After the day of baseball wrapped up on July 26th, the Royals sat at 53-47, winners of eight in a row and just 1.5 games out of first place. They were rolling and they were in a prime position to take over the division lead at some point in the near future. Think back to that time. It sure seemed like the Royals could do no wrong and with 62 games left and 10 against the Indians, anything seemed possible.
Since that moment, the Royals have gone 9-14, which is at least better than their 7-16 April. The Indians, who were hot then, remained hot. Now the Royals are 6.5 games behind the Indians and to add insult to injury, they’re 1.5 behind the Twins for second in the division (and the second Wild Card). It’s been a rough few weeks for the boys in blue.
Baseball Prospectus gives the Royals a 15 percent chance to make the playoffs, which really isn’t that bad considering how bad they’ve been lately. That’s a 14 percent shot at the Wild Card and a 1 percent shot at the division. That’s really no surprise. If we’re being honest, I think that single percent is probably a bit too high, but the possibility is still there, no matter how remote it might be.
This weekend’s series was a big time bummer for the Royals, though it went pretty much exactly how I expected in the end result. Coming into the weekend, the Royals had a chance to cut their divisional deficit to as low as 2.5 games out or see it balloon to as high as 8.5. I guess if you’re looking for the bright side, by salvaging the final game of the series, they only lost a game this weekend despite being outscored 19-8 in the three games.
The Indians are now on pace for 90 wins, which I’ve kind of believed for awhile would take the AL Central. I still do because either the Indians get to that and win the division by eight or nine games or the Royals get there and have to beat the Indians enough in the final seven games between the two teams that Cleveland falls off that pace. So let’s say 90 is enough for the division. In the final 39 games, the Royals would have to go 28-11. Their best 39-game stretch this season is 26-13. They’ve accomplished that three times, but they were all part of the same general winning stretch. So yeah, that’ll be tough, though if they go something crazy like 6-1 against the Indians the rest of the way, 88 wins might take the division.
In the Wild Card race, the Yankees are at the top. They’re on pace for 87 wins this season, so a 25-14 stretch for the Royals is what’s needed to get them there. That’s bold, but doable.
The second Wild Card is where we and the Royals should be focusing, at least for now. Walk before crawl and all that good stuff. The Angels and Twins are currently tied for that spot. They’re on pace for 83-84 wins. First of all, the Royals can certainly go 22-17 the rest of the season to get to 84 wins. Second of all, the Twins are now without Miguel Sano for awhile as he was placed on the disabled list yesterday. Third of all, the Royals get to face the Twins seven more times, and if they don’t have Sano, that could be problematic as he’s been such a huge thorn in the Royals side this season, hitting .413/.491/.825 with five of his 28 home runs and a ridiculous 23 of his 77 RBIs.
The Angels have put it together quite nicely since getting Mike Trout back from the disabled list. They have big time concerns in their rotation, though they have an excellent defense and a very good bullpen, which sort of sounds familiar. Their offense is pretty top heavy as well with Trout and Andrelton Simmons as the only consistent contributors. I’m not sure why, but they’re concerning to me.
And then beyond the Twins and Angels, there are a slew of teams that are interchangeable. That’s where the optimism kicks in for me. We’ve seen the Royals go on crazy hot stretches for two or three weeks at a time. When they’re going poorly, it looks like they’ll never win again and then they just randomly turn things around and win 10 of 14. In a race this tight, needing basically a 23-16 finish to all but guarantee a playoff spot, a 10-4 stretch or maybe even a 15-5 stretch would make that dream a very likely reality.
Somehow, the biggest question on a team consistently running out three rock bottom offensive contributors in their lineup is the pitching staff. If they can pitch better during the final month plus of the season, this is a playoff team. If they pitch like they did in June and July and give up 4.3 runs per game, they’ll be just fine. If they continue to give up 6.4 runs per game as they have in August, they’re in big trouble.
The division is all but out of reach unless the Royals go absolutely wild over the final 39 games of the season, but the American League has allowed them to stick close enough in the Wild Card race that they still have a legitimate shot…somehow. Either way, the plan from here on out is to go wild.