The Royals haven’t had what you’d call a dominating season. It started hot, then got cold, then got hot, then got cold and then got hot and then got ice cold and now? Red hot. Meanwhile, the Royals playoff chances have ranged from a pretty decent possibility to not a chance to “okay, let’s do this.” It’s been a pretty wild ride. Let’s take a look at where it’s been.
In April, the playoff odds peaked on April 22 when they were at 23.6%. On that date, the Royals were 11-5 and up on the division by half a game, which is actually one of the bigger leads they’ve had on the Central this year. That percentage slipped to 5.9 percent after falling to two games under .500 on May 12th. And then after winning their fourth in a row to improve to six games over .500 (28-22) and with division lead, the Royals playoff odds reached their pinnacle at 29.9 percent.
It hasn’t been a steady fall since then, but it had been pretty steady. They dropped to 7.3 percent after their eighth straight loss. Then they climbed back to 28.1 percent after their their eighth win in nine games. Remember that stretch? At that point they were in the midst of a stretch of 23 games where they went a solid 14-9. Of course, there was an eight-game losing streak mixed in. Very, very weird times.
From there, the drop actually did become pretty steady. There were a few spikes above 20 percent for the odds, but for the most part, it was a decline into obscurity.
Following the fourth game of a four-game sweep in Texas on July 31st, the Royals odds dropped to 0.3 percent. It was over. The trade deadline was the next day. There was no reason to keep the pending free agents. I wondered why Kendrys Morales was even on the team. I mean, it wasn’t like they were going anywhere. You might as well get some at bats for Hunter Dozier and maybe even Cheslor Cuthbert in the DH role.
The next day, Danny Duffy struck out 16 Royals in eight dominant innings. The playoff odds rose to 0.4 percent. Ho hum. Then they won the next day. Up to 0.8 percent. Then they lost three in a row to fall to a season-worst seven games under .500. That was rock bottom. Their playoff odds had dropped to 0.2 percent. The fat lady was in the back warming up her vocal cords. And just when she was about to step on stage, the Royals scored three in the bottom of the fifth against the Blue Jays and Aaron Sanchez to take a 3-2 lead. They would tack on one more and win 4-2.
Odds up to 0.3 percent.
They won again the next day as Morales hit a huge grand slam.
Odds stayed at 0.3 percent. Okay, they’re not all dramatic winners.
An off day actually knocked their odds back to 0.2 percent. They took two of three from the White Sox and then split the first two games with the Twins. Following play on Saturday, August 13th, the Royals postseason odds sat at the same 0.2 percent. It seemed hopeless. And then things took off.
They won a game on Sunday the 15th. The odds rose a bit.
They took game one in Detroit.
They took game two.
They finished the sweep.
Then they came home to face Minnesota and swept them in four games.
You could see the percentages rising. That series started at 1.5 percent and ended at 5.7 percent.
An off day followed by a win, a loss to end the winning streak and another win kept the playoff odds at 5.7 percent. At some point they’d have to make a big move.
After splitting the first two against the Red Sox, the Royals playoff odds sat at 6.3 percent. Then came the biggest sixth inning of the season. In fact, it was the Royals biggest inning in more than three years. They scored eight against the Red Sox and took a 10-4 lead that would hold up to give the Royals their seventh straight series win and push their playoff odds to 11.8 percent.
After last night’s win against the Yankees, the odds now stand at 13.3 percent. That means that in the span of 16 days, the Royals playoff odds have risen by 13.1 percent. I guess the fact that they’re still “just” where they are says how difficult a climb this still will be for the Royals, but it shows that they’re capable of making up big-time ground in a short amount of time.
Take a look at the progression:
I still think 90 wins is what gets it done to capture that second Wild Card, but a funny thing has happened with all this winning. That’s not the only thing that’s in play for the Royals. A bit of a down stretch for the Indians coupled with the Royals scorching August has made the division at least possible. There’s still some difficulty in getting there, though. With a 5.5 game deficit in the Central and six to play against Cleveland, it’s easy to say that the Royals control their own destiny, but it’s still difficult.
Let’s say they win four of six against the Indians. That seems good, right? Even if the Royals go 19-6, the Indians can’t be better than 15-12. If the Royals go 17-8, which is a fantastic 25-game stretch, the Indians couldn’t go better than 13-14. So that part isn’t easy, but it’s at least within the realm of possibility now.
The other side is that they actually have a real shot at the first Wild Card, a path we remember well from 2014. They don’t play any more games against either of the two teams likely to hold that spot, the Red Sox and Blue Jays, but if one of those two teams does damage against the other in their remaining games, that’s a real possibility as well.
Let’s not look past how crazy this comeback would be, even in the context of other crazy comebacks the Royals have had. In the 2014 Wild Card game, they were just 2.9 percent to win. Those are better odds than their playoff odds from a couple weeks ago by a lot.
They were 9.9 percent to win game one of the World Series last year, down to their final two outs against one of the best closers in baseball.
They were 1.6 percent to win game four of the ALDS last year before that magical eighth inning happened.
They were 7.7 percent to win game two of the ALCS last year before Jose Bautista and Ryan Goins couldn’t decide who would catch a popup.
As you may know, they won them all.
So the comeback kids are at it again, but these odds are the longest they’ve faced, and maybe even more difficult than the odds make it appear because in the games they played, they had to beat one team. Yes, it was difficult, but they were confronting the one team they needed to beat. Now they need to do it with wins on their own and help that they can’t control.
Can they do it? Sure. Will they? I wish I knew. Although I’m kind of glad I don’t because I’m ready for another crazy September and some more gray hairs. I sure didn’t think we’d be getting this a couple weeks ago.