ALCS Game 2 Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals

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 2 preview in anticipation of the matchup.

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

Series Schedule:

Game 1: Kansas City won 5-0

Game 2 @ Kansas City 4:07 Saturday 10/17  FS1

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

Game 4 @ Toronto 3:00 Tuesday 10/20 FS1

Game 5 @ Toronto 3:00 Wednesday 10/21 FS1*

Game 6 @ Kansas City 7:00 Friday 10/23 FS1*

Game 7 @ Kansas City 7:30 Saturday 10/24 FS1*

All times are Eastern

*if necessary

Probable Starters:

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

Game 3: Marcus Stroman (4-0) (R) vs. Johnny Cueto (11-13) (R)

Game 4: R.A. Dickey (R) (11-11) vs. TBD[/box]

Game 1 Recap

The theme on-paper for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series in Kansas City is Blue. But as it turns out, the theme will turn out to be “donut holes” as you’ll see later on.

Both Game 1 starters, Edinson Volquez for KC and Marco Estrada, make it through the first two innings without allowing a run. Volquez seems to be a slightly different pitcher than he’s been, not just this season, but throughout his career. A little extra pop in the fastball. A little less time between pitches, which seems to keep the hitters off balance.

Alex Gordon leads off the third with a double off of Estrada. After an Alex Rios strike out, Alcides Escobar brings Gordon home with the second double of the inning. Lorenzo Cain makes it 2-0 KC when he drives in Escobar from third with a single.

In the fourth, Volquez faces the heart of the Toronto order for the second time and for the second time leaves them looking confused at the plate. In the home half, Estrada strikes out the first two hitters he faces and then gives up a solo homer to Salvador Perez. Kansas City 3-0.

The Edinson Volquez pitching clinic continues through the fifth and sixth innings. Toronto hasn’t had a runner advance past second base.

I mentioned earlier that the theme of the day, at least for KC, should be donut holes. The announcers, especially Harold Reynolds, were gushing over the added velocity that Volquez seemed to have. And it looks like he was throwing a bit harder than usual. Maybe 1- to 2-mph. But where Volquez really excelled was with his location.

As you can see on the pitch location chart from brooksbaseball.net, he wasn’t throwing much of anything out over the heart of the plate. Most pitches in the zone were around the edges, resulting in the void, or donut hole, in the middle of the graphic below. Pitching on the edges makes life very difficult for hitters, even those as good as the Blue Jays.

Estrada pitches into the sixth inning but is replaced by Aaron Loup after Eric Hosmer reaches third on an error and a base hit with one out. The reliever induces Mike Moustakas to ground into a double play to end the inning, 3-0 KC.

Volquez is replaced in the seventh by Kelvin Herrera. Volquez’ line for the day is six innings, no hits, no runs, four walks and five Ks. Not a bad day at the office against any team, even better against the Jays in the postseason.

Kelvin Herrera continues what Volquez started and records a scoreless seventh. Mark Lowe replaces Loup on the mound for the Blue Jays and he too pitches a scoreless seventh. 3-0 KC

Ryan Madson comes in for Herrara in the eighth and gets through the inning, giving up the game’s first hit to Josh Donaldson and a walk to Jose Bautista.

LaTroy Hawkins emerges to pitch the eighth for Toronto, and proceeds to do LaTroy Hawkins-type things. He hits the lead off hitter, Escobar, with the second pitch of the at-bat. Escobar advances to second on a Ben Zobrist infield single. Cain flies out, but then Hosmer doubles, scoring Escobar and moving Zobrist to third. Kendrys Morales then hits a sac fly to left, plating Zobrist and bringing the score to 5-0 KC.

Luke Hochevar comes in the the ninth to close the game out for KC. He faces four batters, as Dioner Navarro reached on an error. Ryan Goins ends the game by flying out to left. One measly hit? Toronto will want to avoid donut holes in Game 2.

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.

Game 2 Starter

David Price will start game 2. He recorded 9 wins and one loss in his 11 starts with the Blue Jays, and went 18-5 overall between the Detroit Tigers and Toronto,. Over the whole season, he put up a 2.45 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 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.

While Price has been good in the regular season for years, his outings in the postseason are a different story. Now, being rational human beings, we all know that the small sample size of postseason results shouldn’t matter. It makes far more sense to look at what he’s done over the entirety of his career. But being irrational human beings, we all know that is crap. The guy can’t pitch in the postseason. Even his own team knows it. They had Price throw three complete innings out of the bullpen in a Game 4 victory just so they wouldn’t be tempted to start him in Game 5. In 50 playoff innings pitched he has an ERA of 5.04, yielding 51 hits and allowing 28 earned runs. His WHIP in the postseason is 1.24.

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 2 Starter

Game 2 starter Yordano Ventura had a 13-8 record this season, with a 4.08 ERA, 3.57 FIP, and 3.50 xFIP in 28 starts in the regular season. He features a four-seam FB (37%), curve (24%), sinker  (21%), change (15%), along with the occasional cutter. He’s a power pitcher, throwing both his FB and sinker at 96+ mph.

His start in Game 1 of the ALDS is one he’d like to forget. He lasted just two innings, coughing up up four hits and three earned runs. In Game 4 he lasted five innings, giving up three earned runs and didn’t factor in the decision.

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.

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