Judging the Royals

The key to winning the World Series? Get hot in the playoffs

The Kansas City Royals celebrating their 2015 World Series title at Citi Field in New York.
The Kansas City Royals celebrating their 2015 World Series title at Citi Field in New York. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

The only thing that could have made the Royals’ three hour and 38 minute, 14-6 win over the White Sox less entertaining, would be the Royals playing three hours and 38 minutes and losing 14-6 to the White Sox.

After three innings the Royals were up 8-0, so for the next six innings there wasn’t a whole lot of suspense.

But a win is a win and no team feels bad about winning a game because it wasn’t entertaining.

If fans were looking for moments of interest, one of them was provided by the TV guys; Ryan Lefebvre, Rex Hudler and, even though you don’t get to see him on air that often, David Holtzman.

I was aware that there is not a direct correlation between having the best regular-season record and winning the World Series, but later in the game when the TV guys were looking for something to talk about, they threw out some interesting numbers:

Since the advent of the Wild Card Game in 1995, the team with the best regular-season record has won the World Series a total of five times.

So unless I’m spectacularly bad at math, during that time period 17 teams got into the playoffs and got hot at the right time.

And there may be more to it than that.

Some teams, while well-designed to win games over the 162-game regular season, might be poorly designed to win a three-out-of-five or four-out-of-seven series in the postseason.

If your offense is based on walks and home runs, that might work well over 162 games, but if you’re in a must-win situation in the playoffs and you run into a top-of-the-line pitcher having a good night, walks and home runs might be scarce.

One of the reasons the Royals have done well once they get to the playoffs is the way they play the game; a team that can manufacture a run or two and make those runs stand up with great defense and a killer bullpen can do well in the playoffs.

The Royals do not need to be the team with the best record; they just need to get to the playoffs and get hot.

But for that to work, the Royals will need to pitch better than they did on Sunday.

A 14-6 win is great, but the Royals still gave up six runs

Generally speaking, allowing six runs is not the path to victory and, without some outstanding defense, it could have been a lot worse.

In the second inning, Alcides Escobar caught a pop up while running with his back to the infield to end the inning and without that catch, the Sox would have scored another run.

In the fifth inning, Lorenzo Cain ran down a ball in the gap to end the inning and without that catch the Sox would have scored two more runs.

In the ninth inning, Alex Gordon ended the game by robbing the Sox of what would have been a two-run homer.

Those three plays alone prevented five runs.

If the Royals had played even routine defense, the score would have been 14-11 and most of the time, 11 runs will beat you.

In 2015, the Royals starting pitchers ranked 12th in the AL when it came to ERA, but that worked because the bullpen was number one; if the Royals grabbed a lead they could go to the pen and had a great chance of making that lead stand up. In 2015, if the Royals had a lead after five innings they won 94 percent of the time.

This season the Royals starters actually rank better when it comes to ERA — they’re seventh — but the bullpen ranks worse; it is eighth. In 2017, if the Royals have a lead after five innings they win 82 percent of the time.

A 14-6 win is still a win, but if the Royals want to get to the playoffs and get hot, the bullpen has to pitch better or the offense needs to score enough runs to cover the runs the bullpen allows.

And, if you get to the playoffs, those runs might be hard to find.

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