Okay, I am going to go there.
The Royals are going to make the playoffs. They are not going to win the AL Central. They will play Oakland in the Wild-Card Game.
Certainly, after 29 years of nothing, hosting a playoff game – even ‘just’ a Wild-Card game – would be a big deal for the city of Kansas City and the long suffering Royals’ fanbase. Still, there is some discussion as to whether playing at home is really a benefit for the Royals. Especially in a one game winner take all scenario.
The Royals have enjoyed better fortunes away from Kauffman Stadium, going 44-33 on the road and just 42-39 at home. They hit better on the road:
- HOME: .255/.307/.366, wOBA .299, wRC+ 88
- ROAD: .269/.319/.384, wOBA .311, wRC+ 98
They pitch better on the road:
- HOME: ERA of 3.89, Opponent slash of .260/.319/.385, xFIP of 3.84
- AWAY: ERA of 3.09, Opponent slash of .234/.300/.365, xFIP of 3.97
Maybe it would benefit the Royals to play the Wild Card in Oakland? There is some logic to this, especially when you factor in that James Shields, who right now stands to be the starter for that contest, has an earned run average of 2.89 on the road this year compared to 3.51 when pitching in Kansas City. And let’s not forget about how the Royals have managed to lay multiple eggs when playing games at home in front of big crowds.
All that said, let’s remember that Oakland completed its home schedule with a sparking 48-33 record and is currently just 38-39 on the road. While not exactly an offensive juggernaut, the Athletics are much better at home:
- HOME: .255/.355/.397, wOBA .326, wRC+ 114
- AWAY: .233/.304/.366, wOBA .298, wRC+ 89
Basically, ‘away’ Oakland is remarkably similar at the plate to ‘home’ Kansas City. Pitching? Not as dramatic, but the Athletics are somewhat worse outside of the Oakland Coliseum:
- HOME: 3.17 ERA, .228/.286/.349, 3.66 xFIP
- AWAY: 3.34 ERA, .234/.298/.366, 3.58 xFIP
After being traded to the A’s, Jon Lester has been Jon Lester at most all locations, but he has posted a 2.01 ERA in Oakland and a 2.81 ERA on the road. Opposing batters (post-trade only) get on-base at a 50 point higher clip away from the Coliseum. Listen, Jon Lester is a beast anywhere they bother to play baseball, but he has at least been a tad more vulnerable this summer when pitching somewhere other than Oakland.
Now, for his career, Lester has thrown 29 innings in Kauffman Stadium and been touched for a 3.10 ERA. Shields, in 56 career innings at the Oakland Coliseum, has posted a 4.20 ERA. Take what you want out of that, as those are two small sample sizes spread over a number of seasons.
Just looking at the numbers above, I kind of like the idea of playing the game in Kansas City. Theoretically, in brings the Oakland offense down to the level of Kansas City’s (although that is a bit of a logic leap considering only four of the A’s road games were played in Kansas City- three won by the Royals), and has less of an effect on either team’s pitching.
Of course, there is still the glaring fact/oddity/Yost-excuse of the Royals losing 11 of 16 games this year in front of Kauffman Stadium crowds of 30,000 or more.
Home or Away? Let’s not overthink this: a Wild-Card game in Kansas City sounds just fine to me.