Why can't the Royals win the close ones?

Rob Neyer

After losing 2-1 Saturday night, the Royals are now 10-20 in one-run games. That's the worst mark in the majors. Which I bring up not to rip the Royals, but rather for educational purposes.

It's been observed over the years that winning close games is largely a matter of luck. But there are still some dead-enders who claim it's about chemistry, or clutch, or -- and here's where the Royals come in -- relief pitching.

Well, the Royals have a pretty good bullpen. Their relievers rank seventh in the American League with a 3.62 ERA, but that probably understates their case because the four Kansas City relievers with the most innings (and the great majority of the highest-leverage innings) have been highly effective: Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Aaron Crow, and Kelvin Herrera.

Actually, Crow hasn't been great. But he's got a low ERA. My point is that the Royals do not have a bad bullpen. Not at all. Meanwhile, the Rangers do have a lousy bullpen ... and they're 13-11 in one-run games.

Oddly, you can't look at the Royals' one-run record and just assume they've been generally unlucky. Considering their +2 run differential, their 48-48 record seems perfectly appropriate. But with just average luck in one-run games, they could have the third- or fourth-best record in the whole league.