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.
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).