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Royals Review Roundtable: ALCS Edition

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The Royals have won every series we've previewed in a roundtable discussion!

H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports

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: I'd like to see Danny Duffy and Guthrie piggyback Game Four. I guess Vargas in Game Three. I have no idea how the organization views Duffy's health. It's probably Vargas Game Three and Guthrie in Game Four.

Josh Duggan: Duffy and Vargas in that order.

Shaun Newkirk: Duffy or Vargas. Can't believe Guthrie could be put in a position that could lead to the Royals being down 3-0.


Max Rieper: Danny Duffy should start Game Three, and I think the only justification for not starting him has to be his health. I would have Jason Vargas start Game Four. He has a decent body of work this year, and pitched well enough last time out against the Angels. Having him pitch at Kauffman in Game Four should mitigate his flyball tendencies.

Joshua Ward: I'd go with Vargas for Game Three, then go with Duffy for Game Four with Jeremy Guthrie on ready status. If Duffy cruises, great. If not, you have a safety valve, as unlikeable an option as it may be.

I get the talk about Shields going on short rest, and I don't agree with it. As good as Shields may be, he isn't Randy Johnson, or Curt Schilling, or Clayton Kershaw, where even 85% of James Shields presents a better option than the next guy up. Shields has to be on top of his game, and I don't like the odds of that happening on short rest. I could be talked out of it though, if the Royals fall into a 3-0 hole.

The Orioles feature a much better defensive catcher in this series in Caleb Joseph than the Royals faced in the Wild Card or the ALDS. The Orioles can also score quite a few runs. Should the Royals continue to play small ball by bunting and stealing bases or should they scale it back a bit?

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.

Bunting, on the other hand, no. The only time give an exemption for bunting is in a tie game, at home, in the 8th inning or later. Outside of that, no. Just no.

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.

Kevin Ruprecht: I trust Athletic Trainer Nick Kenney. If he thinks Sal is okay, I guess that's what I'll believe. However, Erik Kratz isn't a terrible option. All the websites seem to like his framing and blocking abilities. The Orioles don't run, so that's not an issue. Kratz has some power. Given Sal's terrible swinging tendencies, the drop-off between him and Kratz is not likely huge at this point.

If the Royals win this series, what will be the key to success?

Tyler Drenon: Timely hits.

Josh Duggan: Probably whatever we least expect. Last series it was dong hangings of the epic variety. This team it will probably be the many walks drawn by Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar.

Matthew LaMar: Royals hitting.  If they continue their run, this team is invincible.

Joshua Ward: Eric Hosmer continuing to be the best post-season hitter in the American League would go a long way, but really I think it comes down to James Shields and Yordano Ventura. They need to limit base runners, limit runs, and go as deep into games as possible. If they can steal Game One or Game Two, the odds flip into Kansas City's favor. If they take both games, the series won't make it out of Kansas City. So, that's the big key.

Getting any offensive production whatsoever out of Salvador Perez and Omar Infante would be a big help as well.

Minda Haas: Ground balls, and smart baserunning.

Max Rieper: The starting pitching really needs to keep things close over the first 6-7 innings so that Royal Devil Magic can happen in the late innings. I think the Royals are in their opponents heads, so that if they get any baserunners in the late innings, they have the confidence to know they will get that runner around the bases to score through speed and grit. But if the starting pitching gives up 4-5 Orioles runs over the first half of the game, we won't ever get a chance to see what speed do.

Kevin Ruprecht: Limiting Orioles home runs while successfully stealing bases. If the Orioles aren't hitting home runs, they aren't scoring. They don't have the on-base percentage skills to back up a home runs slump.

If the Orioles win this series, what will be the Royals downfall?

Tyler Drenon: Untimely hits.

Shaun Newkirk: Lack of offense as usual or perhaps specifically "unclutchness." It's fun to think of how good Baltimore was in one run games a few years back and how the Royals are similarly being clutchy this year.

Matthew LaMar: Royals hitting.  If they go cold, the Royals are vincible.

Joshua Ward: Shields gives up more home runs, as he has done all year, Ventura loses his command, Vargas gets bombed, etc., etc. Really, if the Royals lose, it will be because their starting pitching doesn't stand up. It is a big strength over Baltimore, and might give them the edge in the series, but if it falters, Baltimore can dominate the series and make it an easy road to clinching.

