You can invent a reason if you’d like, if you need that sort of thing. If that makes you feel better.
The Royals spent the first 30 games as the worst team in baseball, and they’ve spent the last 44 as the second-best team in the American League. There is no fundamental change that happened with this group after losing 1-0 to the Indians on May 7.
Nothing that we know about, anyway.
And, actually, nothing that many within the organization know about either.
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“Baseball,” one said. “I can’t predict it.”
The Royals are perfectly even now, 37-37, a week or so shy of the season’s halfway point. They have been terrific, and they have been atrocious. They once scored 10 runs total over eight games, and they later scored 42 over five. They once allowed seven runs total over seven games, and they’ve twice allowed 10 or more in consecutive games.
But at least two truths are starting to emerge.
The first is that the general manager Dayton Moore, who at one point figured to face one of the toughest decisions of his 11 years in charge, will almost certainly not be trading any players of major significance away at the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Eric Hosmer was always unlikely to be traded, but Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Jason Vargas and a few others made sense in a traditional buyer-seller deadline deal.
But .500 is good enough to be close in the American League Central, which only figures to be weaker over the second half of the season if the Tigers and White Sox lose energy or trade away talent or both.
There is also an emerging belief among some AL talent evaluators that the Royals would not necessarily need to win the division to make the playoffs. At the moment, the second wild card would go to the Indians. After Houston, only four wins separate the next 10 teams in the AL.
Even if the playoffs remain unlikely, it would make sense on all levels for the Royals to pursue a realistic chance in the last year before a core of stars reach free-agency.
The second truth is that the Royals should only get better. Three years ago, with his team below .500 in what the front office and coaches knew could be a make-or-break season for their own employment, a lot of us chuckled when manager Ned Yost declared his group a second-half team.
But he’s been proved right.
In 2014, the Royals were 48-50 on July 21 and 41-23 the rest of the regular season.
In 2015, well, that year they were the best team in the league from start to finish. But in 2016, they were 51-58 on Aug. 5 before a rally put them within dreaming distance of a playoff spot in early September.
But you don’t need of that history for this particular group. You don’t need to reference Game 4 in Houston, or Game 6 against the Blue Jays, or the dog pile in Queens or even the parade down Grand.
This team will add a top-shelf starting pitcher soon, after Danny Duffy makes what is expected to be two more rehab starts at Class AAA Omaha.
Also, Brandon Moss has been largely ineffective as the primary DH, but Jorge Soler is apparently healthy and objectively raking in Omaha so there’s another relatively simple upgrade.
Moustakas is on pace for 42 home runs. Hosmer has hit, basically, like an MVP candidate since May 1. Alex Gordon has been productive for the last two or three weeks, though talent evaluators generally want to see more before believing. Sal Perez’s plate appearances have been much more consistent, with a more discernible approach and improved results. The bullpen is good enough, the rotation consistent enough.
Some of this is what the stat heads might call regression to the mean. The Royals had generally had bad luck on balls in play early, and aggravatingly little success with men in scoring position. Those trends have reversed, or at least evened out.
There is a theory among some in the organization that the players are focused more on winning for each other now, rather than their own numbers. This is inherently subjective, and reverse-engineering explanations for difficult-to-explain results is always treacherous.
But if there’s any truth to it, that only figures to build as the season goes on.
The landscape is a little different than the Royals may have expected, both internally and externally. The Twins are better, and the Indians a little behind. Vargas is performing like an ace, and Kelvin Herrera has given up more home runs already than in all but one of his five previous seasons.
But, like the man said, baseball. Can’t predict it. The Royals have always been at their best in the chaos.