Oh, Those Magical Royals
Who could bet against them? Creation Date Monday, 06 October 2014. Hits 3750
It's that time of year again. Yes, the time where words like "pitching" and "hitting" get replaced with phrases like "they've got that magic" and "fairy dust". Last night at as I was watching the Royals cash in on that "magic" and finish off their sweep of the Angels I saw a sign in the stands that read "We have always believed. Now everyone else does." Cute sign. Realistic? No. After all, it was just a month ago that Royals Manager Ned Yost ripped into the Royals fans for not showing up to games. In fact, the Royals ranked 25th in the league in attendance this year. So no, you haven't always believed, Royals fans, and I don't believe now either. Magic and fairies can be fun. This is baseball.
In the interest of full disclosure, I had the Angels winning this series in 5 games. That having been said, the Royals winning the series did not shock me. In fact, the Royals sweeping surprised me less than an Angels sweep would have. This is the kind of match up that gives even veteran odds makers fits when trying to make a pick. In the Royals you have very good starting pitching, an excellent bullpen, outstanding defense, and an anemic team offense. In the Angels you have decent starting pitching, a good bullpen, fair team defense, and a dynamic offense. It doesn't shock me when a team like that is able to shut down the big bats and win a series like this. After all, I didn't just start following baseball last week.
This talk of "magic" in the postseason is nothing new. It is how a casual or uninformed fan explains away a wild card team beating a baseball powerhouse. Yet if we look back at the last 10 postseasons, we can see that magic doesn't always work out for you.
In 2004, the Boston Red Sox were down 3-0 to the Yankees. They won four straight elimination games to take the series and went on to win the World Series.
In 2005, the Wild Card Astros relied on excellent pitching and solid team defense to get their weak hitting offensive team all the way to the World Series... where they were swept by the White Sox.
In 2006 the Detroit Tigers got their magic on and toppled the New York Yankees. Who could bet against that magic? Well, the winners did as the Cardinals beat them in 5 games in the World Series.
In 2007 the magic moved to the Mile High City as the Rockies won 21 of 22 games down the stretch to make the playoffs. They rode that fairy dust all the way to the World Series where nobody but nobody could bet against these guys, right? They got swept by the Red Sox.
In 2008 the expansion Rays had zero payroll in the grand scheme of things, but you know what they did have? Magic. Until the Phillies won 4 out of 5 in the 08 World Series.
In 2009 the Magic was back in the Golden State as the Dodgers had worked their way back to a place of prominence. Magic they had, but gas they ran out of in the NLCS.
Having failed in southern California, the magic moved up the coast to San Francisco in 2010 where the Giants took a light hitting team with excellent pitching all the way to a World Championship over the favored Texas Rangers.
2011 was another good year for magic. The Rangers were an AL powerhouse, returning to the World Series for the second year in a row. This year they would not be denied, right? Enter the magical Wild Card Cardinals, who rode a Game 6 comeback win into Game 7 where they won it all.
In 2012 and 2013, the magic latched on to the Oakland A's. Both years, it died in the ALDS.
So now, having been twice bitten by the Oakland Athletics, the magic has moved to the Midwest and now lands on the Kansas City Royals. Fairy farts and pixie piss aside, let's look at this realistically. It's baseball. folks. Is it shocking that the light hitting Royals could get their offense on against the decent Angels pitching staff? No, you should have expected some of that. Is it unthinkable that the Royals excellent starting pitching could shut down the Angels powerful offense? No, you should have expected them to struggle. Is it surprising that they swept the Angels, or even won the series? Yes it is, but is it shocking? Not at all.
Looking forward, the Royals move on to a 7 game series with the Orioles. Thus, to avoid any confusion later, I go on the record now. What should you expect from these two teams in the ALCS?
- Starting Pitching
- Both teams have very good starting pitching, but I have to give the edge to the Royals in this department. Expect the Orioles to have at least 2 games where they struggle to put runs on the board.
- Both teams have an excellent bullpen. It is hard to favor one over the other here. Both teams will have to try to score early and often because runs will be hard to come by late.
- Team Defense
- Both teams are pretty solid defensively, especially up the middle. That having been said, especially with the Orioles potentially feeling the need to play Delmon Young in the outfield for some offense, I think that the Royals get a slight edge here defensively.
- Team Offense
- The Orioles are the clear cut favorite here. They have much more offensive firepower so they can score runs in bunches when a pitcher gets in trouble. The Royals, on the other hand, are a team that scratches and claws and uses team speed and small ball to put runs on the board. The Orioles are heavy favorites in this category.
Looking at these teams as a whole, I would have to pick the Orioles in 6 games. It would shock me if there was a sweep in this series or if the Royals won it in anything less than 7 games. It would surprise me if the Royals win the series or if the Orioles win in 5. There was no magic to the way the Royals beat the Angels, and there will be no magic to the way the Orioles end their carpet ride. It's baseball, folks, just baseball. Learn it, live it, love it.