Lutz Blog

Look past the numbers; the Royals are holding on

The Royals' Omar Infante (14) follows through on his two-run home run in the third inning in front of Oakland Athletics catcher Derek Norris on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals won, 3-0. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT)
The Royals' Omar Infante (14) follows through on his two-run home run in the third inning in front of Oakland Athletics catcher Derek Norris on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals won, 3-0. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/MCT) MCT

Here we are on Aug. 14, with just a little more than six weeks remaining in the Major League Baseball regular season. AND THE ROYALS ARE IN FIRST PLACE!!!

Can you believe it? Better yet, can you trust it?

I know a bunch of Royals fans. Most are in some combined state of giddiness/terror at the thought of their team actually being in a position to make the playoffs this late in the season.

But it’s happening. Kansas City used a superb pitching performance from Jason Vargas on Wednesday night and blanked the Oakland A’s, 4-0, at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals have taken two of three against the A’s in this series with the finale set to go this afternoon. James Shields will be on the mound for Kansas City.

The most-asked question in these parts is: Can the Royals hang on?

Well, if not there’s going to be some explaining to do, and here’s why: The teams on the Royals schedule after today are a combined 68 games below .500.

Kansas City is currently up just a half-game on the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. The Royals and Tigers meet six more times this season - three at each place. The Tigers (64-54) and New York Yankees (61-58) are the only better-than-.500 teams on the Royals’ remaining schedule, which includes six games against Cleveland (60-60), seven against the White Sox (57-64), seven against the Twins (54-65), six against Texas (47-73), four against Boston (54-65) and two against Colorado (46-74).

The playoffs are a real possibility for this team, which has been playing the best baseball in the big leagues since the All-Star break.

So, how do the Royals stack up against the best teams in the American League statistically?

I took a look at some pertinent stats to see where the Royals look like a potential AL champion and where they don’t. I’m comparing them to seven teams in the AL that conceivably get to the postseason. They are: Kansas City, Oakland, Baltimore, Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle and the Yankees. Sorry, Cleveland, at 60-60 you didn’t make the cut.

So let’s take a look, shall we?

Offense (rank among 15 teams in American League)

Runs - 1. Oakland (586); 2. Los Angeles Angels (562); 3. Detroit (544); 4. Toronto (542); 6. Baltimore (518); 9. Kansas City (481); 13. New York (474); 14. Seattle (473).

Home runs - 1. Baltimore (152); 2. Toronto (139); 4. Oakland (120); T5. LA Angels (116) and Detroit (116); 9. New York (108); 10. Seattle ( 98); 15. Kansas City (72).

Average - 1. Detroit (.274); 2. Kansas City (.263); 3. Toronto (.261); 4. LA Angels (.260); 5. Baltimore (.259); 10. Oakland (.251); 11. New York (.249); 13. Seattle (.246).

Total bases - 1. Toronto (1,756); 2. Detroit (1,753); 3. Baltimore (1,737); 4. LA Angels (1,711); 6. Oakland (1,651); 10. New York (1,559); 13. Kansas City (1,535); 14. Seattle (1,525).

OPS (combined on-base and slugging percentage) - 1. Detroit (.758); 2. Toronto (.747); 3. Baltimore (.734); 4. LA Angels (.733); 5. Oakland (.724); 11. New York (..695); 13. Kansas City (.688); 15. Seattle (.677).

Stolen bases - 1. Kansas City (103); T2. New York (85); 4. Detroit (76); 7. Oakland (69); 10. LA Angels (63); 11. Seattle (62); 12. Toronto (58); 15. Baltimore (31).

Pitching

Earned-run average - 1. Seattle (2.95); 2. Oakland (3.17); 4. Kansas City (3.56); 5. LA Angels (3.63); 6. Baltimore (3.66); 9. New York (3.90); 10. Detroit (3.98); 11. Toronto (4.07).

Strikeouts - 3. LA Angels (1,014); 4. New York (1,000); 5. Seattle (.967); 7. Detroit (911); 8. Oakland (898); 9. Toronto (885); 10. Kansas City (865); 14. Baltimore (834).

Batting average against - 1. Seattle (.224); 2. Oakland (.233); 3. LA Angels (.234); T5. Baltimore (.252) and Kansas City (.252); 8. New York (.254); 9. Toronto (.255); 11. Detroit (.261).

Quality starts (at least six innings, three or fewer earned runs) - 1. Oakland (74); T3 (Detroit (68) and Kansas City (68); 5. Seattle (65); 7. LA Angels (63); 9. Toronto (62); 10. New York (58); 12. Baltimore (55).

Defense

Fewest errors - 1. Seattle (54); 2. Baltimore (56); 4. LA Angels (61); 6. Toronto (65); 7. Kansas City (67); 8. New York (68); 10. Detroit (74); 13. Oakland (80).

So, what to deduce from these numbers? Perhaps not much.

Seattle has the best pitching and defense in the American League, but the Mariners have a dickens of a time scoring runs. Kansas City, of course, lacks power. Toronto can mash, but the Blue Jays’ pitching is questionable. The Yankees are doing it with mirrors.

I totaled up the rankings of each team in each category and came up with this:

The Angels are the most-balanced team in the American League, followed by Detroit, Oakland, Toronto, Baltimore, Kansas City, Seattle and New York.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how the AL plays out. But deep into summer, the Royals are right there.

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