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Looking Forward- The Quest Not to Be the Worst

Through 44 games the Royals sit at 13-31, cruising along at a .295 clip. While I wouldn't put much stock in it, the Royals have been a much better "day" team than a "night" one, going a quasi-respectable 9-13 when the sun is shining. At night however, they're 4-18. I guess the message is clear enough: build a time machine back to, say, 1960 and/or tear down the lights at the K.

Perhaps the most damning bit of data concerning the Royals season is this: they're only 5-17 against the AL Central.

In 2003 you'll remember, the Royals feasted on the Central, dominating the Indians and Tigers and holding serve against the Sox and Twins, despite the clear superiority of those teams. Now, in just two short years, the Tigers have paid for a talent influx and the Indians have matured into an uneasy mediocrity, making daily life miserable for the Royals. Clearly, a nice template for success in this division is: be the best out of the Tigers-Royals-Indians triad and hope for some luck and success against the Twins and White Sox. Theres a weird tiering to this division, in which the two main classes both mutually beat up on one another. In the last three years, the main difference between the Twins and White Sox has been the Twins ability to consistently beat the Terrible Three, while the southsiders occassionally scuffle.

The point is, at some level the Al Central is populated by the Royals' peers. And the Royals suck against their peers.

Thats not good, in fact its a recipe for major major failure. The Royals have only played 6 games against the AL West thus far, and only 13 against the East- including a fat four against the Devil Rays. Simply, there are alot of losses left on this schedule, with the team facing the prospect of spending the second half of the season choosing between Tony Graffanino and a injured and already not good Ken Harvey as their starting first baseman.

The ghost here, of course, is the spectre of the 2003 Tigers, who went 49-113 and needed a last weekend rally to avoid being the worst team -- record wise-- of all time.

The Tigers finished with a .265 winning percentage , slightly worse than the .295 flashed by the Royals (who are semi-hot right now).

Ask yourself this question: do you see the Royals playing any better?

Bad teams always have bad pitching, but as recent sabermetricians have pointed out, team offensive performance is much more uniform. Thus, the difference between the worst offensive team and the best is usually smaller than the differences in their pitching staffs.

The flip side of this is logical, but not immeditately clear; the fastest way to be historically bad is to have a really bad offense. The bad pitching is a given, and will take care of itself. Thus, the 2003 Tigers had a bad, but not over-the-top bad pitching staff, allowing 5.35 runs per game, which was comparable to Texas (5.98) and Kansas City (5.35) that year.

Where the 2003 Tigers really buttered their bread of horribleness however, was at the plate, managing only 3.65 runs per game. The next worst team, Cleveland, averaged 4.31, and scored 108 more runs than the Tigers.

The deepest fear regarding this 2005 Royals team, is that the offense is deeply dsyfunctional: no batting average, no walks, no power. Plus, the team has been terrible on the basepaths. Lastly,  there's the inevitable Sweeney trade/injury, as well as the uncertain performance-future's of the young core DeJesus-Teahen-Berroa-Gotay-Buck etc.

This team needs to win 27 more games to catch the 1960 Mets (in 160 games) and 36 more to catch the Tigers.