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The Royals' two-year plan

While the Royals gear up to defend their World Series title, the franchise's window to try to add to their trophy collection is clear. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Throughout the 2015 season, the Kansas City Royals’ players fed off what they perceived to be extraordinary disrespect when some preseason projection systems pegged them to accumulate something in the range of 72 to 76 wins. Never mind that there is nothing personal about this sort of statistical analysis: Numbers are fed into a formula, and numbers emerge.

But the Royals believed that the pile of data missed something about them, whether it be the value of their hitters’ rate of contact, their clubhouse culture, or maybe their relentlessness of preparation. Like when Eric Hosmer froze on a groundball to the Mets’ David Wright in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series, rather than reflexively retreat to the bag – an adjustment the Royals had started talking about in spring training.

So when Wright turned to make a play to first, Hosmer was perfectly positioned to take advantage of the throwing ineffectiveness of the Mets’ infielders, something the Royals advance scouts had noted and encouraged their players to challenge, in conversations leading up to the World Series. Hosmer sprinted home, and look, there really cannot be any appropriate statistical measure of how all the parts of that play came together, other than on the scoreboard: Hosmer’s run tied the last game of the Royals’ championship.

The projection numbers again suggest that the Royals are destined for mediocrity, but the front office has made it clear, with its series of moves, that Kansas City’s window for success could last two years, at the very least. After the 2017 season, Hosmer can be a free agent, just like Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas. The Royals want to keep the core together, but it’s very possible that this group of players has this year and next to build on its legacy, and so many of the team’s decisions are framed within that two-year context.