Sizing up the Orioles-Royals American League Championship Series

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With the start of the American League Championship Series now upon us, here’s how I see the Orioles and Royals stacking up in their first-ever postseason meeting …

Offense
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: The Royals play small ball better than anyone, but the Orioles don’t waste outs and have the ability to dramatically change a game with one swing of the bat and scored 54 more runs during the regular season.

Defense
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: Kansas City is very strong in the outfield and behind the plate, but the Orioles have a clear edge in infield defense, which tips the scale in their favor in this category.

Starting pitching
Advantage: KANSAS CITY
Skinny: The Royals’ starter ERA of 3.60 was just a hair better than the Orioles’ 3.61 mark and the veteran presence of James Shields gives Kansas City someone who’s pitched in a number of big games before.

Bullpen
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: The trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera is every bit as good as Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, and Darren O’Day, but the Orioles are a little bit deeper beyond that, which is more significant in a seven-game format.

Speed
Advantage: KANSAS CITY
Skinny: There isn’t a more lopsided advantage for either club as the Royals stole 153 bases to lead the majors while Baltimore managed just 44 to rank last in that statistic.

Intangibles
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: The Royals were riding a wave of momentum in topping Oakland and the Angels to advance to the ALCS, but the Orioles endured everything thrown their way this year on the way to 96 wins.

Coaching
Advantage: BALTIMORE
Skinny: Royals manager Ned Yost deserves credit for allowing his young players to be themselves this season after he was previously more of a taskmaster, but Buck Showalter is the better tactician and it isn’t really close.

Unsung hero – Kevin Gausman
Skinny: In a best-of-seven format, there’s bound to be a start or two that isn’t up to par for either side and Gausman’s stuff in a shorter stint in relief is a wild card that we already saw play out in Game 2 of the AL Division Series.

Prediction – Orioles in six games
Skinny: Once you move past their different styles offensively, Baltimore and Kansas City are quite similar in every other phase of the game, making this series difficult to predict. However, the emotional wave that the Royals were riding against the Athletics and the Angels had a chance to subside over the last five days while the Orioles simply looked like themselves against Detroit and were the better club than Kansas City over the course of 162 games.