Are you ready to do this? We convened the Royals Review-erati to discuss the upcoming ALCS, and to make sure we haven't all been incepted with the same Royals championship dream.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter is considered one of the best managers in the game, while Ned Yost has earned criticism all year for his managerial moves. How big of an impact do you see the skippers playing in this series?
Matthew LaMar: It really depends on how close the games are. At this point I'm not sure the lineups will matter that much, so it will probably come down to bullpen use. I still think Yost is a liability in that area, but apparently not as much as other playoff managers.
Shaun Newkirk: Overall managers don't make a large impact over 162 games, but in a best-of-seven series their impact can be magnified. Take Matt Williams for example leaving Tyler Clippard/Stephen Strasburg in the pen in their final loss to the Giants. Maybe Strasburg/Clippard blow the game anyways, but the odds were smaller with them.
Ned is dead-set with his bullpen usage although I'm glad he's aware that the playoffs mean you need to "throw out the book." Really I think in the post season it comes down to bullpen management and both Ned and Buck seem to be doing good jobs for the most part. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think Showalter gives the Orioles much of an edge for this series. He's still certainly better than Ned.
Joshua Ward: Here's the thing: both of the teams are built to be manager-proof for the most part. With three strong relievers in each bullpen, the only managerial decisions that factor in are in the occurrence of a starting pitcher not clearing six innings, or if the game goes into extras. Lineups are pretty much set, and decisions on when to steal a base are situational, so I think the impact is being overplayed for the most part.
That being said, if the game does not go according to plan, I would have more faith in Showalter pulling the right strings than I would Ned Yost, but neither have much concern in a standard game.
Minda Haas: We may find ourselves in situations where managerial decisions, good or bad, get magnified. Say Baltimore socks a couple of dingers and builds a 4-run lead in an early game. Ned acts like Ned and plays for one run. It's the same crap he's always done, but it looks 1000 times bigger because it's the ALCS. Empirically, we know managers have a limited on-field effect, but everything will look more significant and more important.
Kevin Ruprecht: There will be significant portions of the game where neither manager has any impact - starters and back-end bullpen. The starters will probably pitch 5-6 innings, and the late inning guys will get theirs. I think the biggest impact might be in bridging gaps between the starters and the late inning guys. For Yost, whether or not he'll use the late innings guys at all if behind. I don't see this being as big of a thing than the Wild Card game, though. Lots of words have been said about Showalter's tactical advantage in managing a bullpen. Yost doesn't have a ton of terrible options in the bullpen, though. This is probably overblown.
Josh Duggan: Hopefully not that much. The three key hurlers (and possibly four with Brandon Finnegan) in the pen are platoon proof. Virtually the entire team has the green light on the basepaths. If the starting pitching doesn't melt down, the Royals should be relatively insulated from Ned overmanaging.
Tyler Drenon: The impact will be marginal, as usual. However, baseball games -- especially in this postseason -- are decided by small margins. The Orioles will have a strategic advantage, but ultimately, the managers will only make a handful of meaningful decisions in the series.
Max Rieper: I think this is Ned's moment to shine. Bunting is the new Moneyball. Up is down. War is peace.
James Shields will start Game 1 with Yordano Ventura going in Game 2. Who should start in Game 3 and 4?
Tyler Drenon: Vargas and Guthrie. It wouldn't be crazy to go Vargas-Duffy, but since the Orioles best hitters -- Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, and Steve Pearce -- tend to crush lefties, Guthrie might match up slightly better than one of those two.
Matthew LaMar: I would start in Guthrie in Game Three. It'll be at Kauffman, so the home run factor will be limited some, and the Orioles lineup is righty-heavy so he'll also have the platoon advantage. I want Duffy in the pen in case a starter has major issues, so I'll have Vargas start Game Four.
Minda Haas: Vargas, Duffy. Guthrie would be the "oh crap" option for whoever, if anyone, has an off night.
