ALDS: New York vs. Kansas City
The Royals locked up home field advantage in the American League, and they’ll be happy to have it in their pitcher friendly confines. Their 51 home wins were third in the AL, and a reminder to opposing teams that the 2014 team was no fairy tale, but a collection of budding stars. With one postseason run under their belts, they’ll be looking for more against a battle tested Yankee club.
Kansas City is one of the most athletic teams in the game, measuring fourth in defensive efficiency. They don’t have a dominant rotation, but they make up for it with stellar defense, an improved lineup, and their vaunted bullpen. Kansas City is going to be favored to win this series (winning a league high 95 games helps), but they have their flaws.
Their deadline acquisition of Johnny Cueto was supposed to give them an anchor for their postseason staff. His 4.76 ERA in 13 starts is a cause for concern. All will be forgiven if he pitches well this fall, but he’s a question mark until he proves otherwise.
The Royals came within a game of the World Series a season ago in large part because of their bullpen. The trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland essentially shortened games to just six innings. Holland recently underwent Tommy John, so that trio is now a man short. There’s no question that Davis and Holland can each be given a more important role, but will they be overused late in games? Ryan Madson has been excellent in the middle innings, which may be the key to bridging the ‘pen together. No other club’s bullpen is more important to team success than Kansas City’s.
The Yankees will have their hands full with the Royals defense, late inning flamethrowers, and balanced lineup, but they won’t go quietly. The Yankee bullpen is also excellent, and is one of the few ‘pens that can match KC’s. The Yankees have slightly better starting pitching, so they should be able to make this difficult for the reigning AL champs. They’ll need Alex Rodriguez’s storybook season to continue, and post season folk hero Carlos Beltran to rekindle some more October magic.
The Yankees are going to give Kansas City a run for their money. However, young Royals like Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas all improved instead of having a hangover after some success. The Royals home field advantage will be key as this will come to the fifth and final game.