Major League Baseball will expand the playoff bracket if the 2020 season is played, but do not count on seeing the KC Royals qualifying for it.
The talk has gone from squeezing in half a season’s worth of games to playing games all in Arizona and now potentially only 43 games. The playoffs could include seven teams from each league, which would make an extreme down-to-the-wire finish.
"To reduce travel in a world recovering from a pandemic, teams will play division rivals in home-and-home series (seven games vs. each, including one doubleheader) and a three-game series against opponents in the like division of the opposite league (NL East vs. AL East, etc.). – Tom Verducci, si.com"
On the surface, playing less than four dozen games would give a team like the Royals a chance to hide their flaws and sneak into the playoffs. There are still many holes on the roster that should prohibit a serious run, however.
The American League Central already has tough teams like the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins, both won over 93 and 101 games respectively last year. The Chicago White Sox made major improvements this offseason and they were already 13 games ahead of Kansas City last year:
On top of keeping slugger Jose Abreu, they acquired Nomar Mazara, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, and Gio Gonzalez. They may not gel and win the division, but they will certainly be favored to best the Royals.
Kansas City’s potential starting rotation has no one who produced an ERA under 4.19 or a WHIP below 1.35 in 2019. That is a lot to overcome. Even if some improvements occur and a rookie steps up to grab spot and deals, it is tough to see it coming together in just a month and a half worth of games.
The starting lineup should be improved with a healthy Salvador Perez and Adalberto Mondesi. Even if Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler and Hunter Dozier produce like last year though, there are still question marks at the remaining infield positions and relying on Alex Gordon‘s bat to capture past magic is risky.
The Royals struggle mightily out of the gate recently, if you have forgotten. In the last three seasons, their combined winning percentage for games played through April 30 is .288. You cannot recover from that in any season, much less a shortened one.