The Royals played three consecutive one run games this past weekend, losing two of them.   That has become a common theme for this particular team during 2011 as they have now played 49 games decided by one run:  only the Angels, among American League teams, have played in as many.   While there are several teams in the National League that have played as many or more one-run games than the Royals, the game over there is a little different.  So, we’ll limit our discussion to the junior circuit for now.

In playing the most one-run games as anyone in the league, the Royals have also LOST more of those games than anyone.   Currently, Kansas City holds a 21-28 record in such contests the next closest teams to below the .500 mark are Oakland (17-22) and, suprisingly, Texas (16-21).

The contenders, are a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the one-run game.   Check out the records of those teams over .500:

  • Boston 17-12
  • New York 15-18
  • Tampa 22-16
  • Detroit 21-15
  • Cleveland 22-23
  • Texas 16-21
  • Los Angeles 25-24

It might be a stretch at this point to consider the Indians a contender, so if you kick them out of the group and decide the Angels are just an outlier, what starts to come to light is not that good teams win more one-run games, but instead that good teams don’t play as many one-run games.   That was not completely true in 2010, but was in 2009 and for the most part in 2008 as well (although the Angels, who won 100 games in 08 still played in an above average number of one-run contests).

I bring this topic up, not so much to make some grand statistical analysis (it is not), but to point out that when Dayton Moore and Ned Yost preach ‘pitching and defense’ it is important to realize nobody consistently contends winning 3-2 games.  The Royals should not be thinking they are a ‘right’ Joakim Soria and a Mike Moustakas 35 home run season away from going 40-19 in one-run games.   Instead, they should be aiming to play a whole lot 5-2 and 7-4 games and not find themselves spending mulitple weekends like this last one.

In a sense, Dayton Moore’s statement to the Kansas City Star that he would be willing to move prospects for a top of the rotation starter this off-season is a reflection that he might already know that no one gets rich playing a bunch of close games.    It is optimistic, but also logical to project this group of position players to be as good and probably better (as a unit) offensively in 2012.

If the organization believed that all they needed was for Soria to lock down games like he used to and score an extra couple of runs four times a week, then Moore might well be well down the road of building up the rotation from within and hoarding his remaining top prospects like a protective mother bear.   What I sense from Moore’s comments is that he intends to score more runs AND stop the other team from scoring as well.   After all, you don’t reverse a 21-28 one-run game record by scoring just one run, you do it by scoring one more run and holding your opponet from scoring one as well.

What the Royals should be hoping to do in 2012 is to hand 5-2 leads to their talented young bullpen instead of 3-2 leads.   If you have the bullpen in place, which the Royals do, and you have the offense to score, which the Royals hope they will have by 2012, then you bolster the starting rotation sooner rather than later.  You do that, if you’re Dayton Moore, because you don’t want to play 49 one-run games before the end of August.

That, and you would prefer that your team would be playing games that matter this time of year.