The Royals won last night. They may have lost their closer to injury. It may not matter. I think there is a chance that Fox turned off the cameras before it was revealed that Herrera was just fine. Let’s face it, boys and girls, in a world where the default go to in an argument is #FakeNews over, you know, readily available facts doesn’t it make sense that the American League Wild Card race is a mess of mediocre teams?
If you are prepared to concede, at least for a moment, that Houston, Boston and Cleveland will be division winners and the New York Yankees have a lock on the first wild card, you are then left with a conglomeration of five (seven?!) teams from which only one has a positive run differential. Only the Rangers, the third highest scoring team in the league, have outscored their opponents for the season and that team, by the way, traded away Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy and still can’t get excused from the playoff race. With the exception of three games each versus the Yankees and Braves, the Rangers will spend the rest of the year in their division which is both good for the Royals (six games vs Houston) and bad (10 games vs Oakland).
The Angels, currently just one-half game out of the playoffs, are among the lowest scoring teams in the league. Their closer is Bud Norris. Their leader in innings is J.C. Ramirez, who never started a major league game before this season. Ricky Nolasco and Jesse Chavez start every fifth day for them! And yes, that IS the Jesse Chavez you are thinking of. Admittedly, this team is seven games over in games in which Mike Trout starts and have scored five or more runs in 13 of their last 19 games. They managed not to bury themselves early (as the Royals did) and stood pat at the trading deadline. Los Angeles has nine games with Houston and eight with Texas remaining, plus three with Cleveland just to spice things up.
The current holder of the second wild card is the Minnesota Twins, the team whose collapse has been anticipated by everyone since mid-April. Only four other teams in the AL have allowed more runs than Minnesota and those four sport a combined record of 218-282. They traded their closer at the deadline, acquired and then traded Jaime Garcia within the span of one week, currently start Bartolo Colon every fifth day and recently split a doubleheader in which they started Tim Melville and Dillon Gee. To be fair (Colon aside), this is a young team and not without talent. Perhaps we have been jaded a bit by the fact that a lot of these same faces were on some bad Twins teams of the past?
For what it’s worth, the Twins are 15-7 since theoretically throwing in the towel at the deadline, and have had seven different pitchers notch saves in the month of August and have the easiest schedule of all the wild card contenders from here on out. Oh, and just for fun, they have scored in double figures in five games over the last two weeks. They play the White Sox and Blue Jays to finish out the month and then face the Royals seven times in 10 days starting September 1st.
Seattle lurks just a half game back of Kansas City with a 64-63 record. They are 11 under against teams with winning records and 12 over against losing teams. I don’t know what you do with that when considering a wild card race where everyone is pretty much a .500 team. Felix Hernandez and James Paxton are both on the disabled list and 16 different pitchers have started a game for them…so far. They traded for David Phelps, who promptly got hurt, and lost another reliever (Tony Zych) to the disabled list last night. By record, the Mariners face the toughest schedule the rest of way, with home and homes with the Rangers, Angels and Astros, plus three games with the Indians.
Then, of course, we come to your Kansas City Royals, their negative run differential and problematic bullpen. Quite frankly, I am not sure the Royals might not have the best starting pitching of this admittedly run of the mill group of contenders. Their trade for Trevor Cahill and two relievers has resulted in Cahill going on the disabled list and the relievers pitching at a level that might make you wish they would join him. On the night when Kansas City welcomed back Salvador Perez, they watched Kelvin Herrera walk off the mound in pain. All that, just a couple days after putting Joakim Soria on the disabled list.
As we are all painfully aware, the Royals dropped nine of 11 after being six games over .500 at the trading deadline. In this race, it took that level of bad to relinquish the second wild card spot and it still was not enough to erase Kansas City from contention. Really, I am not sure you can give the second wild card spot away this year!
Kansas City has seven games AT Cleveland on their remaining slate, along with seven (home and home) with Minnesota. Arizona comes to town for three in addition to two more with the Rockies in what is a rather unfortunate inter-league schedule. Help comes with seven games against Chicago and six against Detroit. Although, with these teams, does schedule matter?
In this race, you have the Angels and Mariners with starting rotations that are barely recognizable. You have the Rangers who seemingly should be better, but aren’t and have not been all season. The Royals do not have a bullpen at this point, while the Twins are using Matt Belisle as their closer, who prior to this month had five career saves in over 600 games. They also are without Miguel Sano and a cast of others.
When completely healthy, I am not sure any of these teams are good. None of them are healthy right now. Don’t see how Kansas City can possibly make the playoffs? I understand your feelings. Funny thing is, I don’t see how any of these other teams make it, either. Craziest thing of all? ONE of them has to.
Embrace it, friends. Embrace the mediocrity.