If you watch the Royals on a regular basis you probably have a sense that Alex Gordon is having a terrific year, but you might also look at a .284 batting average or nine home runs and wonder if, as we’ve gotten used to hearing around here, he’s really having a terrific year or if it only seems like he’s having a terrific year because the rest of the Royals hitters aren’t doing much.
The answer: he’s really having a terrific year.
Among qualified American League outfielders, he is second in Wins Above Replacement^ , first in defensive WAR, first in doubles, second in on-base percentage and fourth in slugging.
^ We’re using B-R’s version here.
He is behind only Mike Trout in WAR and on-base, and behind Trout, Yoenis Cespedes and Adam Jones in slugging.
There’s more to it, too. If you look through the years, Gordon is a shade under halfway through one of the best seasons in Royals history. I know not everyone is comfortable talking WAR, it’s a bulky, complicated calculation but it does a fairly good job of adding together all the ways a player can help his team — getting on base, hitting for power, playing defense^, running the bases, just about everything.
^ For more on Gordon’s defense, this is pretty good.
Gordon, at the moment, is at 3.8 WAR, which is a pace for almost exactly eight.
If Gordon got to eight — actually, if he got above 7.6 — he would have, at least by this measure, the fifth-best season in Royals history.
He would be bested only by three George Brett seasons and Willie Wilson’s amazing 1980 season: he hit .326, stole 79 bases, and led the league in plate appearances (745), runs (133), hits (230) and triples (15). Plus, he won the Gold Glove.
The Brett seasons are the ones you’d probably expect. In 1980, he hit .390 and won the modern triple crown (though nobody called it that), also leading the league with a .454 on-base and .664 slugging. He had more home runs (24) than strikeouts (22), which is just silly.
In 1979, he hit .329/.376/.563 with 42 doubles, 20 triples and 23 home runs. Then in 1985, he dragged the Royals to the only World Series championship in franchise history, a tour de force MVP season where he hit .335/.436/.585 with 38 doubles, 30 home runs, 112 RBIs, 103 walks (31 of them intentional) and 49 strikeouts.
So, that’s the company Gordon is pacing to be with.