The Kansas City Royals – Perception v. Reality
By David Hill
Back when I was younger, there was a player on the Boston Red Sox named Sam Horn. Living in Rhode Island, we got Red Sox games on cable, and when I wanted to watch baseball, they were usually the only game in town. As I’m a Royals fan and only sort of tolerate the Red Sox (far too long of a rant), I tended to avoid watching many of their games.
However, when I did, Sam Horn would inevitably crush a fastball into the stratosphere. To me, Horn was a gigantic power hitting star, since all he did was hit when I saw him play. Imagine my surprise, and dismay, when I saw the stats on the back of his baseball card and realized that he really was not that good after all.
The Kansas City Royals may well be the polar opposite of Horn. Statistically, they should not be in the postseason. After all, before this year, no team had ever made the playoffs while finishing last in home runs and walks in the same season. While the Royals are considered to be a team that gets by on great pitching, their overall pitching numbers were roughly middle of the pack, as the Royals finished 12th in baseball in ERA, 14th in WHiP and 15th in strikeouts per walk. Not exactly dominating stuff.
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The Royals, statistically, should not have won Tuesday night either. Jon Lester was staked to a 7-3 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. Yes, the same Lester who has owned the Royals, posting a 3-0 record with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.161 WHiP against them this season, and has a career 9-3 record with a 1.84 ERA and a 1.068 WHiP. The game should have been over at that point. Instead, the Royals small balled their way back, relying on speed, bunts and bloops to tie the game.
Then, in extra innings, Brandon Finnegan came on in relief. The same Brandon Finnegan who was a first round draft pick in June, and was pitching his college team to the the College World Series four months ago. All he did was provide 2.1 spectacular innings of relief, keeping the Royals in the game until they managed to plate two runs in the bottom of the twelfth to come all the way back for the most improbable victory in franchise history.
Yet, was it really so improbable? After all, the Royals have not exactly been the most conventional team all season. They managed to win their way, and sure enough, continued playing Royals baseball to the very end, literally running the A’s out of Kauffman Stadium.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, most of the “experts” picked the A’s to advance. Chances are, those same experts will pick the Angels over the Royals. That’s fine. After all, no one has ever seen a team like the Royals in the postseason before, at least statistically. Those stats may well say that the Royals are overmatched and would be lucky to take a game.
Yet, as the Royals have proven all season, perception is not always reality. The Kansas City Royals have been far greater than the sum of their parts would indicate. The reality is, they may well be on the verge of a truly magical run.