Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reason #16: The Neighbor.

It’s a little-known rule outside Kansas City, but the locals all know: the Royals and the Chiefs can’t be competitive at the same time. Don’t question why. Nobody knows why. But they can’t. Forty years of history have borne that out.

I’ve put together a list below of the records of the Royals and Chiefs going back to the Royals’ first season in 1969. Games +/- .500 are also listed, but for the Chiefs I multiplied this number by four to account for the shorter season. By this method, a 10-6 season rates as a +16, the same as an 89-73 season in baseball. A 10-6 team is on the bubble, but will make the playoffs more often than not; an 89-73 baseball team is on the bubble, but would make the playoffs more often than not if MLB expanded the playoffs to 12 teams. A 14-2 team powerhouse equates to a 105-57 juggernaut in baseball. A 16-0 NFL team would be equivalent to 113-49 in MLB, which makes the Patriots the 2001 Mariners of football. Asterisks denote playoff teams.

(I apologize for the formatting - no matter how hard I try, I can't get the columns to line up, even in Courier font. If someone who knows formatting can help, please leave a comment. Thanks.)

Year Royals +/- .500 Chiefs +/- .500 (*4) Total
1969 69-93 -24 11-3* +32 + 8
1970 65-97 -32 7-5-2 + 8 -24
1971 85-76 + 9 10-3-1* +28 +37
1972 76-78 - 2 8-6 + 8 + 6
1973 88-74 +14 7-5-2 + 8 +22
1974 77-85 - 8 5-9 -16 -24
1975 91-71 +20 5-9 -16 + 4
1976 90-72* +18 5-9 -16 + 2
1977 102-60* +42 2-12 -40 + 2
1978 92-70* +22 4-12 -32 -10
1979 85-77 + 8 7-9 - 8 0
1980 97-65* +32 8-8 0 +32
1981 50-53* - 3 9-7 + 8 + 5
1982 90-72 +18 3-6 -12 + 6
1983 79-83 - 4 6-10 -16 -20
1984 84-78* + 6 8-8 0 + 6
1985 91-71* +20 6-10 -16 + 4
1986 76-86 -10 10-6* +16 + 6
1987 83-79 + 4 4-11 -28 -24
1988 84-77 + 7 4-11-1 -28 -21
1989 92-70 +22 8-7-1 + 4 +26
1990 75-86 -11 11-5* +24 +15
1991 82-80 + 2 10-6* +16 +18
1992 72-90 -18 10-6* +16 - 2
1993 84-78 + 6 11-5* +24 +30
1994 65-51 +14 9-7* + 8 +22
1995 70-74 - 4 13-3* +40 +36
1996 75-86 -11 9-7 + 8 - 3
1997 67-94 -27 13-3* +40 +13
1998 72-89 -17 7-9 - 8 -25
1999 64-97 -33 9-7 + 8 -25
2000 77-85 - 8 7-9 - 8 -16
2001 65-97 -32 6-10 -16 -48
2002 62-100 -38 8-8 0 -38
2003 83-79 + 4 13-3* +40 +44
2004 58-104 -46 7-9 - 8 -54
2005 56-106 -50 10-6 +16 -34
2006 62-100 -38 9-7* + 8 -30
2007 69-93 -24 4-12 -32 -56

A few notes:

1) The Royals have made the playoffs seven times, the Chiefs 12 times, but they’ve never made the playoffs in the same year. Assuming I’m doing the math right, the odds that two teams will make the playoffs 19 times combined over a 39-year span without ever reaching the playoffs in the same year is 0.49%. (The formula I used to calculate the odds was (39!/20!)/(39^19), if you care to know.)

2) The Royals’ all-time best record was set in 1977, the same year the Chiefs had their all-time worst record.

3) The Royals’ only losing record between 1975 and 1982 was 1981 – granted, they made the playoffs that year thanks to the minor-league split-season schedule MLB adopted after the strike. The Chiefs’ only winning record between 1974 and 1985 came the same year.

4) In 1986, the Royals finished 75-86, their worst record between 1971 and 1989. (Royals fans, read that again, and weep.) That fall, the Chiefs won 10 games and made the playoffs, the only time they had managed either feat between 1972 and 1989.

5) The Royals have finished above .500 18 times, and in those season the Chiefs have a combined record of 124-141-5. In the 21 years the Royals finished under .500, the Chiefs are 179-147-2.

6) The Chiefs and Royals have both had winning records in consecutive seasons only once, in 1993 and 1994. They have both had losing records in consecutive seasons only once, in 2000 and 2001.

7) This balance seems to have fallen apart in recent years. Between 1969 and 2000, the “combined” records of the Royals and Chiefs fell between a band of -25 and +37 every single year. Since 2001, the combined records have fallen outside that band every year – generally on the low end, although in 2003 the teams had their best combined year ever, as the Royals stayed in the playoff hunt into September and the Chiefs had another one of their “13-3, undefeated at Arrowhead during the season, lose at Arrowhead in their first playoff game” specials. Not that I’m bitter.

8) Last year was the worst season for a Royals/Chiefs fan in history.

There's a formula known as the Spearman Rank Correlation Coefficient, which allows us to determine how two separate entities are correlated. Using this formula, the correlation coefficient between the Chiefs and Royals record over the last 39 years is -0.31, which means they tend to run in opposite directions by a significant, though not overwhelming, margin.

