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Simple Math

The race to the Wild Card has little margin for error.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Having dropped five of their last seven games, the Kansas City Royals wake up this morning to find themselves mired 8 1/2 games behind Detroit for the A.L. Central lead and, more importantly, 6 games back of a Wild Card berth. In the race to catch either Tampa or Oakland, the Royals are tied with the Yankees and behind both Cleveland and Baltimore.

A fan post by loyal2dad looked at this very subject on Saturday night and Farmhand wrote one a while back that I am too lazy to link. Since none of us around here have had an actual pennant race to discuss (however tenuous the Royals' position in it may be) since 2003, why not yet another column on the same?

Cool Standings project both Texas and Oakland to win 92 games, while they have Tampa winning 91. They expect the Royals to clock in with 85 wins - which, by the way, was my preseason projection so it must be right. Fangraphs has the Rangers, A's and Rays all winning 91 games and the Royals just 83. Make what you want of any sort of projection system, but if you want to realistically discuss the Royals making the playoffs, the conversation has to begin with the Royals finishing up 27-12 to reach 91 wins.

As loyal2sdad pointed out in his post, the schedule does provide Kansas City some favors. Among the wild card contenders, only Cleveland plays fewer games against teams with winning records down the stretch than the Royals. Of those teams, only Baltimore currently has a winning overall record against teams with winning records:

  • Baltimore 37-31
  • New York 38-39
  • Oakland 28-30
  • Kansas City 33-37
  • Tampa 33-39
  • Cleveland 29-41

As pointed out in the Fanpost, he's saying there's a chance.

The Royals remaining schedule and the run differentials with those teams:

  • Chicago (7 games): -1
  • Washington (3 games): have not played
  • Minnesota (3 games): +33
  • Toronto (3 games): -4
  • Seattle (7 games): have not played
  • Detroit (6 games): 0
  • Cleveland (6 games): -13
  • Texas (3 games): -4
  • Tampa (1 game): +21
There is nothing in the above numbers that should necessarily scare one. Half of the run differential with Cleveland comes from one 10-3 loss in April: a game that was sandwiched around two 9-0 games that the teams split.

There is something that should you have just a touch wary. While the Royals have improved remarkably in the second half of the season and stack up okay when it comes to playing teams with winning records, take a look at the records of the wild card contenders against teams with losing records:
  • Tampa 37-13
  • Cleveland 37-17
  • Oakland 42-23
  • Kansas City 31-22
  • New York 26-20
  • Baltimore 30-25
The Royals do well against 'poor' teams, but not to the extent that three teams in front of them do. I have this ugly vision of Kansas City limping through a 3-3 homestand with Chicago and Washington, doing the same on the road against Minnesota and Washington and then dropping three of four to Seattle (all by one run) and being completely and totally done. Yes, that is pessimism, but tell me a little part of your mind doesn't worry about the same thing.

Bottom line, and we all knew this, is that is LONG FREAKING WAY TO 91 WINS. The Royals are 21-10 (67.7%) in the second half and will have to play just a tick (a percentage point if you will) better to go 27-12 (69.2%) over the rest of the season. They will have to do it with a gimpy Mike Moustakas, an injured Lorenzo Cain and a slumping Alex Gordon.

While we can hope that Tampa, Baltimore and the Yankees grind themselves up in divisional play - the Royals best hope is that those three all play .500 in the 19 games they collectively play against one another - I see the Rays taking advantage of a fading Oriole team and a turmoil embroiled New York squad. Oakland? Fade? You would like to hope, but that is not exactly that team's track record and they have managed to take six of their last ten.

Ninety-one wins - that's a journey. What do you think the chances are?