Numerous Royals worthy of postseason accolades
At present, no team may be more aptly named than the Kansas City Royals. Pick your regal metaphor and it makes sense, whether you prefer to think that KC was crowned champs on Sunday night or that they ascended to their rightful throne after a 7-2 victory over the New York Mets wrapped up the team’s first World Series title in 30 years.
Personally, I can’t help but reflect on the words of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who wrote “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”
Kansas City certainly didn’t take it easy on the Mets’ good “Knight,” pitcher Matt Harvey, in the ninth inning. After New York’s ace adamantly fought to finish the game, the Royals scored two runs off him to send the game into extra innings before securing the MLB championship with a five-run outburst in the 12th inning.
On a grander scale, the poet’s words ring true as well, as the Kansas City franchise was in the midst of a 28-year playoff drought before last season’s surprise run to the World Series.
It’s always darkest before the dawn, though, right? Now that Kansas City has won its second World Series title in franchise history (after back-to-back trips), the future looks extremely bright as well.
Seemingly every Royal played his part in this championship run and let me start by saying every award this postseason was rightly earned, but I wanted to take the time to recognize some contributions even further and hand out some more awards in the tradition of MLB’s year-long trophies as applied to Kansas City’s postseason run.
Reliever of the Postseason— Considering the nearly universally agreed upon opinion that Kansas City has the best bullpen in baseball, it’s hard to understand how this end-of-the-year award didn’t go to a Royal (it was given to New York Yankee Andrew Miller).
For KC, it’s a no-brainer who receives this award. Despite some hero ball played by Kelvin Herrera and Luke Hochevar, this was always Wade Davis’ award to lose.
Davis didn’t disappoint this postseason, as he allowed zero runs in 10.2 innings of work, picked up four saves and struck out a whopping 18 batters in relief.
Rookie of the Postseason— While Raul Mondesi was the only true rookie on the Royals’ postseason roster, this applies more to first-time contributors.
Kansas City had plenty of those players step up big this postseason, with a number of offseason and trade deadline acquisitions coming through when they were needed most, from Kendrys Morales to Johnny Cueto.
Honorable mention for this award goes to Alex Rios, who vastly outperformed based on his regular season production, but one rookie stood out above the rest, and that was the gem of general manager Dayton Moore’s trade deadline haul, Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist provided everything KC could’ve asked for, from stellar defense at second base to steady production at the plate, finishing the postseason with a .303 average, seven walks, six RBI and two home runs.
Most Improved— This is an easy award to give out because there is one Royal in particular who took his production to the next level this postseason, and that is World Series MVP Salvador Perez.
Outside of his game-winning RBI single to win the wild card game in 2014, Perez had a forgettable postseason run last year. It seemed the season’s workload had taken its toll and he just hacked away at the plate trying to make something happen.
Like most of the Royals this postseason, Perez showed a lot more discipline and hiked his batting average (.259) by 52 points while also drawing four walks, driving in eight runs and tying for the team lead with four home runs this postseason.
Perez continued to take a lot of abuse behind the plate as he battled through a long season and certainly fought for everything Kansas City earned this fall.
Postseason Cy Young— With all due respect to what Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez did this postseason, one Royal starter’s production was more valuable probably because of how unexpected it was.
Given the playoff format, with off days scheduled for travel accommodations, teams can use a smaller rotation in order to achieve postseason success. It’s part of the reason the Arizona Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series, relying on a heavy dose of Curt Schillling and Randy Johnson.
It is crucial for the top of the postseason rotation to make multiple starts and while the aforementioned pitchers had some big wins, the postseason Cy Young award belongs to a guy who made just two starts combined in the ALDS, ALCS and World Series.
This is the one award where I’m probably factoring in regular season performance a little, too, because I don’t think anybody expected Chris Young to contribute as much as he did for the Royals in 2015.
Young finished with an 11-6 record and 3.06 ERA in the regular season, and then dialed it up another level in the postseason. He was 1-0 with a 2.87 ERA and 18 strikeouts and turned in some sterling relief performances as well as two strong starts.
It was Young who picked up the win in that marathon game one of the World Series and it was Young who opposing batters could not figure out, with the lowest batting average against of any pitcher who started a game for the Royals this postseason (and second lowest overall).
More impressively, though, may have been the fact that the pitcher on the staff most prone to giving up home runs allowed just two in the postseason, again the fewest of any starter. Cueto and Volquez get the glory, but Young was the backbone of the Royals’ staff in their championship run.
Postseason MVP— Forgive me for giving this award to another Kansas City player already recognized with a postseason trophy, but there is truly only one person it can go to.
Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer stepped up big for the Royals again, especially with runners in scoring position, but this postseason absolutely no one could figure out Esky magic.
Alcides Escobar, the leadoff hitter who defies the logic of top of the order production, produced game after game for the Royals during this title run, finishing the postseason with a team-high .329 batting average, one home run and nine RBI.
That one home run perfectly encapsulates the type of postseason Escobar had, as it was an inside-the-park home run he hit to leadoff game one of the World Series. That was a feat that had only been done once before in MLB history and Escobar managed it on the very first pitch.
As Jonny Gomes, a player who was not on the Royals’ active postseason roster, so eloquently put it in the celebration on Tuesday (for which an estimated 800,000 fans were on hand), Kansas City won’t have any players earn the previously mentioned awards that are handed out by MLB at the end of the season. It doesn’t matter.
Kansas City excelled as a team and the sum proved to be greater than the parts. That’s why the Royals were able to succeed and, ultimately, capture a championship that was long overdue.