As the month of June approaches, the Royals have the American League’s worst record.
Their ace, Danny Duffy, just hit the disabled list, offseason additions of Travis Wood, Jason Hammel and Jorge Soler have disappointed and Alex Gordon’s production has fallen off a cliff.
The Kansas City Royals odds of contending in 2017 are bleak.
However, if you want to a paint a picture that the Royals still have a chance to turn the ship around, it’s not as hard as one might think.
If this Royals team has one last miraculous comeback left in them, the month of June serves as the 8th inning of the 2014 Wild Card game and 2015 ALDS game four.
If the Royals want to make the postseason as the A.L.’s second wild card team, Baseball Prospectus projects they will need to reach at least a record of 84-78.
There are 112 games left in the season, and the Royals will need to go 63-49 the rest of the year to reach that mark. That, of course, requires much better baseball than the 22-29 Royals have played so far, but it won’t actually take a record setting month or 20-game win streak to pull it off.
If the Royals play just barely above average baseball for three of the last four months, averaging a record of 15-13, it brings them to around .500. They would then need just one month of really above average baseball, with a month’s record of 18-10, to reach the 84-win total.
In summation, as long as the Royals don’t have another disastrous month like April and can play .500 baseball, they need just one hot month to have legitimate playoff chances.
While this season started out worse than any of the past three years, the Royals have had impressive season turnarounds and hot months before.
In 2014, the Royals were 48-50 in the month of July, before winning 26 of their next 34 games. Their hot August made up for a below-average April and May, and propelled them into a Wild Card spot and eventually their first World Series trip in 29 years.
Two years later in 2016, the Royals reached a low point at 51-58 on August 5th, where they sat 11 games back in the American League Central. Then the Royals went on an 18-4 run to wrap up the month and sat just a couple games back of a Wild Card spot in September.
Four losing streaks of three games or more kept the Royals from making another late season push like in 2014, as Kansas City finished with an even 81-81 record on the year. But once again they showed that even seven games under in August were not too big of a hole, reaching seven games over by months’ end.
The main difference between this year and 2014 or 2016, is that General Manager Dayton Moore likely won’t give the team until August to turn things around. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jason Vargas are all free agents this offseason and Moore would be wise to trade a few off and get value before they leave if the Royals aren’t in contention this year.
August 1 is MLB’s trade deadline and if the Royals are still at the bottom of the division, or even meddling around .500, they are more likely to be sellers than buyers. Moore took a risk not trading Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez at last year’s deadline, and the team still failed to make the playoffs and got nothing in return.
That’s why the month of June is so crucial for the Royals chances this year. If they have a losing record in the month it essentially kills any and all hope. Even if they have just an average month and their contending hopes stay alive, it may not be enough to convince the front office not to sell in July.
An 18-10 June would put the Royals back over .500, keep the likes of Hosmer and Cain around for a bit longer and just require above average baseball for the rest of the year.
Unlike previous years, this team doesn’t get the luxury of waiting until August to have a season-defining month. Whether or not this year’s Royals team is even capable of such a month remains the be seen.
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