Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals present interesting ALCS


Neutralizing the Royals’ speed will be vital for the Orioles in the ALCS. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles are on their way to their first ALCS berth since 1997. Yeah, it’s been  a while.

They will face a hot Kansas City Royals team that swept the owners of the best record in baseball, the Anaheim Angels. Built on strong starting pitching (like the Orioles), a strong bullpen (like the Orioles), and a speedy lineup (unlike the Orioles), the Royals present a very interesting matchup for the Orioles.

The Orioles strong defense has been a vital part of their success in both the regular season and the post-season. The same can be said of Kansas City’s ability to manufacture runs with aggressive baserunning.

The Orioles and Royals were on opposite ends of the AL stolen base rankings for the 2014 season. The Royals ranked first with 153, and the Orioles ranked last with just 44.

It will be interesting to see how the Royals fair on the basepaths, considering the strong throwing arms of Orioles outfielders and catcher Caleb Joseph.

Joseph threw out just over 40-percent of base runners this season, and Nick Markakis and Adam Jones ranked in the top-15 in AL outfield assists (and that number could have been even higher, if not for their reputation halting many baserunners in their tracks).

Will Jarrod Dyson, Alcides Escobar or Lorenzo Cain challenge the Orioles’ defense? Most likely, considering that’s how they’ve reached this point, and it makes no sense to deviate from that now.

Whereas the Royals are riding their speedy legs and the hot bat of Eric Hosmer, the Orioles continue to ride the longball in their pursuit of their first World Series title since 1983.

Like the stolen base charts, the Orioles and Royals are also on opposite sides of the home run rankings. During the regular season, the Orioles ranked first with 211 home runs and the Royals ranked last with 95 (the only team in MLB to fail to reach 100 home runs).

The Orioles’ power-hitting lineup will face off against a Royals pitching staff that allowed the third fewest home runs in the AL (128). Like the Royals, it is unlikely the Orioles will deviate from their usual game plan.

Orioles hitters will swing early hard, just as the Royals will run fast and often.

Two very different schools on how to score runs on teams that have very similar pitching identities.

The Orioles and Royals both had terrific starting pitching and relief pitching during the course of the 2014 season. The Orioles’ 3.43 team ERA and the Royals’ 3.51 ERA ranked third and fourth best in the AL during the regular season.

Both teams lacking a true “ace” pitcher has been constantly scrutinized by members of the national media, despite the effective pitching of James Shields and Chris Tillman. Whether they have an ace pitcher or not, they both have depth in their rotation and bullpen, with very few weak links.

In fact, if the Royals can’t seem to manufacture runs with their legs and the Orioles fail to get the long-ball going, the deciding factor in the series could likely come down to the manager.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter is a magician when it comes to managing his bullpen, yes. The same, however, cannot be said for Royals manager Ned Yost.

While Yost is a terrific manager in his own right, his bullpen management skills pale in comparison to Showalter.

Though, it’s tough to argue with the stats of the K.C. bullpen, it is also tough to defend Yost’s decision to pull Shields in the sixth inning of their Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics with two on and no outs for right-handed starting pitcher Yorando Ventura, who promptly gave up a three-run home run to the left-handed Brandon Moss.

Despite that particular instance, it will be tough for Yost to make the wrong call to the pen with pitchers like Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera.

During the regular season, the Royals took four of their seven matchups against the Orioles. If their ALCS matchup proves to be as close as their regular season matchups, it is sure to be one of the more exciting series of 2014 playoffs.