So it’s been a while since the Royals’ 2015 playoff chances went from possibility to certainty. They have a 12 1/2-game lead in the division, and a six-game lead over the Yankees for the best record in the league. These are strange times, indeed.
Their magic number is 33, with 45 games left to play, so the silly time suck is not guessing whether they will make it, but when they’ll make it official.
In a hypothetical world where everyone plays .500 and my math is correct, the Royals would clinch the division (and a wild-card spot, because the rest of the AL Central is terrible) on Tuesday, Sept. 22. The Royals would be 88-62 at that point, 12 1/2 games ahead of the 76-75 Twins with 12 games left. There is a good chance I’m distorting the remaining off days here, but you get the point.
This is a relatively small thing, but that game would be the first on the Royals’ last home stand of the year. If they clinch on a quicker pace than this — which seems likely, since they’re playing .607 ball and our math here assumes .500 ball — they would clinch on the road, likely in Detroit or Cleveland.
It would be nice, of course, for the Royals to have that clincher at home. Last year, they clinched in Chicago, and apparently partied hard enough that the White Sox had to redo the carpet in the visitors’ clubhouse.
But, yeah. These are first-world problems.
And for the record, my guess on the clincher is Friday, Sept. 18, at Detroit. Which would have some symbolism of its own.
As always, thanks for your help, and thanks for reading.
Except that there will be unnecessary drama, unintentional comedy from a Roger Goodell screw-up, and LOADS of cash for 32 owners and their handpicked piñata, the NFL is incredibly difficult to predict.
Back in May, I wrote in this here newspaper that the Chiefs would win 10 or 11 games, maybe more. I believe everything I wrote in that column, but there has been some new information since then.
Two come with enough qualifiers that they’re barely worth mentioning: the schedule in some ways looks more difficult now* and the offensive line struggled against the Cardinals**.
* Though the schedule almost never looks the same in November as it did in August.
** Though there may not be anything less relevant than the first NFL preseason game.
Two others are worth concern. Sean Smith being suspended for three games, including ones against Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning (at Arrowhead) is a problem. Phillip Gaines didn’t play much last year, and Marcus Peters is, obviously, a rookie. At least last year, there was a big gap in performance between Smith and the other cornerbacks, and the way the schedule lays out Gaines and Peters are going to have to step up fast.
But the bigger issue, by far, is Dontari Poe’s back. We already know he will miss a significant part of the season, and we have no guarantee how close to 100 percent he’ll be on his return. The Chiefs have a lot of talented players on defense, but Poe is as important as any of them. He puts so much pressure on an offense, right there in the middle of the line, that it impacts everything else.
If you’re high on the Chiefs, it’s largely because you’re high on the defense. And Poe is such an integral part of that defense, his absence really does change everything around him.
Anyway, I’m sure we’ll get into all of that more as time goes on. Didn’t mean to tangent like that here. For purposes of your question, I’m not ready to move off thinking 10 or 11 wins.
Which would mean the Royals would need to win the World Series.
We will certainly get into this part more, but the chances of the Royals winning the World Series are substantially less than 50 percent.
Baseball Prospectus, for instance, says 10.6 percent.
I assume that means Center of Attention has enough material for another song. Maybe they can get Jarrod Dyson’s name right next time?
He’s like a smaller scale Mark Cuban, and without the obnoxiousness. Robb would be the first to point out that he is free to do things in MLS that owners in more established leagues just could not get away with, but there absolutely has to be a happy medium in there somewhere.
And besides being able to link to the highlights of Sporting’s ridiculous comeback against Vancouver over the weekend, I’m using this question to get to a little Clark Hunt story I haven’t found a spot for yet.
You may have seen the video the Chiefs posted of Clark Hunt making a 33-yard kick. If you haven’t, it’s worth a minute. I saw Clark at the Hall of Fame induction, and asked him about the video. I had joked with someone who works for Clark that it looked like CGI, but they apparently did this in one take.
Well, they did the kick in one take. Clark hit the kick on his first try — he’s a former college soccer player, and stays in good shape — but they had to redo the high-five because the camera got a bad angle. So, yeah. They nailed the kick, but had to reshoot the high-five.
The video did not come without concern from Clark, by the way.
“What I was worried about was my leg,” he said. “I hadn’t kicked a ball in forever. I thought, ‘I’m going to pop something if I have to kick more than a couple of these.’ My leg was sore for days afterward.”
Hopefully you saw Sarah Gish’s story on this. Unplanned babies being born in Kansas City nine months after the World Series is absolutely a thing, and Sarah did a good job finding some, including the note about Shawnee Mission Birth Center breaking its single-month birth record in July. I have a friend with a newborn whose conception lines up shortly after Sal Perez’s Wild Card winner down the third base line.
But, anyway, the answer here is Alex. Works for a boy, works for a girl, and who wouldn’t want a hard-working, tough, humble child who could choose between baseball or Men’s Heath modeling?
