Royals vs Orioles ALCS Preview
This matchup features two team with completely different offensive styles and both teams are coming off a sweep in the American League Division Series. The Royals are playing in their first championship series since 1985, while the Orioles are playing in their first since 1997.
The Royals are built to get on base and run and their very good at it, leading the league with 153 stolen bases during the regular season. Kansas City was last in baseball with just 95 home runs this season.
The Orioles on the other hand are built with power, leading the league with 211 dingers. Baltimore was last in baseball with just 44 stolen bases.
This series will be a fun one, and I think it will go down as one of the greatest ever. Both teams have strong starting pitching, they play solid defense, have great bullpens, and both teams have good benches.
These two teams haven’t met since May 18th in Kansas City, and three of the seven games they played were shut outs. The Royals won the regular season series four games to three.
I’m ready for this series to get under way, but before it does I will break down both teams.
The Royals have a great ace in James Shields, who went 14-8 this season with a 3.21 ERA. Shields pitched six solid innings in ALDS clinching Game 3 against the Angels on Sunday. Shields will pitch Game 1 for the Royals, he hasn’t been the greatest of postseason pitchers, but has been able to win his last two games. Shields is 3-4 with a 4.96 ERA in the postseason during his career. Rookie Yordano Ventura, who went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA this season, will more than likely pitch Game 2 for the Royals. He brings a devastating 100-mph fastball, but he will need to make sure he locates. The Orioles will make him pay for every mistake he makes, and with him pitching at Camden Yards look for him to give up a few home runs. Ventura only gave up one run in seven innings to the Angels, who had the best offense in baseball. Ventura gave up a big home run to Brandon Moss in the Wild Card game, but he still ended up with the win pitching out of the bullpen. Ventura was 1-1 against the Orioles this year and pitched an eight inning shut out against them on Apirl 25th. Ventura lost to Baltimore on May 15th only giving up two runs. Manager Ned Yost has yet to decide his rotation past Game 1, but you have to think that Jason Vargas will get the nod in Game 3. Vargas went 11-10 with a 3.71 ERA during the regular season. Vargas pitched Game 1 of the ALDS, pitching six innings and giving up two earned runs on three hits. That was Vargas first postseason appearance and he did a good job. Ned Yost might consider a three-man rotation if they trail in the series, but I think he will pitch Danny Duffy in Game 4 and start the rotation over in Game 5.
Baltimore doesn’t have a big name starter in their rotation, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been solid. Chris Tillman might be one of the more underrated starters in the majors. Tillman went 13-6 with a 3.34 ERA during the regular season. This is his first postseason and he has made the most of it so far, going five innings and only giving up two solo home runs, in Baltimore Game 1 victory over the Tigers. Manager Buck Showalter has yet to announce his rotation, but you have to figure Tillman will start Game 1 for the Orioles. Wie-Yen Chen was one of the biggest surprises this season, going 16-5 with a 3.54 ERA this season. Chen did struggle in Game 2 against Detroit, giving up five runs in 3 2/3 innings. Chen will have to pitch like he did in the 2012 ALDS to beat the speedy Royals. Bud Norris will most likely go Game 3, he was 15-8 with a 3.65 ERA this season. Norris dazzled against the Tigers in the ALDS clinching Game 3. Norris went 6 1/3 innings, allowing 2 hits and no runs. I think that Showalter like Yost might consider going with a three-man rotation, but it will depend if they are trailing in the series or not.
Like I stated in the opening, the Royals aren’t a very powerful team, they rely on their ability to get on base and speed to score runs. They did hit four home runs in the ALDS, but all four homers came off the bats of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Watch out for guys like Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon to hit some long balls, especially with them playing at Camden Yards. Gordon led the team in home runs with 19. Omar Infante was the only Kansas City player to hit a home run at Camden Yards this season. A few weeks ago Yost decided to shake the lineup up a bit, by putting speed at the top of their order. With shortstop Alcides Escobar leading off, right fielder Nori Aoki batting second, and center fielder Lorenzo Cain batting third. Those three combined had 76 stolen bases during the regular season, and that lineup was a handful for the Angels. Almost every time one of the three gets on base, they are able to get in scoring position and with Hosmer, Gordon, and Perez following that makes this lineup deadly. Kansas City had the fourth best batting average in baseball at .263.
