The New What Next: Royals vs. Giants — A World Series Primer

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It’s all come down to this; two Wildcard teams are in this year’s World Series, and I couldn’t be more excited. For the San Francisco Giants, they are once again playing for the championship in an even-numbered year, while the Kansas City Royals haven’t made the playoffs in 29 years, yet they swept the Angels and Orioles to go 8-0 in the playoffs to make it to the World Series. The Royals became first team in MLB history to win their first eight consecutive postseason games following their 2-1 victory Wednesday in the ALCS series finale.

Let’s see how both teams stack up against one another.

Pitching

Despite surrendering the lead twice in Game five of the NLCS, Madison Bumgarner has been downright spectacular in the playoffs. He’s thrown a post-season best 31-2/3 IP allowing only 19 hits and five walks, while striking out 28 and culling a 1.42 ERA along the way. On the other hand, James Shields hasn’t be great thus far, 10 earned runs on 21 hits (including 3 HR) in 16 innings of work. Though his 5.63 postseason ERA is less than spectacular, Shields does generate ground balls and is still very good at striking people out. He is also adept at making the all important big pitch in high leverage situations — yielding only one homer in high leverage situations during the regular season, while holding opponents to a .264 BA/.328 OBP/.380 SLG/.708 OPS/.310 wOBA slash line.

The Royals are by no means lacking after Shields. Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie have been good in their own right, with Vargas and Guthrie combining to give up only eight hits in 16-1/3 innings on the bump.

After Bumgarner, Tim Hudson — who owns a 1.02 WHIP in the playoffs, and Jake Peavy — who has allowed 2 ER in 9-2/3 IP, have done an excellent job at keeping the Giants in the thick of things. A caveat for San Francisco: the Giants fourth starter, Ryan Vogelsong, has been fairly inconsistent, with the exception of his 5-2/3 inning outing against the Nationals in the NLDS.

Though the Royals’ back-end relievers have been highly vaunted throughout the season, the Giants’ bullpen is actually cumulatively better. Yusmeiro Petit, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez have combined for 28-2/3 innings of one earned run ball, compared to the Royals’ Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland who have yielded 3 ER over 25-2/3 innings of work.

World Series presumed starters (Postseason Numbers)

World Series presumed starters (Postseason numbers)

How the pitching staffs matchup (numbers based on Postseason)

How the pitching staffs match up (Postseason numbers).

This series could be decided by how well the Giants can control the Royals’ running game. At 30%, Buster Posey’s caught stealing percentage in the regular season is just over league average, which isn’t bad at all. However, Bumgarner allowed seven of 17 would be base runners to swipe a bag in the regular season, while Vogelsong allowed 12. If anything, the Royals will have ample opportunity to swipe bases against Hudson, who allowed 83% of base stealers to be successful. As Brandon Jopko of Baseball Hot Corner noted, the other pitchers on San Francisco’s roster come in below league average which means that, for example, when Affeldt (0% CS in 6 attempts) and/or Petit (21% CS in 19 attempts) come in, watch out if a batter reaches.

Neither team can truly be considered to be an offensive juggernaut, and the winner may be the team who limits the the long ball — something the Royals have done well at both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Preventing errors on the field while maintaining solid defense will play a huge role, in addition to which team has the most luck on balls in play.

Offense

The Royals have the edge offensively. They’ve dominated the running game (13 stolen bases compared to just three by the Giants), shown more extra-base power and on-base skills, and hit for a higher average. Although they tend to strike out more, I’d hardly call 19% a bad percentage.

Eric Hosmer has come up big on a few occasions (hence the top ranking in RC), but Lorenzo Cain is the most consistent hitter thus far in the playoffs having gone 3-6 wRISP. His production surge could be chalked up to Cain being hot, however. He wasn’t nearly as consistent wRISP during the regular season.

There are few irregularities that can be chalked to the small sample size created by the playoffs. Mike Moustakas has a 5.0 RC despite not a single hit with runners on second or third, which can be attributed to his four homers. Pablo Sandoval has only one run batted in despite posting a .326 batting average overall — his .111 BA wRISP speaks to that. And while Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam in the wild card game, he has only one run since thanks to a sacrifice fly.

Top postseason hitters (per Baseball Hot Corner)

Top postseason hitters (per Baseball Hot Corner)

As a team, the Royals have out-homered the Giants 8 to 5 thus far. For the Giants, each homer has either tied the game, given them the lead, or won the game. The Royals too have homered in crucial spots – that’s why they’re 8-0.

