Sep 24, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; The Kansas City Royals celebrate after beating the Seattle Mariners to win the American League Central Division at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Sleezer/Pool via USA TODAY Sports
The Kansas City Royals are once again in the playoffs, this time after capturing their first Central Division title. Just how does this year’s division-winner compare to last season’s American League Champions?
In a word: better.
The 2015 KC Royals are a significantly stronger team than the group that came within 90 feet of playing for a world title in extra innings against the San Francisco Giants. First of all, the 2015 Kansas City Royals won six more games than their 2014 counterparts with a 95-67 record. The 2015 Royals had a much improved run differential of +83 as compared to a mere +27 for the 2014 A.L. Champs.
Aside from those statistical edges, the 2015 KC Royals are a team that knew from the first day of spring training that they could win. The 2014 team suffered through the growing pains of uncertainty, requiring a pick-me-up lecture from mid-season acquisition Raúl Ibañez before gaining the confidence to reel off a 43-21 second-half run that earned them the American League’s top wild card.
Even then, the 2014 team did not truly believe until they pulled off an improbable four-run rally to defeat the Oakland A’s starting in the bottom of the eighth inning. No team had ever overcome a four-run deficit in a winner-take-all game in baseball history.
However, having a more balanced team doesn’t mean the KC Royals will get improved results in 2015. At the beginning of the playoffs, you have to think they have a better chance to come home with a title than the 2014 squad. That doesn’t mean the 2015 version is going to capture the same momentum as the 2014 team in the wake of realizing their true ability.
The surge of belief that accompanies such a discovery can’t really be replicated. It’s sort of like losing your virginity. You can only do it once.
Now I’ll break down the comparison to a more granular look at each phase of the game: offense, defense, starting pitching, bullpen, bench, and coaching.
Next: 2015 Royals Offense vs. 2014 Royals Offense