Ah, here we go! I was wondering if that old school Royals defeatism was still around.
It’s definitely a concern, though not as much of a concern as before the trade for Ben Zobrist. There are a lot of subtle advantages to that trade, by the way. You hear a lot about his versatility, but also being a switch-hitter, the lineup is more balanced and interchangeable. It’s longer. Also, if trading for him increases the chances of signing him in the offseason, he is insurance for at least three spots — left field if Alex Gordon leaves in free agency, second base if you can find someone to take Omar Infante, and right field if neither of those happens.
Anyway, your question was about Perez. He’s not making as much hard contact as he has in the past, and he’s seeing more fastballs, which is a bad sign, and an indication that pitchers aren’t worried about him.
I believe in Sal’s bat, though. He’s always going to be vulnerable because he swings so much. That’s just not going to change. But he can be an effective hitter, largely because of his power. Even when he’s struggling, he is a home run threat, and I also continue to believe that his numbers will improve as he gets more rest.
I know this is something we mention all the time here, but Ned Yost is doing a very good job taking advantage of the team’s playoff certainty by resting guys who need it. Perez is in that group, obviously.
It’s a small sample, so blah-blah-blah, but he’s hitting .333/.353/.576 with 11 hits and seven RBIs in his last nine games. Including a day off before that stretch, and on Monday, that’s over 15 days. Some of that was for a sore wrist, but maybe it’s a good sign.
This obviously needs to happen, but before I go on a tangent about the traveshamockery of Kauffman Stadium serving Aramark barbecue instead of the world’s best barbecue, I should probably just make sure you guys saw that this happened the other day:
I’ll also say something nice about Aramark before I leave: the brisket nachos in a helmet are beautifully glutenous.
Here is the video, if you want a giggle. By my count, the ball was in the air for four, maybe five, seconds. To be fair to DeJesus, he obviously pulled up on the throw, knowing it was a lost cause.
The whole thing was a bit weird. A few moments before, one of the announcers was talking up DeJesus’ arm, which was interesting. It’s also a bit strange to see former Royals players on other teams that aren’t as good, but the thing that most pops in my mind seeing DeJesus on other teams is that he was the unwitting center of what I think is one of the more underrated symbols of how bad the Royals used to be.
I believe this was 2009, though I may be off a year, and the team spent much of the last few months of the season promoting DeJesus for the Gold Glove.
DeJesus was a fine defensive left fielder, and the case seemed to center around the fact that he didn’t commit errors. That’s a good trait for a defender, obviously, and DeJesus did not commit a single error in left field in 210 games in left field in 2008 and 2009 (he was charged with one error in 71 games as a center fielder over that time).
But this is a bit like citing a Honda Accord’s reliability as reason it should win a car show. Advanced metrics showed DeJesus to be average or slightly above average as a left fielder*, which matched the general eye test.
This was before I got this column job, but if my memory is correct, I wrote a blog post pointing out the silliness of pushing DeJesus for the Gold Glove, which did not go over well with the team. Some in the organization felt I was insulting DeJesus.
“There’s a lot to criticize us about,” I remember one of them saying. “I just hate to see it go to one of the guys who can actually play.”
I didn’t think I was insulting DeJesus. He was a perfectly adequate player. In scout parlance, he’s a guy you could win with, but not a guy you would win because of. The point was that the Royals had become so bad for so long that adequate had risen to worthiness of being promoted for a major baseball honor.
Those days are over, thankfully.
I’m not sure if referencing Terez’s bucket hat makes sense in this context, but Terez and his hat are more than awesome enough that you’ve left me no choice but to include this.
The answer is a 1.5. If the situation is the same a month from now, the answer rises significantly. But, again, the Royals earned the opportunity to work through some issues with such a big lead.
The most important part of this is Greg Holland. His peripherals — particularly his walk rate, strikeout rate, and OPS against* — have been concerning all season. Some of this is because a reliever works in such small sample sizes, that a rotten outing or two can distort the numbers beyond reason. But the Royals have acknowledged this is something they need to help Holland through.
* Last year, Holland averaged 2.9 walks and 13 strikeouts per nine innings, while giving up a .170/.238/.234 line. This year, he is averaging 5.2 walk and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, while giving up a .231/.335/.351 line.
This is one of those things that has to be looked at completely differently than the past. The Royals have earned the benefit of the doubt, and then some. If Yost and his coaches — Dave Eiland in particular, obviously — really think the answer is regular work, then let’s see if that’s the fix.
There is absolutely zero reason to panic or, really, even be concerned about anything with the Royals right now. Maybe a month from now, if we’re seeing some of the same problems. But right now, this is the fan equivalent of being on the beach with a beer in your hand. Soak up the sun. You’ve earned it.
