The Royals are now 73-86 and set to avoid 90+ losses for the first time since 2003. What does that win total, coupled with the team's strong September play mean to you?
Here are a three ways we could think about it, roughly arranged from most positive to most negative:
- Dayton's rebuild is working. From 2004-06 the Royals lost over 100 games each season, and, if possible, looked even worse than those numbers suggest. Last season, when the Royals won 69 games, it was actually their highest win total since 2003, and, despite some major injuries and multiple really rough stretches, the Royals have improved on that total again. What we've seen over the last month is the vastly improved team, on offense and defense, that most of us expected coming out of Spring Training. With a strong start and a strong finish, this team has proven it can play good baseball. Now it just needs to execute.
- The team is better, but September results don't mean much. Every year some bad team finishes well, leading to lots of false hope. The 2006 Pirates went 37-35 in the second half of the year, but that hardly meant that the Pirates had somehow become a .500 team. Overall, yes, it is clear that the Royals of 2008 were a stronger team than previous editions, but whatever mometum the Royals have right now, it certainly isn't going to last through five months of ice. Finally, how much is this win total inflated by September's douldrums? In the last week the Royals have gone 7-0 against the decayed remains of the Tigers and Mariners alone. As with individual performances in September, team records must be scrutinized closely.
- Hurray! In three years Dayton fielded a 74-5 win team. And it only took him three years and three of Allard Baird's best draft picks leading the team.
- What might have been. This sucks. With better roster moves and less OBP & SLGing sinkholes, the Royals could easily be close to 80 wins right now, maybe even higher. Essentially, the September surge shows just how much the Royals wasted a ton of great pitching. In an alternate universe, the Royals could have challenged in a weak AL Central this season.
There are more responses, and certainly more nuaced ones. I'm about to check out of my hotel (had to hit the libraries in Conn. & Harvard for my dissertation) however and head back home to D.C.