The Royals have gotten hot again, and it's hard to argue with the fact that they've been doing some of that against good teams (though it's possible to wonder if Billy Beane didn't leave his offense just a little too depleted--particularly from the right side of the plate--in his reaching out for Jon Lester). The KC strengths (bullpen, defense) have been boosted of late by an uptick in hitting (particularly in clutch situations).
And now Jason Vargas. Like Ervin Santana last year, Jason has found a way (thus far) to keep the ball in the park--something that's not really been his forte in the past. Oddly, however, he's not really pitched all that well at Kauffman Stadium this year (4.27 ERA vs. 2.16 on the road).
QMAX (aka the Quality Matrix) shows us that Jason's 2014 numbers aren't really that much better than his lifetime performance. His QWP is only .520. His QERA+ (our version of adjusted ERA) is 104.
But what can one say after a three-hit shutout in which he retired the last 23 batters he faced? What Sandy Koufax said in his autobiography--we paraphrase: "[The .500 pitcher] always looks better than he really is, because his good starts are so good."
The Royals are looking to make the playoffs with eight of their ten regular hitters producing OPS+ values below league average. Their starting rotation is overachieving (QMAX and FIP, as is often the case, are in agreement here). But they have a favorable schedule down the stretch. It won't only be the "midwestern angsters" who'll be holding their breath.
Getting back on topic for the post: CGs have slowed down again in the past week. The projected total for 2014 has slipped back to 109. (The record for fewest CGs in a season, you might remember, is 108).