Fatal Flaws: The Second Half

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals took an unusual route to the World Series last year. Many of the things that they did on their journey are going to be very difficult to replicate – for example, the path to the World Series itself.

Last year, the Royals had a blind confidence in being a "second-half" team. Somehow, inexplicably, that confidence paid off. A .511 winning percentage over the first half – passable, but unremarkable – turned into a .603 winning percentage in the second half.

.603 wasn’t the best winning percentage in the league over the second half, but it was enough to bring the Royals from 6.5 games back of the Tigers to 1 game back by the end of the season – with a ticket to the postseason punched a few days prior.

The Royals relied on big second-half runs in 2013 and 2014 to propel them to successful finishes. Do they have enough magic left to do it three years in a row?

Why it worked last year

If you say something over and over again, eventually, it has to become true.

That must be the theory Ned Yost was using last July. A simple Google search for the terms "Ned Yost second half team" from July 1 to July 31 of last year yields an abundance of results.

On July 12, following a loss to the Tigers:

"To this point, we've underachieved but we're still seven games better than we were at this point last year," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "We know we're a second-half club. We've been a second-half club."

On July 13, following a win over the Tigers, Ned Yost said nearly the exact same thing:

"We're eight games better than we were at this time last year," manager Ned Yost said. "And we're a second-half team. We've always been a second-half team."

On July 14, in the Chicago Tribune:

"Most of our guys -- Moose and Hoz included -- are second-half guys," manager Ned Yost said. "All the signs are pointing upwards for us."

On July 16, for

"They shouldn't be second-half guys, they should be full-season guys, but they aren't," he said. "The last couple of years, we've been a good second-half team. We're eight games better than we were last year, and I think we've got our best baseball ahead of us."

On July 27, in the New York Times:

"We’ve been a real good second-half team the last couple of years," Yost said, "and we don’t see any reason why we can’t be a good second-half team this year."

We complain a lot about athletes regurgitating sound bites, but Yost took it to the next level last year.

Maybe because they were tired of hearing the same thing over and over again, the Royals actually stepped up their game after that and closed the season hot. Ned Yost’s prophecy was fulfilled. The Royals were a second-half team.

Why it won’t work this year

We can probably play the same game this upcoming July. With two seasons of evidence to fall back on, Ned Yost will likely be spouting the phrase "second-half team" early and often.

But there’s no indication that a hot second half carries over from year to year.

The Los Angeles Dodgers had an incredibly hot second half of 2013, improving their winning percentage by .162 points after the All-Star Break. 2012 gave no indication that was coming (they played worse in the second-half that year) and 2014 sported only a modest improvement (.058 points).

The Oakland Athletics were on fire in the second half of 2012, sporting a .671 winning percentage to follow up a .500 first half. In 2013 they saw no change from the first half to the second. In 2014, they managed an incredible second-half collapse.

The list goes on, but the general trend: You can’t predict how you’ll do in the second half of a season based on recent successes or failures. But that won’t stop Ned Yost.

Strength of Schedule Projections PECOTA FanGraphs
1st Half 0.498 0.499
2nd Half 0.498 0.503

Based on a handful of projections for this season, the Royals’ second-half schedule isn’t any easier than its first. In fact, it might be slightly tougher. You can run your own eye test just by looking at when our division opponents are scheduled:

Games vs. AL Central Opponents
1st Half
2nd Half
Tigers 7 12
Indians 9 10
White Sox
7 12
Twins 13

Of course, the schedule-makers weight divisional games towards the end of the season. But somehow the Twins – if any AL Central team can be considered "easy," it would be Minnesota – show up more on the first-half slate.

The Royals could surprise us all and be a second-half team yet again. But it appears that the second half will be an uphill battle.

How the Royals can save the season

While it would be nice if the Royals could get hot in the second half again, it is absolutely imperative that they get out of the gate faster this year. That way, the Royals won’t need to rely on a strong second half and maybe Ned Yost can talk about something else during the month of July.

We’ll get a good grasp of the Royals within the first month. In the first thirty days of the season, the Royals play at least one series with each division foe – seven series in total.

By May 10, they’ll have played each division opponent once at home and once on the road. In addition, they’ll have faced the Angels and Athletics, two teams that figure to be involved in the playoff race again this year. A strong showing through May 10 means that they’ll be in good shape for the rest of the first half, as the schedule thins out a little bit and takes them to visit some (less-important) NL teams.

But if the Royals are struggling to keep their heads above water in mid-May, their only salvation may be in the form of another second-half run. And despite Ned Yost’s confidence, that’s not something the Royals can count on.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.