The Royals have been baseball's biggest surprise

Profile Picture: Andrew Champagne

April 27th, 2021

We’re a bit more than 10% of the way through the 2021 baseball season, and it’s a good time to take a glance at the standings and see if we find any surprises. One big one is in the AL Central, where the Kansas City Royals have found themselves with a two-game lead, as of this writing.

The Royals were World Series longshots entering 2021

Before the season, the Royals were listed at +10000 to win the World Series. They were tied with five other teams at that price, the third-highest on the books prior to the 2021 campaign. Kansas City went 26-34 during the shortened 2020 season and lost more than 100 games in both 2018 and 2019, so it’s fair to say the fast start was unexpected by most.

World Series 2021

Tue, November 2 2021, 11:00 PM

Los Angeles Dodgers


New York Yankees


San Diego Padres


New York Mets


Chicago White Sox


Atlanta Braves


Minnesota Twins


Boston Red Sox


Houston Astros


Oakland Athletics


KC has made the most of a weak schedule

As of right now, the Royals are riding a five-game win streak. Four of those victories came over the lowly Detroit Tigers, who currently sit in the AL Central’s cellar. A team can only beat whichever squad assembles in the opposing dugout, and so far, the Royals have capitalized on a fairly weak slate.

Santana and Duffy have rediscovered their mojo

In a fun twist, the man leading Kansas City in several categories is an early contender for Comeback Player of the Year honors. 36-year-old Carlos Santana, who slumped to a .199 average for Cleveland a season ago, may still be hitting just .230, but he’s pacing the Royals in home runs, RBI’s, and on-base percentage.

Another pleasant surprise has been the re-emergence of southpaw Danny Duffy, who enjoyed a career season in 2016 but appeared to have tailed off coming into 2021. Instead, he’s flourished, posting an 0.39 ERA and 1.04 WHIP through four early-season starts.

KC's streak might be unsustainable

The question is, can the Royals keep it together? Based on the numbers, it seems unlikely. Kansas City is 6-0 in one-run games, and one would have to think a regression is bound to happen.

However, it must be stressed that the AL Central is, for all intents and purposes, MLB’s version of a dumpster fire. The Twins and Tigers have both flopped (they’re a combined 14-30), and Chicago and Cleveland aren’t exactly tearing up the league, either. If the Royals can keep taking advantage of good matchups, it’s not inconceivable to think they’ll keep things interesting deep into the summer.