Pitching and defense wins championships? Who knew?
There are a myriad, tangible and intangible, reasons why the Kansas City Royals are in the World Series for the first time in 29 years, but foremost among them is the fact that this team simply caught and converted into outs, well, basically everything that was put in play this post-season. That may be an exaggeration, but not a huge one.
Defensive metrics are what they are: way better than when all we had was errors and fielding percentage. However, about the time we started to really believe in them, along came all the shifting and, at least in this small mind, skewed the numbers again. The metrics love Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon, they are not as kind to Alcides Escobar. Take them for what they are worth and, sabremetricians cover your ears, you might have to just trust your eyes.
At least for a small sample size like the post-season, my eyes tell me that the Royals are playing as good a defense as I have seen a team play (and I’m old….and jaded…and pretty certain Cookie Rojas and Freddie Patek were gods). The opposing batters have eyes, too, and likely not a lot of knowledge of UZR/150. Are the Royals playing tremendous defense? Ask Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce.
The second part (or first maybe) of the equation is pitching and, when it comes to the Royals specifically, relief pitching. Kansas City is tailor made for playoff baseball with all it’s off-days and rest between series. They can go to Herrera, Davis and Holland for nine outs on Tuesday and ELEVEN more on Wednesday. They can, quite simply, give the opposing team 18 outs to score, while taking the full 27 to manufacture some runs themselves. The Royals can do that without even having to use Brandon Finnegan, Jason Frasor and Danny Duffy.
In their eight post-season games, the Royals have gotten one, maybe two, really quality outings by their starting pitcher, but thanks to a dominant bullpen, have outpitched the opposing team. You do that in the regular season and your bullpen will come apart after a couple of weeks. You do that in the post-season and you start buying flagpoles.
Some other bits and pieces:
- Zack Greinke has been part of seven post-season games since demanding a trade from Kansas City. That’s one less than Alex Gordon. Greinke has yet to be on a team that gets to the World Series. Maybe he can demand a trade to a winner this off-season.
- Darryl Motley was my favorite Royal the last time the team was in the World Series. His game seven home run remains one of my most vivid Kansas City baseball memories.
- Count me as one who is glad the Royals are playing the Giants and not the Cardinals. I am from Nebraska (I have yet, by the way, noticed any difference between natives of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa – I hate to break to you guys who are all about which state/region is better, but we’re all pretty much the same bunch) and don’t have that intense Kansas City versus St. Louis hatred. Now, don’t get me wrong, I travel a lot and St. Louis is one of my least favorite cities, I mean it’s pretty freaking awful, but as an ‘outsider’ coming to the Series, I just don’t need the KC-St.Louis crap getting in the way of my drinking.
- We will talk rosters over the weekend – I love to talk rosters – but just how healthy is Yordano Ventura and, more specifically, Danny Duffy? If Ventura is good to go as a starter and the Royals think they can go to Danny Duffy for multiple innings more than once in a seven game set, they could well drop Tim Collins and add another position player. With National League rules looming in games three and four, Jayson Nix would seem to be far more useful than Collins, IF Duffy is really healthy.
Finally, I did not tweet, not even once during Game Four against the Orioles. I was not in a great situation to utilize technology (driving a combine with scattered data coverage). I listened to the game on the radio, just like in the olden days. To be honest, it seemed right. Everything seems right when you win.