The beauty of baseball lies in when you watch a game, you never know what you’re going to see. It’s cliche, but it’s true.
If you happened to turn on Sunday’s Royals game, hoping to see the Royals inch closer to clinching a spot in the postseason, you were treated to one of the best offensive performances in the history of the Royals franchise. Hell, maybe it was straight-up the best. It was damn good. Kendrys Morales single-handedly destroyed the Detroit Tigers and led the Royals to a 10-3 victory. Three home runs. A triple. He also threw a walk into the mix.
A home run down the right field line. A home run to left. A triple to the alley in right-center. And a home run to right. It was a tour de force to all fields. No Detroit pitcher was safe. It was straight up abuse. Five runs scored. Fifteen total bases.
You just don’t see a performance at the dish like that very often. Morales’ 15 total bases was the second time that’s happened this season. Yoenis Cespedes strung together a single and a double to go with a three home run game last month for the Mets. Before that, Lonnie Chisenhall had a similar batting line in June of 2014. Strange to say, but 15 total bases isn’t as rare a feat as it used to be. But that’s just nitpicking. Since the dawn of the “expansion era” of 1961, just 19 players have recorded 15 total bases in a single game. From the Baseball Reference Play Index, here is the full list:
|1||Shawn Green||2002-05-23||LAD||MIL||W 16-3||6||6||6||6||1||0||4||19||7||0||0|
|2||Josh Hamilton||2012-05-08||TEX||BAL||W 10-3||5||5||4||5||1||0||4||18||8||0||0|
|3||Carlos Delgado||2003-09-25||TOR||TBD||W 10-8||4||4||4||4||0||0||4||16||6||0||0|
|4||Mike Cameron||2002-05-02||SEA||CHW||W 15-4||6||5||4||4||0||0||4||16||4||0||0|
|5||Edgardo Alfonzo||1999-08-30||NYM||HOU||W 17-1||6||6||6||6||1||0||3||16||5||0||0|
|6||Mark Whiten||1993-09-07 (2)||STL||CIN||W 15-2||5||5||4||4||0||0||4||16||12||0||0|
|7||Bob Horner||1986-07-06||ATL||MON||L 8-11||5||5||4||4||0||0||4||16||6||0||0|
|8||Fred Lynn||1975-06-18||BOS||DET||W 15-1||6||6||4||5||0||1||3||16||10||0||0|
|9||Willie Mays||1961-04-30||SFG||MLN||W 14-4||5||5||4||4||0||0||4||16||8||0||0|
|10||Kendrys Morales||2015-09-20||KCR||DET||W 10-3||5||4||5||4||0||1||3||15||3||1||0|
|11||Yoenis Cespedes||2015-08-21||NYM||COL||W 14-9||6||6||5||5||1||0||3||15||7||0||0|
|12||Lonnie Chisenhall||2014-06-09||CLE||TEX||W 17-7||5||5||3||5||1||0||3||15||9||0||0|
|13||Ryan Braun||2012-04-30||MIL||SDP||W 8-3||5||5||3||4||0||1||3||15||6||0||0|
|14||Albert Pujols||2004-07-20||STL||CHC||W 11-8||5||5||4||5||1||0||3||15||5||0||0|
|15||Shea Hillenbrand||2003-07-07||ARI||COL||W 14-6||5||5||4||5||1||0||3||15||7||0||0|
|16||Dmitri Young||2003-05-06||DET||BAL||W 7-6||5||5||2||5||0||2||2||15||5||0||0|
|17||Dave Winfield||1991-04-13||CAL||MIN||W 15-9||6||6||4||5||1||0||3||15||6||0||0|
|18||Davey Lopes||1974-08-20||LAD||CHC||W 18-8||6||6||3||5||1||0||3||15||4||0||0|
|19||Willie Stargell||1968-05-22||PIT||CHC||W 13-6||5||5||4||5||1||0||3||15||7||0||0|
Morales erased George Brett from the Royals record book. (Not entirely. You know what I mean.) Brett set the franchise record with 14 total bases. Through his first four plate appearances, Morales had hit a pair of bombs and a triple to sit at 11 total bases. At that point, I ran a query on the Play Index and found that he had already entered rarified air for the franchise with his current performance. It was the 24th time a Royal had recorded 11 total bases in a game. And the first since Salvador Perez hit the mark last August.
