Postseason preview: Royals clinch division, have unfinished business

Royals players celebrate after beating beating the Mariners 10-4 to clinch their first division title in 30 years.

John Rieger/John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

(Editor’s note: We’ll analyze each team’s postseason chances after it clinches a playoff berth.)

After falling just one win short of a World Series championship last season, the Kansas City Royals are heading back to the playoffs to make another run at the Fall Classic.

The Royals clinched the AL Central crown Thursday night with a 10-4 victory over the Mariners and the Twins’ 6-3 loss to the Indians.

It’s been exactly 30 years since the Royals won a division title. It’s also been exactly 30 years since the Royals won the World Series. Will history repeat itself this year?

What to expect from the Royals who are making their second consecutive postseason appearance for the first time since 1984-85 . . .

Why they can win the World Series: Much of the Royals’ offensive success can be attributed to their discipline at the plate. They simply don’t strike out. They have a team strikeout rate of 15.7 percent, lowest in baseball this year. The team with the second-lowest strikeout rate is the Athletics, who are far behind at 18.0 percent. To put that number into perspective, the league average this year is 20.3 percent.

Kansas City has the highest team batting average in the AL at .272. It also has speed on the basepaths — its 99 stolen bases are the second-most in the league, only 13 behind the Astros. The Royals don’t hit a lot of home runs (their 132 rank 23rd in the majors), but they make up for it elsewhere. They rank fifth in baseball with an average of 4.53 runs per game.

The Royals’ defense isn’t too shabby either. In fact, it’s been historically elite this season. They lead the AL in defensive runs saved (DRS), which quantifies how many runs each defender saves or allows compared with his position average. They have the third-best defensive efficiency ratio in baseball (.703).

2015 POSTSEASON PREVIEWS

Why they can’t win the World Series: It’s no secret, the Royals’ biggest (glaring) weakness is their starting rotation.

Johnny Cueto hasn’t lived up to expectations since arriving in KC at the trade deadline, Yordano Ventura is consistently inconsistent and Edinson Volquez has struggled as of late, posting an ERA of 6.43 in four September starts.

The Royals don’t have a clear-cut favorite to be the No. 4 starter once the postseason starts, and their candidates are weak, at best. Manager Ned Yost will have to choose from among Jeremy Guthrie, Kris Medlen, Chris Young and Danny Duffy — and just hope for the best. Not the best situation for a team hoping to go deep into the playoffs.

(Stats through Thursday, Sept. 24)