During Game Four of the World Series, the Royals used their patented late-inning devil magic to come back and take a lead against the New York Mets. This turn of plot was old hat to the Royals, who outscored opponents 18-0 in the ninth inning (or later) of postseason games in 2015, though by their standards the twist came surprisingly early—during the eighth inning. That meant that the Royals’ closer Wade Davis was forced to approach the plate as a hitter for the first time since 2013.
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The most unpredictable division in baseball is particularly unpredictable this offseason. Breaking down how each team might (?) see itself.
If you set out to list the five most surprising and the five most disappointing teams of 2015, there’s a good chance you would name at least four of the five American League Central clubs along the way. The Royals, you know about, but don’t forget the Twins, whom Sports Illustrated foresaw losing 100 games, but who were eliminated from the playoffs only on the final Saturday of the season. The same publication also picked the Indians to win the World Series, but Cleveland went 81-80. Personally, I picked the White Sox to win the division on the heels of their aggressive winter—but Chicago won 76 games. And PECOTA’s pick to cruise into October was Detroit, but the Tigers’ competitive window closed a year early, and they went 74-87.
I mention this because, if confounding expectations was the theme of the 2015 season in the AL Central, utter inscrutability might just be the theme of the winter there. I wouldn’t know where to begin forecasting next season’s standings in that division, and the major reason for that is that it’s virtually impossible to tell what any of the five teams are going to do with their offseasons. In most of the other divisions, there are clear favorites or co-favorites, and the objectives of at least three or four teams are very clear. Not in the AL Central. Let’s examine these teams one at a time.
Flashing back to Rany Jazayerli's assessment of the Kansas City squad that Moore inherited.
After yet another come-from-behind victory on Sunday night, the Kansas City Royals are again World Series champions. Today, we flash back to June 2006, when the Royals hired Dayton Moore to be their new general manager and Rany Jazayerli wondered whether Moore and the Royals could conceivably follow the turnaround modeled by... the Detroit Tigers and their talented GM, Dave Dombrowski.
At some point, an extreme performance can't simply be chalked up to simple sample size issue. Any team can play .250 ball for a week, or two weeks, or even a month. But it is now the middle of June, and as I write this the Royals have won barely one-quarter of their games--only a narrow victory over the Angels on Wednesday kept them from falling back to exactly .250--over a span of 64 games, or 40% of the season. "On pace" is an overused term in sports, but when we say the Royals are on pace to finish 43-119, equaling the 2003 Detroit Tigers' AL record for losses in a season, that is a pace not to be taken lightly. This team doesn't just suck; it sucks at a truly historical level.
When we talk about the decisions managers make in big games, we probably spend too much time on the mistakes. It’s true that the first tenet of good managing tends to coincide with the first line of the Hippocratic oath: “First, do no harm.” Still, sometimes a team needs good guidance, or the right button pressed at the right time, in order to get the result it deserves on a given night. So before we talk about the things Terry Collins and the Mets should have done differently in Saturday’s Game Four loss to the Royals, let’s talk about the things Ned Yost did right.
A rematch of Game One's starters is now a must-win for New York.
After a heartbreaking 5-3 defeat in Game Four, the Mets will try to stave off elimination in Game Five while the Royals will attempt to bring the title back with them to Kansas City. Whatever the result, this will be the final game played at Citi Field this year.
Yordano Ventura's strength has arguably become his weakness.
Early in Major League II, while the team is still in spring training, Jack Parkman, Cleveland’s prized free agent acquisition, steps in against staff ace Ricky Vaughn. Vaughn is fresh off leading the American League in strikeouts, and makes his living throwing fast fastballs, and lots of them.
It's that guy who's still a prospect versus that guy who's still in the majors.
The Mets got back in the series with a 9-3 drubbing of Kansas City last night. A win tonight would even the series and make it a best-of-three, but the Royals offense has been a horror movie villain that sits back up after you shoot it in the chest all postseason, and it is Halloween night.
Wright's game-setting homer was more impressive that you might realize, and the Mets get back in the series.
By the time David Wright stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first inning of Game Three, the Citi Field inhabitants had plenty of reasons to feel down about the Mets' chances of winning the World Series. In addition to a 2-0 series lead, the Royals had pushed a run across in the top half of the inning, giving them another early advantage. But Wright's at-bat seemingly changed the feel of the game and—depending on how these next few games go—could be credited with altering how the series played out.
How PECOTA and the Royals diverged so sharply this year.
None of us ever thought that PECOTA's 72-win projection for the Royals would go quietly—it's just too rich to ignore when writing about Kansas City's two-game lead in the World Series. About a month ago, I performed a review on that projection for Fox Sports' JABO. It went like this: