Great Lakes Royals

July 4, 2010 3:30 PM

Tonight's ESPN Apperance: More Important than Fireworks

June 27, 2010 - Kansas City, MISSOURI, UNITED STATES - epa02226866 Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Bruce Chen in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri USA, 27 June 2010.
By virtue of winning three straight games, and five of it's last six, the Kansas City Royals head to prime-time national television with a chance to really make a difference in the AL Central race.  Even accounting for this streak and the subsequent struggles by the White Sox, Twins, and Tigers, the Royals still sit a distant 8 games back for the division.

That's fewer games back than the White Sox were before they starter to beat NL teams on every day of the week, and it's closer to making the playoffs than either the Toronto Blue Jays or Oakland Athletics, who have both convinced more than a few smart people that they are having "surprise" seasons.  When ESPN's coverage takes time to stop talking about the Angels tonight, you'll probably hear them refer to the Royals as a "contender."  That's for the postseason, in case you are wondering.

In reality, the chances of this Royals team actually making the postseason is about one in fifty -- don't get your hopes up.  However, what's far more important in the grand scheme of trying to turn a perennial loser into a winner is that the Royals have a pretty good chance of holding their relevance in the AL Central into the middle of August.

The Royals haven't lost 100 games since 2006, but over the last four years, here are the Royals winning percentages and games back in the AL Central on Independence Day:

  • 2007: .424, 15.5 GB
  • 2008: .448, 10.0 GB
  • 2009: .425, 10.0 GB
  • 2010: .444, 8.0 GB
Incrementally, the Royals are becoming part of the AL Central again.  They've been ahead of Cleveland in the standings on this date each of the last three years.  Consistently, then, we cant say that the Royals should be considered the doormat of the division.  Before this year, they were behind Cleveland in expected wins based on run differential each of the last two years, but now, even that's not the case.  Cleveland is one of the worst five teams in baseball, and well, the Royals are somewhere else besides that group.

Before they can be considered a division contender though, they have to pull themselves away from Cleveland in the standings, and towards the White Sox, Indians, and Tigers.  On a national stage tonight, the Royals will look to take that next step.

The California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Orange County Anaheim are still one of the main forces in the American League, though not on par with their own team of the last four years.  They trail Texas in the standings by 4.5 games, and have no shot at the wild card.  Kendry Morales, their best hitter, is probably done for the year with a broken leg suffered when he came down awkwardly on home plate after a walk-off home run.  They score a lot of runs and they give up a lot of runs -- going into the series, they had given up the same number of runs as the Royals, in two more games.  Still, Royals pitching has dominated the series thus far: Kyle Davies pitched into the 8th inning allowing only one run in a no-decision, and Bruce Chen was perfect through six innings before having to gut out the seventh and giving up a homer in the 8th, and the Royals bullpen has simply been better than the Angels bullpen through two games.

A sweep of the Angels might not be the most impressive feat in baseball, but it's going to catch the attention of many observers, especially if you can close it out on a national stage.  If the Royals lose tonight, they still win the series.  However, they lose out on a one-time shot to regain relevance.  If they pour on an 8 run victory, they'll be viewed as one of the hottest teams in all of baseball, a chance to get out from under the wet, AL Central rug that they've been stinking up for years.

Anthony Lerew gets the honors for the Royals tonight.  He will be opposed by Joel Pinero, who resurrected his career with the St. Louis Cardinals.

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