The gap between the AL Champion Royals and the Indians isn’t as wide as you might think
Well, if nothing else changed this season, we can stop comparing ourselves to the Tigers. For now anyway, if the Cleveland Indians are serious about winning the AL Central they will need to get past the Royals for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is valuable to look at what the Royals have done right over the past two years and see how far away the Indians are from closing the gap. There are a few things that stand out.
The Royals have built their pitching staff backwards, so to speak, by emphasizing a deep and powerful bullpen above a great rotation. This foundation already has a crack with closerGreg Holland
surgery. Most of the arguments about setup men struggling when shifted to the closer role or about relievers struggling more to maintain consistency from year to year are difficult to support statistically, but the reality is that the Royals’ starters were last in the AL in innings, soNed Yost
needs bullpen depth more than most managers.
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Now, somewhere in the world there is a Royals fan putting together a blog about why they will be even better next year, and Tigers, Twins, and White Sox fans will also be able to find a reason why 2016 is their year. (Here’s something to wrap your head around: the Tigers posted an OPS 44 points higher than Minnesota, but scored seven fewer runs. I’m sure there’s a solid math reason why that happened, but to me it screams regression for the Twins.) The reality is that there is probably some guy targeted for Double A next year that isn’t even on the radar but will turn out to have a huge impact.
The other reality that I am coming to grips with is that some teams just win – they sign free agents who outperform their contracts, they bring up marginal prospects in midseason who somehow make a positive impact, and they just overcome whatever adversity comes their way over the course of the season. (The key indicator that you may not be this type of team is when you LOSE TO BUD FREAKING NORRIS!) The perennial example of this type of team is probably the Cardinals, but maybe the Royals have found the formula as well. So it’s possible that everyone else will make brilliant and aggressive moves in the offseason and the Royals will just go out and win 95 games again.
But, for the most part, the ingredients that caused us all to expect a division title for the Indians this year will be there next year.