2015 AL Championship Series Wrap-Up

Hey guys! My apologies for a lengthy delay in getting around to this. I was away from my beloved SJC WiFi for the past few days, and wasn’t quite feeling up to writing after an early morning journey back from the land of corn fields and dilapidated barns (I might be back tonight with a little post about the weekend itself, a peek into my own life beyond baseball, but we’ll see). The Blue Jays also didn’t do me any favors by succumbing to the Royals on Friday night instead of forcing a decisive Game 7 on Saturday, which would’ve at least put me closer to completing this article with any semblance of timeliness. Without any more needless verbosity, let’s get looking at the Toronto/Kansas City series.

 

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

Kansas City wins series 4-2

After seeing this series play out the way it did, I’m kicking myself for predicting it to end up any other way. The proverbial proof was right there inside the proverbial (I would assume tapioca?) pudding, which we may assume represents each teams’ series earlier this month. The Jays didn’t look great, and were bailed out by the fielding prowess (or lack thereof) of Elvis Andrus and one monster flip – I mean, swing – of the bat by Jose Bautista. The Royals, while still taking five games to send home the Houston Rasmus-tros, stuck to their winning formula and looked relatively solid.

Unfortunately a crippling sense of optimism led me to believe that the Jays would use their death scare against a poor Texas team to turn their performance around. A few Blue Jays did, but it wasn’t enough. Troy Tulowitzki turned a .095 ALDS batting average into a nice 7-for-23 (.304) in the ALCS, including a pair of doubles, a homer, seven RBI, and three runs scored. Ryan Goins put together a respectable 5-for-19 (.263) series after going 0-for-17 in the ALDS – even mixing in a double and a homer along with four RBI and three runs. Unfortunately, both of these men struck out seven times and walked zero times. Jose Bautista was Toronto’s best hitter in the series, amassing a .316 BA and a .500 OBP thanks to a generous seven (!!) walks. Bautista also added a pair of dingers, four runs scored and six RBI to the losing effort. As for the Jays’ pitching… well, Marco Estrada was phenomenal in Game 5, and Aaron Sanchez pitched okay (in a whopping two innings across four games). After those two men, I’d say the Blue Jays’ next best pitchers were David Price (16 K, 11 H, 1 BB, 8 ER in 13.1 IP) and Cliff Pennington. Yep, that Cliff Pennington, who was one of only three Jays hurlers with an ERA below 5.40 in the series and actually boasted an impressive arsenal of pitches. Estrada’s clutch 7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K night in Game 5 was blemished only by a Salvador Perez solo shot in the eighth and saved the Jays from being eliminated on Canadian soil. As I mentioned earlier, Aaron Sanchez pitched alright, allowing four hits and walk with no strikeouts in a combined two shutout innings. However, the rest of the Toronto bullpen (outside of the aforementioned Pennington) was downright abysmal. I could go on for a very long time about their ineptitude, but I’ll leave it here – 16 IP, 6 BB, 6 K, 20 H, 17 R (all earned). Yep, it was bad. What’s that? The Jays’ other starters? Fine. R.A. Dickey pitched a magical 1.2 innings, and allowed five runs, four earned, on four hits and two walks. Marcus Stroman actually picked up a win – while allowing 11 hits, a walk, and four runs (all earned) in 6.1 innings with only one strikeout.

Now, to the Royals. It’s easy to see that ALCS MVP Alcides Escobar paced the Royals offense, providing an impressive 11 hits in 23 at-bats (.478) including two doubles and a triple. Escobar also came around to score six runs, while knocking in two himself. Ben Zobrist collected a trio of two-baggers and knocked first-inning solo homers in Game 4 and 6, and Salvador Perez bested the aforementioned Estrada twice as well, both solo, in Games 1 and 5. Alex Rios also continued his quietly solid postseason with seven hits in 19 trips (.368) and a homer as well as three RBI. It’d also be a disservice to forget Lorenzo Cain, who hit .300 and drew five walks with five RBI as well as a couple stolen bases. As a team, the Royals put together an impressive .294/.333/.453 line, striking out only 35 times (27 of those came against Price or Estrada, so take that however you will) and walking twelve. Royals pitchers not named Cueto or Madson were also pretty impressive. Edinson Volquez did walk eight batters in only 11 innings but limited hits enough to manage a 4.09 ERA in his two starts. Yordano Ventura allowed his fair share of baserunners (1.500 WHIP in 10.2 IP) but also picked up 11 Ks en route to a 3.38 ERA in two no-decisions. Chris Young turned in a serviceable 4.2 IP in his only start, allowing tow runs on three hits and two walks with four punchouts. The Royals bullpen (besides Madson and maybe Danny Duffy) was good as advertised, led by an electric Kelvin Herrera (10 K in 5.2 IP). Kris Medlen looked sharp in mop-up duty after Cueto’s resounding failure of a start in Game 2 and Luke Hochevar allowed just a single hit in three innings across three appearances. Wade Davis did well enough, picking up a win and a save in his two shutout appearances, compiling 2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 5 K. My favorite part of the Kansas City staff’s performance is that they weren’t afraid to give up walks. The Royals walked twice as many batters as the Jays did (24 to 12) but still managed to have an ERA more than two full points lower (4.50 to 6.53) by virtue of a few things – more strikeouts (56 to 35), fewer hits allowed (46 to 59), and good clutch pitching.

Original Prediction: Blue Jays in 6

Result: Royals in 6

Full series statistics, box scores, play-by-play, etc.

 

Like I said, I should have seen it coming. At least in this series, I was closer on the number of games the series would last than I was in the NLCS (don’t even ask). Stay tuned in tomorrow for our World Series preview, which should be available sometime in the early to mid-afternoon. I’m excited as always for the Series to begin, even if it does mark the beginning of the end of baseball season (yikes… scary thought). Thanks for reading guys, hope you enjoyed!

Stats credit Baseball-Reference.com.

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