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As a longtime Kansas City Royals fan, there has always been a small part of me that worried I would never see my team in the World Series ever again. Sure, I got to see them in 1985, but I was 8 at the time and there are only so many memories of that time that lingers. This latest Royals playoff run has been exciting beyond belief but there was always that question; “Could they really make it back to the World Series?” We no longer have to ask that anymore, as the Royals finished off the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series, sweeping them in 4 games. The Royals are now headed to the World Series for the 3rd time in franchise history. I’ve been fairly quiet in this space during the last few weeks, not for lack of attention but more that I have been “enjoying the ride”. I don’t know for sure how objective I can be at this point, but I here are a few thoughts as we all get ready to cheer our Royals in the World Series next week.

Pitching and Defense Wins Championships 

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There is a reason you hear this adage over and over every October; because it is the truth. Very few teams slug their way to a championship. If you want to go deep into the playoffs, build your team around pitching and defense. You can probably add timely hitting and a deep bullpen/bench to this, as there is always a good chance you will be playing in close games in the most important month of the year. I mentioned recently how this is a team tailored for the playoffs and within 8 games this month(yes, I’m counting the Wild Card game that was held on September 30th) they seem to be proving that theory correct. They haven’t been winning with their bats(although those timely hits have been big so far this postseason) as much as with their defense and pitching. Just off the top of your head, how many key defensive grabs can you name within the last few weeks? Just thinking about it and I get up to 15 before even having to pause and think. Insane. Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar are just a few guys who have multiple plays that come to mind and I’m sure I am forgetting even more. Combine this with solid starting pitching and the best trio of relievers in the game(Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland) and you have a team that has to be frustrating for opponents in these tight situations. We all saw glimpses of the team’s strengths during the season, but it really feels like the Royals embraced these strengths late in the year and that has propelled the recent spat of postseason wins. As much as some of us(myself included) disagreed with how this team was built, it has gotten them to the World Series. Obviously, Dayton Moore understood the basis of what makes a championship team; we just should have believed more in the 1980’s style of baseball he was preaching.

Are Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas Fixed?

Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas

If you listen to the ‘talking heads’ this postseason you would think that Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have elevated their game and are starting to (finally)live up to their potential when they were drafted years ago. I will say this: both have looked way more focused in October. Moose has been driving the ball with a bit more authority(and not just on soft stuff) and Hosmer’s swing has looked the closest to his rookie year swing than at any time during the last 3 years. In fact, the national media has heavily focused themselves on Hosmer and that pesky word “potential” . If you didn’t know any better, you would think Hosmer was the straw that stirs the Royals drink, not the true leader, Alex Gordon. But are they fixed? That might be going a bit far. I have had exasperated this issue in the past and a small sample size hasn’t really changed my mind on this yet. For the Royals sake you hope they have turned the corner and they will start to shine like we have all wanted them to do since 2011. If they can transfer over their success into 2015 then we could be talking about them being cornerstones for the franchise. This will be a subject to revisit again come May of next year.

Danny Duffy: M.I.A.

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One of the more peculiar topics of discussion this month has been the status of pitcher Danny Duffy. Late in the regular season Duffy had a one pitch outing at Yankee Stadium(due to shoulder concerns) and an outing in Chicago where his mechanics were a mess. So is Duffy hurt? Why has he only being pitching from the stretch? For a guy who was probably the most consistent starter for the Royals this year, a year where he showed just how effective(and efficient) he could really be, it seemed odd to see Duffy basically on the outside looking in. You have to feel for a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and is possibly the most fan-friendly Royal in recent memory. All this success and he is a last resort out of the pen? Luckily the Royals haven’t really needed Duffy during the playoffs, but you wonder how far their concerns go. Obviously he doesn’t feel comfortable pitching from the windup, which will have to be addressed in the spring. But with a World Series in the Royals near future you hope Danny Duffy is allowed to contribute on the field and put an exclamation point on what has been a breakthrough season for the young lefty.

