Care to guess who has baseball's best winning percentage over the last three weeks?
The Kansas City Star
So, that was something, huh?
The Royals beat the Rangers twice in Texas — last night with Vin Mazzaro starting — and not-so-suddenly have the look of an able rotation, lockdown bullpen, and enough from the position players to be the promising group we all expected before the season.
For whatever it’s worth, I’ve been pretty consistent here and in the column that no matter what THIS season looked like the Royals retain a promising future. I’ve pointed out before that if this group doesn’t make the playoffs together (and probably more than once) it will be virtually unprecedented and one of the bigger flops in the sport’s last 20 years.
But what we’ve seen so far this season remains difficult to figure out. However the rest of this summer plays out, a big part of the 2012 Royals’ story will be the 12-game losing streak. What was strange about that — and around here, we’ve learned to differentiate all the different types of losing streaks — is that the Royals didn’t play bad at all the first half of the streak.
They ran into some bad luck^ and just…lost.
^ Of the last 10 teams to lose 12 in a row, the Royals had the second-“best” run differential.
The second half of the streak was when the trainwreck came. More baserunning mistakes, more pressing, a touch of panic.
And the list of teams that’ve lost 12 in a row isn’t one you want to join, the 1987 Brewers aside.
It’s just that, since then, the Royals have been pretty damn good.
They are 12-6 since the nightmare ended, and haven’t lost a series. They won two of three at Cleveland, split two each in Minnesota and Detroit (winning the game Justin Verlander started), split four with the Yankees, won two of three against Boston, two of three in Chicago, and now two in Texas.
With the notable exception of the gawd-awful Twins, those are all good teams.
Here’s another way to look at it: since April 24, when a late rally fell short and they lost their 12th straight game, the Royals are 12-6, the best winning percentage in baseball.
And THAT’S something, huh?
Now, there are some caveats here. We are clearly cherry-picking that date, and as you can see here, the Orioles and Rays have more wins.
Winning 12 of 18 isn’t exactly a precursor for parade planning — 12 teams have done it this season — and if the Royals ran into some bad luck during the losing they’re being paid back with some good luck now. Their run differential is 83-77, almost identical to Toronto, for instance, which is 9-11 over the same stretch.
But if it must be black or white, good or bad, fire Yost or hop on the bandwagon, the Royals have pulled off a remarkable feat in that a season that’s only six weeks old includes a 12-game losing streak but at this point more reasons to be optimistic than pessimistic.
None of this is meant to suggest that everything is gravy. Teams that lose 12 games in a row have major flaws, and even assuming (as I still do) Hosmer will hit to his talent, the Royals have a LOT of injuries and a LOT of questions about the starting rotation. Right now, they are on pace to go 69-93, and that’s not good enough.
This is just meant to say Jeff Francoeur had a point when he interrupted my conversation with Dayton Moore last month and said, “Wait and see where we are at the end of May.”