Morning Coffee: Royals Face Difficult Road Ahead
It’s been a long, strange season that has truly been a rollercoaster of emotions. It caused me to start calling this the Royalcoaster back in June and that’s been true from the start of the season to now. On one hand, to be talking about the Royals playoff chances on September 3 and there actually is a path that gets them there is pretty awesome. And I’ll say unequivocally that I was wrong. I didn’t think this team was good enough to even be in the discussion at this point in the season. If a team like the Rays had taken care of business ahead of the Royals, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but the Royals have no control over that, so for the time being, they are part of the discussion.
So what do the Royals need to do in order to make it to the playoffs? The answer is pretty simple. They need to win and win a lot. In the immediate future, they really need to take the last two games against the Mariners. Sure it’s tough to sweep a four game series, but the Mariners are an inferior team and the Royals need to beat them. At this point in the season, they’re sort of in do or die mode every night. Sure they can lose a game, but with the schedule to follow the Mariners series, picking up wins against teams you’re supposed to beat has to happen.
I’ll get to the next 15 games in a minute, but I want to digress for a minute and talk about something I mentioned on Twitter but I haven’t seen in many places. The Royals have played 30 games against teams who are currently in last place (and most are likely to finish there). In those 30 games, they have gone 14-16. I took a look at the Rays, Indians and Athletics because they’re three teams the Royals are fighting with for a playoff spot. All three of those teams have a winning percentage of at least .700 against last place teams. If you give the Royals a .700 winning percentage against last place clubs, they’d be seven games better than they currently are. I don’t have to list the standings to tell you what difference that would make if the Royals had just taken care of business throughout the season. That might be more frustrating than May.
So after the Mariners leave town, the Royals start a stretch that will either make their final seven games the most exciting end of a season in more than 20 years or they’ll make those games all but irrelevant. First Detroit comes to town for three games. While the Royals would have a VERY difficult time catching the Tigers, they need as many wins as possible, so every game is obviously huge. Following the Tigers series, they go to Cleveland and then to Detroit to finish the season series with the Tigers. Then they come home for their final home stand of the year to face the Indians and Texas Rangers. As of right now, all of these teams are ahead of the Royals in the American League. These are not easy games. After those 15 games, the Royals wrap up with seven against the Mariners and White Sox. That’s why these 15 games are the big ones, though the White Sox are one of the aforementioned last place teams the Royals have struggled with this season.
I’ll go back to my question of what the Royals have to do in order to make the playoffs and break it down a little more. I said earlier they probably need to win both remaining games in this series, but they may be able to get by with one of the two. The tricky part about the Royals plight for the remainder of the season is they have so many different variables. The three games against Cleveland will directly impact the wild card race and the three games against Texas¬†might depending on how the AL West shakes out. Other than that, the Royals just have to win. That’s all they can truly control. The easiest path to the playoffs is for them to win all of their remaining games, but I have a hunch that won’t happen. Call me a pessimist, but I’d definitely bet against that.
Since the Cleveland series is between two teams so close in the race, those are obviously the most important games to win, if that makes sense. Obviously win as many as possible, but I think the Royals really need to pull off at least a 9-6 in that 15 game stretch and maybe 10-5.¬†At least two of those wins have to come against the Indians. A sweep is actually what’s almost necessary. Does that seem like a tall task? Well yeah, it should because it is. Outside of those 15 games, the Royals really need to win 7 or 8 of the remaining 9 games against the sub-.500 teams. That’s what a playoff team does. They take care of business.
As I’ve said, the Royals obviously can’t control what other teams do with the exception of three against the Indians and maybe the three against the Rangers, but the Royals need to keep winning. If I was heading to Vegas, I wouldn’t put money on the Royals making the playoffs, but it’s pretty exciting that as you read this on September 4, this is a conversation we’re actually having. One thing I will say about the Royals that I have said all season long is that when they are playing their best, they can beat anybody. That hasn’t been the case with many Royals teams of the past. This Royals team needs to play their best for 24 more games. They can’t afford any hiccups. If they do that, it’s going to be an exciting final week of the season. I want nothing more than to end the year and wish that I¬†had placed that bet on the Royals.
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