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Explaining "the magic number" and what the Royals have to do to clinch the division

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The magic number is 17, not 38.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of talk lately about the Royals "magic number", just as there was talk last year about this time about a "magic number"? Well what is this number and what makes it so magical?

The magic number is how many games it takes for a contender to clinch a post-season spot. It is calculated by taking the total number of games in a season (162), adding one (to avoid ties), subtracting the number of wins the front-runner has, and subtracting the number of losses the closest challenger.

For example, to calculate the Royals' magic number to clinch the division, you would take 162 + 1 - 82 (Royals wins) - 64 (Twins losses) = 17. The Royals' magic number is 17. What that means is that if the Royals win 17 more games, they clinch the division even if the Twins win ALL their games. Or if the Twins lose 17 games, the Royals win the division even if they lose ALL their games. Of if there is a combination of 17 Royals wins plus Twins losses (say, nine Royals wins and eight Twins losses), the Royals clinch the division. Every time the Royals win or the Twins lose, the magic number goes down by one.

This table shows what the Twins have to do to catch the Royals, depending on how the Royals fare. As you can see, the odds are very much against Minnesota catching Kansas City.

If the Royals and Twins should somehow tie for the division title, they would play a one-game playoff to determine the division, with home field determined by head-to-head record. The Royals are 8-5 against Minnesota this year, with six games remaining. The loser would end up in the Wild Card game, or out of the playoffs, depending on their record.

The Royals currently own a 6 game lead on the Toronto Blue Jays for home field advantage, which goes to the team with the best overall record in the league. The Blue Jays own the tie-breaker over the Royals, as they beat the Royals 4-3 in head-to-head matchups this year. The magic number for the Royals to clinch home field advantage is 24. Home field advantage should be pretty important this year considering how good fellow contenders like Houston and Toronto are at home, but lackluster on the road.

At the way things are going, the Royals will likely either clinch their first Central Division title on the road the weekend of September 18-20 in Detroit, or at home September 22-24 versus Seattle. The Royals still have some work to do, but not as much as other clubs have. You might want to stock up on some champagne, because the Royals should be celebrating a division championship very shortly.