Royals and Giants offensive production (in the Postseason).

Royals and Giants offensive production (in the Postseason).

However, if the regular season offensive numbers suggest anything, this World Series promises to be a low scoring affair between a pair of evenly keeled teams… Something that becomes all the more evident when you consider how close each team is to one another in most of the below mentioned categories, including total runs scored — a difference of only 14 runs separate both teams (an average of just over 4.01 runs per game).

Royals and Giants regular season offensive production (at home and away).

Royals and Giants regular season offensive production (at home and away).

 

 

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Rays Sign RHRP Michael Kohn

The Rays newest reliever, Michael Kohn, inked a one-year deal with Tampa Bay, Thursday.

The Rays newest reliever, Michael Kohn, inked a one-year deal with Tampa Bay, Thursday.

The Rays have inked a one-year contract with RHRP Michael Kohn, the club announced today. Kohn, 28, elected free agency after being designated for assignment and outrighted in early September by the Los Angeles Angels. He posted a 2-1 record and a 3.04 ERA/4.27 FIP/9.89 K9/7.61 BB9 in 23-2/3 innings of work with the Angels last season.

This acquisition represents the first of the Matt Silverman era. It also signifies what could be seen as the start of the rebuilding phase of the Rays bullpen. We’ll have a more in-depth write up on Kohn shortly.

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Breaking; Andrew Friedman Leaving the Rays for the Los Angeles Dodgers (Updated)

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Rays blue to Dodgers blue, Andrew Friedman accepted the President of Baseball Operations position with Los Angeles.

General manager Andrew Friedman will leave his longstanding position as GM of the Rays to join the Dodgers, reported Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (in a tweet, pictured below).

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Friedman has been hired as the President of Baseball Operations, while Ned Colletti will stay as Senior Advisor to Stan Kasten, while Matt Silverman, who was team president, will now serve as president of baseball operations; and Brian Auld, who was senior vice president of Business Operations, has been named team president.

The move will undoubtedly be a significant blow to the Rays, who are losing one of the most respected baseball executives in the entire game. “Friedman is considered by many to be a wizard of sorts, turning the low-budget Rays into a perennial contender despite low revenue stemming from attendance issues and a dilapidated stadium,” writes MLB Trade Rumors‘ Steve Adams.

Adams continued, “The Rays have only twice had a payroll over $70MM in Friedman’s tenure, so even amid reports that the Dodgers will scale back spending, to an extent, Friedman should have significantly more than double 2014′s Rays franchise-record $76MM payroll.”

In a prepared statement, Friedman noted of his time with the Rays,

As I embark upon my next journey, I have only thanks and gratitude to the Rays organization and the Tampa Bay region for a wonderful 10 years together. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have been part of something so special and for the passion and support of this exceptional fan base. The Rays organization is loaded with talent from ownership to players and everyone between. We were able to create together an unbelievable culture that no doubt will continue, and I am absolutely confident that the successes we achieved will continue into the future.

Andrew Friedman took over as the Rays GM in November of 2006, spearheading the ascension from worst to first in the American League in just two seasons. Friedman is credited with turning the scuffling Rays into the competitive, exciting baseball team it continues to be today.

Danny Russell of DRaysBay also made mention of an interesting fact of the move, noting,

Adding to the shock of the move is Friedman’s financial interests, as it was my understanding the EVP of Baseball Operations (read: General Manager) held ownership in the franchise. If any team could compensate the loss of such an asset, surely it would be the billionaire Dodgers.

What effect this may have on contract negotiations with Rays manager Joe Maddon, who is in the midst of contract negotiations, fails to be seen. Friedman enjoyed the close working relationship with manager Joe Maddon, which is also not always the norm.

Below are a handful of updates following the 5:30 press conference. All of the bulleted items come courtesy of Marc Topkin. We’re working hard to find audio of the press conference.

  • Sternberg said he has always considered Silverman the top choice to take over if Friedman ever left, that he is “absolutely the right person.”
  • Silverman said they will maintain the same basic philosophy, but there will be some new ideas they will incorporate as well.
  • Sternberg said Friedman won’t be taking anyone from baseball ops with him.
  • Silverman said it was “a very difficult day” for him in seeing Friedman leave, but he was confident they would return to their winning ways.
  • Silverman said he has no plans to hire a GM or a senior adviser, and also that he doesn’t expect to be in the job for 10 years, as Friedman nearly was. Expect expanded roles for assistants Chaim Bloom and Erik Neader.
  • Sternberg said Auld will get involved in stadium talks “when and if they progress.”

