Sep 26, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) reacts after getting the save against the Chicago White Sox at U.S Cellular Field. Kansas City defeats Chicago 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Keys for the 2014 Kansas City Royals Season

Sep 27, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) and left fielder Alex Gordon (4) celebrate for a play made against shortstop Alexei Ramirez (not pictured) during the sixth inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s March, which means we’re in the final days of the baseball offseason and are watching/criticizing moves being made in Spring Training. Things that happen at this juncture of the calendar are important and could lead to big things but remember the Royals did win the Cactus League last year.

While that “championship” did have some carryover, what are the true keys to sustained success for the 2014 Kansas City Royals? The team spent money, upgraded some positions that needed addressing while leaving others maybe in less than ideal spots. Here are my keys to what hopefully will result in ending a postseason drought that’s gone on far too long.

Key One – Protect the K: It’s not a secret to anyone who follows professional sports in Kansas City that if you take care of business at home you earn support. But, if you win in front of the home fans, the support flows from weekend home games to more people coming out during the week. A few years ago, I remember reading an opponent saying how loud it was at Kauffman since they put in more outfield seats.

Below are the last six seasons home and away records, which you’ll notice have more low points than high. My overall point in this key is that while Kansas City was barely over .500 on the road, they were pretty good at home last season. Protecting your diamond can overshadow being just “ok” or below average on the road. IF the Royals can be seven to 10 games better than last season at home while putting together nearly the same record on the road, it will greatly increase any chance at the postseason.

Royals Home/Away Records the past six seasons
2013: Home 44-37/Away 42-39
2012: Home 37-44/Away 35-46
2011: Home 40-41/Away 31-50
2010: Home 38-43/Away 29-52
2009: Home 33-48/Away 32-49
2008: Home 38-43/Away 37-44
Average Home Record: 38-43
Average Road Record: 34-47

Key Two – AL Central Success: Last season KC went 44-32 against their “neighbors.” No,w while some may scoff at the AL Central, it did produce two playoff teams and an ALCS participant. Taking care of business against the central made up for going 14-18 against the AL West and 9-11 in interleague against the NL East/Central divisions (also note the Royals were 19-15 against the AL East including 5-2 against World Series Champs Boston Red Sox).

Let’s look at how the boys in blue did in the division. Kansas City was only 10-9 against the White Sox ,who finished last. 10-9 was a popular number as they posted a winning record against the division champions Tigers, while going 9-10 versus the other playoff team, the Indians. Finally, KC was 15-4 versus the Twins, who finished just ahead of Chicago. It’s hard to think that the success against Minnesota will be the same, but if the team can post the same or similar record with the wins displaced differently; that, like winning at home, could be what gets the Royals back to October.

Key Three – Better versus lefties: Wait, what? As I was looking at the numbers other than the first two keys mentioned, I stumbled across this one. Against righties, KC was 62-52 while just 24-24 versus southpaws. Yep, just .500 against lefties, which let’s face it, is not bad given that it feels most teams have right handed pitchers, especially in the division. But, as I’ve said in previous keys, say this improves a few more games – it’s another hidden way to improve.

Chris Sale is the best lefty starter in the Central, and he was just 1-2 versus Kansas City in four starts with a 1.84 ERA. The White Sox have the most lefties in the division with John Danks and Jose Quintana making up three fifths of their rotation. Outside of Chicago, they won’t see many lefties aside from possibly facing a David Price, Jon Lester and CC Sabathia, who are among the best in terms of southpaws.

So there you have it, my three keys to how Kansas City can improve on being 86-76 record of a season ago.

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