|1||Kendrys Morales||2015-09-20||KCR||DET||W 10-3||5||4||5||4||0||1||3||15||3||1||0||0|
|2||George Brett||1979-05-28||KCR||BAL||W 5-4||8||7||3||5||1||1||2||14||4||1||1||0|
|3||Kevin Seitzer||1987-08-02||KCR||BOS||W 13-5||6||6||4||6||1||0||2||13||7||0||0||0|
|4||George Brett||1983-04-20||KCR||DET||W 8-7||5||5||3||4||0||0||3||13||7||0||0||1|
|5||Tony Solaita||1975-09-07||KCR||CAL||W 8-7||5||4||3||4||0||0||3||13||4||1||0||0|
|6||Danny Tartabull||1991-07-06||KCR||OAK||L 7-9||4||4||3||3||0||0||3||12||4||0||0||0|
|7||Bo Jackson||1990-07-17||KCR||NYY||W 10-7||3||3||3||3||0||0||3||12||7||0||0||0|
|8||George Brett||1979-07-22||KCR||TEX||W 7-6||5||4||3||3||0||0||3||12||5||1||0||0|
|9||Al Cowens||1977-09-06||KCR||SEA||W 10-0||5||5||4||5||1||0||2||12||4||0||0||0|
|10||John Mayberry||1977-06-01||KCR||TOR||W 11-3||5||5||3||3||0||0||3||12||5||0||0||0|
|11||John Mayberry||1975-07-01||KCR||TEX||L 4-5||4||4||3||3||0||0||3||12||3||0||0||1|
|12||Ed Kirkpatrick||1969-09-30||KCR||CAL||W 8-5||4||4||2||4||0||1||2||12||6||0||0||0|
|13||Salvador Perez||2013-08-28||KCR||MIN||W 8-1||5||5||2||4||1||0||2||11||4||0||0||0|
|14||Melky Cabrera||2011-07-03||KCR||COL||W 16-8||6||5||4||4||1||0||2||11||5||0||0||0|
|15||Kila Ka’aihue||2010-09-28||KCR||MIN||W 10-1||4||3||4||3||0||1||2||11||4||1||0||0|
|16||Billy Butler||2009-04-29||KCR||TOR||W 11-3||5||5||4||4||1||0||2||11||4||0||0||0|
|17||Juan Gonzalez||2004-04-16||KCR||MIN||L 7-9||4||4||2||4||1||0||2||11||3||0||0||0|
|18||Carlos Beltran||2004-04-14||KCR||CHW||L 9-10||5||5||3||4||1||0||2||11||4||0||0||0|
|19||Mike Sweeney||2001-06-06||KCR||CHW||W 12-6||5||5||2||4||1||0||2||11||5||0||0||0|
|20||Chili Davis||1997-08-14||KCR||NYY||L 5-10||4||4||2||4||1||0||2||11||4||0||0||0|
|21||Gary Gaetti||1995-05-29||KCR||TEX||W 12-0||5||5||2||4||1||0||2||11||6||0||0||0|
|22||Frank White||1986-08-19||KCR||TEX||W 9-8||6||5||2||4||1||0||2||11||7||1||1||1|
|23||John Mayberry||1973-05-22||KCR||MIN||L 7-8||5||4||3||4||1||0||2||11||4||1||0||0|
|24||Ed Kirkpatrick||1969-09-28||KCR||CHW||W 10-3||5||5||3||4||1||0||2||11||3||0||0||0|
You don’t need me to tell you this franchise has starved for power almost since it’s inception. The Royals home run record for a season was set 30 years ago for crying out loud. The steroid era seemed to skip right over Kansas City. There’s an entire generation of Royals fans who have never seen a player hit three bombs in a game. It’s been done just eight times now in franchise history. The last time it was done was back in 1991 by Danny Tartabull.