Minda Haas: Baltimore home runs and Royals TOOTBLAN.

Josh Duggan: A combination of the rotation ceding the lead with the offense unable to achieve lift off.

Kevin Ruprecht: Giving up home runs and flailing late-game against the Orioles' bullpen.

Max Rieper: They ran out of pixie dust.

The Royals are four wins away from a pennant. Has that really sunk in yet?

Joshua Ward: No. Not at all. Until the game starts on Friday night, I don't think I'm really going to be able to fully grasp what's going on. If they win, it might sink in. But even then, I really can't even imagine. It has been a charmed run so far, and I'm soaking in every pitch of every inning, but I am still finding it hard to believe. Credit Dayton Moore and Ned Yost. They have gotten the team to a point I didn't think they'd be able to reach. Maybe one day it will feel real. Right now, though, it doesn't.

Shaun Newkirk: It has. I'm not someone who gets overly excited about things so I've been pretty calm this who playoffs and am just enjoying the run for whatever it is and will be. Maybe it ends next week or maybe they win it all. I don't think I'm going to cry, but who knows. There are those on Royal Twitter who are just trying to get attention by doing outrageous stuff like saying they are bawling. Really? You're bawling?

Minda Haas: No, not in the slightest. I was at the friggin' game Sunday night; I've read hundreds of articles and Tweets and comments about the playoff darling Royals; people I never talk to at work approach me for playoff chit chat, and yet none of it seems real. I've spent so much time keeping my Royals-related feelings at arm's length that now that it's time to feel everything, I can't do it. I'm like a rescued puppy who still flinches when someone raises a hand, even if they're just going to pet me.

Max Rieper: Not quite. We're entering a scenario where if this was a video game, I'd probably turn it off for being too unrealistic. When I'm at the Plaza Parade, watching Lee Judge doing keg stands with Dayton Moore, I'll believe it.

Kevin Ruprecht: It's sunk in like the Titanic in the Atlantic. Billy Zane is hanging out in a small portion of my brain.

Josh Duggan: It feels like it has, but I don't think I've actually realized it all.

Tyler Drenon: No. I will be shocked until the day I die.

Predictions?

Minda Haas: Royals in six.Something dramatic will happen during Game Five, though, because I will be at my desk where there is no outside Internet access and headphones aren't allowed. You heard it here first.

Tyler Drenon: Royals in seven absurd one-run games.

Josh Duggan: I'll keep saying the other team in the maximum amount of games. It's worked so far, so Orioles in seven.

Joshua Ward: Orioles in six. I know. I know. I picked the Royals in four against the Angels because I liked the way they matched up. I don't know what it is about Baltimore that makes me think it is going to be a different outcome. The Orioles offense is good, but the Angels' offense was much better. Baltimore makes up for it by having a really good defense, but David Lough is a decent portion of that value and he might not play. Manny Machado is also out, so maybe their defense is a little softer than I am giving them credit for, particularly if they decide to roll with Delmon Young in left field, who is just an absolute train wreck defensively, as is Nelson Cruz.

The Royals have better starting pitching, the American League's best defense, best base running, and I'd take the Royals top four relievers over Baltimore's top four. Kansas City has better starting pitching, but their offense has to get lucky on balls in play, and Baltimore can actually play defense.

I think it is going to be a very close series, but I'll take Baltimore in six.

Kevin Ruprecht: Royals in 6.5. We will have extras in at least one game.

Max Rieper: Royals in three. Cause that's what speed do! In all seriousness, I think the Royals match up very well with the Orioles. The Orioles can hit the ball out of the ballpark, but they don't get on base, and we saw with the Angels what happens to a team that hits lots of solo home runs. I say Royals in six.

Matthew LaMar: Prediction: Royals in six.  It just feels to be 'that year', you know?

Shaun Newkirk: I want to say Baltimore in 6 but I like our chances at Baltimore more than I think I should. So let's just say Baltimore in 7 as they win the final game at home.

Game 1: KC
Game 2: BAL
Game 3: BAL
Game 4: KC
Game 5: KC
Game 6: BAL
Game 7: BAL