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Royals Wild Card primer

So there's this Wild Card thing we need to discuss

Jamie Squire

Strange, isn't it? Prior to the games on Tuesday night, the Royals odds to make the post season per Baseball Prospectus stood at 0.8%. That's kind of tiny. Especially since at times last month, the number crept extremely close to double digits. (Yes, the Cool Standings percentage is currently higher. I use Baseball Prospectus.)

Yet this is the reality. We are into September. Post Labor Day. And percentages be damned, the Royals are relevant in the race.

Now the tough part. Baseball Prospectus is projecting 89 wins will be necessary for the second Wild Card. The Royals have 72 wins with 24 games remaining. So if the BP numbers are correct, Kansas City will have to go at least 17-7 - and hope for some help.

Just for fun, here are some quick capsules of the teams alive for the second Wild Card. Why just the second Wild Card? Seriously.

The teams are presented in order of current standings entering Tuesday's games. With Tampa in the second spot, 3.5 games behind Texas and Oakland, and because this is the Royals only hope at October baseball, I'll just concentrate on the teams below. Although we have all seen crazier things happen.

Tampa Bay Rays (76-61)

Remaining Schedule
2 @ LAA
3 @ SEA
3 vs BOS
3 @ MIN
4 vs TEX
4 vs BAL
3 @ NYY
3 @ TOR

Currently in the second Wild Card spot, the Rays are in a freefall, losing eight of their last nine entering play Tuesday. The West Coast swing should be a great opportunity for them to grab some wins. We'll see. That middle stretch where they play 14 of 17 games against contenders could bury them if they can't gain some traction this week.

New York Yankees (74-64) 2.5 GB

Remaining Schedule
1 vs CHW
4 vs BOS
4 @ BAL
3 @ BOS
3 @ TOR
3 vs SF
3 vs TB
3 @ HOU

Seriously? They're still around? And check the schedule. Ten games against the Blue Jays, White Sox, Astros and Giants. That makes 10 games against last place competition. Including the last three at Houston. I can't imagine.

Baltimore Orioles (73-64) 3.0 GB

Remaining Schedule
1 @ CLE
4 vs CHW
4 vs NYY
3 @ TOR
3 @ BOS
4 @ TB
3 vs TOR
3 vs BOS

The Orioles have five games remaining against the AL Central, then move to the East for the remainder of the schedule. They have hung around all summer, just outside the leaders. Remember how last year, the surprising Orioles were 29-9 in one-run games? This year they are 15-24.

Cleveland Indians (73-65) 3.5 GB

Remaining Schedule
1 vs BAL
3 vs NYM
3 vs KC
4 @ CHW
3 @ KC
4 vs HOU
2 vs CHW
4 @ MIN

The Indians have won 12 of their last 29 and just got news that Justin Masterson will miss at least one start down the stretch. Look at the last 10 on their schedule. Cupcakes are jealous. Hell, outside of the Royals they don't play a contending team in September. It felt strange typing that sentence.

Kansas City Royals (72-66) 4.5 GB

Remaining Schedule
2 vs SEA
3 vs DET
3 @ CLE
3 @ DET
3 vs CLE
3 vs TEX
3 @ SEA
4 @ CHW

What could have been. Imagine if the Royals were closer in the AL Central. How insane would those 12 games against Detroit and Cleveland have been? If you want to dream a little, look ahead to the final week of the year. Seattle and the White Sox. If the Royals are in the mix - meaning if they lose only around four games between now and then - their chances would be interesting.

Finally, the current (through Monday's games) Baseball Prospectus playoff odds for the second Wild Card:

Tampa - 70.4%
Baltimore - 15.0%
Cleveland - 11.6%
New York - 11.0%
Kansas City - 0.8%

Hardly seems fair, does it?

And the games from last night illustrate how difficult it will be for the Royals to gain ground. Of the five teams in the mix, four won. Only the Orioles lost. They played the Indians.

I'm not buying the Royals as a playoff team. But this is the latest they've ever been in the conversation. (I'm not counting 2003 because that team was clearly powered by a good April and was sliding post All-Star break. They weren't in the race in September.) I'm not saying that's a building block or a stepping stone to contention. Because it's not. What it is, is fun. Long shot or not, it's kind of enjoyable to be just 4.5 games out with less than a month to play.