Thursday, September 25, 2014

Royals Today: 9/25/14.

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.


Charles Winters said...

Fan Graphs says 10.7% to win division.

Unknown said...

hello Charles.

Charles Winters said...

For what it's worth I don't think the Royals are 10.7%, either. Just using a coin flip model I get 9.8% - and this should be worse than coin flip model.

John said...

By my calculations, there is a 6% chance the Royals win the division outright and a 20% chance they tie and force a playoff. So, approximately a 16% chance they win the division one way or another.

On Vargas, it is yet to be determined whether his issue is a short or long term problem, but for now I think he falls into the Crow category, i.e. do not use unless the game is safely in hand or out of reach.

The other silver lining is the hitting of Hosmer and Butler. They have both passed the tipping point-- seeing them approach the plate now inspires Gordonian hope rather than Moustakian dread.

Charles Winters said...

Hi, Luke.

John, I'm confused as to how you get 20% chance that they tie or 6% that they win outright.

Charles Winters said...

Win outright
4-0/0-4 1/256
4-0/1-3 1/64
3-1/0-4 1/64

Tie + win in playoff
4-0/2-2 1/64
3-1/1-3 1/32
2-0/0-4 1/64

Charles Winters said...

I can see a silly error in mine!

The two terms 4-0/2-2 and 2-2/0-4 are both overstated. They should both read 3/256.

This reduces the chances to 9.0%.

The error stemmed from my inability to see that there really are only 6 combinations of 2-2 in a four game set. DUH!

Anonymous said...

You forgot to factor in that Detroit is playing Minnesota.

The chances that the Tigers will lose three or four games is infinitesimal.

twm said...

Fan graphs models their percentages.

Jazzbumpa said...

Tigers won tonight. KC looking very good at 6-3 going into the bottom of the 9th.

Tigers have struggled with the Twins all year. Tonight's win puts them at 8-8.

Two down with 3 to go makes KC a real long shot for the division, but if they win out - ???

Mariners won today also.

Nothing is ever easy.


Drew Milner said...

John, Butler hasn't shown jack.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Jose Reyes - earlier this year - and Marcus Semien tonight. And Gordo's sliding catch in the 7th prior to the pivotal 8th inning. That's what defense (and speed) do. Magic number is 1...

John said...

You don't owe Moore an apology. Not unless James Shields goes mano a mano with Jon Lester in the wild-card game and beats him.

The Royals could have accomplished as much or more the last two years without ever making that trade. You weren't wrong last year and you still aren't.

Unknown said...

It would be great if the A's continue their death spiral and the Mariners force a game 163 for the second wildcard spot. Then the Royals could face a number 2 or 3 starter in the Wildcard game. Of course, all I really care about is the Royals getting to the freaking game.

Unknown said...

When we swept the Tigers in the last weekend of the season a few years ago, who ended up winning the division? Was it the Twins? If so, they owe us!

John said...

Have to disagree on Butler, Drew. Even with last night's 0-4, Billy has 7 hits in 5 games and has scored 4 runs. If everyone in the lineup hit at that rate we'd have 13 hits and score 6 runs a game.

Drew Milner said...

John, and Butler GIDP again last night but for the error. He's been horrible all season except for the first couple day he took over for Hosmer after the broken wrist.

Michael S. said...

The Royals wouldn't be where they are today without the contributions of Shields and Davis. Some of you are just so arrogant that you can't admit when you are wrong. If this trade were to be solely looked at over the value each team has received the last two years, its easily in the Royals favor.

Michael S. said...

But, obviously, the Rays very well could get more value overall in the coming years. But that's how many baseball trades work out. You trade future value for current value. The Royals were pushing to make a playoff run. This trade signified that they felt the time was now to do it. And they were right!

John said...

Where would the Royals have been last year with Rookie of the Year Wil Myers instead of train wreck Jeff Francoeur in the lineup, anyone other than train wreck Wade Davis (and his nifty -2.1 bWAR) in the rotation, and with another pitcher acquired with the money they didn't pay James Shields?

The trade may have prevented the Royals from making the playoffs last year. It may help them make it this year. So call it a wash--except that come November, they're not going to have Shields, and they won't have Wil Myers or Jake Odorizzi, either. Since I'm sure their goals went beyond making the wild-card game, they have to at least make the Division Series round to justify the trade.

Michael S. said...

First, Francouer would have played the first half the year anyway. No way the Royals bring him up before June, much like the Rays did. By that point Francouer had already done most of his damage.

Second, and I know you and others put no value in this, but we wouldn't have been even a .500 team last year without Shields. The leadership this guy brings is something that cannot be measured. You couple that with his pitching and he was the perfect trade target for the Royals to go from a team of promise to a team of production.

I just hope some of these guys have learned enough from him that we can continue winning after he's gone.

Unknown said...

I should have been in bed an hour ago, but I can't sleep. Yes, the Royals made the playoffs. Sort of. I still don't like the idea of being in what is essentially a "play-in" game. Let's get the Division title! Let Detroit play in the "play-in" game!!!

Unknown said...

BTW, Rany, what a reward for you to see the playoff-clenching game in the city you live in/near! What are the odds that you would have a relatively short commute to see - live and in-person - this moment. 100:1 odds. This is good karma. Wish that I could have been there, and so glad that the players came out and celebrated with their long-suffering fans...

Drew Milner said...

Michael S.: I am sure in your 2nd sentence you were referring to Wil Myers, but you neglected to mention it. Your sentence structure indicated a 2nd reference to Francoeur.. Mick: Clenching??????? LOL.