Neddy and Dayton Prove Numbers Wrong

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News Bulletin: I am not a fan of Royals GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost. I have railed and have even asked for their dismissals, numerous times. I even said that Yost would never “take the Royals to the promised land”. Obviously, I was wrong about that. Go ahead and give Ned a point there. But the question has been posed to me as of late: has my mind changed about these two since the Royals are headed to the World Series? When it comes to Ned, the answer is no. I still believe he is a poor tactical manager, which makes him the same as about half the managers in the big leagues right now. I also believe his mood affects this team and how they play. When he is loose, they play loose. When he stressed and tight, they play that way. More than anything, I believe the Royals could do better when it comes to the manager position. That being said, he has had an almost flawless postseason so far. Outside of the 6th inning in the Wild Card game(and possibly him not pulling his starters fast enough in Game 1 & 2 of the ALCS), Ned has pushed the right buttons and every decision has come up gold. Honestly, if the man isn’t trying to play the lotto right now then I don’t know when he should. I probably won’t ever be a fan of Yost’s style(the bunting alone drives me mad), but I can give him credit when he has earned it.

Dayton will get a bit more credit from me. I was one of the many who questioned the James Shields trade, as I felt the Royals gave up too much and essentially hated giving up 6 years of Wil Myers for 2 of Shields. But late in August, I started really re-thinking this. Wade Davis was the best reliever in baseball this season and Shields intangibles helped more than I could have ever imagined. Do Duffy and Yordano Ventura grow as much as they did this year if not for Shields guidance? Does the mentality in the clubhouse change without Big Game James leading the way? There is no way to measure his influence on this team but it is obvious that trading for him wasn’t the mistake some of us thought it was. Dayton was the one who focused on defense and pitching, realizing he needed speed for the outfield with the amount of ground they have to cover. He put together a monster of a bullpen and stuck with struggling youngsters that most teams would have jettisoned by now. More than anything else, Dayton put together the team that broke the 29 year drought   and got the Royals back to the playoffs. It took him 8 years(and most front offices wouldn’t have lasted that long) but he did it. Kudos to GMDM. It’s not the team most of us would have assembled, but it is the team that is getting ready for the World Series.

MLB: ALDS-Los Angeles Angels at Kansas City Royals

This is just a few of the thoughts rolling through my head. I haven’t been able to make much sense of the wild playoff run Kansas City is having, but I can tell you how happy it has made me. A team that most of us wrote off in May has risen like a Phoenix in October and is only 4 wins away from a World Series title. It seems almost appropriate that the Royals have yet to lose this postseason; we die hard Royals fans have seen enough losing to last us a lifetime. The best thing is that when damning the logic, you realize just how fun it has been. This ride has one more stop and hopefully when it is all said and done a second World Series title will make its way to Kauffman Stadium. Dreams can come true, and we are just few more ‘W’s’ away from that parade I’ve been planning for months to become a reality. Only this time I’m 100% serious.

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This past Sunday night the Kansas City Royals completed their sweep of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Divisional Series with a resounding 8-3 victory, advancing the Royals to the American League Championship Series. 29 years of no postseason action makes for many demons, not only with the organization but with the fanbase as well. The good thing is that the Royals have been purging many of these devils this October. For many of us, our mantra became “we just want to get to the playoffs”, as we knew how uplifting it would be for the franchise, the city and the fans. I was lucky enough to be one of the 40,000+ this past weekend to witness the completion of the sweep in person and purge my own demons at ‘The K’.

