The Royals really need to destroy the competition in April and May (and in August, too, but that doesn't really help the narrative flow of early victories to position ourselves for the post-season, so we'll just pretend my hopeful 16 wins in August isn't there, 'kay?) to have a legitimate shot at making the post season this year.
The reason is very simple. They have a rough June, July and September.
I'll break down their schedule, month by month, and with a goal of 90 wins (I've been saying 92, but I've heard a lot of people saying 90 wins will take the division this year as Detroit appears to be weaker than last year), will give what, in my opinion, the Royals need to do in that month to reach their goal.
(note: 3 @ Detroit would mean games played AT Detroit, 3 vs Detroit would mean games at home. I'm sure almost all of you know that, but I just wanted to ensure we were all on the same page)
April (including opening day):
Our Easiest month. Detroit will be tough, Baltimore, the Indians and Tampa won't be easy.
However, we have 12 games against last-place candidates. One real wild card for the Royals this season is if the Twins rotation upgrades this off-season will be as good for them as they hope. Mostly, I'm hoping that Hughes' HR rate doesn't drop as much as expected leaving the Yankees. I had posted earlier this off-season how I thought it would, and why we should sign him. Hopefully I was wrong...
They're going to need their rotation to be good for them to be respectable, as their offense doesn't look impressive, at all.
Chicago doesn't impress me, even though some project them to be better than the Royals this year.
We need to really beat up on those guys, and split the rest. Say 9 against those teams, and 8 for the rest of the month.
May Projection: 17-10
Running record: 17-10.
I don't know much about the NL West at all (other than Dodgers are going to destroy everyone in 2014 [extra credit to anyone who gets the reference]), so I'm basing my expected results off of other people's projections and Vegas lines.
Toronto and the Padres project somewhere around 78-80 wins. The Rockies are projected to be at 75-82 wins by different systems, so none of these are push-overs. Only 10 games are against real contenders (Detroit, Baltimore, LAA), and we have 6 against Houston and White Sox. A real busy month, 29 games in 31 days.
I'm hopeful that we can take 5 against the contenders, 4 against Houston/Sox, and 7 of 13 against the rest. That's 16-13 in May.
May Projection: 16-13.
Running record: 33-23.
1 @ Toronto
2 @ St Louis
2 vs St Louis
4 vs Yankees
2 vs Indians
3 @ White Sox
3 @ Detroit
3 vs Seattle
3 vs Dodgers
3 vs LAA
1 @ Twins
As Shaggy would say, "Zoinks!"
4 games against bad teams, (Sox, Twins), 4 against slightly bad teams (Seattle, Toronto), and 17 against contenders. Here's hoping we get the back end of the Dodgers rotation. I shudder to imagine having to face Kershaw (though I'd love to see him pitch live).
Speaking of the Dodgers, yeah... They're projected to just pretty much be the best team in baseball. They have a ridiculous rotation, and talent more or less all around.
St Louis ACTUALLY won the World Series last year, despite what Dayton Moore might think...
I can't see us posting a winning record this month, and I hope this is the only month they do have a losing record.
If we can take 2 of 4 against the Sox/Twins, and 2 of 4 against Seattle and Toronto, then 8 of 19 against the rest, that puts us at 12-15. I really hope we run hot this month and flip those numbers, as that would REALLY put us in a position for a post-season push.
June Projection: 12-15
Running record: 45-38.
2 @ Twins
3 @ Indians
3 @ Tampa
4 vs Detroit
3 @ Red Sox
3 @ White Sox
4 vs Indians
3 vs Twins
8 against Twins and White Sox, 17 against contenders.
No new analysis on the teams here. Let's, as we have been thus far, hope to split against the contenders and take a bit more than a split against the others. Let's say 6 of 8 against Twins/White Sox, and 8 of 17 against contenders, giving us 14-11 (you could say 5 against the Twins/ White Sox, and 9 against the contenders if you'd prefer and get the same record).
July Projection: 14-11.
Running record: 59-49.
August doesn't look as bad. Here's a look at the game break down:
As I said earlier, I don't know much about the NL West, but the Diamondbacks appear to be a consensus at-or-above 500 team (I've seen 83 wins, 85 wins, 81 wins in the three places), and are slated to compete with the Giants for 2nd in the division. The Giants are projected by a lot to be the better team, so no easy games there. 7 against Oakland hurts, but that's balanced by 7 against the Twins.
As I said earlier, I'm hoping the Twins rotation upgrades don't help them as much as they had hoped, and if we can score just a few runs against them I don't expect their offense to produce much (and neither do anybody else, really).
So, that's 28 games with 19 against contending above .500 teams. I expect us to split those games this month as we're not playing the powerhouse (Dodgers, Detroit, Red Sox) and take 2 more than split against the Twins and Rockies, giving us 16 wins out of 28 games:
August Projection: 16-12.
Running record: 75-61.
September is a rough, rough month:
3 vs Rangers
3 @ NYY
4 vs Red Sox
3 vs White Sox
3 vs Detroit
4 @ White Sox.
If you count those games, you find we play the White Sox 7 times, and contending teams 19 times.
You'd hope we could take 5 of 7 from the White Sox, and maybe 9 of 19 against these teams, giving us 14 wins. I think we need 15, to take us from 75 wins to 90. An important part of this is that we play Detroit 6 times and Cleveland 3, giving us a chance to directly gain games if we're not in the lead. I am also hopeful that Zimmer will have joined the rotation by now (hopefully he destroys the minors and is here before September) and can help the team make a push.
September goal: 15-11.
Final record, 90-72.
So there you have it, what I believe the Royals need to do, and could potentially do, to make it to the post season.
As I stated at the beginning, we need HUGE records in April and May (and August) to really stand a chance. We still need to post a winning record every month but June to have a chance.