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Royals Vs. Orioles

Shapes Up As A Great ALCS

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Despite The Fact That Neither Team Is In A Major Market — And The Calls From Big City Opinion-Makers Like Ken Rosenthal That No One Will Care — People Will Watch And The Game Action Will Likely Be More Than Thrilling, But Legendary

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 7, 2014 — Last weekend, something improbable happened: two teams that have been mired in mediocrity for quite a while now swept their respective American League Division Series matchups to create one Cinderella story of Championship Series.

The Baltimore Orioles won their first American League East division crowd since 1997 and then went on to utterly dismantle the Detroit Tigers bullpen en route to a three game sweep.

The Kansas City Royals road to the AL Championship dance is even more unlikely. Prior to this season, the team hadn’t made a postseason appearance in 29 years. That’s four years before I was born — and I’m not THAT young.

But, the team managed to take the first Wild Card slot and then come from behind to defeat the A’s in 12 innings.

Seeing that the Royals are not a group to skimp on drama, they went on to sweep the best regular season team in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels by way of Anaheim near Disneyland in California. The team started off the series by taking back to back extra inning victories.

Now, these two long gestating Cinderella stories are set to face off against one another in what is sure to be an incredible series. And, the two teams couldn’t be different.

For instance, take a look at their managers.

Orioles skipper Buck Showalter is a no-nonsense managerial veteran who is well-respected around the game. He’s known for building teams that are prepared for success, only to be let go a season or two before they reach it (Yankees of the late 1990s, 2001 Diamondbacks, Rangers of the late 2000s). He’s a sound baseball mind and deserves plenty of credit for bringing the Orioles back to relevance.

The Royals’ Ned Yost, on the other hand, is largely considered somewhat of a goofball who often makes head scratching decisions, especially when it comes to his bullpen. However, no matter how much criticism he gets, no one can argue with his results this season (even if he did almost lose that wildcard playoff due to questionable decisions with the aforementioned bullpen).

But, the managers aren’t the only thing different about the teams. The construction of their offenses differs greatly, too.

The Royals rely on making contact, getting on base and then setting the basepaths on fire. The team hit .263 with a .314 on-base percentage and stole a league-leading 153 bases. The team didn’t rely on power, partially due to disappointing seasons by Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, with only 95 homeruns, good for dead last in the league.

Baltimore led the league in home runs, with 211, and was last in the league in steals with 44. The team still gets on base a lot, with a .311 team OBP.

The difference is, the Royals rely on players getting on base and then putting themselves in scoring position, while the Orioles need a guy on first so the ‘big boppers’ can drive him in. As the upcoming series will likely show us, though, they’re just two methods that lead to the same result: wins.

The one thing the teams do have in common is strong pitching. And, that’s arguably the most important thing in this second ‘dead ball’ era. Both staffs have ERAs that ranked them in the top half of the league during the regular season and bullpens that can hold their own late in the game. The Royals reliever trio of closer Greg Holland and set up men Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera are better than the Orioles top three guys, but Baltimore has the better bullpen top to bottom.

When it comes to starters, it’s a near wash, too, with Kansas City taking the slight edge because I’d rather have James Shields on the mount than anyone Baltimore has to offer. That’s not a slight to their staff, though. They’ve got plenty of quality No. 2, fringe No. 1-style pitchers, but Shields is an ace.

That being said, the differences between the pitching staffs are still minimal and not nearly enough to make a decent prediction as to which one of these Cinderellas will shove its foot into the glass cleats.

If I had to guess, I’d pick Kansas City in seven games, but, at this point it’s up to the baseball gods.

Regardless of the outcome, I feel pretty comfortable saying this is going to be a great series for baseball fans to watch.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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