The KC Royals not only have renewed their self-belief with their 8-2 run, they also removed the road monkey from their back with a 5-1 trip to Minnesota and Detroit.
On their first excursion from Kauffman Stadium in 2016, the Kansas City Royals enjoyed a 4-3 road trip. But, the wheels quickly fell off the road wagon when Kansas City dropped five games in a row on a late-May trip to Los Angeles (Angels) and Seattle. Even though the Royals salvaged the last game of that trip with 4-1 win over the Mariners, they haven’t had an above. 500 road record since.
Indeed, the KC Royals are 24-39 on the road. Until this last successful road trip, their 18 road wins were the fewest in the American League.
That’s just not good when you’re the defending World Champions and have playoff aspirations.
The Kansas City Royals have been one of the most schizophrenic teams in MLB history. Kansas City wins big at home (36-21, .632) and opponents beat their brains in on the road (24-39, .381). While most teams play better at home than on the road, the Royals’ split is unusually drastic. Their horrible road record includes a season-long eight-game losing streak.
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On the other hand, the KC Royals current four-game road winning streak ties a season high set back in April. Their just completed 5-1 excursion was their best trip of the season.
That’s a big deal.
Clearly, part of the problem on the road was that their lack of success away from Kauffman Stadium had gotten into their heads. However, the team gained a new confidence after capturing a praying mantis and adopting it as a clubhouse pet. Maybe, just maybe, that silly bit of superstition was just enough to change their self-belief.
It’s not impossible. Multiple experiments show that sports performance improves for irrational reasons. For example, in one experiment, researchers told amateur golfers that the putter they were using belonged to a tour professional. People told this fiction estimated the hole size as larger and performed better than peers told no such tale.
Another study showed that hitter perceive the ball as bigger the higher their recent batting average. I’m guess George Brett thought pitchers were tossing beach balls when he hit .390 in 1980.
If the KC Royals are to sustain close to the .700 baseball then will need to play over the final 42 games to make the playoffs, they can’t afford to give away games on the road. With a hugely successful road trip under their belts, they’ll have confidence when they next venture out from Kauffman Stadium.