The odds of a Royal blue October are not looking good.
The Royals have fallen to two games under .500, 4.5 games back of the final Wild Card spot. Making matters worse, there are six teams ahead of them for that spot. Leapfrogging all of those teams is a gargantuan task, especially if one of them gets hot. Even if the Royals get hot like they did in June - when they went 17-9 - they would only have a shot if no other Wild Card contender fared much better than .500 next month.
The Royals are closer to the worst team in the American League - 13 games ahead of the White Sox - than they are to the best team in the American League - 14.5 games back of the Astros. Their playoff odds, according to Fangraphs, are less than 10%. Once looking like a pretty good bet, a 10-18 August (the worst August of any AL team) has seemingly doomed the Royals.
Only July 30th, the Royals playoff chances stood at 60.8%. Today they are at 9.7% pic.twitter.com/L9GcIHKAOp— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) August 31, 2017
The Royals did not make a single waiver-trade in August, despite a glaring need on the pitching staff. The fact they are considering starting Onelki Garcia rather than acquiring another pitcher is a pretty good sign about how the front office thinks of their chances of reaching the post-season. And it’s not even a matter of protecting the farm system - the Rangers, a team half a game ahead of the Royals, got Miguel Gonzalez for a minor leaguer not even on their top 20 prospect list.
The struggles of the offense got most of the attention last month, and rightfully so. But the pitching has been on fumes with eight pitchers on the disabled list, and the ones that are healthy have been slumping. Royals pitchers had a 5.89 ERA in August - starters had a 6.25 ERA in the month, the worst in baseball.
Some have accused the Royals of quitting, although it seems hard to believe a team with this clubhouse, with this experience, would just roll over and die when things got tough. But players get old. Line drives that fell for hits in 2015 are being caught in 2017. The bullpen isn’t the same. Heck, most of the roster is not the same. The depth isn’t there.
Still, it is not completely over, and we should have learned by now that you cannot count the Royals out of it until they the final out is recorded and they are mathematically eliminated. The Royals have seemingly been able to alternate cold months with hot ones and vice versa. But it is not looking good.
This could be our last month of seeing old friends in a Royals uniform. Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jason Vargas are all free agents this winter. Moustakas has a chance to break the franchise single-season home run record. There are still a few prospects that will get called up in September worth watching, such as Jorge Soler, Raúl Mondesí and Hunter Dozier. There are still reasons for tuning in, and coming out to the K.
Maybe the Royals have one last insane, odds-defying push in them. Maybe the mediocrity of the Wild Card race is just the opportunity the Royals need to do the unthinkable and storm back to claim a post-season spot. The odds seem long, but if you would have asked me ten years ago what the odds were that the Royals could win two pennants and a championship, or asked me in July of 2014 what the chances were of the Royals winning the pennant, or asked me in the seventh inning of Game 4 of 2015 American League Divisional Series against the Astros what the chances were of the Royals winning the series were, they all seemed like crazy odds as well.
Maybe the final chapter of this story has yet to be written. Maybe there is still a chance. It is not looking good for the Royals, but I’m not writing them completely off just yet.