While there has been considerable speculation about the future of Rays manager Joe Maddon, who is under team control through the 2015 season. Per Marc Topkin, Maddon told the Tampa Bay Times he isn’t looking to go anywhere and is “positive” there will be talks on an extension.

I’m a Ray, I’ve said it all along, I want to continue to be one,” Maddon said. “I still believe … it’s the best place in all of baseball to work but I also stand by fact that ballpark needs to be improved.”

Maddon mentioned that there is “no rush” to get an extension done, and he wants to give the revised front office time to get comfortable.

President and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Stan Kasten told Los Angeles media that he expects Don Mattingly to remain their manager for the upcoming season.

Noteworthiness

  • In a piece titled Rays Ponder Life Without Andrew Friedman, Zach Links of MLB Trade Rumors noted, “With Andrew Friedman heading west, the Rays are confident that the newly-promoted Matthew Silverman can continue to work creatively with a limited budget to field a competitive team. At the same time, it’s clear that Friedman will be sorely missed on both a professional and personal level. Silverman, still just 38 years old, got the promotion of a lifetime, but he isn’t exactly doing cartwheels down the aisles of Tropicana Field tonight.” You can read Links’ piece in its entirety by clicking the link (above).
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    Royals Vs. Orioles — An ALCS Primer

    Greg Holland celebrates with Norichika Aoki of the Kansas City Royals after defeated the Los Angeles Angels in Game Three of the American League Division Series. (Photo courtesy of Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

    Greg Holland celebrates with Norichika Aoki of the Kansas City Royals after defeated the Los Angeles Angels in Game Three of the American League Division Series. (Photo courtesy of Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

    Here we go! The two teams who entered the ALDS as underdogs are set to face one another in the ALCS after sweeping a pair of teams who, on paper, seemed much stronger. Both the Royals and Orioles showcased their respective strengths in the ALDS, and it will be fascinating to see how both teams perform against one another, beginning Friday. In the case of Kansas City speed, defense, and the bullpen ruled the day, while the Orioles counter with a solid bullpen and some pretty powerful bats. Regardless who comes out of the Championship Series as victors, one thing is certain: the upcoming matchup, between two teams promises to be exciting.

    Royals and Orioles presumed ALCS starters in September and October (in no specific order). Note: we'll update things when the starting rotations have been confirmed.

    Royals and Orioles ALCS projected starters (stats from September/October).

    Going into the ALDS, the Orioles’ starting rotation had baseball’s eighth-lowest regular-season strikeout rate, sixth-highest walk rate, second-lowest ground ball rate, and sixth-highest home run rate, which translated into a 4.18 FIP — the worst of any playoff team since the 2006 Cardinals. Baltimore’s starters were able to outperform the lag in peripherals by avoiding hits with runners on base and in scoring position. That is, they were able to make the big pitch when it mattered. The question begs, is that a sustainable game plan going into the ALCS?

    One particularly interesting facet of the Orioles approach is the ability to slow down the running game. Chris Tillman is among the best in the majors in allowing the fewest steals over 100+ innings, giving up only two stolen bags in 13 attempts this season. On the other hand, Bud Norris has been one of the most frequent stolen-base victims, allowing 31 swipes in 45 attempts from 2013 to 2014. Overall, Baltimore has allowed the 10th-fewest attempts and eighth-fewest steals this season, limiting their opponents, as Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh notes, to -7.7 base-running runs — the AL’s second-lowest total. How this plays out for the leagues top stealing team fails to be seen at the moment.

    As was the case against the Athletics and Angels, the Royals will try to shut down the Orioles offense by suppressing home runs, thus leveling the playing field for their brand of small ball. Kansas City has the edge in games started by James Shields and Yordano Ventura. Both front end starters posted a 30.8 FB% in September and October, which plays in Kansas City’s favor since they are slated to start games one, two, five and six, with the bulk of their innings taking place in the historically homer-friendly Oriole Park. The more prolific fly-ball pitchers (Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, and Danny Duffy) will likely see the bulk of their work at Kauffman Stadium — a facility that has the reputation for being a pitchers park.

    Royals and Orioles relievers (overall, and in September and October).

    Royals and Orioles relievers (overall, and September/October).

