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Royals Review Roundtable: ALDS Edition

We try to make sense of the non-sensical.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

We are only about 36 hours removed from one of the most remarkable games in recent baseball post-season history, and certainly the most important, fantastic, nerve-wracking, anger-inducing, joyous games in Royals history. The writing staff of Royals Review gathered at their new tent-city in the parking lot of the Truman Sports Complex to discuss the Royals and try to make sense of the complete Yost-ening we witnessed.

What just happened?

Josh Duggan: The craziest goddamn game I think I've ever seen.

Shaun Newkirk: I was sitting in the front row on the third baseline. The Perez hit skipped past me as tears flowed gently down my face. I clutched not only the towel I held but my soul for I felt it soon was to jump out of my body in pleasure. I've seen this moment before, but only in a dream and from a far. Before I could catch it, I would wake, wanting, needing, and feeling an emptiness; a vengeful lust. Why? Why have I been forsaken.

Max Rieper: Royals Devil Magic.

Matthew LaMar: Some really cheesy sports movie montage

Joshua Ward: BEDLAM

Tyler Drenon: Yeah.

Kevin Ruprecht: The residual crowd noise from Arrowhead the night before, plus the raucous crowd at the game, rattled domes. Just not the Royals' domes.

Seriously, what just happened?

Matthew LaMar: Magic?

Josh Duggan: No seriously.

Shaun Newkirk: Later that night I would lay in my bed, think existentially about my life and everything I thought I knew. For so long I've wandered aimlessly. I've known only pre-Perez hit and post-Perez hit. Everything before was pointless. My life was reptilian and without understanding. Now, I can see. Truly not all those who wander are lost. I have been claimed. Found. The breathe of life exhausted into my nostrils. The nectar of knowledge, ambrosia, was poured into my soul.

Kevin Ruprecht: For once, the Royals snatched victory from the jaws of defeat instead of the other way around.


Tyler Drenon: I don't know.

Ned Yost's decision to bring in Yordano Ventura in the 6th, smart move, defensible move, or terrible move?

Matthew LaMar: I wrote about this today. Basically, it's a continuation of really terrible moves from out of nowhere.  It's completely indefensible.

Kevin Ruprecht: Defensible move. Taking out James Shields was the correct move. Ventura, as a capable starter, would be a great reliever. He's one of the best pitchers we've had this year. However, he didn't have the platoon advantage; Brandon Moss is not great against lefties. He had just thrown 73 bleh pitches on Sunday.

Forget the starter/reliever thing; he was a rookie thrown into a high pressure situation, and he left a pitch low for Moss to crush. Brandon Finnegan, though, was in college a few months ago and did awesome. I don't buy the rookie/pressure thing. You could make an argument for Finnegan or Danny Duffy or Kelvin Herrera there. You can make an argument for Ventura.

Shaun Newkirk: I agree with Dave Cameron's take.

Josh Duggan: Assuming Greg Holland and Wade Davis are off-limits (not that they should have been), you've still got Kelvin Herrera, Brandon Finnegan, and possibly Danny Duffy if healthy. I really don't think it's easy to defend the decision when Ventura has made two relief appearances since 2010, pitched poorly for 73 pitches on Sunday including serving up a dong shot to Marcus Semien, and was having to throw from the stretch to start with.

Joshua Ward: I would say defensible, if it weren't for Ventura having pitched two days ago to the tune of four innings and seventy-three pitches. I get what he wanted - four guys throwing upper 90's to clear out the game. But Ventura is a kid, a tired kid at that, and that was a bad spot to put him in. Ventura on full rest? I would say defensible. Considering the context, terrible, terrible move.

Max Rieper: I thought it was a pretty bad decision to keep Ventura on the roster at all seeing as he had just thrown on Sunday. And with a series of lefties coming up, I was even more baffled they didn't go with Danny Duffy. If they don't think Duffy is healthy, or completely 100% effective, then why was he included on the roster?

I had wanted Scott Downs to be on the Wild Card roster because while he has been somewhat infuriating this year, he has been effective (.225/.287/.363) against lefties this year, striking them out 18% of the time. Against a lefty-heavy lineup like Oakland's, it seemed curious not to include him. So I thought it was a pretty terrible move with either Danny Duffy, Brandon Finnegan, or Kelvin Herrera making much more sense there.