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A few days before this game I lucked myself into a playoff ticket thanks to a friend. There was no way I could turn down getting to see my favorite team for 30 years break down the walls and be part of the playoff atmosphere. Little did I know when I bought the ticket that the Royals would be in line for a sweep if the cards all fell right. As I made my way to the gates to enter Kauffman Stadium, it felt like any other time I have been there. There was a bit more energy in the crowd than normal, but for the most part it felt like it had most of this season at my home away from home. As I walked around, I noticed little differences. Postseason banners hung from the rafters and there seemed to be more urgency in getting Royals merchandise from the team store. I found my seat(upper deck, right behind home plate) with about 90 minutes before first pitch and got myself settled. From my vantage point I could see everything; I might have lucked into the best tickets for what was about to go down. Before too long pregame would start up, and that was when it really hit me; I was at a playoff a game, a Royals playoff game! I could lie here and say it didn’t affect me, but it did. During the introductions, watching the crowd go nuts for players like Terrance Gore made me just smile from ear to ear. Even while the announcer was trying to get everyone ready for the National Anthem, the crowd loudly(and I mean LOUDLY) started a ‘Let’s Go Royals’ chant, one so loud you couldn’t hear Mike McCartney. You could tell he was talking, but that was it. This rabid fanbase was ready and dying to see their boys in blue finish the sweep. As the flyover occurred at the end of the anthem, I teared up. For 29 years I just wanted my Royals to go out there and reach the playoffs. I was now not only at one of those games, but one with a bunch of crazy bastards who completely understood how I felt. It was hard not to just break down in happiness at what I was about to witness. I was about to fulfill a dream that I had started to believe would never happen.

Royals Divison Postseason 2014 vs Angels Game 3 KC

Once the game started the insanity didn’t stop. I have always said the loudest I have ever heard that stadium was during Robinson Cano’s weak effort at the Home Run Derby in 2012, but Sunday night it was louder. The crowd yelled, stomped and waved their blue and white towels(homer hanky?), cheering on their team and cheering on the fact that the Royals had made the playoffs. The crowd early on hung on every pitch; Mike Trout tried to upset the mood with a 1st inning home run off James Shields, but it only calmed us for a bit. The Royals would retaliate in the bottom of the inning, as team leader Alex Gordon continued his clutch ways with a bases clearing triple, putting the Royals up 3-1. Insanity ensued. At that moment any chance of me being even slightly sane went out the window. Complete strangers started high-fiving each other, as we were almost all of the same mind and soul. If we had to, we were going to will this Royals team to a victory. Luckily, no willing was needed as the Royals continued the onslaught, not bothering to let up on the Angel’s throat. Eric Hosmer would add a two run home run in the bottom of the 3rd and Mike Moustakas added a scorcher of his own the following inning. Not even an Albert Pujols solo job could deter things. By the 4th inning I was texting a friend, asking him if it was too soon to start counting outs. He said too soon; yep, we are a superstitious bunch. The roof about came off the place when Billy Butler stole a base; if there was ever a sign that the Royals were going to win, that was it. Billy Butler???

That’s what speed do! Between this and two amazing catches by Lorenzo Cain, it just seemed to spell doom for the Angels.

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Numerous times during the game I would look around me, look to the left and then to the right. Happiness, all around me. So much suffering was being let go that night and words can’t even describe how glorious that was. More than anything it felt like a giant weight was being lifted off of the collective shoulders of a fanbase that honestly could have just walked away and chose some other team to cheer for. Instead, we all stayed and were being rewarded for our loyalty.

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Before the top of the 9th, a video played on CrownVision. I wish I could remember it verbatim, but instead here was the synopsis; this is what we had waited for. It was almost time to celebrate the Royals advancing to the ALCS. Three outs later, everyone in the stadium lost their collective minds. I have never heard ‘The K’ that loud, and I seriously wonder if I ever will hear it louder than that. Strangers high fived, hugged and grown men openly wept. I have been a huge baseball fan for 30 years, and at that moment I had never been happier in my life. Sure, I remember 1985, but I was younger and thought that the playoffs would come again soon enough for Kansas City. This meant so much more to me, more than I can even try to describe here. We all yelled and cheered, hoping the moment would never leave. I know whenever I am old, and my mind starts to fade, there is a good chance I will remember this moment, as it will be hard to ever replace the emotion I was feeling at that time. To give you an idea of just how jubilant everyone was, as we piled out of the stadium, complete strangers started high-fiving everyone who walked by. There was no way I was not joining in, as I became part of the insanity. I would eventually walk out of there, and the rain would come. I was drenched and couldn’t care less. The Royals were going to the ALCS, and I got to be there to be a part of one of the greatest moments in Royals history.

