Some random stuff that needs to be discussed before the Royals return to the ALCS this evening…
— The Orioles announced right-hander Chris Tillman as Game One starter. Tillman led the O’s in innings and his 3.34 ERA was second on the staff. His 2.4 fWAR was similarly the second-best mark.
Tillman’s .267 BABIP was the 12th lowest mark among AL starters. You may think the BABIP gods were smiling on Tillman, but that mark is in line with his performance over the past three seasons. His GB/FB ratio is close to 1 so everyone gets in the action when he’s on the mound. That’s a good thing for Tillman, as the Baltimore defense has been among the best in baseball again this year.
Tillman works fastball, curve and change. His fastball averages in the low 90s but has late action that creeps up on the hitters. The Royals can go up looking first pitch fastball, but if they fall behind in the count, they’ll have to be on guard for the curve. If Tillman is even or ahead in the count, he’ll throw the curve nearly 25 percent of the time. It’s a pitch that has a sharp 12-6 break and it’s one that generates plenty of ground balls. Tillman approaches hitters from both sides of the plate largely the same, but will mix in a cut fastball to right-handed batters on occasion.
— One of the more intriguing story lines is how Mike Moustakas is approaching his plate appearances. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but here’s his spray chart in four postseason games:
Two bombs to right, another deep fly out and a bunch of balls put in play to the left. I’m not going to go so far as to claim he’s “fixed” because after nearly 2,000 major league plate appearances and a slash line of .236/.290/.379, I continue to question his ability to be an everyday contributor. He’s picked the right time to finally focus on working the count, making solid contact and going with the pitch on the outer half of the plate.
— Ned Yost announced his starting lineup. Be shocked:
The last time the Royals started with anything different was September 20th.
— There’s been a more than a little talk surrounding Game One starter James Shields and his upcoming foray into free agency. Rumblings on the Unnamed Executive Street have his next contract around five years and upwards of $80 million. That’s a hefty price to pay for a starting pitcher who will be 33 next season. There will be more time to discuss after the postseason, but I would imagine the Royals will make a cursory run at Shields, but he’s still moving to another team. Perhaps he would be so good as to give the Royals an opportunity to match an offer, but with the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels expected to be in the running for his services, I can’t imagine the Royals will pony up the cash.
We’ve seen the business model the Royals will be continuing to use – trading of prospects for pitching help under contract. One of my major gripes on the Shields-Myers trade was that was the sort of deal you make when you’re a player or two away from contention. At the time of the trade, it felt like the Royals were much further away that Shields and Wade Davis. Now the nucleus of this postseason team is still under team control for another couple of seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised if Moore walked the same path this winter and sent some prospects in exchange for a frontline player or two.
Either way, it’s early days for speculation. There’s still baseball to be played.
— Apparently, Omar Infante has been battling shoulder soreness. Oh, really? Didn’t we hear this in March? And in April? And at some point in May? You get the picture. He’s been broken for most of the season and the numbers back that up. The black hole his bat is in the lineup becomes a little less noticeable when Moustakas is hitting behind him.
— One of my favorite subplots of this ALCS will be the defense. According to The Fielding Bible, the Orioles have the best defense in the AL at 49 runs saved. The Royals are second at 40 runs saved. The Orioles value is spread fairly evenly through the field. The Royals value comes from a loaded outfield. Baseball Prospectus’ Defensive Efficiency – the measure of turning balls put into play into outs – has Baltimore third and the Royals sixth.
— My prediction: Royals in six.