..for the times, they are a-changin'
(from "The Times They Are A-Changin'," The Times They Are A-Changin')
There's nothing good to say about the last three games, except the possibility that the Royals found a pitcher in Tony Pena Jr. The Detroit Tigers are hot right now, and the Royals did nothing to change that.
As a result of that sweep, KC now has the same record they did through 102 games last year, 45-57. And last year, the Royals won those next two games; I suspect this year's team will have a tough time matching that with the AL East leaders, the Tampa Bay Rays.
I spent my last post making the case that the Royals are better, even if it is only a little, than last year. This is important; if the Royals aren't getting better, then even the most loyal fan should start wondering if there is hope for the future. The Royals certainly looked as bad as they have the past few years in the last series. So do I still believe there has been an improvement?
I do. My contention (or new straw-grasp, if you prefer) is that the rest of the AL has improved over last year, so a team in a similar situation this year must be better, even if it is just a little.
When KC hit that 102-game mark last year, the AL had six teams over .500, two at the .500 mark, and six under .500. That's the sort of distribution you would expect. But this year, the AL has nine teams over .500 and five under .500. Two of those under-.500 teams are Toronto and Baltimore, and they are two and three games under, respectively. Last year at this time, no under-.500 team was that close to breaking even (Oakland was five games under).
Just look at the difference from last year to this one. Obviously, the biggest improvement has been Tampa Bay, 38-64 at this time last year. But Chicago has gone from battling KC for fourth last year to leading the division this year, Texas has gone from last in the West to the fringe of contention, and the A's and Twins have also improved some. On the other side of the ledger, only Seattle and Cleveland have really fallen off.
Of course, most of this is due to the AL's interleague record, which improved by 12 games this year. But this is one way I find a ray of hope: KC had the second-best interleague record this year, going 13-5, a three-game improvement from 2007. And that means so far, they are three games worse against the AL than last year. So the league is better, and the Royals might be slightly better, too.