Have the Kansas City Royals Built the Perfect Championship Team?
Major League Baseball Postseason 2014
A perfect run through American League playoffs
After qualifying for the playoffs with an American League wildcard berth, the Royals have gone on to win eight straight postseason games to clinch a spot in the World Series. For the first time this postseason, the Royals will have home field advantage in the series since the American League won the Major League Baseball All-Star game this season. The Royals impressive run has been made possible by their strong pitching staff that not only features quality starting pitching, but also a relief pitching staff that racks up the strikeouts in the later innings. The Royals offense has picked up the pace in order to earn wins in some of their higher scoring postseason matchups, which shows how complete a team the Royals have constructed. From strong defense, to great relief pitching, the Royals are a very tough team to mount a late inning rally against. These positive attributes on a very good baseball team, have all come together at the right time to put the Royals just four wins away from bringing home a championship.
Who carries the load on the pitching staff?
The Royals two best starters from this past season are rookie Yordano Ventura and staff ace James Shields. In the postseason, these two starters were counted on in each series to match up with some of the opposition's best starting pitchers. In this role, both were able to deliver even though Ventura has yet to earn his first postseason win this year. The Royals did get strong contributions from the other members of their postseason rotation so far, but these two have been the starters who have gotten them off to strong starts in each round of the playoffs. In the bullpen for the Royals, it is three pitchers specifically who carry the team to victories when they have the lead in the seventh inning or later. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland have all performed at a very high level for the Royals this season, with all of them notching a solid to great strikeout rate that they have continued in the postseason. By putting all these pieces in place on the Royals pitching staff, Dayton Moore has done a great job of assembling a team that can compete at a championship level.
Have the Royals just been better than everyone else this postseason?
The Royals current run of perfection through the first three rounds of the American League playoffs is record breaking. After the Royals wildcard game matchup with the Oakland Athletics, they had to face the top two teams from the American League in the next two series they played. Defeating the top seeded Angels in three games, and defeating the second seeded Orioles in four games, was the most impressive way the Royals could clinch a spot in the World Series. Even though the Royals did not have to match up with the team that won their division in the regular season, they won in convincing fashion against two teams that finished with better records than the Tigers. Everything that the Royals have done in the playoffs so far, suggests that they have played the best baseball in the American League, and may be playing the best out of any team in baseball. With some concerns about the layoff for the Royals, the quickest possible finish to the National League Championship Series would give Kansas City the advantage heading into the World Series when they open in front of their home crowd.
Is this just a one year thing? or can the Royals continue this success in the future?
With the Royals being a small market franchise, the departure of James Shields this offseason is very likely to happen with big market teams having the opportunity to outbid everyone else with their contract offers. This does not mean that the Royals success is over, even though the acquisition of James Shields marked the point where the Royals became relevant again. Royals top pitching prospect Kyle Zimmer awaits his opportunity to take an opening in the Kansas City rotation, that might result from the departure of James Shields. While the Royals losing veteran experience may set them back some, fans need to look no further than the other side of the playoff bracket to see a success story that has happened each of the three times the Giants have reached the playoffs in the past five seasons. The Giants are getting the job done with a young ace, who gained valuable postseason experience very early in his career, and now has gone on to break all time postseason records. Since the Royals offensive core is likely to remain intact for quite some time, this success story that Royals have created, is something that is not likely to just fade away after the 2014 postseason. With a strong farm system and some pivotal trades, the Royals have built a championship caliber team.
In the upcoming World Series and in future seasons, the Royals success will largely depend on how their core position players perform at the plate. With James Shields and Yordano Ventura leading the way, the Royals offense will be giving support to a very stable pitching staff against their National League opponent in the World Series. This is the first time on Major League Baseball's biggest stage for many of the Royals players, but their postseason success to this point would suggest that they are not bothered much by high pressure situations. With all the talent necessary to win a championship having been put in place for the Royals, they get the opportunity to show their fans that they can get the job done. With a matchup against the Giants, the Royals may suffer their first single game loss this postseason, in the upcoming series, but they match up very well with a very similar team to San Francisco.