Eric Hosmer

I’ve had a couple of days to reflect, and to be honest I can’t get the grin off of my face. I have felt over the years that I have been a very fortunate man to have gotten to experience some great baseball moments. Without a doubt in my mind, this was the best baseball experience of my life. It’s hard to really describe to people, especially those that aren’t Royals fans. This let out a lot of venom, a lot of pent up anger that I have held against this franchise for past mistakes. All I feel right now is love, to a team that I have loved since I started collected baseball cards and would try to get all the Royals player’s as soon as possible. The only thing that could have made this experience better would have been if my son, my grandma, my dad or girlfriend had been there(or all). In some ways though, it might have been good to let me have this all to myself. I have loved baseball for so long that I don’t remember not loving it; it has given me so much happiness over the years and I hope much more in the future. For one night 29 years of anger, sadness, stupidity, carelessness, and bad mojo just got swept away. Thank you, Kansas City. Damn that was awesome!

 

Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v Kansas City Royals

Tuesday night the Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals played an American League Wild Card game that will go down in history as legendary. A back and forth contest where any time one team looked to gain the advantage the other came back to retaliate. Or more appropriately, the Royals kept coming back and just would not die. This isn’t an article going into mass detail about the game, breaking it down point by point. This isn’t even one going over the main points. We all know about the bad decision manager Ned Yost made in the 6th inning, bringing in rookie Yordano Ventura out of the pen rather than a lefty or just going to ‘old reliable’, Kelvin Herrera. We all know about the bunting, oh the bunting! You know it’s a good game when I don’t even have issue with 3/4 of the sacrifice bunts that were laid down. There is the A’s outfielders colliding on a ball hit by Eric Hosmer in the 12th inning and the subsequent squibbler hit by Christian Colon to score him. It’s not even about Salvador Perez, coming off of a plate appearance where he swung at three pitches low and outside that weren’t even in the vicinity of the strike zone, who came through with the clutchest(new word) of hits to win the game and advance the Royals to the American League Divisional Series. No, this column is simple; this team defies logic, no matter how many times I try to make sense of their winning.

Wild Card Game - Oakland Athletics v Kansas City Royals

This is a team that plays like it’s 1982, where power hitting isn’t as important as speed or doing the little things. The Royals are all about pitching, defense, speed and some timely hits. Screw plate discipline, hitting for extra bases or taking walks. This team plays like a team of a bygone era, when bunting was a weapon and game winning RBI’s were on the back of your baseball cards. If you are a stat guy(or gal) in any way, this team frustrates the hell out of you. Take a few pitches? Nope, too busy trying to make contact. Drive a ball into the gap? Sorry, we need to move a runner over into scoring position and take one for the team. For anyone that believes that “numbers don’t lie”, this team is your worst nightmare.

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The thing is, at this point I don’t care. The Royals are winning and moving on in the playoffs. That is all I care about at the moment. It might be bowling shoe ugly at times, but who cares? This Royals team knows how to play one way and that way is helping them not get eliminated. This club, built by GM Dayton Moore, is not a team I would have put together. But it’s working. Logic tells us this team shouldn’t even have gotten to the playoffs. The last Wild Card team to make the playoffs with less than 90 wins was all the way back in 1996; this year both the Royals and A’s made it below that number. So everything that has happened so far this season has seemed to be off-base, so why would that change now? It’s almost like recently this Royals team woke up one day, realized what their weaknesses are and said ” You know what? Let’s play to our strengths.”

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So bring on the Angels. Let’s find out just how far this team can take things. Tuesday’s game had so many twists and turns that I felt like a schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder. If playoff baseball means I spend the entirety of every game on pins and needles, then I’m all for it. We’ve waited 29 years to be in this moment and something as minor as the ups and downs of a close game isn’t going to scare us away. This Royals team has spent the majority of this season winning in spite of their flaws, so they might as well continue on the path they have worn. I’ve spent years just saying I wanted the Royals in the playoffs; well it is here and in all of it’s nailbiting glory. Thank you, Kansas City. Let’s win 11 more games!

