Does .500 Mean Anything


There seems to be a feeling from Dayton Moore that getting to .500 first, and then build from there.  Hopefully he only says things like this because he is trying to create some positive spin when the playoffs are not likely.  After the long winning streak post All-Star break he stopped saying such things, but now it would be appropriate to be back in the the “Let’s have a winning season” mode.  What I want to know though, is if the Royals do manage a winning season does it actually mean anything?

In the past 50 years 34 teams have ended streaks of 5 seasons or more below the .500 mark (I’m not including 1994 for the Cleveland Indians due to the strike).  The Royals and Pirates look poised to join them this year.  What I did was look at what those teams did in the year after the end of their streak of putridity to see if we should in fact be encouraged if the Royals are at or above 81 wins come October.

Sadly, 20 of those 32 (Baltimore and Washington this year are out of the sample since we have to see how they finish), more than half, ended the next season worse by 5 or more games than their winning season.  It is not all bad news though since a lot of those teams were well over .500 to finally have a winning season, so even in doing “worse” they still managed to be a winning team again.  The average wins above .500 for the group for the year after is 3.6, so think 83 and 79, so most do not have a winning season and then vault to the playoffs the following year.  In fact, only 6 out of 32 (19%) made the playoffs and none won the World Series.  This is disheartening to say the least.  Just because it should be mentioned, the worst team in the year following the streak ender was of course the 2004 Royals at 46 more losses than wins.

It actually seems better to take the world by storm.  Colorado in 2007, Detroit in 2006, Philly in

Jul 20, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore (left) and owner David Glass watch the Detroit Tigers during batting practice before the game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

1993, Atlanta in 1991, Boston in 1967, and of course the Tampa Bay team in 2008 all broke 5+ year losing season streaks and made it to the World Series before losing out.  Two teams even managed to take a title home, the 1997 Marlins and the 1969 Mets.  This year’s Pirates will have a chance to join these groups unless they fall apart in September.  It is too late for this team to manage something like that unless they finish this season below 81 wins to keep the losing streak alive.

According to history, what Dayton has said is actually not accurate at all.  Getting to .500 to end the streak is great, but it does not lead to success in the coming year.  Only a handful of teams have pulled it off.  What it really shows is that you need to then find a way to maintain the success so that you get multiple shots at the playoffs.  This team may be poised for such a run, but it means that their should be no sitting back assuming the team will progress on its own.

Dayton at least indicated in his ill-conceived “ahead of schedule” comments that they will not be standing pat going into next season:

“We’re going to have to expect our players to improve, each one of them. And we’re going to have to probably make a trade or sign another free agent in order to improve. There are always going to be situations with a major league team where you have to make adjustments to the roster. That’s always going on, with all teams.”

Leaving aside the fact that there is no way everyone will improve, the second part of the comment shows that trading and free agency are part of the plan.  We will probably spend a lot of time in the off-season discussing possibilities in these two arenas, and hopefully discussing a move or two that Moore makes to improve this team for 2014.  I am just glad he seems to be focused in this direction with quite a few obvious holes to evaluate.  If a couple of moves are made there is no reason this team can’t build around Hosmer, Butler, Gordon, and Shields to contend for more than being above .500 next season.