A lot of fans had abandoned Sunday’s game prior to the two-out, two-run homer my M.J. Melendez. The pain of that faux pas might have been greater had the Royals pulled out the win.