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Kansas City Royals Playoff Chances? Still Low

Despite a surprising 6-3 start, the Royals still appear to be mathematical long-shots to win the American League Central. Very long shots. The chances of winning the Wild Card are even lower.

Baseball Prospectus has run a playoff odds report for a number of years now, and it is a good barometer of a team's chances. The simulator works in three steps. First, what is the team's true talent level? Second, what is their record thus far and how many games are remaining? Third, if we simulate a million seasons with that data, how often does that team make the playoffs?

Right now, according to BP's numbers, the Royals have just a 0.5% chance of winning the division, a one in two hundred shot. Relatedly, the Royals have almost no chance of snagging the Wild Card, which is predicted to be much more difficult to attain than an AL Central crown. Overall, the chance of a Royal October is just 0.6%. Chicago wins the division 54% of the time, followed by 19% by Detroit and 15.3% by Minnesota.

There are three reasons why the number for the Royals is so low:

  1. Baseball Prospectus's expectations of the Royals are extremely low. They see the Royals as just a .415 club. The Royals weren't just predicted to be bad, they were predicted to be one of the worst teams in baseball. If you make the Royals, say, a .450 team, their chances of making a miracle run to the playoffs would probably become something like 9-10%. That's a pretty huge difference. So if you are a Royals fan and you want to be optimistic, that's your route right there.
  2. The Royals are just 6-3. Yea, that's nice and yea we're happy about that, but 6-3 is just 6-3. It's not an incredible record and it isn't many games. It's not like the Royals are 12-3... yet.
  3. The AL Central is off to a decent start. Cleveland is 7-2. The White Sox, more importantly, are 6-3 as well, and Chicago was the BP computer's pick to win the division. The Royals, despite their glorious start, don't have any lead at all over the White Sox, who are better. Had Ozzie's boys pulled a Boston and started poorly, the division would already look quite different.
As mentioned above, the key ingredient here, just a week into the season, is how good you think these teams are. If you think the Royals, heading into this season, were a 69-70 win team (BP's prediction) than they still don't really have much of a chance of shocking the world. If you think that they were closer to a 78 win team, then their chance of making the playoffs would be north of 10% right now.