Jun 17, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) receives congratulations from manager Ned Yost (3) after scoring in the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Playoff Odds Shifting Quickly


We are 11 games away from the halfway mark in the season and the Royals are starting to look like they are going to make it a very interesting second half.  This 9 game winning streak has pushed them to first place and has pushed their playoff odds into a range where we can start to get excited.

First off I looked at the Fangraphs odds, BP odds, and ESPN odds, and they are all different.  I believe the Fangraphs and BP odds are built off of preseason expectations and then updated using most likely a Bayesian statistical model or monte carlo simulation that factors in the performance so far with Fangraphs focusing on WAR projections and BP built off of PECOTA.  ESPN is agnostic to preseason forecasting if I remember correctly, though I can’t find any explanation anywhere so it is using record and point of season historic data or something similar though one oddity I will mention below makes me question that.  If you have more info on those feel free to comment.

If you don’t want to click through above, the takeaway is that the respective playoff odds for the three sites have the Royals at 36.7%, 30%, and 50.8% respectively (BPs wasn’t updated including last night so it is probably slightly higher now).  We will start with ESPN as they are the most optimistic.  Only Toronto, Oakland, and Seattle have better odds in the AL, so they have the Royals as the fourth most likely team to make the playoffs.  Seattle is an oddity here with a worse record and behind two teams in their own division, maybe they are including strength of schedule remaining or something?  BP only updates their model periodically and so they also give deltas from last update and the Royals’ is 20%!  So from one run of the model to the next the Royals went from 10% to 30% (Tigers went down, but only 1.7%).

The other two systems break out their analysis a little more.  Both like the Tigers significantly more to start the year and it still shows in the odds.  Fangraphs has the KC as the AL Central winner 19.3% of the time now with Detroit at 65.7% and BPs numbers are 16.9% and 62%, so you can see they still both favor Detroit heavily with Cleveland picking up most of the remaining probability.  Fangraphs has KC as the 5th most likely team in the playoffs and BP 6th as they still have the Yankees slightly ahead, both have Detroit, Toronto, Oakland, and Los Angeles as more likely playoff teams.

What I am trying to say is don’t get discouraged by the 30s for percents.  Only a third of baseball teams make the playoffs so that probability means you are on the right side now, but not even close to comfortable which we already knew.  One other fun little bit is that both Fangraphs and BP have the Royals as more likely to win the Central, but the Indians as more likely to win a wild card.  Some of that is that the Royals and Tigers have a combined 85%/78.9% division winning probability so it is more likely that Cleveland will finish second than the Royals due to the Royals better chance of finishing first.  It could also be affected by how volatile the Indians are in the model.

There you have it, the Royals are starting to get into the playoff hunt for real.  Winning nine games in a row will do that.  Detroit is not likely to keep playing this poorly, and Kansas City won’t keep playing this well so the percentages don’t look as optimistic as we might hope, but they are a lot better than we are used to.

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Tags: Kansas City Royals

  • Travis Forsyth

    As long as kc stays in first or second, they’ll make the playoffs. What do you think our chances of getting to the World Series might be???? Ah! One can dream…Go Royals!!!!

    • Brian Henry

      Second guarantees nothing so I would prefer staying in first. World Series odds are still pretty terrible, but once you make the playoffs they increase by a lot. If they win the central making the World series is two series wins away, so 15 to 20% at worst.

  • catfishjohn

    I’m not sure how the metrics tell of balls ricocheting off 2b, leading to a run, or about wild pitches banging off the backstop into a waiting catcher’s throwing hand–preventing a run.

    • Brian Henry

      They don’t, they are statistics trying to guess the future and thus given as probabilities which are never sure. Sure is 100% and statistics are generally not ever 100%

      • moretrouble

        With all due respect … statistics measure the past and are 100% accurate (if the measurements are accurate).

        Balls bouncing off the 2B bag or coming off the backstop back to the catcher … those things get buried in a mountain of statistics … but they can determine the outcome of a game — which is what you’re trying to say, I think.

        The smallest ball of all the major sports, played on the largest field with the fewest number of defenders … luck plays a large part in singular events. Over ten games, KC has received quite a bit of it … but as Thomas Jefferson said, “I’m a great believer in luck. I find the harder I work, the more of it I have.”

        • Brian Henry

          No, statistics use the past to try and project the future most of the time. We are discussing playoff odds for 2014, meaning likelihood of what the state of the world is in October 4 months from now. Balls bouncing of 2B are part of the error term, which is why we are never 100% sure of what’s going to happen, that’s why they play the games and all of that. Luck in a single game is much more of a part of baseball as you say, and that is why you need so many games in a season to let the lucky bounces balance out with the bad.