Its that time of year again, when we all sit back and digest our teams chances of making the playoffs. The only problem is, there are dozens of varying opinions on just how legitimate of a shot any given team has.
The saber driven websites such as Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs base their percentages on a more scientific approach geared towards an objective interpretation of what a team is and how they got there. They use numbers, trends, expected player performances, scheduling and many other variables that can be quantified by simple numbers. This often leads to things like the Royals being projected as a measly 72-win team in the PECOTA preseason projections. A win total that almost any human could tell you was most likely false.
But, there the Royals were, at 51-58 just 22 games ago. A lot of things have changed since then, with the Royals going 18-4 since, climbing within 2 games of the second Wild Card spot. But, for a number of reasons, MOST computers do not like the Royals. It has been speculated that much of this may be due to the undervaluing of things such as defense or quite possibly not properly quantifying a dominant bullpen. Two things the Royals excel at. Either way, the Royals have overachieved most, if not all, computer models since 2013.
So where do the computers have the Royals right now? Fangraphs lists the probability of a Royal October at 10.5%. Despite the fact that they are only 1 game above the Royals in the standings, you will notice that the Tigers are listed as having a 39.8% chance of making the playoffs. This shows the love that saber driven projection systems continue to have for the Royals, or lack there of.
Baseball Prospectus lists the current odds at 13.3% for the Royals. Much like Fangraphs, they also seem to greatly favor the Tigers chances and list them at 40.3%.
MLB.com even lists Houston, a team tied with the Royals in win/loss record, as having more than double the chance of the Royals at a Wild Card spot. In the same listing, Seattle is shown as also having a higher % than the Royals despite being BEHIND the Royals in the Wild Card Standings.
So, continuing the trend it seems computer projection systems hate the Royals chances at making the postseason. At least in comparison with teams in proximity to them in the standings.
So if we cannot rely on “science” to give us accurate odds, then how do we know where the Royals stand?
The answer is simple. Money.
Whenever people decide to actually start putting money on their opinions, they typically become much more honest. You want to know what kind of chance the Royals have to make the playoffs? Then look at Vegas and betting odds. Vegas knows.
Mytopsportsbook.com currently lists the Royals as 7/2 dogs. With the Tigers being listed as 3/1, there seems to be a MUCH closer race than what computer models would have you believe. Though 7/2 still represents a disadvantage for Kansas City, it seems more realistic given the momentum, experience and the fact the Wild Card is a mere 2 games out of reach with an entire month of baseball to play.
Computer models are fine for many things, especially when looking at past performance. One thing they have not shown the ability to do is predict the future. Without a way to quantify things such as momentum and clubhouse atmosphere, the best bet in regards to the Royals is to simply look at handicappers.
Money says the Royals will probably miss the playoffs, but its still a pretty good bet.
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