Kevin Ruprecht: If the Orioles enact any extreme shifts, bunting becomes more palatable. When playing for one run with a non-speedster on the base, maybe, MAYBE, bunting is more palatable. The base-stealing, at least until there is more information on how the Orioles approach the running game, should stay with Escobar and Dyson and Gore. Run on Hundley. Be selective against Joseph.
Matthew LaMar: They should continue to steal bases, but smartly. Gore, Dyson, Cain, and Escobar should have the green light at all times. Maybe not for the secondary stealers (Gordon, Infante, Aoki, Butler).
Minda Haas: They need to scale it back. They scaled it up when Derek Norris came into the Wild Card game, and got to keep on running against Chris Iannetta, but it would be foolish not to make adjustments to a better catcher. But hey, if Caleb Joseph sprains a thumb and someone with no arm comes in to back him up (thaaaanks, Oakland), run wild, kids.
Tyler Drenon: Ugh. Small ball, no. Stealing bases, yes. They should play to their strengths, and while they are very good at giving away free outs, I'm not sure it helps them win games.
Shaun Newkirk: Yes. This is how they got to the ALCS. Dance with the one that brought you.
Max Rieper: Run, baby, run. The bunting should be held to a minimum, to be deployed perhaps late in the game if its tied and one run wins it, but the Royals have been very successful being aggressive on the bases and should continue that strategy full scale.
Josh Duggan: Not bunting. Yes to stealing.
Joshua Ward: Stealing? Sure. I doubt you are going to get seven steals in a game as you did against Oakland, but picking spots and moving a runner now and then is warranted. The Royals were the majors best team at stealing bases. You can't really take that club out of your bag, especially against a team that is more suited to a slugfest. Aoki, Cain, Escobar, Dyson, and Gore should all be active when given the opportunity. Maybe keep Butler in place though.
Should the Royals have been more conservative with Salvador Perez's head injury in Game Two of the ALDS?
Josh Duggan: I think so, especially since he later copped to having a headache.
Shaun Newkirk: Always, always, always be conservative with head injuries. John Sickels had a concussion and he wasn't even able to write articles for months. I can't imagine trying to play baseball. Not that Perez had a concussion, but anything with the head is serious. See: Avila, Alex
Matthew LaMar: Maybe? They did a concussion test on-field so they knew about that right away. Plus there are also a lot of off-days in the postseason as well.
Joshua Ward: I think the Royals did their due diligence. He was checked initially and cleared, then he was re-evaluated at the end of the half-inning and cleared again. I doubt they would have left him in the game if the situation had been severe enough to warrant it. Not every blow to the head is a concussion. There is certainly risk involved with any hit to the head, but I give Nick Kenney and his training staff a lot of credit. They have managed to keep the team remarkably healthy for a few years now, they've been quick on injuries to Danny Duffy, Kelvin Herrera, and Yordano Ventura in the past, and it certainly looks as if they did what they needed to do with Perez to clear him for the game.
Max Rieper: I want to trust the medical staff, but he suffered a pretty good knock to the head, and if he claims he was "foggy", he probably should have been pulled if the medical staff was at all aware of that fact. But, I'm speculating, and its hard to say for sure.
Tyler Drenon: It's hard to say. He seems fine now, but I don't know anything about head injuries, so I'd probably lean toward saying the team should've been more cautious. His brain is obviously much more important than any game.
Minda Haas: Bloody hell, YES. Don't mess around with concussions. A thing we don't talk about lately with Salvador is that his brain is a large part of his game. Dude is really smart. A huge part of why he's considered such a good batterymate is because he learns the intricacies of each pitcher's game so fast. It's offensive to me, with the concussion history I have, to see someone ignore concussion symptoms. A concussed player is the last person who should make the decision if they're good to stay in a sporting contest, for the same reason state troopers don't ask drunk drivers if they're good to get back behind the wheel.