Playoff Odds (ESPN/Fangraphs): 99.9% (20.6% Division, 79.2% Wild Card)
Playoff Odds (Baseball Prospectus): 99.1% (5.0% Division, 94.1% Wild Card)
The two systems agree on the Royals’ overall playoff odds are over 99%, but vary wildly when it comes to their odds of winning the division. I have to think there’s a bug in the Fangraphs’ system at this point: there’s no way the Royals have a 21% chance to win the division when they’re down two games with four to play. That would imply they have about a one-in-three chance of finishing tied with the Tigers (along with a small chance of winning the division outright), and I don’t know how you make the math work.
Anyway, the Royals’ odds of making the postseason went up yesterday, thanks to Mark Buehrle being a beautiful human being, and the Mariners being kind of a tire fire right now. It is possible that the Royals could end the longest postseason drought in North American sports tonight.
But their path to the postseason is looking more and more like it will have to go through a one-game deathmatch against Oakland, as the Tigers beat Chris Sale (all of the cool teams are doing it now, apparently) to take a two game lead with four to play. With Oakland losing, the Royals and A’s are tied, with the Royals holding the tiebreaker to host that game Tuesday night.
And wouldn’t you know it, Tuesday is James Shields’ day to pitch. What happens that day might not only cement his legacy in Kansas City, it may determine whether I owe Dayton Moore an apology – or whether I need to get down on my knees, kiss his feet, beg for forgiveness, and then commit ritual suicide to restore what little remains of my honor.
But first, Shields pitches tonight, with a chance to take the Royals to the Promised Land after just 29 years. We should know before he takes the mound whether the Royals can clinch or not – the Mariners and Blue Jays play at 3 PM CDT. Either way, I’ll be there – if you’re going to the game, follow me on Twitter if you want to come by and say hello. And maybe, just maybe, celebrate something special together.
- Last night may have been a disappointing loss to the Indians, but if there’s a silver lining here, it’s that it may force the Royals’ hands in keeping both Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy in their playoff rotation.
I thought Soren Petro was being a little melodramatic yesterday morning when he said that Jason Vargas is cooked, but I'm thinking now that he has a point. Vargas was terrible last night. He gave up a three-run homer in the first; he walked three batters and struck out only one. Over his last four starts, he’s allowed 18 runs in 18 innings. (Meanwhile, Phil Hughes threw eight innings of one-run ball yesterday and finished his season with the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in major league history. Come on, people, I haven’t had the best season from a prediction standpoint, but you gotta give me this one! If Hughes were a Royal, pitching in front of this defense, he’d be getting Cy Young votes this year.)
Vargas isn’t this bad, just as he wasn’t as good as he looked at times earlier this year. But he is worse than Ventura and Duffy – assuming Duffy looks as good in his second start back from injury as he did in his first – and the Royals can’t have a playoff rotation that features both Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie, but only one of Ventura or Duffy. Yes, Ventura/Duffy would make for a better piece out of the bullpen than either Vargas or Guthrie – but it’s not like the Royals are hurting for right-handed relievers, and with the emergence of Brandon Finnegan, there isn’t an acute need for a power lefty out of the pen anymore either.
The problem is that there’s a 50/50 chance that the Royals’ playoff rotation will begin and end with Shields. If Ventura pitches on Sunday – and even if a playoff spot is secured and the AL Central is out of reach, it might be worth it to start him in order to guarantee a home playoff game on Tuesday – then neither he nor Shields would be on full rest to start Game 1 of the ALDS. But Duffy would be on normal rest, and I don’t know about you, but I’ll take my chances with Duffy and Ventura in Games 1 and 2, with Shields starting Game 3 at Kauffman again. Any other alignment would be sub-optimal. (Also, the way the off days work, if the ALDS goes to Game 5, you could start Duffy on five days' rest OR Ventura on regular rest.)
The other silver lining here – we hope – is that yesterday might represent the last time Aaron Crow is allowed to pitch in a close game. He entered with the score 5-4 in the sixth, and promptly walked the leadoff batter – Mike Aviles, who we know from intimate experience is a hard man to walk. Aviles stole second, advanced to third on a grounder, which ended Crow’s outing. Francisley Bueno came in and allowed a sacrifice fly to double the Indians’ margin and put the game out of reach.
You may have read this on this blog before, but if you haven’t: AARON CROW ISN’T A GOOD PITCHER. Ned Yost keeps trying to prove otherwise, and he keeps getting burned. I don’t think Crow is one of the 25 best players on this team, and I think you can make a very strong case that he should not be on the Royals’ playoff roster. And I’m damn sure that he has no business in being used in any fashion other than as a mop-up man or as a human victory cigar in a 10-1 game.
- One last time: the Royals could clinch a playoff spot tonight. No, really. And if they do, MLB has to let them in – I checked the rulebook and everything.
The last two months have been a crazy ride, and barring a seismic collapse, the ride won’t end on Sunday. On the contrary, it might just be getting to the good part.