Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tigers and Royals

Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez
celebrate as the Kansas City Royals
secured their first postseason berth
since winning the World Series in 1985.
They are, going into the final two days of the schedule, separated by just one game. But as close as they are in the standings, the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are very different teams, with almost mirror image strengths and weaknesses.

The Tigers have a brawny lineup. They stand second in the American League in runs scored and are closer to first than to third in that important stat. They're first in doubles (you'll never guess which team is second*), first in batting average, first in slugging percentage, first in on-base percentage,

Their starting rotation boasts the last three American League Cy Young Award winners, and they also have last year's ERA champ, who isn't one of the Cys.

But their bullpen -- despite the addition of numerous "proven closers" -- remains a minefield, and they are -- despite their drastic offseason infield makeover -- a dismal defensive team. The Tigers shed Prince Fielder so they could move Miguel Cabrera to first base and insert Nick Castellanos at third, and this was expected to improve the defense. Um ... not so much:

(Last night Castellanos committed a throwing error that allowed the Twins two runs.)

The Royals, on the other hand, are ninth in the AL in runs scored, more than 100 fewer than the Tigers. They are the one AL team with fewer than 100 homers. They are dead last in walks drawn.

Their starting pitching is competent, but certainly James Shields, Danny Duffy, Yolando Ventura and Jason Vargas don't have the cachet of Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander.

What makes the Royals -- at least in the standings -- the virtual equivalent of the Tigers is their prowess afield and the smothering capacity of their bullpen. Kansas City has a collection of fleet outfielders and skilled infielders, with legit Gold Glove candidates at four or five positions. (Torii Hunter owns more Gold Gloves than the entire Royals roster put together, but he now covers about as much ground as those ugly trophies.)

To be sure, the Pythagorean Theorem doesn't see the two teams as near equals. By the simple formula of runs scored vs. runs allowed, Detroit "should" be four games better than Kansas City. By wins and losses, they're only one game better after 160 contests.

I've been neutral between the two teams. But the novelty of Kansas City in the playoffs is intriguing, and -- well, the Royals aren't winning the division title without help from the Twins this weekend. So let's go Royals.

*OK, I was wrong, and you did guess that the Twins are second.

1 comment:

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