See if this sentence looks familiar.
“When Dayton Moore went out and got Melky Cabrera and a trio of arms before the start of August, the proverbial push of the chips to the middle of the table, it signaled a point of no return for the Kansas City Royals. The bell cannot be un-rung.”
If it does, that’s because you’re one of four people who read my very first post for this website back in August. And after (yet another) disheartening loss to a below-average team Monday night, the time is fast coming to determine just how difficult a spot this franchise might be in in both the short- and long-term.
According to BP’s very own midseason rankings, the Royals have no top-50 prospects and one of the absolute worst preseason organizational rankings—and then dealt Matt Strahm, one of the only semi-respectable young pieces in the entire organization, for three pitchers who are supposed to help them down the stretch.
Trevor Cahill’s DRA is 6.02.
Brandon Maurer’s is 4.91.
Ryan Buchter’s is 4.14, a qualified success alongside the other two. Travis Wood could’ve done that, and the Royals would still have Matt Strahm for the foreseeable future.
Jesus, I’m pining for Travis Wood. That’s when you know a team is in rough shape.
Solid batting numbers aside, Melky Cabrera has a -0.2 BWARP and it gets SO MUCH WORSE FROM THERE. Alex Gordon. Brandon Moss. The Jorges. That two-week stretch where real-life baseball people thought Raul Mondesi Jr. was more big-league ready than Whit Merrifield. And I’d rather not talk about the starting pitching, thank you very much. Jake Junis might be a Game One starter, which is not a world I was planning to inhabit in 2017.
But at least the entire core of offensive talent is up for free-agency this winter. And at least Alex Gordon is locked into a small-market salary-killing deal for two more seasons. And at least you know what, that’s enough. You get the idea.
We’ve eulogized the Royals so often in 2017—after 10-20, after an astronomically bad first half of hitting, after Dale Sveum was gonna fix Gordon right up, after Danny Duffy, after Kelvin Herrera’s demotion—that nothing I bring up now will make a dent. I say the Royals are toast, they’ll win five straight. I say an eight-run loss against the White Sox is no big deal, they’ll get swept the rest of the series.
On a website that’s largely stats-based, this can be an infuriating team to try to make sense of. According to this here website, the Royals have a Pythagorean won-loss record of 64.5-77.5. They have a run differential worse than the 68-77 Pittsburgh Pirates.
And they’re a .500 team, three games out of the second Wild Card spot. I really, truly give up on trying to understand how they do what they do, when they do what they do. Advanced stat gurus have long given up on figuring out how 2014 and 2015 happened. I’m on their side.
For two years—two wonderful, improbable years—the breaks went the Royals way. Now it’s swinging back and, like a pendulum blade, there’s no telling when it will finally make its first cut and who might be the first casualty.
Or if. Because there remains a non-zero chance the Royals make the postseason. And if so, there’s always non-zero chance they just screw around and win it too. Defying logic has become a way of life in Kansas City; there’s every chance Ned Yost still has a lucky rabbit’s foot lodged in his southernmost orifice. There’s no real reason 2017 should be any different, except for all the reasons outlined above.
I initially sat down to rail against another lifeless outing against a hapless opponent. It’s a useless endeavor—I’d be better off chastising God Himself because the sky is blue. Some things just happen. Sun rises, sun sets. We pay taxes. The Royals under Yost drive the sabermetric community—not to mention Royals fans—slowly and tragically insane. Film at 11.