Tyler Drenon: It's easy to say "terrible" in retrospect. James Shields was in a jam and Ventura has been incredible, but I think that move displayed the cognitive dissonance that sort of exemplifies the front office/coaching staff. That moment was THE reason they traded for Shields.

Of course you'd pull Vargas or Duffy or Ventura in that situation, but they went out and got Shields to be their guy. I think it was an antsy move, but more importantly, I think it was an indication that the organization is flippant and without a concrete foundation to which they stand firm. It's working now, so who cares, but I think that could also be why it has taken this long to get to the postseason.

Was the Small-Ball-Extravaganza the smart play last night? Or was Ned very lucky?

Shaun Newkirk: Stupid for the most part, but some of the late inning bunts had some validity behind them.

Matthew LaMar: The aggressiveness on the basepaths was great.  The sac bunting, especially for Dyson, not so great.  Actually, horrible.

Joshua Ward: Based on Kevin's breakdown, I would say that the Royals weren't particularly lucky against Jon Lester or anyone else for that matter, and in the late innings, at home, in a tie game, I will defend the bunt. Even in consecutive innings. that's pretty much the only time. When all you need is a run to win the game, then yes. Move him over. The only thing I would have liked was Jarrod Dyson stealing second and then moving to third on the bunt, but bunting him to second and him stealing third accomplished the same task (albeit in a more risky way).

They used their skill set to achieve maximum value towards the goal of winning the game. There wasn't a single stolen base last night that was arbitrary, such as stealing third when you're down by three runs. It is good to run, especially when the Royals are this good at it.

Josh Duggan: Running wild on the A's was absolutely the right call. The bunting, however, got the Royals was ridiculous. If I'm not mistaken, one of those advanced runners scored. Let the burners run.

Tyler Drenon: Well, giving away free outs is mathematically incoherent, but they didn't lose, so what can you say? I wouldn't necessarily say Yost got lucky with the small ball, though. I think it was three, maybe four innings in a row that they bunted guys over and still ended the inning with a man stranded on third.

Where they got lucky was the timing of their hits -- as they always do when they win. They have eight guys who will swing at just about everything. They look bad pretty often, but they just keep putting the ball in play and sometimes it works -- especially when you have good pitching. It might not be the best strategy in the world but at least they are consistent in that regard.

Max Rieper: The small ball made sense for the most part once they had gotten close and needed one run to tie or win. The one that infuriated me was the ninth inning sacrifice by Alcides Escobar with just three outs remaining in the game, but that ended up plating the game-tying run. I guess my fear is that long-term, the Royals will learn all the wrong lessons from this game, but I guess that's a worry for another day. Until then, bunt yer butts off.

The steals were pretty neat though. I wonder who could have predicted that.

Kevin Ruprecht: Ned was very lucky. The Royals couldn't tell strikes from balls; a coin flip would have been only slightly worse at deciding at which pitches to swing. The Royals small-balled their way to ZERO runs in the 10th and 11th. Stealing, fine. Bunting, no.

Jason Vargas will start Game One of the ALDS. How would you line up the rotation against the Angels?

Tyler Drenon: I'd probably give the ball to Vargas in Game One and give him a chance to get a little payback. That might seem like a silly reason, but the player's mentality when they go out there -- especially pitchers -- is clearly a big factor. Look at Ventura and Finnegan. I don't think anyone would say Finnegan is the more talented pitcher, but he pitched much better last night because of his mental approach. There were obviously many other factors in play as well, and the mentality thing might only be a small fraction of what really matters, but since the decision is basically between Vargas and Duffy, I'd say Vargas has because of that extra ounce of motivation.

Matthew LaMar: I don't really know.  Royals don't have much of a collection of aces, when you get down to it.  I think you start Guthrie or Vargas. Ventura Game Two. Shields Game Three. Guthrie/Vargas Game Four.  Ventura if you need a Game Five.