I go back and forth on this, actually. There is virtually no way that Kauffman Stadium will be louder in October 2015 than it was in October 2014. Johnny Cueto may or may not feel the ground beneath him shake from noise the way James Shields did a year ago, but it’s hard to imagine it shaking more. Maybe fans will park on the side of I-70 to take pictures or watch a bit of the game or soak in the noise, but it won’t be the first time.
Because of the 29 years and the unexpected way last season played out — awful in May, below .500 in July — there was an unrepeatable explosion of emotion. I came to think of every game as something like group therapy for 40,000 fans at the stadium and however many more watching on TV. It was beautiful, cathartic, and unforgettable to witness.
This October will be completely different. We’ve been fairly certain for a month now, probably more, that the Royals would be in the playoffs. It is expected. The trades at the deadline were done to win playoff series, not qualify for playoff series. Anything that happened in the playoffs last year, particularly after that Wild Card game, was a bonus. I get the feeling now that anything less than a World Series appearance — perhaps even a championship — will be viewed by many fans as a disappointment.
None of that means it won’t be fun, or that it won’t be loud, or that the memories won’t last. It just means it won’t be the same, because it can’t be the same, because you only get one breakthrough.
I had more fun during the playoffs last year than I’ve ever had working, and I’ve had a lot of fun working. I honestly believe that it’s possible — possible — that the Royals could win the World Series this year and it would not be as fun as everything that led to game seven last year.
But either way, I’m looking forward to finding out.
Let’s go one by one.
Sporting is on track to win the Supporters Shield, which is sort of like the regular-season championship, and does everyone realize they’ve only lost four games? Four. Four! Out of 22. They’ve played fewer games than most other teams in the league, but everyone else has lost at least six. The Galaxy, which lead the Western Conference, have lost seven. Sporting is a 10:1 bet to win the MLS Cup, which roughly equates to an 11 percent chance.
The Royals are a lock for the playoffs, of course, and a heavy favorite to have home-field advantage throughout. Baseball Prospectus gives them a 10.6 percent chance at winning the World Series, though Vegas has them as a 4:1 favorite. Let’s go with BP’s number.
The Chiefs are going to be the longshot here. They’ve got history going against them, as well as some of the things we talked about before. They’re 35:1, which roughly equates to 3 percent.
Kansas basketball enters the season where it usually does, in or around the top five, and amongst the favorites for the championship. Vegas has them at 12:1, which is something like 8 percent.
So, you’re probably not going to like the cumulative odds — 0.003 percent chance of all four pulling it off, though that’s assuming I have the decimal point in the right spot.
Well, so much of what happens with the Chiefs depends on the answer to this question. We touched on some of this on the Border Patrol the other day, but to me that was the biggest takeaway of the first preseason game.
Now, like we mentioned earlier, the first preseason game does not mean much at all. But the offense’s worst moment came largely because the offensive line failed to pick up a stunt, leaving a defender unblocked. Smith rushed a terrible throw — the line’s failure does not excuse a horrendous pass — and the Tyron Mathieu had an easy interception.
So, one more time, it’s the first preseason game, so whatever, but it gets mentioned here because picking up those stunts was a consistent problem for the Chiefs last year. They need to get that fixed.
Now, me, I’m optimistic that the line will be better than last year, and perhaps close to average. Some of that is the improvement of bringing in Ben Grubbs, but some of it too is Eric Fisher. I’ve always been higher on him than most, but I thought he showed some really good signs in the second half of last year and if we’re going to mention the failure on the interception, it’s only fair to mention that Fisher looked pretty good in the preseason game.
One thing the Chiefs have going for themselves here is that they don’t need the line or the offense to be great. An average line would make for a slightly above average offense, I believe, and give the team a better chance at avoiding the kind of mistakes they need to avoid, letting the defense and special teams shine.
That question, by the way, comes from old friend Jim Weber. He’s fighting an incurable cancer, and there are extremely hard times — Jim always mentions his wife, Pam, helping him through — but the indications are positive.
He says he’s doing great — “mentally, I feel like I’m crushing it,” he says — and I can’t wait to see him and his family tailgating the Chiefs’ season opener.
Terez did a good job on the situation here, but it’s worth repeating that it’s worth a $4.8 million salary when your backup quarterback can give you production and peace of mind.
Nobody wants to talk about this, but Alex Smith has only played 16 games twice in nine NFL seasons. In 2013, he was a healthy scratch for the season finale, but the point remains that the Chiefs are a team with playoff success in mind, and to make that happen, the chances are good that they’ll need at least a start or two from Daniel.
I don’t know what the future holds for him, if he’ll get a starting job somewhere next year. But the Chiefs are lucky to have a backup they trust, and one whose salary did not prevent them from addressing other areas of need this past offseason.
Kendrys Morales. He would beat Alex Gordon in the championship. I would pay money to watch this tournament, provided Rusty Kuntz and Jarrod Dyson are announcing.