Here we are, folks: the End of Season Post-Mortem series. If you're new here (which about 50% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from playoff contention, we're going to put their season under a microscope and look at just what the hell went wrong, what went right, and so on and so forth. The goal is to post these the day after a team is eliminated.
One bad month can completely doom your season. For the Royals, that bad month was May, when they finished 8-20. But it's a testament to how good this team played that they stayed in contention until the last week of the year even with that bad month. Kansas City is going to finish with their best winning percentage over a full season since 1989, but if they just played .500 ball in May, maybe they'd be playing some October baseball.
Preseason Prediction: I could see the Royals finishing somewhere between 70 and 90 wins. I think they'll end up splitting the difference and finishing somewhere around .500, but they can easily fall on either side of that mark. I just don't think this team is good enough right now to compete with the big boys in the division despite their offseason wheeling and dealing.
What Went Right: The Wil Myers trade is going to be talked about for years. But let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat: James Shields did everything in 2013 that the Royals expected him to, throwing 221 2/3 innings of 3.21 ERA ball and giving Kansas City a bona fide ace for the first time since Zack Greinke was traded. The Royals also got a marvelous year out of Ervin Santana after acquiring him for peanuts from the Angels. Kansas City's bullpen was the glue that held their pitching staff together, thanks to the performances of Louis Coleman, Greg Holland, Luke Hochevar, and Will Smith, among others.
Offensively, Eric Hosmer finally turned things around after spending the first two months of the year with his head in the sand and looks like the hitter the Royals always thought he could be. Billy Butler continued to do nothing but hit, and catcher Salvador Perez marched along as one of the finest young backstops in baseball.
What Went Wrong: The Jeff Francoeur experiment was a complete disaster, and the club parted ways with him in July, about three months too late. Mike Moustakas' stats took a step back in his second full season in the bigs, though he did improve a bit after the first two months of the year. Alcides Escobar showed he can field, but was one of the worst every day hitters in the majors in 2013. Wade Davis, starting pitcher, didn't work out too well.
Most Surprising Player: As much as I want to say Ervin Santana, he's shown ace potential in the past before, so him having a great year wasn't exactly unheard of. Justin Maxwell had a great year for the Astros in 2012, but fell out of favor with them and was dealt to the Royals at the trade deadline in a deal I thought was so insignificant that I didn't even bother doing a writeup about it. Of course, Maxwell hit like a monster as a Royal, smashing seven homers in 102 plate appearances, doing a damn good job at keeping the Royals in the playoff race late in the season.
I'll also give a tip of the cap to Luke Hochevar, who had spent his career in Kansas City as a disastrous starter and a failed number one overall pick. Ned Yost moved him to the bullpen for 2013, and all Hochevar has done is post an ERA under 2.00 while striking out more than four times as many batters as he walked while also showing the valuable ability to throw multiple innings in relief. It's just a shame that it took the Royals 750 innings to realize that maybe this guy would be better off in the bullpen.
Most Disappointing Player: Considering he hit 20 homers, this might sound weird…but Alex Gordon really disappointed me in 2013. The 29-year old saw his offensive rate stats drop off once again, and his .267/.328/.424 line is a little middling. At least he hasn't bottomed out to his 2009-10 level yet, but another year like 2011 or 2012 would have done a lot to solidify his stock as one of the best players in baseball.
The Future: Dayton Moore's plan might come to a head in 2014. Santana is a free agent this winter, as is useful veteran Bruce Chen. Shields has an option for the 2014 season that the club will surely exercise. The team still has plenty of young talent under control past 2014, like Butler, Gordon, and Perez to name three. But the Santana/Shields duo is what powered the Royals to success this season, and if Santana signs elsewhere this winter, the club is going to need some of their young pitching to step into that void. And if they don't make the Postseason next year and Shields depart, things could go back to being ugly quickly in Kansas City if none of the Royals' young starters are able to develop like the club needs them to.