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A look back at July 22nd, 2014

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The Royals have looked sunk before only to storm back.

Be .500
Be .500
All credit goes to BlitzAce71

Remember all the way back to July 22, 2014? Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the top grossing movie at the box office. Someone called MAGIC! had a song called Rude that was the chart topper. Or was it a song called MAGIC! by a band called Rude? And the top news story was something about the second Malaysia Air crash in a few months. It was a simpler and more innocent time. The President was Barack Obama and he was mired in gridlock with a GOP-controlled Congr--- never mind.

This was a couple of days after The Gomes Affair, and let’s start there. How bad do things have to be for Joe Posnanski to all but call for Ned Yost’s job?

The Gomes Affair was just one game in a very long season. But it is precisely the sort of loss the Royals cannot afford. Would it be fair to Ned Yost to switch managers now, with the Royals finally playing pretty good baseball after 20-plus years of incompetence? You could make a good case that it would not be fair.

Meanwhile, a dreaded "team meeting" prompted BHWick to look at A Brief History of Royals Team Meetings.

And Dayton Moore gave Ned Yost the equally dreaded "vote of confidence":

[He] indicated manager Ned Yost was in no danger. Asked about for an appraisal of Yost’s performance and an update on his status, Moore delivered a vote of confidence.

In a creepy walk down memory lane, a couple of old (new?) friends were rumored to have piqued Dayton Moore’s interest: Alex Rios and Ian Kennedy.

Meanwhile, Dave Cameron was arguing it was time to sell James Shields.

On June 17, the Royals took sole possession of first place in the American League Central, as they stood a half game up on Detroit in the division race. Since that date, the Royals have gone 10-17, while the Tigers have gone 18-10, and Kansas City now finds themselves in third place, seven games behind the Tigers and a game and a half behind the Indians. They’ve even fallen to sixth in the AL Wild Race, which isn’t exactly overflowing with dominant teams at the moment.

As things stand today, our Playoff Odds model gives the Royals a 2.6% chance of winning the division and a 7.9% chance of winning a spot in the Wild Card game. A Wild Card game that would almost certainly be on the road, against either the A’s or the Angels, inarguably the two best teams in baseball to this point of the season.

In other words, even if they manage to sneak past Cleveland, New York, Toronto, and Seattle — and hold off the charging Red Sox and Rays — their reward would be a road game against a significantly better team. Anything can happen in one game, of course, but when deciding whether to buy, sell, or hold at the deadline, the realistic upside has to be evaluated, and the Royals best case case scenario is still a probable loss in Game 163.

Many on RR were in the same place with a lot of speculation on who should be dealt and for what. This was the best list of potential trade targets for Shields, with it probably even landing on the optimistic side of realistic.

Depends on the team

If it’s an all-in team like the Dodgers then Pederson could actually be an option given their current outfield and would be the Addison Russel for Shark equivalent best case scenario thing.

I would imagine Shields is worth a Top-100 prospect, and if a team is making a huge push for this year then they could part with a premium piece of someone who’s a year or two away.

Would Baltimore deal Hunter Harvey for Shields?
Blue Jays Dan Norris or Dalton Pompey?
Seattle send DJ Peterson?
|Nats AJ Cole or Brian Goodwin/Michael Taylor?
Braves Lucas Sims?Cardinals Stephen Piscotty?

It depends on where the team is on the win curve and if they can sign Shields long term.

-Shaun Newkirk

James Shields was a popular target as were Greg Holland and Wade Davis under the Joakim Soria memorial "who needs closers on a team going nowhere" theory. But many were ready to burn the whole thing down and start rebuilding again.

However Dayton Moore said "I'm not going to give up on our team" and most doubted he would sell (partially because it would be career suicide). Minor spoiler: a little over a week later, the "trade deadline passes, Royals stay put".

Well, we didn't land the big bat like Emilio Bonifacio that we all wanted, but if we hold onto this rabbit's foot, eat our vegetables, say our prayers, maybe, just maybe, this team will improve and find its way into the playoffs. I feel confident, do you?

-Max Rieper

(Meanwhile, the Tigers would trade for 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price)

The headline on the series preview was: Let's stay out of fourth place.

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
DET 55 41 .573 -- 453 411 .544
CLE 50 49 .505 6.5 441 441 .500
KCR 48 50 .490 8.0 389 395 .493
CHW 48 52 .480 9.0 428 451 .476
MIN 45 53 .459 11.0 412 437 .473

And the Wild Card picture wasn’t much rosier.

Tm W L W-L% GB RS RA pythW-L%
OAK 61 37 .622 -- 485 335 .663
LAA 59 39 .602 2.0 491 403 .589
DET 55 41 .573 5.0 453 411 .544
BAL 54 44 .551 7.0 423 400 .526
SEA 53 46 .535 8.5 393 334 .574
NYY 50 48 .510 11.0 391 422 .465
TOR 51 49 .510 11.0 446 438 .508
CLE 50 49 .505 11.5 441 441 .500
KCR 48 50 .490 13.0 389 395 .493

But at least the team had this (h/t to 1040X; Ed note: I’ll remove it if you didn’t want it used):

Flags fly forever!
Flags fly forever!
1040X

Things looked bleak. Even, if by Royals standards, they were good.