Max Rieper: If Danny Duffy is close to 100%, I'd give him the ball in Game One on Thursday. I think too many people are focusing on his shaky outing against Chicago the last weekend and forgetting he turned in six shutout innings against Cleveland in a must-win game in his return from injury. I'd have him on a short leash, but the pen should be fresh in Game One, with Jeremy Guthrie available as a long-reliever.

Ventura should go in Game Two, but since he threw on Tuesday, I'd be very wary of tossing him out there on two days rest, which makes the decision to pitch him in the Wild Card even more baffling. So Jason Vargas likely goes in Game Two, with Big Game James starting Sunday in Kansas City, and Yordano in Game Four, if necessary. Duffy would start the pivotal Game Five, and you'd be set up to have Shields go in Game One of the Championship Series if it goes that far.

Shaun Newkirk: Vargas, Ventura, Shields which is what I think they are using. No Guthrie. Ever.

Joshua Ward: I would go Vargas/Duffy/Shields, then see where Ventura is at for Game Four (if needed) or go back to Vargas if he was successful in Game One. Vargas is a big question mark. I worry about Duffy as well. If they can snake Game One or Game Two, I think they've got a real shot with Shields in Game Three and all hands on deck for Game Four.

Kevin Ruprecht: Game 1 - Jason Vargas/Danny Duffy piggyback? Game 2 - Jeremy Guthrie... Game 3 - James Shields.

I don't like our options. Vargas has been ineffective over his last four starts, but Shaun Newkirk provided evidence that he's fine. Vargas pitched well last year at home for the Angels in Anaheim, which is where Game One will be. Is Duffy even okay? Guthrie could wizard his way to a beautiful game or give up five runs in the first inning. Next, Shields, obviously. Ventura for a Game Four I suppose. No idea for a Game Five. Probably a repeat of Game One. This really hinges on Duffy's health.

Josh Duggan: Honestly, I'm worried about whoever the Royals are trotting out to start. Shields was mediocre on Tuesday. Jason Vargas has been shaky at best for the past month. Ventura and Duffy both look suspect. Jeremy Guthrie is still Jeremy Guthrie, but he's the only one who has been pitching moderately well over the past few weeks. I know that's not necessarily sound analysis, but we also don't know if any of these pitchers are healthy. I'd posit that Duffy probably isn't. Can I opt for three pitchers from another team?

What roster changes should the Royals make going into the ALDS?

Max Rieper: You have to add Jason Vargas, so I'd drop Raul Ibanez, as he certainly doesn't provide any value at this point. I'd like to get Scott Downs on the roster because of his effectiveness against left-handers, and I'd probably drop Jayson Nix.

Matthew LaMar: There's no one screaming to be on the roster, really.  Johnny Giavotella is probably a better hitter than Nix, but that's not a ringing endorsement, and he can't really play anything else either.  I guess I'd rather have Gio over a random LOOGY like Francisley Bueno or Scott Downs, but other than that I don't care.

Shaun Newkirk: Replace Guthrie with somebody that isn't Guthrie so Yost doesn't use Guthrie. Even in an infinity to 0 score.

Joshua Ward: They have to add their starting pitchers, so I would assume you drop Jayson Nix and add Vargas. Other than that, though, I don't really see any obvious changes. Terrance Gore is too much of a weapon. Christian Colon should probably be starting against C.J. Wilson at least, and maybe you drop Raul Ibanez for someone like Louis Coleman to neutralize right-handed hitters like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. So, maybe a move or two, but otherwise I think the roster is pretty much set.

Tyler Drenon: I'd imagine Jayson Nix will be deactivated in order to get Vargas back on the roster. They might have to choose between Raul Ibanez and and a LOOGY or Louis Coleman. Other than that, the team will look pretty much the same.

Kevin Ruprecht: Other than re-arranging pitchers, there's not much they can do. There will probably need to be a sixth reliever. This leaves our bench as Erik Kratz, Josh Willingham, Christian Colon, Jarrod Dyson, and Terrance Gore.Those aren't great for pinch-hitting options, but bench depth was never a strength. The last bullpen spot will come down to Francisley Bueno/Scott Downs/Tim Collins if a lefty is needed or Louis Coleman for the right-handed heavy lineup. Not sure we need a LOOGY. The only pure lefties the Angels have are Kole Calhoun and Josh Hamilton.

