I've always felt like a jinx on my favorite teams. The Chiefs tormented me during my youth, taking 13-3 regular seasons and rendering them worthless in the playoffs. Then last fall I moved from Kansas City to Los Angels and suddenly they were contenders. I held off buying in, but by playoff time I was genuinely excited about the Chiefs. OK, I was skeptical as hell, but I was paying attention to the Chiefs again, which is saying a lot. Like clockwork, they were bounced from the playoffs without putting up a fight.
As a former Royals enthusiast, I don't need to explain why I feel like my fandom has had an adverse affect on the boys in blue. But right about the time I started writing for this blog, the laws of logic and reason stopped applying to the Royals. If you need a reminder, this blog started shortly after the Wil Myers-James Shields trade. Since that time, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie became useful starting pitchers. Justin Maxwell played a useful role for an above-.500 team. And the Royals finished 2013 with an 86-76 record despite relying heavily on Mike Moustakas, Chris Getz, Alcides Escobar, Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza. Think about that for a second.
Anywho, I'm back in the Midwest with limited internet access and starting a new job on Opening Day, which I find fitting. So on one hand my presence in the Midwest could very well bring the Royals back down to earth. Then again, my less-than-hopeful expectations for the season could create a reverse jinx and spur the team on to a playoff run.
So without further adieu, here's my predictions for the 2014 season:
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Los Angeles Angels
New York Mets
St. Louis Cardinals
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
Wild Card Teams
AL: Red Sox and Angels
NL: Braves and Brewers
Cardinals over Rays in 7 games
There you go. I do not have the Royals making the playoffs. Let me have it for being a Negative Nancy. But in all honesty, I see the Royals as a .500 team that will need everything to break right for it to get above .500 and into the playoffs.
Keep in mind, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen are all parts of the Royals' Opening Day rotation. James Shields and rookie Yordano Ventura will have to carry the staff. That's a lot to ask. And as excited as I am to see Ventura with the Royals for a full season, pitching analyst Eno Sarris has watched Ventura and claims he can see his curve coming a mile away. If that's the case, how long will it take MLB hitters to adjust?
As for the offense, I liked the Norichika Aoki trade very much, but I think his career trajectory is dropping rapidly. In more games last season, he had 10 fewer stolen bases (from 30 to 20) and his slugging decreased 66 points despite having a nearly identical batting average and OBP. I also liked the Omar Infante signing but he's already injured, which means the team is going to have to rely on Johnny Giavotella, who I equate with the departed Getz, or some other second base experiment. Escobar has proven by now he's not much more than a glove. All reports out of Spring Training are that Moustakas is a changed hitter. But I feel like we've heard this before. I'm not holding my breath. But I do like Danny Valencia as a platoon partner to help Moustakas out. The team also needs Lorenzo Cain to not only stay healthy, which he hasn't done in a while, but also reach his potential. Most importantly, the Royals need Salvador Perez to remain healthy and continue his ascent to the top of the list of American League catchers as well as bounce back seasons from Alex Gordon and Billy Butler.
ALL of these things have to happen or the Royals are not making the playoffs. Injuries have helped thin the heard in the West, but the East is still stacked and the Indians are coming off a 92-70 season.
I admit, I'm kind of on an island here. Las Vegas has the Royals going 82-80. ESPN has them going 83-79. Royals bloggers Clint Scoles and David Lesky have them winning 86 and 89 games, respectively, if my memory serves me (By the way, subscribe and listen to their Pinetar Podcast. Seriously. You can find it on iTunes. It's free. It's fantastic.).
BUT PECOTA projections actually have the Royals winning 76 games and finishing third behind the Tigers and Indians. Also, Bill James' logic has always stated that a team that comes out of nowhere and has a great season, as the Royals did in 2013, is due to regress the next season. I feel like predicting an 81-win season after an 86-win season is fair. I'm eager to see the Royals prove me wrong again.
Fire Dayton Moore