ALCS Game 1 Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals

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Both 2015 ALDS series are in the books and the ALCS matchup is set. The Toronto Blue Jays will face the Kansas City Royals in a best of seven series to determine who goes on to the World Series. Rick Rowand brings us his ALCS Game 1 preview in anticipation of the matchup.

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Toronto Blue Jays (93-69) vs. Kansas City Royals (95-67)

Texas won the season series (4-3)

Series Schedule:

Game 1 @ KC 8:07 Friday 10/16  Fox

Game 2 @ KC 4:07 Saturday 10/17  FS1

Game 3 @ Toronto 8:07 Monday 10/19  FS1

Game 4 @ Toronto TBD Tuesday 10/20 TBD

Game 5 @ Toronto TBD Wednesday 10/21 TBD*

Game 6 @ KC TBD Friday 10/23 TBD TBD*

Game 7 @ KC TBD Saturday 10/24 TBD TBD*

All times are Eastern

*if necessary

Probable Starters:

Game 1:  Marco Estrada (13-8) (R) vs Edinson Volquez (13-9) (R)

Game 2: David Price (18-5) (L) vs Yordano Ventura  (13-8) (R)

Game 3: Johnny Cueto (11-13) (R) vs Marcus Stroman (4-0) (R)[/box]

Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays made large moves at the trading deadline, acquiring David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, helping them capture the AL East crown and win home field advantage in the ALDS. They went the full five games against the Rangers, winning at home in game 5 that featured a bizarre 7th inning.

Overall

The Blue Jays had by far the most runs scored in baseball with 891 ‒ 127 more than the second-place Yankees. They led the AL in home runs (232) and had the fourth most steals (88). The team hit a combined .269/.340/.457 with a league-leading .344 wOBA.

The Starters

Toronto’s rotation went 62-54, putting up a 4.32 ERA, a 4.39 FIP, and a 4.53 xFIP in 940 ⅔ innings of work. They held opponents to a .266 BAA while walking 7.6%, and striking out 15.7%, with a 1.37 WHIP.

The rotation is anchored by Price, who chalked up a 9-1 record in his 11 starts with the Blue Jays, and a 18-5 record between Detroit and Toronto. He put up a 2.45 ERA, 2.78 FIP, and 3.24 xFIP. Price throws a four-seam fastball (28.80%), sinker (24.25%) and changeup (23.05%). He also utilizes a cutter (16.08%) and curveball (7.82%). His fastballs sit around 95-mph, while his changeup averages 85-mph.

Game 1 Starter

Marco Estrada started 28 games and had a 13-8 record with a 3.13 ERA, a 4.40 FIP, and a 4.93 xFIP. In 181 regular season innings he had a 6.51 K/9,  2.53 BB/9, WHIP of 1.04 and .202 batting average against.

He features a four-seam FB (53%), that he throws at just under 90-mph, a change (28%) with about 10-mph of separation, as well as a curve (11%) and cutter(9%).

The Relievers

The Blue Jays’ bullpen had a 26-20 record, with 45 saves, 94 holds and 17 blown saves in 502 innings of work. Their K/9 and BB/9 were 8.19 and 3.60, respectively. The bullpen allowed 1.13 HR/9 and a BAA of .245. Their BABIP was .290.

20-year-old Roberto Osuna took over the closer’s role in late-June and has saved 20 games while blowing only three opportunities.

The Offense

The MLB-leading offense improved dramatically in the second half, hitting .274/.350/.478 after posting a .264/.331/.441 line in the first half. The Blue Jays hit .266/.335/.455 against right-handed pitching, while feasting on left-handed pitching to the tune of .278/.354/.463. The Blue Jays were significantly better at home than on the road: .278/.351/.485 at the Rogers Centre versus .260/.329/.431 away.

Chicks Dig the Long Ball

Toronto’s high-powered offense is led by MVP candidate Josh Donaldson. Donaldson’s first year in Toronto went as well as anyone could have hoped, blasting 41 home runs with a .297/.371/.568 line. He’s joined by sluggers Jose Bautista (40 HR) and Edwin Encarnacion (39 HR).

Kansas City Royals

The Royals also went five games against the Astros, despite having home field advantage. Having gone through the increased scrutiny of the ALCS last season, the Royals should be better prepared for it. And their fan base is much smaller than the Jays, despite the bandwagoners who have hopped on. After all, the Blue Jays fan base is now includes (approximately) the entire country of Canada.

Overall

The Royals ranked 6th in the AL with 724 runs scored but hit just 14th in HRs ( 139), only three more than the White Sox. They ranked second in the league with 104 stolen bases.

The Royals were last in the league in bases on balls with just 383, as manager Ned Yost is not a proponent of the “walk is as good as a hit” philosophy. One thing they did very well was take advantage of the power alleys, hitting 300 doubles, explaining their slash line of .269/.322/.412, with a wOBA of .318.

The Starters

The starters had a record of 65-53 with a 4.34 ERA, a 4.32 FIP, and a 4.48 xFIP. Overall, they held opponents to a BAA of .266 while having a K% and a BB% of 16.8% and 7.6%, respectively, and a WHIP of 1.37.

Game 1 Starter .

Edinson Volquez started 33 games, posting a 13-9 record with a 3.55 ERA. a 3.82 FIP, and a 4.26 xFIP. In 200 ⅓ innings he had a K/9 of 6.96 and a BB/9 of 3.23, with a WHIP of 1.31 and a BAA of 2.47.

He features a sinker (44%) that he throws at 94-mph, a change (25%) – with about 9-mph of separation between the two –  a curve (24%) and a four seam FB (7%) that comes in around 95-mph.

The Relievers

The bullpen had a 30-14 record with 56 saves, 79 holds, and 20 blown saves in 539.1 innings pitched. They had K/9 and BB/9 rates of 8.38 and 3.19, respectively. They had a HR/9 rate of .80 and lead the league with a BAA of 211. Their BABIP was .258 and led the league.

The pen is led by closer Wade Davis who took over for Greg Holland late in the season. Davis racked up an 8-1 record with 17 saves in 69 games.

The Offense

Offensively the Royals were better in the second half of the season, but not by much: .262/.320/.416 with a .319 wOBA, compared to .274/.324/.408, with a wOBA of .317. They had a better record at home with a 51-30 record, while going 44-37 on the road. Their L/R splits are very close, .272/.323/./.406 facing lefties and .266/.321/.416 facing righties. They also had twice as many ABs against righties (3670) than lefties (1905) so be aware there may be some sample size issues.

Rick Rowand has written about the value of Brock Holt, Boston’s rotationBrock Holt’s cycle and aura, and a series about Bogaerts, Betts and Swihart, a screenplay of Napoli’s last days on the Sox, Travis Shaw, what to do with Hanley Ramirez, and Kim Ng.

Follow Rick on Twitter @rrowand.

Check out Ian York’s analysis of the 2015 strike zone and Rick’s ALCS clinching game recaps.

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