No one believes in the Royals.
It is not just the statistical models, even the baseball experts are down on the Royals’ chances of post-season action. All six writers at CBS Sports picked the Indians to win the division. All six writers at Yahoo Sports picked the Royals to finish third. None of the 22 experts for MLB Network Radio picked the Royals to make the playoffs (et tu, Matt Diaz?). Nor the seven writers at USA Today. Nor the eight writers at Sports Illustrated. Fifty-three out of fifty-three Fangraphs writers shut the Royals out of the playoffs. Chris “Mad Dog” Russo overlooks the Royals in favor of the Tigers and Indians. Out of 35 experts at ESPN, all 35 picked the Indians to win the division.
Even our own SB Nation season preview projects the Royals finishing third. Heck, even on our own writing staff, no one picked the Royals to win more than 87 games, and only two of our nine writers picked them to make the playoffs, both as a Wild Card.
Not counting our own staff, that’s 139 experts and three projection models, none of which project the Royals to win the division. Just three - Mike Axisa of CBS Sports, and ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, Andrew Marchand, and Jesse Rogers - think the Royals can make the playoffs as a Wild Card.
We have seen this before.
On paper, the Royals are no one’s idea of a playoff team. Over the last three seasons, only two American League teams have scored fewer runs - the Rays and White Sox. The Marlins and Braves are the only two teams in baseball that have hit fewer home runs. No one has drawn fewer walks. Even the pitching has been mediocre - the starters, at least. Royals starters have had the third-highest FIP over that time.
And yet, the Orioles are the only American League team to win more games in that time (by one win). The Royals came back from the dead on a number of occasions to win two pennants and a championship. This team scoffs at projections and blows past expectations.
Another “so-called” expert doubts the Royals this year - me. I picked the Royals for third place, with 78 wins. My head says this is a team at the end of a good run, with an offense still near the bottom of the league, a defense that has lost a step, and mediocre pitching that no longer has a dominant bullpen.
But I’ve seen some stuff, man. I’ve seen this team with its back to the wall, fighting like a mad dog, tooth and nail to do what it takes to win. I’ve seen this team come back in every fashion possible. A few names have changed, but at its core, these are the same guys that gave us the most thrilling moments Kansas City has seen in a generation. My heart says, maybe, just maybe, this team can surprise us one more time.
No one believes in the Royals. And that’s okay. The only ones that need to believe in them are the ones in that clubhouse. And I guarantee they do.