There’s no obvious reason why these two franchises always seem to be headed in different directions. The Chiefs had built a dominant team in the old AFL, but the front office kept an aging team together for too long (sound familiar?) and the team fell apart at the same time that an incredibly savvy Royals’ front office was building a terrific base of talent through the draft and lopsided trades. The Royals stayed at least competitive right until their Ewing Kauffman, one of the game’s great owners, passed away in 1993, but it took the Chiefs until the late 80s before Lamar Hunt, one of the NFL’s great owners, finally brought in a competent GM in Carl Peterson and let him make whatever changes were necessary in order to build a winning team again.

The Chiefs lost their way in the post-Schottenheimer years, save for a brief renaissance under Dick Vermeil (that came crashing down from years of draft neglect last season). But just as Lamar Hunt brought in Carl Peterson, David Glass brought in Dayton Moore, and the trajectories of both teams have once again reversed. Even before this most recent, disastrous football campaign, my brother and I agreed that, the way each team was headed, the Royals were likely to reach the World Series before the Chiefs reached the Super Bowl.

Rooting for the Royals and Chiefs over the last 15-20 years has led to two very different experiences, but with one thing in common: they both led to heartbreak. The Chiefs are going to need some time to regain their footing, although recent comments from Clark Hunt, who inherited the team from his father, give us reason to hope. In the meantime, let’s hope that one team’s winter is another team’s summer.


Anonymous said...

The Royals will win the World Series before the Chiefs ever win another playoff game.

Dallas Tucker said...

that is an absurd statement. I will say the Chiefs win a playoff game before the Royals win a playoff game. Royals don't have a chance to compete until '10, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Having suffered through the worst professional sports season in KC for some time, I have wondered which team will experience success more quickly. The Royals definitely get the edge in leadership and having a long-term plan, but the Chiefs play in the NFL where it's easier to turn a franchise around without an owner spending an excessive amount of cash.

But at the same time, poorly run NFL franchises can continue to flail at the bottom of the standings (Detroit, Oakland, Arizona) so there's no guarantee the Chiefs will turn it around.

Having come of age as a KC sports fan in the 90s, I'm a Chiefs fan first and a Royals fan second. But even given the economic imbalance of baseball, I expect the Royals to be good before the Chiefs. (Could 2010 be a great year for BOTH teams?)

KCMU said...

My friends and I have talked about this a lot over the years. The thing that gets me is that they're totally unrelated. By that I mean they're in different sports that have different rules. It has to be one of the weirdest things in sports, but since it's not NYC or Boston nobody outside of KC knows about it.

KCDC said...

Love the blog. Favorite thing I read on the internet by far.

I might be a huge nerd, but I really miss math, so I ran the numbers on the chances 2 teams would go to the playoffs 12 and 7 times respectively over 39 years without overlapping, and I think it should actually be (27!)(32!)/(20!)(39!) which comes out to about 5.8% instead of less than 1%. Not that it matters, of course. The point still stands.

I think the formula used calculates the odds that 19 events over 39 possible slots do not overlap. What we'd want is out of 39 possible slots, 12 A-events do not overlap with 7 B-events where no 2 A-events or B-events can occupy the same slot. I could be wrong on the formula of course.

Rany said...

Thanks, guys - I added the PRE label and the table looks much better, if still a little ragged.

ChasingMoney said...

Its easier to rebuild in the NFL so I would guess the Chiefs will win a playoff game before the Royals.

Anonymous said...

You make a lot of good points, but I can't help but notice that the bottom is pretty deep. When the Royals were good, the Chiefs weren't just bad, they were AWFUL, and when the Chiefs were good, the Royals were losing 100 games a year. Ouch!

The difference? At least the R's got to the WS a couple of time, and had some playoff success. Arrowhead is littered with the eggs laid in playoff pasts.

Justin said...

I'm not from Kansas City, just wondering- what NBA and NHL teams get the most support there?

Andrew said...

Hey Rany,
From someone who has fought with HTML before, I find it much easier to just build your table in excel then take a screenshot, crop it down to just the table, and save it as a .jpeg Then you can insert it into the post as a picture. It will be much cleaner.

ASMR Review said...

"that is an absurd statement. I will say the Chiefs win a playoff game before the Royals win a playoff game. Royals don't have a chance to compete until '10, unfortunately."

Nor do the Chiefs.


ASMR Review said...

"I'm not from Kansas City, just wondering- what NBA and NHL teams get the most support there?"

Probably the Blues for the NHL, with the Sharks being #2 since we used to be the top affiliate for them.

I don't think there's one team that KC rallies around for the NBA. Probably a lot of Bulls fans from the MJ years or because they like Hinrich. Probably lots of Lakers fans because people like to be bandwagoners and they have national appeal. Some like the Celtics because of Paulie Pierce.

Unknown said...

I have thought about this for some time and came up with a reason a few years ago. You see, the Ghost of Capitulation lives above the TSC and is only able to concentrate on one team at a time. It therefore concentrates on one team and then moves to the other once the one is totally destroyed.

Going over those formulas reminded me of how much I used to love my stat classes in college and how I would spend hours with my stat book, in the other room, with a beer in my hand. My head hurts.

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