|1||Kendrys Morales||2015-09-20||KCR||DET||W 10-3||5||4||5||4||0||1||3||3||1||0|
|2||Danny Tartabull||1991-07-06||KCR||OAK||L 7-9||4||4||3||3||0||0||3||4||0||0|
|3||Bo Jackson||1990-07-17||KCR||NYY||W 10-7||3||3||3||3||0||0||3||7||0||0|
|4||George Brett||1983-04-20||KCR||DET||W 8-7||5||5||3||4||0||0||3||7||0||1|
|5||George Brett||1979-07-22||KCR||TEX||W 7-6||5||4||3||3||0||0||3||5||1||0|
|6||John Mayberry||1977-06-01||KCR||TOR||W 11-3||5||5||3||3||0||0||3||5||0||0|
|7||Tony Solaita||1975-09-07||KCR||CAL||W 8-7||5||4||3||4||0||0||3||4||1||0|
|8||John Mayberry||1975-07-01||KCR||TEX||L 4-5||4||4||3||3||0||0||3||3||0||1|
The good people at MLBAM were kind enough to throw together this highlight reel of Morales’ day. It’s truly worth the watch.
This seems like the right time to admit I was wrong about the Morales signing. (At least I’m not alone in this admission.) While I expected him to better his 2014 output, I certainly didn’t expect this kind of production. He has been Much of the criticism pointed at the Royals last December came after they postured when they let Billy Butler walk that they wanted some “flexibility” at the designated hitter position. Meaning, they were looking more for a cast of characters to fill the role as opposed to a full-time DH. The rest of the criticism came at the awarding of a two-year, backloaded contract to a guy who some in the industry felt didn’t even merit a major league deal coming off his miserable ’14. Yet this signing was a masterstroke by Dayton Moore and company. Morales has served as an anchor in the middle of the Royals strongest offense in over a decade.
The full-time DH remains a rarity in the league, but Morales is more than holding his own. If you click on the DH leaderboard at Fangraphs, you see some names atop the charts like Nelson Cruz (who has played over 700 innings in the outfield), Edwin Encarnacion (over 450 innings at first base), and Jose Abreu (over 900 innings at first). I guess those guys have grabbed enough plate appearances at the DH spot to belong to this cohort, but let’s not call them full-time.
The full-time designated hitters are David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Billy Butler, Prince Fielder, Evan Gattis, Victor Martinez and our Morales. Those are the guys who have played in the field for less than 200 innings. Look at how Morales compares.
Ortiz – .270/.357/.544, 134 wRC+
Rodriguez – .255/.359/.501, 133 wRC+
Morales – .293/.355/.490, 131 wRC+
Fielder – .307/.380/.466, 125 wRC+
Butler – .252/.323/.387, 98 wRC+
Gattis – .243/.281/.452, 96 wRC+
Martinez – .243/.301/.361, 77 wRC+
Dishing out a contract to a full-time DH, it’s easy to overpay. With WAR and an expanded emphasis on the value of defense, baseball has evolved over the last decade to where the all-around player is the more desirable commodity. But teams still love to pay for the bats. Rodriguez wasn’t signed as a full-time DH, but he’s making in the neighborhood of $21 million this year. Ortiz is pocketing $16 million. Fielder, like Rodriguez wasn’t intended to become a full-time DH, and will earn $24 million this year and for the next five years after. Butler makes $10 million. Martinez is due $18 million this year and for each of the next two seasons. Only Gattis makes under a million, but that’s because he hasn’t been in the league long enough to become arbitration eligible.
The point is, paying for a full-time designated hitter can be costly business. Those contracts I pointed out above take almost all of those bats out of the Royals budget.
Morales will make $6.5 million this year. He’s also eligible for another $750,000 in performance bonuses, which I imagine he will bank. That means the Royals are paying Morales around $10 million less than his peers. That’s good business. That’s exactly the kind of contract the Royals need to be handing out to be competitive. It was a gamble, but one with some protection for the Royals. And sometimes when you roll the dice, you hit your number.
With incentives and a buyout on a mutual option in 2017, Morales’ deal is worth around $18.5 million. This year alone according to Fangraphs, Morales has provided the Royals around $17 million in value. Obviously, after this season, expectations will be high for 2016, but he’s almost done enough to justify his entire payday. That’s how impressive his 2015 season has been.
There are a bunch of great stories about this version of the Royals. Grabbing Morales off the scrap heap and throwing him in the middle of the order is one of the best ones.