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On Friday night, the 29 year wait ended. On Friday night, the Kansas City Royals clinched a spot in the 2014 playoffs, assuring themselves of at least a Wild Card spot when the postseason starts next week. As most know, the Royals hadn’t reached the playoffs since the won the World Series back in 1985. During that span, anyone associated with the Royals, whether it be players, coaches, broadcasters, front office personnel, vendors and even fans have felt the weight of this playoff drought. It had almost gotten to the point to where that became the team’s defining talking point, not anything that was actually going on out on the field or within the organization. I’ve had a little over 24 hours to think about this and what this means personally to me. Like a lot of people, a hefty weight has been lifted off of everyone’s shoulders.

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I immediately thought of all the people involved within the organization who had been around forever. People like Denny Matthews, who has been with the team since the beginning and has dealt with all the highs and lows. I made sure Friday night that I was listening to Denny’s call, if for no other reason than it is comfortable listening to him. Art Stewart came to mind, the long time Royals scout and even guys like Mike Swanson, VP of broadcasting, who has had a couple tours of duty with Kansas City, going all the way back to the 1970’s. I thought of how happy guys like George Brett, Mike Sweeney and Jeff Montgomery would be, former players who were still around and working within the organization. If anyone understood how it was for us fans, it would be these folks, who have endured just as much heartache as we have.

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I also thought of former Royals no longer with us. Dick Howser came to mind, as he was the last man to take the Royals to the postseason. Howser came down with brain cancer into the 1986 season and passed away in June of 1987. Dan Quisenberry and Paul Splittorff both came to mind as well, longtime Royals who also lost their battles with cancer. Former Royals announcer Fred White passed away in May of 2013 and if ever there was a good trooper for the organization, it was Fred. White was still with the organization when he passed away and no one would have loved seeing the Royals celebrate a playoff berth like Fred White. There are probably others I have forgotten about, all who would have loved this moment.It goes to show how much this team meant to so many different people.

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I then thought of my Grandma Thornton. Craig Brown has a great read about him watching games with his Grandfather and my story is somewhat like that. When I first got interested in baseball around 1984, I would go listen to Royals games at my Grandma’s, as we would listen to Denny and Fred call the play by play on the radio. She would tell me stories about growing up listening to the Yankees as that was the only team in the area that stations would broadcast, since there was no local team yet. Listening on the radio made you picture the action in your head, as Denny and Fred would weave their words to give us an idea of what was happening on the diamond. I fell in love with baseball and shared that with my Grandma for many years. Once the Royals started being on television more we would watch the games and  talk about what was happening. I sometimes wish I could go back to then, when I was more innocent and just watched the game without questioning managerial tactics or analyze statistics like I do today. I think I was one of Grandma’s favorites(easy for me to say!) and part of that reason was we both loved this game. Before she got sick she gave me some of her baseball memoribilia she had purchased over the years, as she wanted me to have them. At the time I felt weird about it, since she wasn’t even sick at that point, but I know now that she wanted me to have these items and was afraid I wouldn’t end up with them if it got into the hands of other family members. I still remember her sternly telling me I was to take them and this wasn’t up for conversation. I took them, even if it was reluctantly, and the baseball signed by all the 1990 Royals still sits on a shelf in my bedroom, along with other signed balls. I’m sure if she was still around she would have loved seeing the Royals in the playoffs, which puts a smile on my face every time I think about it.

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Lastly, I thought of Dayton Moore. Over the last few years I have been very vocal about whenever I felt Moore had madea move I felt was less than great. Most of the time it was earned, and when a General Manager is in charge as long as Dayton has been and not produced a playoff team it is only natural to question whether or not he is suited for the job. I still am not the biggest fan of him, but I will give credit where credit is due; Dayton did it. He assembled a team that got the Royals to the playoffs. I don’t agree with how he built the team and there will still be a few doubts about “the trade”(and I’m sure it will get brought up again in the future) but for now none of that matters. All that matters is that Dayton kept his word and got this team to posteason play. For that I will give him a “thank you, Dayton” and hope that this will just be the first of many appearances. Adding Jason Vargas has helped this team in 2014, but credit also must go to all the players drafted, signed and developed during his tenure. Sure, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are still question marks, but look at guys like Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy as two guys that have been huge for this team. Look at the profits of the Zack Greinke trade, as Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain are regulars in the lineup(and Jake Odorizzi helped bring in James Shields and Wade Davis). Even the bullpen has Moore’s fingerprints on this team, as both Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera were developed in the Royals organization. Moore has made some questionable moves over the years and probably will again in the future, but for now he backed up what he promised, and that is what matters in the present.

