Interested in your input – what percentage chance do you think the Royals have to sneak into a wild card spot?
— Kings of Kauffman (@KingsofKauffman) August 19, 2013
The responses varied. Some said 0 percent – that there was no chance of the Royals sneaking into the playoffs. Some were more optimistic and put that number in the 40% range or even 50%. But no readers put the Royals odds at greater than 50/50 in the informal survey (though there was an “eleventy” percent, but I’m not sure how to calculate that as a result).
After the last two series, I can understand that hesitance to buy back in. It’s been a ride so far this year, and when the Royals came out hot after the break, it got a lot of the fanbase worked up and hoping. That’s an unusual feeling in this part of the baseball world this time of year. Most fans are starting to peek at Chiefs preseason notes, if not abandoning ship entirely for the Truman Sports Complex neighbors. Losing to a pretty bad Marlins team was a punch to the stomach, but losing to Detroit in a five game series was getting pushed down into the dirt. The punch hurt, but getting shoved down hurt more, especially in the way that the Royals lost.
You can’t entirely blame Aaron Crow for losing Saturday’s game (oh, but he still put the count at 3-1 and still gave up the homer to Miguel Cabrera). If the Royals hadn’t stranded 12 runners, though, Cabrera’s homer is likely little more than resume padding. The Royals had opportunities to put a couple more runs on the board.
Thankfully, the Royals took both ends of the Friday double header behind some strong pitching, or there might not even be a reasonable question to ask about the Royals odds because they wouldn’t exist anymore.
But the breakdown sure leans more towards 0% than it does towards 50%.
Last year, the wild card teams won 93 games. For the sake of an exercise, let’s say the Royals go 28-11 and finish this year at 92-70. They’ve pulled off a 17-3 stretch before, so a big run is possible. They’ve shown that. But how often is it that a team goes on that big run more than once in a season? Not very. Considering that two key parts of the team are hurt, it’s a lot to ask of a team. Mike Moustakas hasn’t had a good year at the plate, but when his replacements – Jamey Carroll and Emilio Bonifacio – aren’t hitting better than he is in the first place and have significantly worse power potential, it’s a big dropoff. Lorenzo Cain is possibly going to be done for the year if he doesn’t improve quickly or if the Royals don’t suddenly get into their “everything goes right” movie montage mode of play again.
Those are two big parts of the defense out of the lineup, and this team has gotten by with the league’s best defense all year.
But more than the Royals winning has to happen. They also need other teams to fall behind them. Entering Monday’s games, they’d need other teams to fall back. Cleveland is a game and a half ahead of the Royals. Baltimore is three games ahead. Oakland and Tampa Bay are both six games ahead. If every team plays .500 ball the rest of the way while the Royals go on a tear, it can happen, but the more teams between Kansas City and the top of the standings there are, the less likely all of the teams involved will cooperate.
It’s not impossible, it’s just unlikely.
Last year at this time, the divisions were led by the Yankees, Rangers, and White Sox. Baltimore and Tampa Bay were leading the wild card with Oakland half a game behind and Detroit two back of the wild card (though the Tigers were a game and a half behind the White Sox and the eventual result – their winning the AL Central – was the easier route to the playoffs anyway). In the end, Oakland overtook the Rangers for the division and got in. Tampa Bay fell behind and lost their spot, but otherwise, there weren’t any dramatic surges to come back and get into the postseason.
Each of the teams in the lead of a playoff spot at that time last year had a record of ten games or better above .500. Oakland, at half a game back of the wild card, was 11 games over .500. Detroit was only seven games above at 64-57 and would be just a game ahead of the Royals current 64-59 record. So, hope, right? Except the Tigers were only 1.5 back of Chicago and the Royals are 8.5 behind Detroit. That makes a big difference. One of the paths to the postseason is basically blocked.
So again, it’s not impossible, but it’s not likely that the Royals will get there.
Royals Review had a solid assessment of the remaining schedule for the Royals and a look at how the Royals have done against teams they should be better than. It’s favorable for Kansas City in that sense. They play teams they should beat and have played well against most of them in the past.
The odds that it works out? We’ll see. If I were guessing, I’d say 10%. A lot of elements have to fit perfectly for it to happen.
One Facebook commentor summed it well in my opinon: “Playoff teams don’t have to sneak in”.
It’s not impossible. It’s just not likely. But man, it’d be fun if it worked.