Fool’s Gold

The 8-2 stretch that the Royals are on since the All-Star break has been a lot of fun, but there are a couple of problems that stand out in it.  The most obvious is that despite their victories, they have only picked up one game on the Tigers.  They are only 5 out in the wild-card though, so it has not been a complete waste.  Still, I am concerned that the winning streak is a mirage that could end up being very costly in the long term due to the second problem, the way they went 8-2.

Of the Royals eight wins since the break, five have been by one run and one was by two runs.  Only two of the wins were very convincing.  This puts the run differential for the ten games at +7, which would show an expectation of more like 6-4 with a slight stretch toward 7-3 for those ten games.  So, the Royals got a little lucky and won an extra 1 and a half to 2 games.  This was driven by really good pitching.  Such good pitching in fact, that it is unsustainable.

The pitching staff has managed an ERA of just 2.23 since the break, and there is just no way that they can do that from now until the end of the season.  This included a Wade Davis start that went seven and a third without a run.  Raise your hand if you think he can do that again.  It might if he can face the lowly White Sox who are now the second lowest scoring team in the majors with only the Marlins behind them.  Now the pitching staff doesn’t need to be this good the rest of the way to make the playoffs because the team doesn’t need to play .800 baseball the whole way, but we will discuss that later.

A bigger problem still looms though, and that is the offense still being disappointing.  During this hot stretch the offense only scored 3.4 runs per game.  That is terrible, and there just doesn’t seem to be any way to get it fixed.  Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and the black hole at second base make 4 out of 9 lineup spots that are just not that productive.  On top of that, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon are still productive but underperforming.  What does this all mean?

It means that the Royals are now close enough in the wild-card that it may keep Dayton Moore from trading bullpen pieces or Ervin Santana.  Let’s talk about what it could take to win a wild-card spot.

 American League
 

W

L

GB

Left

 Boston Red Sox

63

44

55

 Baltimore Orioles

58

48

56

 Cleveland Indians

57

48

0.5

57

 Texas Rangers

57

49

1.0

56

 New York Yankees

55

50

2.5

57

 Kansas City Royals

51

51

5.0

60

*courtesy Yahoo! Sports

This is the picture right now in the race for the 1-game play-in.  The Royals need to jump over 4 teams to get one of the spots.  The Yankees are not good, and will likely fall down, so I will give them one.  The rest of the teams are all legitimately good.  Right now these teams are on pace for 95, 89, 88, and 87 wins.  Three of them need to be behind the Royals to attain a playoff birth, so we will call 89 wins the threshold needed even though it could be more than that if just one of the Orioles, Indians, or Rangers has a long hot stretch.  That means the Royals need 38 wins from their remaining 60 games.  They can only lose 22 the rest of the way.  A team that has played .500 through 102 games needs to play .633 baseball for two months.

That is why their playoff odds are still lousy.  It is very unlikely that this team is going to make it this year.  The smart move is to play for next year, but the win streak might make that hard to do.  Trades could be made that keep this team similar or even slightly improved even while moving Santana, but I don’t believe Moore would try such a thing.  Instead the Royals might buy, which is fine, as long as they are getting a second baseman for the rest of this year and at least next year too.  I don’t mind buying since this team should be in contention next year, but missing an opportunity to sell based on a short run of good luck might make it harder.

Topics: Kansas City Royals, MLB, Trade Deadline, Wild-card, Wildcard

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  • jimfetterolf

    On Wade Davis, who seems to have replaced Frenchy as the whipping boy of the Negative Nancy Niche, he has five quality starts among his last eight outings and has pitched seven innings plus with three or less runs three times this year. He has stuff and some mechanical issues, which he has been addressing, much easier fix than the similar Hochevar and with similar ceiling. Royals have managed to lose three or four of his quality starts this year.

    On “black holes”, at the moment the most painful is Alex Gordon, not second base. Billy has finally heated back up and Moose made some adjustments with Brett. Gordon’s OPS in June was .532, July a walk driven .696. Escobar is even worse with a .627 and .455 respectively. Wouldn’t “regression to the mean” suggest that those numbers rise? For Cain, also?

    Quite possible the Royals don’t make the playoffs, it will all come down to the eleven games with Detroit and the seven with Cleveland. It’s all in their hands.