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I have been critical of this organization in the past, and I will again in the future. It’s not out of spite or to complain, it’s out of love. I love this team, and I love all the joy that being a Royals fan has given me over the years and I always want them to succeed. Sure, there have been huge bumps in the road, but it has made this season even more special. On Friday night I sat there and thought about all the things I love about this team and this game and I am so glad I stuck with them. Sure, the Royals might play the wild card game on Tuesday and lose, and just like that it will be over. Or they will keep playing. And keep playing. Either way, the Royals have done what many of us weren’t for sure they could do, and that is break the drought. For that, I am perfectly fine with being wrong about this team.  I bleed Royal blue and will till the day I die; let’s make this a yearly thing now, boys!

 

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As the Kansas City Royals inch closer and closer to their first postseason berth since  1985, it becomes harder and harder to not play out scenario’s in your head. What if they win a Wild Card spot? What will the starting rotation look like? Who do you leave off the playoff roster? These might all seem like minor details, but for us Royals fans it is foreign territory. Hey, we’ve spent close to 30 years just asking for a game that really matters; these questions seem to matter more to us than they should. With all that said there are a few things that not only make me feel confident that we could not only be witnessing a number of playoff games but that this team could be a great fit for what is headed their way.

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Obviously the preference for most of us is for Kansas City to win the American League Central, as the Royals would avoid the one game playoff that is the wild card. Winning a wild card is still playoffs, but there is always the possibility that the Royals have an off night and that would leave them one and done. Also, unless the Royals finish above or tied with Oakland in the Wild Card race they will be playing that game on the road. The thought of only getting one playoff game and not getting October baseball at ‘The K’ saddens me in ways you don’t even know. Like watching the end of Toy Story 3. I’m not alone on that, right? Anyway, there has been lots of discussion on whether the Royals playing in one game would be satisfying enough, and I can easily see why one game would not be enough. Either way, playoffs are playoffs, whether you play 1 game or 21. Bottom line is that the Royals need to reach the Division Series for any of the following points to even matter.

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There are normally three key things stressed for a team to go deep into the playoffs: pitching, defense and timely hitting. The good thing is the Royals are good for at least two of those, with the third coming and going. Let’s start with the pitching. This has been one of the bigger factors in the Royals success this year and without it we probably aren’t even talking playoffs right now. It will be interesting to see if the Royals will go with a 3 or a 4 man rotation to start out. I would imagine the top three goes James Shields, Danny Duffy, and Jeremy Guthrie. I would like to think Yordano Ventura would be the third rather than Guthrie, but my gut tells me they won’t want to push him real hard, as he has already pitched the most innings in one season of his career(179.0 as we speak). You also have to wonder where Jason Vargas is in this conversation, as he has had a really good season but in his last 7 starts he has a 5.89 ERA/1.66 WHIP and Kansas City has lost 6 of his those starts. Since I can’t see either Guthrie or Vargas being a part of the bullpen(unless they are a long reliever, and sweet baby Jesus, let’s hope we don’t need one of those) they will probably either start or not be on the playoff roster. This will lead to some interesting dilemmas for Royals management, as they will want to get the most out of their rotation without killing Ventura’s arm or using a starter who is regressing(I’m staring at you, Vargas!).