Josh Duggan: Different starting pitchers. Like three new ones. Can Bret Saberhagen still throw a baseball?

How do the Royals defeat the Angels in a best-of-five series?

Josh Duggan: The Angels' rotation hardly consists of world-beaters. Limit the Angels' offensive attack. Run wild on the basepaths--no, not you Billy. Get in haloed domes.

Max Rieper: The Angels pitching staff hardly looks like that of a 98-game winner, but the Royals offense doesn't look like a playoff-caliber offense either.  The Royals were a really good road team this year (47-34), although the Angels were terrific at home (52-29). The pitching is really going to have to come up huge. They'll have to work around Mike Trout of course, but there are no holes in this Angels lineup. The Angels can be run on - they had a league average 27% caught stealing rate. The Royals will probably have to keep up what they did against Oakland and steal and bloop their way to a few runs. They'll also need to get a good performance from the starters, avoid getting Yosted, and turn it over to Herrera/Davis/Holland.

Matthew LaMar: Royals have to pitch well, get it to Herrera/Davis/Holland.  Particularly, I think the Royals should continue to leverage their speed and be particularly aggressive with Cain/Dyson/Escobar and more aggressive than usual with Gordon/Aoki/Infante.  That's what sets the Royals apart.

Shaun Newkirk: Limit the offense as much as you can, run the bases against their bad catchers, and hit their bad pitching.

Tyler Drenon: I think the parks they'll play in favor the Royals since both stadiums are pitcher-friendly as far as homers go. Like they have all year long, I think the Royals will have to depend on solid starting pitching to win the series.

Kevin Ruprecht: The Royals defeat the Angels by taking advantage of lackluster starting pitching to put runs on the board early. The Royals will need to get a bit lucky with balls staying in the yard. The Angels' park is also pitcher-friendly--Jered Weaver succeeds there. If the ball stays in the yard, the Royals will likely win. I'll take the Royals' starters and bullpen over the Angels'.

Joshua Ward: It's actually not that hard. They just have to do what they have done all year - pitch well, turn balls in play into outs, and scratch across runs. The Angels have the best offense in the American League, but they also have a fairly mediocre starting rotation after Matt Shoemaker. Jered Weaver has declined. C.J. Wilson is essentially a left-handed soft-tossing Verlander, whose reputation carried him to a 4.51 ERA this year. And those are likely their three starters for the series.


Kevin Ruprecht: Royals in five.

Max Rieper: Angels in four.

Tyler Drenon: Royals in five.

Matthew LaMar: Royals in 4.  Think the Angels are good, yeah, but a beatable team.  Royals also have the whole nation behind them.

Shaun Newkirk: Angels in 5? I think they'll take game one in LA but lose game four at home then lose the finale in LA.

Josh Duggan: Angels in five (because then I've prepared myself for the terrible heartbreak of an elimination-game loss)

Joshua Ward: Royals in four. I really like how well they match up against Los Angeles. The Angels have a good lineup, but having been out of action for four days, they may come off flat. Their rotation is sub-par, and while their bullpen is good, the Royals is the best. It will be interesting series, though. Could see it going either way, but I'll take the Royals.

But seriously, what just happened?

Kevin Ruprecht: The baseball gods took a dump on the A's and took the Royals into the conference room for the big, important meeting.

Max Rieper: The script for "Moneyball 2: Bunt Boogaloo" was just ordered.


Josh Duggan: I have so much laundry to do.

Shaun Newkirk: Finally, my eyelids weighed too heavy. Not only upon my face but too heavy on my poor soul. Hypnos taunted me. Tempted me with reward. Called my name and extended his hand. I second guessed myself; was I falling asleep or had I been dreaming this whole time? Life and my breath slowed to a crawl. The sight of Josh Donaldson's glove coming up empty carried me into bliss after the baseball thumped the dirt along third. Will I ever wake again? Would I want to? Life had once been cruel; but this is a living dream, and indeed, he who sleeps feels not the toothache.

Matthew LaMar: Ibanez.

Tyler Drenon: Their shit worked in the playoffs ...