After two thrilling ALDS matchups that went the distance and featured incredible comebacks, the Toronto Blue Jays will face the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS, rekindling a rematch of the classic 1985 series.
Game one is set for tonight in Kansas City. Before the teams take the field, let’s measure up the Jays and Royals.
After coming off a division series against the Rangers, a team that could hit home runs and score a lot of runs, the Jays must now face a team that is almost the exact opposite of them. Kansas City finished second last in the AL with only 139 HR, almost a full 100 fewer than the Jays slugged. The Royals led the AL in wins, and they did so mainly on the strength of an outstanding bullpen, team speed, and team defense. But there are two things to note. The first is that closer Greg Holland is out for the season, and while Wade Davis has done a sensational job filling in, it shifts the entire identity of the ‘epn. And second, is that while the Defensive Runs Saved metric has the Royals as a far superior defensive team, Total Zone Rating puts Toronto as the better defensive squad. Suddenly KC’s pitching and defense advantage isn’t as big as you might have thought.
According to the above WAR chart (based on regular season stats only), the Jays have about a 10 win lead based on their projected starting lineups. The bulk of that comes from an edge in RF and 3B, but the Jays can also claim to have an edge at DH, SS, and Catcher as well. Both teams feature MVP candidates, in likely winner Josh Donaldson and KC CF Lorenzo Cain, and both feature very important players coming off fairly significant injuries in Troy Tulowitzki and Alex Gordon. Jarrod Dyson has been pretty good off the bench for Kansas City, but so have both Chris Colabello and Dioner Navarro for Toronto, and Dalton Pompey can seemingly steal bases at will these days. It should be a very interesting matchup.
This is where things get interesting. Both teams made huge mid-season trades to acquire an ace to lead their staffs. The big difference is that while David Price dominated down the stretch, Johnny Cueto was pretty terrible. However, he pitched very well in the elimination game against Houston while Price struggled against the Rangers. The huge advantage, however, comes with the rest of Toronto’s staff. Estrada, Dickey, and Stroman all pitched incredibly in the second half of the season, especially lately. Each sports a sub-1.00 WHIP in his last five starts, and better-than-3.50 K/BB ratio. Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura have been up-and-down over the past few months, and each struggles against the Jays. KC has not yet announced who their fourth starter will be (or even if they will use a fourth), but it figures to be either Kris Medlen or Danny Duffy, each of whom sports an ERA north of 4.00.
Head to Head
Toronto won the season series 4 -3, outscoring the Rangers 39-23. The teams also had a very well publicized donnybrook in early August when Volquez plunked Donaldson and pitched him inside several times. That will make for a very interesting storyline as the series gets underway.
July 10 – 12 in Kansas City:
L 3 – 0, W 6 – 2, L 11 – 10
July 30 – August 2 in Toronto
W 5 – 2, W 7 – 6, L 7 – 6, W 5 – 2
KC’s top performers vs. Toronto:
Ben Zobrist – 5-for-15, .333 average, 1.375 OPS, 3 HR
Lorenzo Cain – 9-for-24, .375 average, .923 OPS, 7 R
Greg Holland – 3 IP, 3 Saves, 0.00 ERA
Toronto’s top performers vs. KC:
Josh Donaldson – 6-for-23, .261 average, 1.023 OPS, 2 HR, 7 RBI
Jose Bautista – 9-for-28, .321 average, .976 OPS, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Marco Estrada – 1-1, 12.1 IP, 2.92 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Kansas City really struggled down the stretch, and if not for a last gasp five game win streak to close the season they would have finished behind the Jays in the standings after being 12 games ahead of them in late July. They then struggled mightily against the Astros in the ALDS, needing a miraculous eighth inning comeback in game 4 to stay alive before winning game 5 at home. The Jays, of course, dropped two straight at home to Texas to open their ALDS, before storming back to win that one. They were also the much hotter team in the last month, but that doesn’t hold much relevance anymore.
Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez are especially hot for KC right now, combining for 5 HR against the Astros. But the bad news for the Royals is that Toronto’s big three combined for 5 HR, and 12 RBI against the Rangers, with most of that damage coming in the last three games. They are hot.
Oh Hello Again!
The Royals have just one former Blue Jay on their roster, outfielder Alex Rios. Rios was supposed to be a core member of the next great Toronto dynasty, with Vernon Wells and others, but instead will only be remembered for two things: being given away by J.P. Ricciardi on waivers, and this:
After what we saw in the regular season, all signs point to a very close, very intense series. But I think the difference will be in the rotations for each team. The Jays have four reliable and hot guys to choose from, while KC does not. adsense banned I think Toronto takes one of the first two in Kansas City, then wipes the Royals out in Toronto. Jays in five.