Year W L Pct Dif
2016 47 47 0.500 0
2015 56 36 0.609 20
2014 48 50 0.490 -2
2013 45 50 0.474 -5
2012 40 53 0.430 -13
2011 40 58 0.408 -18
2010 41 53 0.436 -12
2009 37 56 0.398 -19
2008 45 55 0.450 -10
2007 42 54 0.438 -12
2006 34 62 0.354 -28
2005 34 61 0.358 -27
2004 34 58 0.370 -24
2003 54 43 0.557 11
2002 43 55 0.439 -12
2001 37 60 0.407 -23

Of the 16 years in the new millennium, the Royals have found themselves within 5 games of .500 only 5 times. The book on 2016 is yet to be written and if you know how it turns out- good job, future man. 2015 was such an outlier that it doesn't fit. So that leaves 2014, 2013, and 2003.

2003
Oh, magical season of crap. On this day, the Royals were up 5.5 on the Twins and 6.0 on the White Sox. They would play a 72-win pace the rest of the season and finish 3rd behind those two teams. And that was still probably playing over their heads. And that was with reinforcements of Curtis Leskanic, Graeme Lloyd, Paul Abbott, Brian Anderson, and Rondell White. But, hey, we got 3 more years of Mike Sweeney!

2013
The Royals were 7 back of the Tigers and 5.5 back of the Indians. The Royals would play a 99-win pace the rest of the way, 3rd best in the league... behind the Indians and Tigers. Even going 41-26, they finished 7 GB in the division and 5.0 GB of the 2nd wild card. The Indians finished with 92 wins while both the Rays and Rangers finshed with 91 and had a 1 game playoff for the 2nd wild card spot. So, really, the Royals would have had to win 5 more games just to get into some wacky playoff scenario with 3 teams playing for 1 wild card spot.

2014
And now we're back to where this all started. As shown above, The Royals were 48-50, 8 games back of the Tigers, 1.5 behind the Indians, and 9th in the league and 4.5 back of the 2nd wild card. It was even worse than that, considering one of Anaheim or Oakland would almost certainly get the first wild card. So, really, it was 9 teams vying for 1 spot as that's how many were within 7.5 games with the Royals smack dab in the middle. Of course, the Royals would win at a 103-game pace the rest of the season and come in at 41-23. They even passed the swooning A's for the 1st wild card and probably hosted some game that no one even remembers any more.

2016
Now to bring this back to 2016, the second wild card team has averaged 90 wins since its inception in 2012 (source1, source2). Meanwhile, Fangraphs has the 1st and 2nd AL wild card coming in at 90 and 88 wins, respectively. And Baseball Prospectus has them at 90 (89.5) and 86 wins. Looking at all that, 90 sounds like a good round target. And to do that, the Royals would have to go 43-25 (.632) the rest of the way.

How many teams in the 2 wild card era have played that well since July 22nd (ed note: I went by winning percentage since games played by a certain date vary)? Below shows all teams including record and Pythagorean prior to and after the date. I also included the Royals results for comparison, though only 2014 met the criteria.

Year Team H1 W H1 L H1 W% H1 Pyth H1 Luck H2 W H2 L H2 W% H2 Pyth H2 Luck
2012 OAK 50 44 .532 .521 0.011 44 24 .647 .619 .028
2012 BAL 50 44 .532 .450 0.082 43 25 .632 .580 .052
2012 WAS 54 39 .581 .574 0.007 44 25 .638 .617 .021
2012 CIN 54 40 .574 .562 0.012 43 25 .632 .555 .077
2013 LAD 50 47 .515 .490 0.025 42 23 .646 .642 .004
2013 ATL 55 43 .561 .586 -0.025 41 23 .641 .631 .010
2014 BAL 54 44 .551 .526 0.025 42 22 .656 .667 -.011
2014 WSN 54 43 .557 .585 -0.028 42 23 .646 .612 .034
2014 KCR 48 50 .490 .493 -0.003 41 23 .641 .561 .080
2015 TOR 48 47 .505 .594 -0.089 45 22 .672 .673 -.001
2015 CHC 50 42 .543 .528 0.015 47 23 0.671 .589 .082
2012 KCR 40 53 .430 .446 -0.016 32 37 .464 .468 -.004
2013 KCR 45 50 .474 .489 -0.015 41 26 .612 .603 .009
2015 KCR 56 36 .609 .581 0.028 39 31 .557 .525 .032

There are only 3 teams there within a 5 game sniffing distance of .500: the 2013 Dodgers, the 2015 Blue Jays, and the 2014 Royals. I think we can mostly agree the 2015 Jays were playing well below their talent level the first two thirds of the season before catching fire and playing like what they actually were. But the 2013 Dodgers and 2014 Royals are more anomalous. Both muddled around .500 the first two thirds of the season and had pythagoreans to match. Both did nothing at the trade deadline: the Dodgers only trade deadline acquisition was one Drew Butera while, as we established earlier, the Royals did nothing. And then something clicked for both teams in the final 2 months and they made the playoffs.

This is not to say the Royals are going to make the playoffs. In fact, it’s highly unlikely.

But I guess there’s always hope.

"There's no reason this team can't go on a run where you win 15 of 20."

-Dayton Moore (July 18, 2013)