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Weekend Sweep of Minnesota Has Royals Fans Thinking Playoffs Again

Continuing to live - that is, repeat
A habit formed to get necessaries -
Is nearly always losing, or going without.
It varies.

This loss of interest, hair, and enterprise -
Ah, if the game were poker, yes,
You might discard them, draw a full house!
But it's chess.

-Larkin, from "Continuing to Live"

Just over a week ago the Royals sat at 12-7 and were locked in a virtual tie with the Indians for first place in the division. However, a disheartening six game losing streak followed, which reinforced the notion that the same old Royals had returned. Given that nearly every pundit and computer projection system picked the Royals to be one of the very worst teams in the AL, the losing streak seemed to confirm many biases, or maybe just reasonable expectations.

With the Minnesota Twins visiting the K over the weekend, there was little reason to expect a turnaround. Over the previous three seasons, the Twins have dominated the Royals, going 37-17 in head to head matchups. Of course, we know what came next, the Royals won dramatically on Friday night, then trounced the Twins in lop-sided games on Saturday and Sunday. Suddenly, the Royals are 15-13, and back in second place. The Royals have played 28 games and they haven't killed their season yet. In fact, if we might venture to say it, they'll quasi-positioned themselves to be relevant for awhile.

As we do every week, on the usual Monday off-day, here are the current playoff odds from Baseball Prospectus:

Sim Ws Div Title %
CLE 82 38.2%
DET 81 29.5%
CWS 79 20%
MIN 77 11.2%
KCR 70 1.1%

Despite such low odds, there's good news for Royals fans there: with the expected powers struggling early, it looks like no one is going to run away with this division. If it only takes 82-83 wins to take the title, that's imminently approachable, even for a bad team like the Royals.

Now, BP projected the Royals to be a .414 team this season, so when they simulate the rest of the games played, that drags down the likelihood that the Royals will come in first. Remember, for all the excitement, the Royals are just 15-13. The circumstances are exciting, but it's still merely a mediocre record.

If you think that number is low, you can consider the following. If the Royals play .450 baseball the rest of the way, they'll get to 75 wins. If we bump that figure up to .475, they get to 78 wins. If the Royals manage to play .500 baseball, they'll get to 82-80. In that scenario, the Royals are most likely in the pennant race until, at the very least, the last week of the season.

The key question is how probable is it that the Royals can play .500 baseball for 134 games. We lose the games day by day, in baseball or in life. All that we have is one opportunity per turn to do well. So far the Royals are surviving.