    • Brian Henry

      Even when Davis has a good start he allows too many base runners. Escobar may have regressed to his mean from last year and we don’t know what Cain’s mean is to regress to though I do think he has a little more power. The Royals only make the playoffs if something bizarre happens with several teams.

      • jimfetterolf

        The something bizarre will have to be the Royals beating the Tigers head to head as well as Cleveland. Royals haven’t been exactly overwhelmed so far by Detroit on the field. The upcoming five game series will decide if the Royals are out of it, if they lose three or four, but if they win three or four this will go on for awhile longer. Royals were already supposed to be done after the predicted destruction at the hands of the mighty Yankees and Orioles, but they managed to stumble through that 5-2. That’s why they play the games.

        As for Davis, his game logs show me a good enough 4/5 pitcher at the moment with ceiling and trending up. His “Too many runners” come in his bad starts. His whip over the last eight games, including two blow ups, is about 1.5, so not fatal.

        • Michael Engel

          A 1.500 WHIP isn’t fatal? If Davis could use that as his WHIP (rather than the 1.748 it actually is over the whole season), that 1.500 WHIP would be 7th worst among 90 qualifying starters in all of baseball.

          And that’s the rosy, best-case, pick-the-good-stretch WHIP. That’s awful. Call it negative if you want. I call it realistic.

          • GreatLeapForward

            The Davis Experience is a mirror of Davies, Hochevar, Getz, Francouer, etc. The team will continue to cherry pick specific games or stats to “prove” that he’s fixed now.

            Meanwhile, they give up chances to win games in a season so important to the program that they’ve

            1) committed to keeping high value, but wasting assets in Santana, Holland and Hochevar and

            2) brought back Chris Getz as an offensive upgrade over Johnny Giavotella after saying Johnny G would get an extended look.

            The lack of internally consistent logic is stunning at times.

  • GreatLeapForward

    Of greater concern is the potential for a series of deals each meant to plug a hole caused by a prior decision. Second base is a hole because the team refused to properly evaluate Johnny Giavotella for two years and is now stuck with Chris Getz.

    Right field is a hole because the Francouer deal gave management the idea that they had a productive RF thereby facilitating the Wil Myers trade (no, I don’t think Loughs production is sustainable long term).

    An in season trade is likely to cost the Royals what little organizational starting pitching depth they have meaning that they have to count on Guthrie continuing to pitch over his head, Davis improving and finding pitchers to fill Santana’s and Mendoza’s spots in the rotation.

    Trading some combination of Santana, Holland and Hochevar is the smartest move the team can make in what looks like a seller’s market. Standing pat at least doesn’t hurt the team.

    But trading for Aybar in the deluded belief that a gimpy 2B who can’t get on base is they guy to take them over the top…

    • Michael Engel

      IF they can get Aybar or Kendrick for nothing prospect-wise, I’m fine with it. But that won’t be the case…either would be an upgrade but it’s more about what the cost would be to me. I’d be fine getting them, but not if it means Ventura’s an Angel next year.

      • GreatLeapForward

        Exactly. I’d be loath to give up Duffy, too. Hard throwing lefty starters are hard to come by even if his walk rates are still a little high.

        And I’d much rather have Kendrick than Aybar.

        • Michael Engel

          Completely agree with both points.

          • Brian Henry

            I’d give up Kyle Smith or something for Kendrick, but yeah not Ventura or Duffy.

    • Brian Henry

      Agreed

  • davethoman

    I’m so sick of “the process,” just give me this year. I don’t care how little hope there is, I can’t remember having ANY hope in August. I suddenly have it. Just let me root for a winning team (also, I bet the Royals would finish above .500 back in March, so my wallet needs hope too).

  • Brett

    I’ve heard, ‘this pitching is unsustainable” since about week 3 of the season. Same thing with the 1-run game & come-back win unsustainability. They’ve sustained it through almost 64% of the season. While the macro statistics support these arguments, there has been recent precedent set to the contrary (Oakland, Baltimore). The Royals have tripled their chances of making the playoffs in a little over a week even as Detroit & Cleveland mirror their hot streak. 12 of their next 16 games are against losing teams, leading into the make-or-break 5-game series at Detroit. Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I think the prospect of being within striking distance of Detroit within 2 weeks is more than ‘Fools Gold’

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