Picking Nits: Royals

The Argument: Yes the Royals are really good and yes they’re a dead-solid lock for first place and probably the No. 1 seed in the American League. But are they really this good? After all, they’ve obviously benefitted from weak competition, as they’re somehow the only team in the Central that hasn’t been outscored. Their hitters are 14th in the league in homers and 15th in walks, and the rotation — once you get past the recently struggling Johnny Cueto — hasn’t been impressive at all this season.

One Rebuttal: First, the Royals have gone 48-31 outside their division, which must rank among the most impressive marks in the majors. Just like last year, they don’t hit home runs or draw walks, but they’re among the league’s best when it comes to singles and doubles and triples.

We’ll have to admit the starting pitchers — again, excepting Cueto — don’t have impressive fielding-independent stats, but that’s where the fielders enter the equation, and once again the Royals’ fielders are collectively tremendous, turning 72 percent of batted balls into outs.

And finally, the at-the-moment Royals are better than at any other time all season, with Ben Zobrist in the fold and Alex Gordon finally off the Disabled List. Between those two and Jonny Gomes, there’s just no reason for Omar Infante and Alex Rios — the only two weak links in the lineup this season — to start more than a smattering of postseason games. Which means the Royals should enter the postseason as the second- or third-most talented team in the American League, arguably behind only the Blue Jays.