For the Kansas City Royals, there’s been one focus and one focus only all season long: Get back to the World Series and finish the job. Playing with that purpose, the Royals cruised for much of the regular season, capturing the American League Central division crown. Now, after an ALDS victory against the Houston Astros, Kansas City is one series away from getting a chance to achieve everything they’ve been playing for.
While the Royals have been clear favorites throughout the season, the path to the ALCS for their opponent wasn’t so smooth. The Toronto Blue Jays were expected to reach some pretty lofty expectations in 2015, but it wasn’t until after the trade deadline that this team took flight.
After capturing the AL East and surviving the will-powered Texas Rangers in the division series, the Blue Jays are back in the championship series for the first time since they won it all in 1993. The matchup is set. So, who wins? We’ve broken rosters and stats down to see who has the advantage in this battle of the top two teams in the American League.
On the surface, the pitching in this series seemingly swings in favor of the Blue Jays. David Price is an ace and (despite a sluggish postseason start) can dominate any lineup when he is on point. R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada have been solid as well. Then you look at the bullpen and see that they’ve given up very little so far this postseason, and you start to see why this team has championship potential. A good bullpen goes a long way in the playoffs, something that Kansas City know a thing or two about.
As for those Royals, that pen is the best in the big leagues. Their relievers make it almost impossible to mount a late game rally, led by the powerful Wade Davis. In the rotation, things aren’t as pretty. Johnny Cueto is supposed to be the ace, but struggled throughout his regular season stint with Kansas City before coming up big in game 5 of the ALDS. The rest of the guys in their rotation leave much to be desired.
The Blue Jays combo of solid rotation and solid pen gives them an edge on the mound in this series. The Royals might have to rely on their relievers just a bit too much, which could cost them in their ability to win this series.
The Royals bring one of the most well-balanced lineups to this series to face that Toronto staff. Led by Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales, Ben Zobrist, and several other batters, this lineup produces clutch runs (see game 4 against Houston) and provides enough power to keep opposing arms on edge. They were one of the top run-scoring teams in baseball, and against most squads, this lineup would hold the advantage against the opposing hitters.
One matchup that isn’t true for Kansas City is this one with Toronto. No lineup can match the power and run production of the Blue Jays. Led by likely AL MVP, Josh Donaldson, as well as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto found themselves leading the majors in runs in 2015. In the ALDS against Texas, this offense was clutch, with Bautista smacking a three-run homer late in game 5 to take the lead and ultimately clinch the series.
Both of these lineups are good enough to create havoc for the opposing pitchers in this series, but once again, Toronto has an advantage in this area.
Even though the Blue Jays hold the roster advantage in this series, dealing with the Royals will be no easy task. Kansas City is notorious for manufacturing clutch runs, getting big outs, and never giving up over the course of a game. They don’t get discouraged when they fall behind in a game or a series and play with a confidence matched by few teams. Also, they are battle tested with last year’s postseason run and hold the home field advantage.
It’s going to be intense, but ever since the trade deadline acquisitions were made, it’s felt like 2015 is Toronto’s year. They have the best overall roster in baseball (probably) and are displaying a true hunger to capture that championship. In six games, they will spoil the Royals’ aspirations of repeating as American League champs, making the World Series for the first time since 1993 (when they won it all).