After splitting a four-game series with the Indians and getting swept in Texas, the Royals season is looking less and less likely to produce a surprise division winner. Although the Royals are still just 1.5 games back of first, and in possession of a respectable 12-10 record, they now appear to be long shots to win the AL Central. As such, despite Kansas City's exciting and somewhat fortunate start, the Royals have already been caught by the Tigers in the standings.
Using the Playoff Odds Report at Baseball Prospectus, we can get a sense of how the division race is already shaping up, using both the information from the current season, as well as what we think we know about the underlying quality of the teams involved. For the Royals, that doesn't produce especially happy results.
|Current Record||Updated Projected Wins||Sim. Div. Titles%||Sim. WC %|
As you can see, the clear favorite now appears to be the Tigers, who helped themselves greatly this weekend by sweeping the White Sox. Most human and computer predictions had the Twins, Tigers and White Sox as all being very close to one another heading into the season, with the Indians a step behind and the Royals a bigger step behind. If you hold that to be true, then these are the results you get, where the early struggles of the Twins and White Sox have made the Tigers big favorites.
The Royals didn't help themselves last week by going 2-5. However, if you want to make the argument that the Royals were underestimated heading into 2011, then you can talk yourself into some hope. If we make the true talent of the 2011 Royals to be comparable to Cleveland's for example, then the chances that the Royals make the playoffs jumps up considerably, up to something like 14-15%. Part of why BP's number is so low is that the remainder of the games are yet to be played, and according to their model, they are to be played by one of the very worst teams in the AL. Given that the lead the Royals have over the other teams in the division is small or nonexistent, it just doesn't add up to a path to success. We'll see if the Royals can change that.