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Kansas City Royals: Four-man rotation makes sense with 60-game season

Starting pitcher Danny Duffy #41 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Starting pitcher Danny Duffy #41 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /
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Could it make sense for the Kansas City Royals to employ a four-man rotation for the shortened 2020 season?

With the 2020 “Summer Camp” in full swing for MLB, the latest PECOTA projections have been announced to reflect the shortened season of 60 games. It should come at no surprise that the Kansas City Royals received no love and are projected to finish last in the AL Central.

There are a few things that Manager Mike Matheny will consider, one of those should be using a four-man rotation.

The Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization and Test Algorithm, or PECOTA, is a systematic sabermetric by Baseball Prospectus that forecasts the performance of MLB player performance.

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Prior to the season being suspended due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the projection was the Royals would finish with a record of 68 and 94. The updated projections now have the Royals once again finishing at the bottom of the AL Central with 25 wins and 35 losses. It gives the Royals a 1.9% chance of making the playoffs.

To be honest, these projections shouldn’t surprise Royals fans. After all, the team lost 103 games last season and by most standards didn’t do much with any major free agent signings or trades this offseason.

But this season is going to be different. It is a sprint versus a marathon. With a season of only 60 games, simply going on a one or two week hot steak will be enough to get a team into the playoffs.

The projections pretty much show that roughly 32 wins will get a team into the playoffs. The 60-game season itself is really a playoff since 42 of those games will be played against the AL Central teams.

What can the Kansas City Royals do to increase their chances of getting to the magic number of 32 wins?

Mike Matheny should take a hard look at simply going with a four-man rotation.

Right now, a four-man rotation would feature Brad Keller, Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery and Jakob Junis. Bleacher Report’s Kerry Miller had the Royals as the 25th best rotation in MLB, but this rotation might just be good enough if the Royals try having four starters and hopefully get each starter some early runs.

With a four-man rotation, it would figure into each starter getting 15 starts. The key will be for the starters to turn the game over to the bullpen with either a lead or at least a close game. The Royals bullpen appears to be the underrated piece that could get them into the playoffs.

A four-man rotation where the starters can focus on getting four to five solid innings and aren’t required to go through the lineup for a third time would be the most optimal way to get to 32 wins.

There will indeed be an impact of COVID-19 on this MLB season. Three Royals players have tested positive and are currently not participating in Summer Camp with Keller being one of those players (that could pave the way for Brady Singer to work his way into the rotation).

If one or two key players from any team in the AL Central test positive, it will impact the race. Hopefully the Royals roster stays clear of the COVID-19 disabled list.

Let’s not count the Kansas City Royals out just because of a sabermetric number that tells us they are a long shot. Really it’s going to be whichever team puts together a couple of reasonable win streaks and doesn’t get swept within the division.

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With only 60 games, every out is going to be important this season.