The Royals return to Kansas City in sole possession of the American League’s second wild card, and control their own destiny as they hunt for their first playoff berth since 1985.
On July 21, the Royals managed merely a futile effort against White Sox ace Chris Sale. They fell two games below .500, and eight behind the Tigers. General manager Dayton Moore issued a vote of confidence for Yost, a dreaded event at this time of year. As the trade deadline approached, a potential fire sale appeared more fruitful than a doomed push for the playoffs.
The players reversed the narrative in expedient fashion, winning 12 of their next 15 games. Yost’s seat cooled. Even after standing pat on July 31, unable to patch over right field or improve the starting rotation, the Royals continued to roll.
I wrote at some length about the A.L.’s second wild card yesterday, so won’t belabor those points today. I will, for just a moment, focus specifically on the Royals.
Schedule-wise, there are two considerations: general strength of opponents, and home vs. road. Regarding the former, the Royals have a slight edge; regarding the latter, they’ve got 27 home games left, only 22 road games.
Of course it’s more complicated than all that. But I think it’s safe to say the Royals have a generally favorable schedule.
Other positive markers? Considering that nearly all of their hitters have underperformed this season, we might expect some stretch-run regression … which usually is a negative when it comes up, but in this case wouldn’t be. Billy Butler really should hit better.
Negatives? Essentially, the entire rotation has ERA’s lower than the underlying statistics would suggest. Not by a lot. But some, and across the board. Although that might be partly attributable to a pretty good defense. The other issue is the utter lack of an acceptable first baseman; with Eric Hosmer out of action — granted, he was playing poorly before he got hurt — it’s probably Raul Ibañez or nothing. Then again, Ibañez was actually real good just last season.
A little more positive regression, and there’s no telling what this team might do. Right, Mom?