Every player in the Baltimore lineup is a threat to go deep. But, there are two players in particular that you most be extra careful against. Nelson Cruz who led the league with 40 home runs and Adam Jones who hit 29. Luckily for the Royals they won’t have to deal with Chris Davis (who hit 26 homers) who want play in this series. Davis is serving a 25-game suspension for amphetamine use. Steve Pearce has been a pleasant surprise this season hitting 21 homers. Coming into this season, Pearce had hit just 25 home runs in seven seasons. He also batted a career high .293 (his rookie season he hit .294, but that was with only 68 at-bats) this season. J.J. Hardy didn’t hit a over 22 home runs for the first time since 2010, but Hardy was rough on the Royals this season batting .360 against them. Nick Markakis all hit well against Kansas City with a .346 batting average. Markakis was very good at getting on base this season, leading his team in walks with 62 and finishing second behind Pearce with a .342 OBP. The Orioles were eight in scoring during the season averaging 4.35 runs per game and finished third with a .422 slugging percentage.
The Royals have one of the best 7-8-9 trios in baseball with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and closer Greg Holland. Holland is by far one of the best closers in baseball and proved that yet again this season. He finished second in the American League with 46 saves, and he had a 1.44 ERA to go with that. Holland has closed the door in all four postseason games so far, and has two saves. Herrera was dominant this season with a 1.41 ERA in 70 innings pitched. He only gave up 11 earned runs and didn’t allow a home run all season. He did struggle a little in the Wild Card game giving up a run on four hits, but the Royals still got the win. He did settle down and pitched in two games in the ALDS, not giving up a run. Davis had an almost unheard of season, posting an ERA of just 1.oo in 72 innings pitched. Like Herrera, Davis didn’t allow a home run this season and only allowed eight earned runs. Davis has been stellar so far this postseason pitching 4 2/3 innings and giving up one run. If Kansas City ends the sixth inning with a lead, it’s almost a guaranteed win. They were 65-4 with a lead after six innings and 72-1 with a lead after seven innings.
Baltimore also has a very solid bullpen, but they don’t have that 7-8-9 trio like the Royals. They have a strong closer in Zach Britton, who has been unbelievable in his first season as a closer. Britton had 37 saves and a 1.65 ERA this season. He was solid in the ALDS, collecting two saves and appeared in all three games. The Baltimore set-up man, Andrew Miller has been more than sensational this season, with a 1.35 ERA in 29 appearances. Miller is in his first postseason and has continued to his regular season success, pitching 3 1/3 innings and giving up no hits or runs in the ALDS. Baltimore’s bullpen struck out 11 batters, allowed just three runs, and walked four in 12 innings against the Tigers. Overall the Orioles bullpen is very strong, but not has strong has the Royals.
Kansas City bench is built around speed with Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore. Gore is arguably one of the fastest players in baseball, he had two steals during the ALDS. Dyson finished tied for third in the American League with 36 stolen bases. Dyson is also a very good defensive player and don’t be surprised to see him come in to play center field late in the game. The Royals also have a power hitter in Josh Willingham, he’s not what he use to be, but is a valuable asset for Kansas City.
The Orioles has in my opinion had one of the best benches this season. This team has had so many key injures and a key suspension, but has continued to find ways to win. The downside to that is those players are no longer on the bench, because they’re now starters. Baltimore still will have Delmon Young to provide some extra pop off the bench. Young hit seven homers and 30 RBIs this season. Watch out for speedster and formal Kansas City Royal David Lough off the bench. Lough had eight stolen bases this season, but could be beneficial late in games. The Orioles unlike the Royals, will usually stick with their starters the whole game.
Ned Yost has done an extraordinary job in his first postseason as a manager. He led the Royals to their first playoff appearance since 1985, and now their first ALCS since the same year. The Royals won the World Series that season, beating the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
Buck Showalter, like Yost, has done an extraordinary job this season. Leading the Orioles to their first division title since 1997 and now to their first ALCS since the same year. He did it without some of his best players, and in my opinion it was one of the greatest managerial jobs in the history of baseball.
Based on postseason experience, Showalter is the better manager in this matchup, but it was a close one.
Royals in 7