The Playoff Bound Royals, Part Four: You Think Positive, I’ll Be Realistic

Peter McAllister, using good faith and a hopefully speedy van driver, believes he will get from his home in the Chicago suburbs to O’Hare Airport in time for his family’s flight to Paris that leaves in 45 minutes. His cheap moocher of a brother, Frank, using simple math, tells him he’ll, “be realistic.” Well, because it’s a movie, and because they clearly got VIP treatment going through customs, they made the flight. Without Kevin, but that’s beside the point.

Reality says that there is no way the Royals will make the playoffs. Currently, they sit 9.5 games back of division leading Detroit, but only 4.5 games back of the second wild card spot, which is held by the Tampa Bay Rays. With only 25 games left, it appears the division crown is out of reach. But the second wild card spot is well within the Royals grasp.

As I said, we have 25 games left to play in the regular season. Almost half – 12 to be exact – are against the Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers. Cleveland only has a one game advantage over the Royals in the standings, and although the Tigers lead is just about insurmountable, it is impossible to overstate the importance of these games. How can we do it? What will it take to accomplish the seemingly un-accomplishable? I’m glad you asked.

Wil Myers’ trip to the K was not a productive one, as the Royals trounced the Rays 11-1. We’ve talked about his ability and all that, but something might surprise you casual fans. And that is WAR. Yes, WAR. It stand for Wins Above Replacement, and it is a mathematical equation that calculates the amount of wins a position player is worth compared to a replacement level player. Right now, Myers sits at an even 1.0; a respectable number for a rookie with so little experience in the big leagues. But you know who’s also a rookie? David Lough, fellow right fielder with an absolute cannon for a left arm, and a penchant for two-out RBIs. His WAR? 2.5. The point I’m trying to make here is that, while Justin Maxwell was a good short-term pick-up given the health of Lorenzo Cain, he should not be getting anymore playing time. I don’t want to hear anything about platooning, or going with “favorable” match-ups. David Lough needs to start a minimum of 20 of our next games. His speed, bat and arm are much more consistent than any other outfielder on the team, except for Alex Gordon of course.

On a similar note, for the love of everything holy, please do not let Chris Getz see the light of day, unless we need a pinch-runner for Billy Butler. Since joining the Royals, Emilio Bonifacio has a .294/.384/.406 slash line. Chris Getz? A .223/.297/.281 line. The extra pop is just too important, especially when considering their defensive skills are essentially equal. Same with Jamey Carrol. A necessary pick-up while Mike Moustakas was injured, but shouldn’t be anything more than a benchwarmer at this point.

When it comes to pitching, I have suggestions there as well. One, use Hochevar as the first hold option out of the pen. In 59 innings, Hochevar has a 1.83 ERA. Herrera has a 3.42 ERA in 52.2 innings. Hochevar has been the best option out of the bullpen in the 7th or 8th inning for a while now, and he needs to be used in those situations more often when clinging to a lead of three runs or less. Two, please please please keep Danny Duffy in the rotation. No mention of demoting him to the bullpen has been made, but given how much shuffling has gone on with the players this year, I wouldn’t be surprised. Yes, he is wild, both with his arm and with his head, but the guy is just too electric to leave on the wayside, especially when our only other options are Bruce Chen and Wade Davis.

It might be too little too late, but manager Ned Yost is finally starting to get the picture. Alcides Escobar is batting ninth, Wade Davis has been moved to the bullpen, and he’s letting Jarrod Dyson get consistent starts. With said 25 games to go, the Royals have a 71-66 record. Realistically, going 18-7 the rest of the way will likely secure the second wild card spot. Realistically, that likely won’t happen. Optimistically, larger comebacks have happened before; just ask the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.

We Royals fans have waited too long to have Uncle Frank’s mindset. It may just hurt worse if/when reaching the playoffs eludes us for the 28th year in a row, but at least we have reason to believe, just like Peter McAllister did. As long as James Shields doesn’t oversleep in the hide-away bed because he’s worried Ervin Santana might wet the bed after drinking too many late night Pepsi’s and miss the team flight, we still have hope. Kansas City should follow Peter McAllister’s thinking, because we’ve suffered too long to be a pessimist like Uncle Frank. Believing is better for your health anyway.

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