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But it’s not just the starters that will guide this team in October. The Royals bullpen has been a major force over the last few years and this year has added an element of dominance to the late innings. With Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland you are seeing a back portion of the pen who will slow down the best of offenses. Three guys with upper 90’s heat, nasty off-speed pitches and the ability to make a Royals game be over if they are leading after 6 innings. Add in the likes of Jason Frasor, Brandon Finnegan(who was drafted by Kansas City this summer) and just for the hell of it Francisley Bueno and Louis Coleman and you have the making of a playoff caliber pen. It will be interesting to see if Aaron Crow makes this squad, as obviously manager Ned Yost still thinks fondly of him, despite his disappointing season where inherited runners abound and velocity decreases. Add in the possibility of Ventura being in the bullpen and you could make the case that Kansas City will make opposing teams want to strike early or pay for it when HDH enter the game.

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians

Defense is also a major plus for Kansas City and something that will help them in their hunt for gold. This has been about a solid of a unit as the Royals have had in a very long time, although there have been a few hiccups these last few weeks. For the Royals to play deep into October they need the ‘D’ to step up and return to their earlier levels of excellence. It shouldn’t be hard to muster, but this team has also showed the penchant to let pressure affect their play on the field.

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The timely hitting is the only thing that could be a worry. The Royals are hitting at a .270 with runners in scoring position, which is in the top 5 in baseball this season. It does drop to .214 with 2 outs in the inning, which lowers them to the middle of the pack in both leagues. They are also doing well when they get past the 7th inning, hitting at a .252 clip which is good enough for 6th in all of baseball. So this is a team that can hit and hit in the clutch if needed. But if you are a Royals fan you know how streaky they can be as well. One minute this team looks like an offensive juggernaut, the next you wonder if even Kent Murphy or Domingo Ayala(Google them; go ahead) could hit better than Kansas City’s hitters. They also aren’t a team that takes a lot of pitchers, so it is rare when you see them work a count and attempt to wear a pitcher down. Surprisingly they don’t strike out much either, although this means a lot of ground balls that don’t get past the infield. There is also a reliance on bunting when they start to struggle, which can be both good and bad. Letting a speedy player bunt early in the game for a hit? Fine by me, although I would prefer they hit. Sacrifice in the first 6 innings? Awful and something the Royals are notorious for doing. More than anything this team needs to hit in the clutch and attempt to be moderately consistent to reach the next level. I hope this can happen, but if there is anything I worry about it is this very issue that has hampering the team for the last couple seasons. Bottom line, this is a team of hackers who have both good and bad nights.

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Oh, there is one more positive that will be amplified in October; speed. The Royals are almost a team that harkens back to the 80’s, one built on speed, defense and pitching. The Royals like to flaunt this speed whenever possible, especially with both Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore on the bench for late inning heroics. This is a team that needs to use that speed to their advantage when they get to the postseason, if for no reason than that it is a plus for the team. This is a team full of speedy guys(Dyson, Gore, Cain, Aoki) and guys who are good base runners(Gordon, Escobar). If the offense is struggling? Use your speed by stealing bases and utilize the hit and run. The Royals aren’t a team that can bunch up a few hits and then expect a big three run bomb, so causing some damage on the basepaths would seem to be a solid game plan. I’m not saying do this all the time, and obviously I think they need to be smart about when they do take advantage of the speed, but there are times that this team strands runners on base, runners that could be in motion. Making opposing pitchers and defenses feel uneasy should be a regular part of Kansas City’s offense this October and one that could gain them a slight advantage.

White Sox Royals Baseball

Look, there are areas of concern when it comes to this Royals team, like the much maligned offense, a non-threatening bench or Ned Yost’s tactical decisions. All could cost this team in the playoffs. In fact the ideal scenario for the Royals would be for them to get a lead by the 6th inning and then let Yost throw HDH out there for the last 3 innings. The less Yost has to manage, the better. But putting that aside, there are many teams in the American League who have already said they don’t want to play Kansas City in postseason play because of the way they are built. This is a Royals team that is used to playing in low scoring affairs and have shown a penchant to be a team that doesn’t give up late in the contest. So as much as this Royals team isn’t the team you or I would have built and despite logic telling us they shouldn’t have gotten this far with what they have, they are here. Watch out American League playoff teams; the Kansas City Royals are coming no matter how unorthodox or old school their game plan is.