Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Royals and Playoff Odds

I don't think it takes a genius to know that the odds are stacked against the Royals when it comes to a playoff berth in 2013. Baseball Prospectus pins those odds at 1.7%, while ESPN and Cool Standings offer a much more generous 8.3%.

Yesterday, I took a moment to wonder aloud how many teams have overcome similar odds to make the playoffs? This question also led me to wonder, how many teams have simply eliminated themselves by selling when faced with similar odds?

Obviously, the Royals odds are slim in large part due to the teams ahead of them. If you want to publicly doubt the Royals chances by citing the fact that the teams ahead of Kansas City are better, I'd be happy to give you a gold star for stating the obvious. I don't think anyone is disputing the fact that it would take a miraculous finish coupled with a stumble by Detroit and/or Cleveland.

What I believe is causing the divide is a much more philosophical approach. Yes, the Royals are going to need some help in order to really have a shot. However, there is something to be said for the teams that are in a position to take advantage of those opportunities. The other option is to exit the ring before the final bell and hope for a better shot the following year.

I'm not saying there is a right or wrong answer here. I am an analytical type when it comes to baseball. I know all the new found stats. I am completely aware of the statistical unlikelihood of a Royals playoff run. First and foremost though I am a fan. I have experienced one season in my entire life in which the Royals have played meaningful games deep into the season.

It wasn't until September 8, that the 2003 Royals chances dropped below 8.3%. It was fun and as a teenager that was the summer in which my fandom transitioned from a rooting interest to a deep love and passion. I don't fault any Royals fan who wants to experience some sort of hope again. Maybe it is for themselves or maybe they want their son or daughter to experience what I experienced in 2003. It was a fluke, but it is the closest thing to an "I love you too" that the Royals have ever given me back.

Many of you are probably have the good fortune to have fond memories of the 1985 team. You know according to Cool Standings, they just had a 9.4% shot at the playoffs on July 18, before rattling off nine wins in their next ten games. I suppose it is pretty good fortune that John Schuerholz didn't look up in the standings and say, California is too good to catch. It would take. Even if we finish 47-28, California would have to drop 36 of their final 74.

I wonder if he thought to himself, well if California keeps pace, we'd have to finish 52-23 to force a one game playoff. I'm sure John Schuerholz realized that it would take help from the teams in front of him, but he rolled the dice and brought the Commissioner's trophy to Kansas City.

I'm not advocating for the Royals to be buyers. In fact, even in 1985 the Royals simply stood pat prior to the deadline. They didn't have to. Yes, the pitchers were young with an average age of 25.9, but the hitters average age was 30.9. Might it have made sense to sell and bring in some young hitting talent to pair up with the pitching for a late 80's run? It might have.

Since 1903, 83 times teams with a less than 8.4% chance  at making the playoffs have accomplished just that. This means, that every year there are favorable odds that a team will overcome what at some point seemed impossible. Since 1903, 24 times have teams with those odds or worse in either August or September reached the playoffs and 18 more times has that feat been occurred in July . Can you imagine how different baseball history would be?

We all are fully aware of the faint possibility. We also tend to scoff at those who value things like a "winning season" or "meaningful games in September". If you believe the Royals have to make the playoffs for 2013 to be a success that's fine. I would never argue with that. But who are you to dictate what other fans should consider a success?

If the Royals sell then I'll be happy to know that they've improved their chances for 2014 and beyond. If the Royals buy, I only hope that they do so on the cheap or for players that have control moving forward. If they stand pat and let the cards fall then I'm going to enjoy the ride.

An 8.3% chance is a one in 12 chance. If the Royals are holding two die, they have one shot to roll double sixes. Let's play.

Follow me on Twitter @Landon_Adams

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