    When it comes to pitching, Kansas City has a fairly effective formula for success: a starter throws for at least six innings then is followed by Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland for an inning apiece. Brandon Finnegan, Jason Frasor, and Duffy should not be overlooked; all are good options in relief if the back end starters can’t make it past the sixth.

    Baltimore has a pretty damn good ‘pen as well. Kevin Gausman is currently the long reliever, while Darren O’Day, Andrew Miller, and Zach Britton are almost as fearsome as Herrera, Davis, and Holland. They have show the ability to suppress hits and runs in key situations, and it should be assumed they’ll see action if and/or when the Orioles hold a lead (or want to keep the game close) late.

    Royals and Orioles offensive production (at home, away, and in September and October).

    Royals and Orioles offensive production (at home, away, and in September/October).

    Orioles and Royals (by the numbers).

    Orioles and Royals (by the numbers).

    Lindbergh said it best, “these are offenses on opposite ends of the run-scoring spectrum.” While the Orioles led the league in homers, they ranked last in stolen bases. The Royals, on the other hand, led the league in steals yet ranked last in home runs. Power tends to trump speed and contact in the long run, and because of it there will be little to no wiggle room for the Royals pitching staff in their attempt to level to playing field.

    The Royals looked impressive in both the Wildcard game and ALDS game-three clincher, scoring nine and eight runs respectively — topping seven runs for the first time since August 17. Although their seven steals in the Wildcard game made the Royals’ speed one of the main story lines of the postseason, Kansas City was surprisingly patient at the plate, not to mention powerful. The Royals hit four home runs in the ALDS and walked 12 times (nearly double their regular-season rate of 2.3 BB/9). A caveat; it fails to be seen whether that influx of power and patience is a fluke.

    Whatever the case, Mike Moustakas and Erik Hosmer seem to be on the cusp of a breakout, and none too soon. Moustakas snapped a streak of 113 homeless plate appearances, crushing a walk-off shot in the first game of the ALDS, and hitting another in the third. Hosmer also hit a pair of homers in the ALDS, all this after slashing .321 BA/.379 OBP/.509 SLG since the start of July.

    If we’ve learned anything from Rays broadcaster Brian Anderson, it’s the effect aggressive base running has on the psyche of a pitcher. It can be assumed that Kansas City’s speedy base runners will apply the pressure as a means to scratch out runs.

    Led by Nelson Cruz, the Orioles also hit four homers in the ALDS… Though that’s fairly rigmarole. Cruz contributed two, giving him 16 postseason homers (extending back five years). He is the only player to have more than nine playoff homers over that span.

    Yet, while the top of the order is strong, the bottom three batters can be beaten. It will then be incumbent upon Shields and company to keep any extraneous base runners off the bags — especially those who precede the top of the order. If you subscribe to the idea that the Orioles cannot be stopped from hitting home runs, then KC’s pitchers will have to do their best to limit the damage to solo shots.

    Key Matchups

    Orioles Starters

    Chris Tillman: Norichika Aoki (1-4, 2B), Alcides Escobar (4-11, 2B), Omar Infante (1-2, 2B, RBI), Mike Moustakas (3-8, HR, 2 RBI, BB).

    Wei-Yin Chen: Norichika Aoki (2-7), Billy Butler (8-18, 2 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB), Lorenzo Cain (4-12), Alcides Escobar (5-17, 2B, RBI), Alex Gordon (5-16, HR, RBI), Eric Hosmer (7-17, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB), Mike Moustakas (2-6, 2B, RBI).

    Bud Norris: Norichika Aoki (2-8), Billy Butler (2-6, RBI), Alex Gordon (3-6).

    Miguel Gonzalez: Norichika Aoki (1-3), Jarrod Dyson (5-6), Salvador Perez (4-9, HR, 2 RBI). 

    Royals Starters

    James Shields: JJ Hardy (5-18, 2 2B, 3 BB), Adam Jones (14-46, 5 2B, 3B, HR, 6 RBI, BB), Nick Markakis (21-71, 5 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 11 BB).

    Yordano Ventura: Ryan Flaherty (2-6), JJ Hardy (4-6, 2B, BB), Nick Markakis (4-6, BB).

    Jason Vargas: Nelson Cruz (10-30, 2 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 7 BB), Ryan Flaherty (2-4), JJ Hardy (4-16, 2B, BB), Delmon Young (7-18, RBI, BB).

