The Royals were left for dead in April, and understandably so after the ended the month 7-16, the worst record in baseball. Teams that start off that terribly typically do not make the playoffs, or even reach .500. It was perfectly understandable to write this time off.
Except for one reason. THEY’RE THE ROYALS. And the Royals of 2014-2017 have been a remarkably streaky team. They are the team that looked dead in 2014, 48-50 in late July, only to 24 of their next 30. They are the team that burst out of the gate in 2015, winning 16 of their first 23 to run away with the division. And they are the team that had a wild roller coaster season in 2016, having both a nine-game win streak, and an eight-game losing streak. Dayton Moore’s statement of "there is no reason why this team can’t win 15 of their next 20 games" is unbelievably true.
Technically, back-to-back wins constitutes a "win streak", but in my mind, you don’t get excited about a streak (or mess with it, Bobby) until the streak hits five wins in a row. From 2014-2017, only the Cardinals have had more winning streaks of five or more than the Royals.
Those 14 Royals winning streaks include six 5-game winning streaks, three 6-game winning streaks, two 8-game winning streaks, a 9-game winning streak, and a 10-game winning streak (that actually came back in June of 2014). Those streaks have come in all four seasons too, with five happening in 2014, five in 2015, three in 2016, and one already this year, coming on this last road trip.
Winning streaks can be kinda of arbitrary, however. There is no difference in the standings, for example, between a seven-game winning streak followed by a two game losing streak, and two four-game winning streaks broken up by one loss in the middle. So let’s take a look at who has had hot months before (again, kinda arbitrary, but the quickest way to search on Baseball-Reference.com)I
If you define a "hot month" as one in which a team has played .600 ball or better, no team over the last four seasons has had more hot months than the Royals.
Here are the Royals "hot months" the last four years. There is, of course, still time in June for the Royals to cool down
Why have the Royals been so streaky? One reason might be because of the way their offense is constructed. They are a team that has typically relied on a string of singles, rather than home runs, to score runs. "Clutch hitting" is notoriously inconsistent (perhaps random, even), so teams relying on sequencing and situational hitting may find a month where they can't buy a run followed by a month where runs come in bunches.
The Royals have also relied heavily on strong bullpens, which again, can be fickle. A few bad outings by one reliever in a month can doom a team, while a hot streak by that reliever can shut the door on a number of close victories. The Royals had the fourth-worst bullpen ERA in baseball in April, but have turned the ship and have the eighth-best bullpen ERA in June, with the seventh-best FIP.
Even with the June hot streak, the Royals still find themselves .500, so there is still much work to be done. No one has established themselves in the American League Central Division, so the opportunity is still there. Perhaps a mantis or an espresso machine will be what kickstarts the Royals into another hot streak. But we know they will need to get hot again and again this year if the want to return to the post-season.