2015 AL Championship Series Preview

Welcome back, everyone! Like I did with the ALDS and NLDS last week, today I’ll be comparing the teams set to show down in this matchup, which begins Friday night at 8PM ET. This time, two of the top teams in the American League square off after narrowly escaping the Divisional round, both picking up Game 5 victories. So without any more introduction, here’s my preview of the upcoming showdown between Kansas City and Toronto.

Toronto Blue Jays (93-69) vs. Kansas City Royals (95-67)

Projected Starters:

Game 1: Marco Estrada (13-8, 3.13) vs. Edinson Volquez (13-9, 3.55)

Game 2: David Price (9-1, 2.30) vs. Yordano Ventura (13-8, 4.08)

Game 3: Marcus Stroman (4-0, 1.67) vs. Johnny Cueto (4-7, 4.76)

Offensive Comparison (including rank among AL teams):

Toronto Kansas City
.269, 2nd BA .269, 3nd
.797, 1st OPS .734, 7th
118, 1st OPS+ 98, 9th
1151, 5th K 973, 1st
570, 1st BB 383, 15th
232, 1st HR 139, 14th
5.50, 1st Runs/Game 4.47, 6th

Defensive Comparison (including rank among AL teams):

Toronto Kansas City
3.80, 5th ERA 3.73, 3rd
104, 5th ERA+ 111, 3rd
4.09, 8th FIP 4.04, 6th
1.214, 3rd WHIP 1.282, 6th
1117, 12th K 1160, 11th
397, 1st BB 489, 13th
173, 9th HR 155, 2nd
88, 6th E 88, 6th
.985, T-6th FLD% .985, T-6th
.708, 1st Def. Efficiency .701, T-2nd
4.14, 5th Runs/Game 3.96, T-2nd

As we can see from the comparisons, the Blue Jays seem to have the superior offense. However, neither team performed as well as they’d wanted to in the ALDS. The Blue Jays were kept in check for the first two games (including failing to score after the fifth inning in Game 2, which lasted 14 innings), but seemed to look sharper in Games 3 through 5. Kansas City scored only nine runs in Games 1 through 3, then exploded for nine in Game 4 and seven in Game 5. On Toronto’s side, middle infielders Ryan Goins and Troy Tulowitzki need to step up their level of play after they combined to go 2-for-38 (.053), score three runs, hit one homer (Tulowitzki), drive in four runs (all Tulowitzki), walk three times and strike out 12 times in the ALDS against a mediocre Texas pitching staff. Kansas City lacked production from their corner infield instead, although not quite as bad as Toronto. Royals’ 3B Mike Moustakas hit a feeble .111 (2-for-18) with one double and no RBI, while 1B Eric Hosmer hit .190 (4-for-21) with a double, a home run, and no walks against four punchouts. While I think it’s more likely that Hosmer and Moustakas pick up their pace than Goins and Tulowitzki, I think the Blue Jays have the superior offense here, as a whole. Usually, I’d also be inclined to think that the Jays have the superior pitching staff as well. However, the ALDS wasn’t the best showing for the Toronto hurlers. Trade deadline acquisition David Price struggled in his ten ALDS innings, allowing 11 hits, eight runs (all earned) and two walks against seven strikeouts. R.A. Dickey also looked pretty average (5H/1R/1ER/0BB/3K in 4.2IP) and is inconsistent, especially if he pitches Game 4 inside the Rogers Centre dome (which looks likely, as of now). Fortunately for John Gibbons’ crew, Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada looked pretty good in their starts, and Robert Osuna and Aaron Sanchez were quite reliable out of the bullpen. On Kansas City’s side, Yordano Ventura only worked two innings in Game 1 and then managed only 5 innings in Game 4, finishing with a 7.71 ERA. Edinson Volquez was mediocre in his outing, racking up eight strikeouts (against the Astros, so take that with a grain of salt) but allowing three runs (all earned) on five hits and four walks in 5.2 innings. Johnny Cueto’s Kansas City blues continued in Game 2, but he bounced back to turn in an incredible Game 5 performance in which he retired the last 19 batters he faced. The Royals’ bullpen was also pretty solid (with the exception of the seventh inning in Game 4), which is important while closer Greg Holland is sidelined after undergoing Tommy John late in the season. While I did need to give it a bit more thought than I might’ve last week, I do give the slight edge to the Jays’ pitchers. It may be worth nothing, though, that the Royals defense committed no errors in their five games, while the Blue Jays committed four. I like the Jays in this one, but I think the Royals may use the home-field advantage to at least delay their demise.

OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Toronto in 6

That’ll do it guys. I’m sticking with the boys north of the border to carry on and represent the American League in this year’s World Series. The Jays are an emotional group and will be riding the energy of their ALDS victory into Kansas City on Friday night and as the series continues. For Kansas City to have the best chance, I’d say they need to win Game 1 in order to slow Toronto’s momentum. Tune in later today for my NLDS wrap-up (as promised) and most importantly, enjoy the game!

 

Baseball-Reference.com did the stats for this article, but you already knew that. MLB.com Gameday took care of the projected starters this time.

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