    Jeremy Guthrie: Nelson Crus (6-24, 2B, 6 RBI, 3 BB), Ryan Flaherty (2-8, BB), Nick Hundley (2-5, 2B, 2 RBI), Nick Markakis (3-12, RBI, BB), Jonathan Schoop (1-3).

     

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    The New What Next: Royals vs. Angels — An ALDS Primer

    Omar Infante takes batting practice prior to the American League Wild Card game. (Photo courtesy of  Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

    Omar Infante takes batting practice prior to the American League Wild Card game. (Photo courtesy of Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

    After a good number of well executed sac-bunts, seven stolen bases, and a 12th inning act of heroics from Salvador Perez, the Kansas City Royals find themselves as participants in this year’s ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Suffice it to say, the Angels became an indestructible force this season. Tacking on 20 wins to its 2013 total, Los Angeles earned home-field advantage through the AL playoffs, boasting a pretty powerful lineup which includes some guy named Mike Trout — maybe you’ve heard of him.

    Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report said it best,

    The Royals find themselves in a spot where it’s going to take a whole lot of ingenuity and guile to advance. The Angels morphed into a cyborg over the second half, blowing a talented A’s team out of the water to win the AL West by 10 games.

    The Angels’ plus-143 run differential is the best of any remaining postseason team — 116 better than the team it will be facing. Los Angeles scored the most runs in baseball, were second in WAR for hitters, and finished behind only the Tigers in weighted runs scored.

    However, there’s so much about this Royals team that resembles the 2008 Rays that may give them the opportunity to level the playing field. Ben Lindbergh of Grantland pointed out this week that the Royals are a playoff team that thrives on confounding analysts. Their BB% is low, they’re not an overly powerful team, and their 94 wRC+ was the worst of a playoff team in more than a half-decade. However, Kansas City is scrappy and fast, and the team singles and steals its way to wins. They also have an excellent pitching staff — especially on the back end.

    Greg Holland (46 saves, 1.44 ERA) and Wade Davis (1.00 ERA) give the Royals perhaps the best back-end in the playoffs, while recent college standout Brandon Finnegan was absolutely dominant in two scoreless innings Tuesday night.

    Royals and Angels unconfirmed starters (over the last 30 days). Note: we will make any corresponding changes once the pitching matchups are confirmed.

    Royals and Angels unconfirmed starters (over the last 30 days). Note: we will make any corresponding changes once the pitching matchups are confirmed.

    Royals and Angels bullpen numbers (over the last 30 days)

    Royals and Angels bullpen numbers (over the last 30 days)

    Royals and Angels offensive production (at home, away, and over the last 30 days).

    Royals and Angels offensive production (at home, away, and over the last 30 days).

    Jason Vargas key matchups: Erick Aybar (11-41, 2 2B, BB), Gordon Beckham (6-15, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Brennan Boesch (8-15, 2 2B, 2 RBI), CJ Cron (2-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), David Freese (4-8, 2B), Chris Iannetta (3-8, 2B, 4 RBI), Howie Kendrick (11-41, 2B, 2 3B, 2 RBI), Albert Pujols (6-21, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 4 RBI), Mike Trout (6-15, 2B, HR, RBI, 2 BB).

    Jered Weaver key matchups: Norichika Aoki (1-3), Alcides Escobar (2-8), Raul Ibanez (15-36, 3 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 6 BB), Carlos Peguero (2-8, HR, RBI).

    Yordano Ventura key matchups: Gordon Beckham (3-6, RBI), John Buck (1-3), Kole Calhoun (2-3, 2B), CJ Cron (1-2), David Freese (1-2, RBI), Howie Kendrick (1-2, 2B), Albert Pujols (1-2, RBI), Mike Trout (1-2).

    Matt Shoemaker key matchups: No results available.

    James Shields matchups: Erick Aybar (5-19, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Gordon Beckham (10-36, 3 3B, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), John Buck (5-17, 2B, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Hank Conger (3-6, 2 2 B, BB), Howie Kendrick (14-26, 4 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Albert Pujols (3-6, 2B), Mike Trout (2-6, 3B, HR, RBI).

    CJ Wilson key matchups: Norichika Aoki (3-5, 2B, BB), Lorenzo Cain (4-7, 2 2B, 3 RBI, BB), Alex Gordon (4-16, 3 RBI, 3 BB), Omar Infante (7-15, 2 2B, 2 RBI), Josh Willingham (9-27, 3 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, BB).

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