The Kansas City Royals have lost nine in a row. They have the worst record in baseball. They have scored the fewest runs in baseball. I would typically be president of the “It’s Early, Don’t Panic” Club, but the fact is, good teams don’t have Aprils like this. Good teams don’t lose nine in a row.
It is time to panic.
The Royals have had just five Aprils in club history worse than this one - 1981 (3-10), 1992 (3-17), 2005 (6-18), 2006 (5-17), and 2012 (6-15). They were all losing seasons. Not just losing seasons either, in all but the strike-shortened 1981 season, the club lost 90 games or more.
Does a poor April necessarily doom a team? I took a look at all teams since 1995 that began with an April of 15+ losses and a .350 or worse winning percentage. In those 23 seasons, 55 teams had an April terrible enough to meet that criteria. Of those 55 teams, just four ended the year with a winning record. Just one - the 2001 Oakland Athletics - made the playoffs. That team had an amazing record of 58-17 after the All-Star break and ended up winning 102 games. 1 out of 55. Those aren’t great odds for the Royals.
I also wanted to see if a nine-game or more losing streak was definitive evidence a team was bad, again looking at all the teams that had accomplished that ignominious feat since 1995. Teams have had such a skid 141 times in 23 seasons, some more than once by a team in the same season. Just 13 of those teams went on to have a winning season. Only two - the 2010 Braves and the 2012 Athletics - made the playoffs. If the Royals wanted to make the playoffs, realistically they would have to win around 90 games. To do that now, the Royals would have to win 59.7% of their remaining games. The 2015 club, which steamrolled their way to 95 wins and a championship, won just 58.6% of all of their games.
Not only are the odds long, but it seems very likely to Royals are going to be very bad. Of those teams that got off to a terrible start in April, the average win total was 68. When you consider the deep hole the Royals have dug themselves into, it would take a tremendous record the next two months to get them to a point where they shouldn’t be sellers in July.
If the season is doomed, there are only a few questions remaining.
How far back do the Royals need to be to convince Dayton Moore it is time to be sellers?
Dayton Moore believes very strongly in his players, for better or for worse. In 2013, the team was six games under .500 heading into the last week of July, eight games out of a playoff spot. Rather than trade impending free agent Ervin Santana, Dayton Moore stuck to his guns and the team won nine in a row and went on a hot streak that carried them close to contention.
The belief paid off in 2014, when the club was was 48-50 on July 21, with fans calling for the firing of Ned Yost and the trade of James Shields. Again, Dayton Moore held fast and the team won 41 of their last 64 to take a Wild Card spot, and eventually the pennant. Even last year, the Royals were six games under .500 at the trade deadline, but did not deal Edinson Volquez or Kendrys Morales, and the team again went on a hot streak that brought them close to contention, although the team eventually ran out of steam.
Will Dayton Moore continue his fierce loyalty or will he finally admit the team doesn’t have another run in them? July could be the real test of his belief.
How much are these players hurting their own value?
The Royals have a number of key players eligible for free agency this winter. With many key players off to sluggish starts, how much are they hurting their trade value so the Royals can get something for them at the July trade deadline? How much are they hurting their own value to get a large free agent contract this winter?
Many eyes are on Eric Hosmer, whose agent Scott Boras has floated large numbers and unbelievable comparisons in marketing his player. He has taken the brunt of the criticism for his .225/.281/.292 start, and those pedestrian numbers may deflate the superstar image Boras has built up. Poor offensive numbers by Royals hitters may also begin to affect Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, who have gotten off to decent starts, but may soon find few hittable pitches with opposing pitchers preferring to face their teammates.
If Hosmer continues to struggle, the Royals may find few takers for his services come July. Perhaps interest in him dwindles so much that he becomes affordable as a player the Royals can re-sign, but with the way he has hit over the last year, would they even want him back?
What can the Royals get back for these players?
Already trade talk has surfaced, not over Hosmer or Cain or Moustakas, but closer Kelvin Herrera, who is not a free agent. The Royals may find they can get more value for him than any other player since he is signed for an extra year and relievers are so coveted at the July trade deadline. Jason Vargas is another player who could be in high demand after his surprising start. Even if he regresses to what he was before his Tommy John surgery, a 2 WAR left-handed pitcher with post-season experience will be quite valuable to many teams.
The season may be doomed, but that may just mean it got a lot more interesting. The Royals may be hitting a pivotal moment in franchise history. The decisions Dayton Moore makes these next few months will determine whether the Royals are competitive again in a few short years, or if they fade back into obscurity. The Royals could hold all the cards this summer, how they play them could determine many fates around baseball.
How many games will the Royals end up winning?
This poll is closed