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Roadmap to 90 Wins

What would a path contention look like with the Royals 2022 schedule?

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

A Major League Baseball season is built on series. Everyone loses 50-60 games every year, and everyone wins that many, too. The success or failure of a season is built on winning series, salvaging splits, and avoiding sweeps. While certain games, like the 17-3 drubbing the Royals took in the third game this season, seem to signal disaster, especially when coupled with another 10-runs-allowed loss the next day, the truth is that the Royals split the series, and that makes the series a success.

A few years ago, I developed a roadmap to contention (defined as 90 wins) that had a basic formula:

  1. Win 3-game home series
  2. Split all even-numbered series
  3. Win 3-game series against lesser teams on the road
  4. Avoid sweeps.

When you map out a Major League schedule like this, you typically come up with something like a 50-31 home record and a 40-41 road record.

This year’s schedule is unusual because of all the schedule juggling that took place after the lockout. There are an unusually large number of 4-game series, along with a 5-game series, a 6-game series, and a single-game “series.” The good news is that when I mapped out the schedule with the normal criteria, I ended up with 93 wins. I was able to grant a few series losses that the formula wouldn’t normally allow and end up with 90 wins.

Here is the breakdown by month:

April

Home series (target record):

  • 4 vs. Cleveland (2-2)
  • 4 vs. Detroit (2-2)
  • 3 vs. Minnesota (2-1)
  • 3 vs. NY Yankees (2-1)

Road series (target record):

  • 2 @ St. Louis (1-1)
  • 3 @ Seattle (2-1)
  • 3 @ White Sox (1-2)

April target record: 12-10

Choosing which road series to designate to “avoid sweep” versus “to win” is relatively arbitrary; you just have to choose enough wins/losses to get to a 90-72 record. I chose Seattle as a series win, because in a hypothetical world where the Royals seriously compete for the playoffs, they are probably better than the Mariners.

The Royals can afford to get off to a pedestrian start (12-10 is just an 88-win pace). Avoiding sweeps, winning a road series against Seattle, and winning a home series against the Yankees would certainly be a good start, even if the record isn’t too impressive.

May

Home series (target record):

  • 2 vs. St. Louis (1-1)
  • 5 vs. White Sox (3-2)
  • 3 vs. Minnesota (2-1)

Road series (target record):

  • 3 @ Baltimore (2-1)
  • 3 @ Texas (2-1)
  • 3 @ Colorado (2-1)
  • 2 @ Arizona (1-1)
  • 4 @ Minnesota (2-2)
  • 3 @ Cleveland (2-1)

May target record: 17-11

End of May target record: 29-21

May should be a month where the Royals make their move, because it seems like the easiest month on the schedule. Yet the problem is twofold: the Royals seem to suck in May every year, and it’s really heavy on the road games. If they don’t make any headway in the road trip to Baltimore, Texas, and Colorado, they will fall off the pace quickly. The long home series against the White Sox is also dangerous. If they get in one of those ruts where they just can’t beat them, a 1-4 or 0-5 series would be a disaster.

June

Home series (target record):

  • 3 vs. Houston (2-1)
  • 3 vs. Toronto (2-1)
  • 4 vs. Baltimore (2-2)
  • 3 vs. Oakland (2-1)
  • 3 vs. Texas (2-1)

Road series (target record):

  • 3 @ San Francisco (1-2)
  • 3 @ Oakland (2-1)
  • 3 @ LA Angels (1-2)

June target record: 14-11

End of June target record: 43-32

Winning the 4-game set against the Orioles would give make up for a potential home series loss to the Astros or Blue Jays (sweep the Orioles, and they could lose both series). The June schedule has a lot of home games and quite a few days off. It’s a good mixture of top teams and teams a good team should beat. This end-of-June record is a 93-win pace; if they are going to compete this year, we would expect that they would look like division contenders at this point.

This also means that if at the end of June, they are something like 38-37, it will seem like they are close to being contenders, but they will be several games off the pace with the most difficult part of the schedule ahead of them.

July

Home series (target record):

  • 3 vs. Cleveland (2-1)
  • 3 vs. Detroit (2-1)
  • 3 vs. Tampa Bay (2-1)
  • 3 vs. LA Angels (2-1)

Road series (target record):

  • 3 @ Detroit (2-1)
  • 4 @ Houston (1-3)
  • 4 @ Toronto (2-2)
  • 4 @ NY Yankees (2-2)

July target record: 15-12

End of July target record: 58-44

The last four road series of July are brutal, which sets up an even more brutal August schedule. (I went ahead and chose the 4-game set in Houston as a series loss instead of a split as one of the four series where I deducted a win to bring it down to 90 wins.) They need to play well at home in July, because the road series are difficult, and they need to salvage splits on the road against good teams to stay on pace. Or they need to get some sweeps at home to make up for it.

August

Home series (target record):

  • 4 vs. Boston (2-2)
  • 4 vs. White Sox (2-2)
  • 3 vs. LA Dodgers (1-2)
  • 1 vs. White Sox (1-0)
  • 2 vs. Arizona (1-1)
  • 3 vs. San Diego (2-1)

Road series (target record):

  • 3 @ White Sox (1-2)
  • 3 @ Minnesota (2-1)
  • 4 @ Tampa Bay (1-3)
  • 3 @ White Sox (1-2)

August target record: 14-16

End of August target record: 72-60

Yes, the target record for August is a losing record. It’s a brutal gauntlet against some of the best teams in baseball, playing 30 games in the month. I allowed for a home series loss to the Dodgers and a road series loss in a 4-game set in Tampa Bay.

My guess is that the Royals look like fringe contenders until this month (hanging close to .500 or a little above), but take a hit with this schedule that takes them out of contention going into September. But if they can gain ground the ground they need in other months, they can weather a losing August and still get to 90 wins or better.

September/October

Home series (target record):

  • 3 vs. Cleveland (2-1)
  • 3 vs. Detroit (2-1)
  • 3 vs. Minnesota (2-1)
  • 3 vs. Seattle (2-1)

Road series (target record):

  • 3 @ Detroit (2-1)
  • 3 @ Minnesota (2-1)
  • 3 @ Boston (1-2)
  • 3 @ Detroit (2-1)
  • 6 @ Cleveland (3-3)

September/October target record: 18-12

End of season target record: 90-72

The season ends on a nine-game road trip to Detroit and Cleveland, with a whopping 6-game series against the Guardians to end the year. It’s another 30-game stretch, and they’ll need to finish strong, with a .600 winning percentage (97-win pace) to close out the year, even allowing for a split in that last series in Cleveland.

In this roadmap, the overall home record comes in at 49-32, and the road record is 41-40.

What do you think? How long can the Royals stay on pace? Where do you see pitfalls in their schedule this year?