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How the Royals stack up against American League playoff teams

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How do you measure yourself against other teams? By height.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs begin tonight with the Yankees taking on the Astros in the Wild Card game. The Royals will play the winner while the Blue Jays will host the Rangers beginning on Thursday. Here's how the Royals measure up against their American League foes.

Overview

The Blue Jays scored 891 runs this year, 130 more than anyone other team in baseball and the most anyone has scored since the Yankees plated 915 runs in 2009. After July 31, the Blue Jays averaged 5.9 runs scored per game and 3.9 runs allowed. Houston gave up 5.0 runs per game after September 1, with the Royals giving up 4.9 runs per game after that date. Texas improved their pitching down the stretch, allowing 3.9 runs per game over their last 57 games.

Home/Road Splits

No American League team was worse on the road than the Houston Astros. They hit just 44% of their home runs away from Minute Maid Park. The Blue Jays struggled on the road much of the year, but went 18-10 after August 1 away from Rogers Centre. Despite hitting more home runs at home, the Blue Jays were still the best-hitting road team in the league with a line of .260/.329/.431. The Royals are the only playoff team to hit more home runs on the road, hitting 55% of their dingers away from Kauffman Stadium.

The Yankees gave up more home runs at home than any other pitching staff in the American League. No other AL club had a worse ERA at home than the Rangers pitching staff. The Blue Jays and Astros had the best home ERA in the league. The Royals gave up the fewest home runs at home, just 68 at Kauffman Stadium.

Head-to-Head

vs.HOU vs.KCR vs.NYY vs.TEX vs.TOR Total
Houston X 4-3 4-3 6-13 4-3 18-22
Kansas City 3-4 X 2-4 3-4 3-4 11-16
New York 3-4 4-2 X 2-5 6-13 15-24
Texas 13-6 4-3 5-2 X 2-4 24-15
Toronto 3-4 4-3 13-6 4-2 X 24-15

The Royals last played an American League playoff team on August 2, when they dropped the third of four games in Toronto. They took two of three from the Yankees at home, but were swept in Yankee Stadium back in late May. The Royals were swept in Houston as well back in late June, but took two of three in Kansas City a few weeks later.

Offense

AVG OBA SLG HR BB% K%
Houston .250 .315 .437 230 8.0 22.9
Kansas City .269 .322 .412 139 6.3 15.9
New York .251 .323 .421 212 8.8 19.6
Texas .257 .325 .413 172 8.1 19.9
Toronto .269 .340 .457 232 9.1 18.5

The Royals may have been the best contact-hitting team ever. Only the Cubs struck out more this year than the Astros. Blue Jays hitters drew the most walks in the American League, with the Yankees right behind them. Three of the top four home-run hitting teams are in the playoffs, while the Royals were second-to-last in dingers.

The Blue Jays, of course, led baseball in Weighted Runs Created+ at 117. Houston and New York were both above average, while the Royals were just below average at 99. The Rangers were fourth-worst in the league at 96.

Probable Starting Lineups

Houston

wRC Kansas City wRC New York wRC Texas wRC Toronto wRC
2B Altuve 120 SS Escobar 67 CF Ellsbury (L) 83 CF DeShields 94 LF Revere (L) 98
RF Springer 129 2B Zobrist (S) 123 LF Gardner (L) 105 RF Choo (L) 127 3B Donaldson 154
SS Correa 133 CF Cain 129 DH Rodriguez 129 3B Beltre 108 RF Bautista 148
DH Gattis 99 1B Hosmer (L) 125 RF Beltran (S) 119 DH Fielder (L) 124 DH Encarnacion 150
3B Lowrie (S) 91 DH Morales (S) 131 C  McCann (L) 105 1B Moreland (L) 115 SS Tulowitzki 100
LF Rasmus (L) 115 3B Moustakas (L) 124 3B Headley (S) 91 LF Hamilton (L) 92 1B Smoak (S) 108
1B Carter 101 LF Gordon (L) 122 1B Bird (L) 137 SS Andrus 77 C   Martin 114
C  Castro (L) 77 C  Perez 87 SS Gregorius (L) 89 2B Odor (L) 105 CF Pillar 93
CF Marisnick 80 RF Rios 72 2B Refsnyder 130 C  Chirinos 104 2B Goins (L) 84

The Astros will mix in outfielder Preston Tucker and third baseman Luis Valbuena into the lineup at times. Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez has started just one game since September 12 due to a strained intercostal muscle. The Yankees will platoon rookie Rob Refsnyder with former Mariners first round pick Dustin Ackley. Rookie Greg Bird has hit well in the absence of injured first baseman Mark Teixeira. Josh Hamilton could split time in left for Texas with Mike Napoli. Troy Tulowitzki returned last week from a cracked shoulder blade without missing a beat.

Clutch Hitting

Numbers with runners in scoring position:

PA R AVG OBA SLG HR
Houston 1454 494 .244 .327 .432 54
Kansas City 1539 547 .281 .347 .426 33
New York 1535 557 .256 .341 .465 62
Texas 1578 532 .251 .342 .371 28
Toronto 1629 634 .286 .359 .480 52

The Royals were a pretty talented team with runners on, although no team was better than Toronto. The Blue Jays did hit into the second-most double plays in the American League, although some of that was because they had so many baserunners. Josh Donaldson was second in the American League behind only Miguel Cabrera in batting average with runners in scoring position at .353.

Small Ball

SB CS PCT BsR Sac
Houston 121 48 71.6% 8.8 28
Kansas City 104 34 75.4% -1.2 34
New York 63 25 71.6% 4.3 24
Texas 101 39 72.1% 4.8 43
Toronto 88 23 79.3% 9.9 36

All of the playoff teams were above league-average in stolen base success rate. Seven of the top eight basestealers in the league this year will be playing in October, including stolen base leader Jose Altuve. The Royals do surprisingly poorly in Fangraphs' Baserunning metric. The Rangers were picked off more than any other team, followed closely by the Astros. The Yankees made the fewest outs on the bases in the American League. The Rangers had the second-most sacrifice hits in the league.

Defense

The Royals led the American League in Defensive Runs Saved at +56. The Astros were second at +30, and all of the playoff teams were positive except the Yankees at -38. The Royals led all of baseball in Defensive Runs Above Average.

Houston DRAA Kansas City DRAA New York DRAA Texas DRAA Toronto DRAA
C   Castro 10.6 C  Perez 12.2 C   McCann 10.9 C   Chirinos 5.5 C   Martin 12.5
1B Carter -9.7 1B Hosmer -10.8 1B Bird -4.1 1B Moreland -4.5 1B Smoak -3.7
2B Altuve 5.5 2B Zobrist -5.0 2B Refsnyder -2.1 2B Odor 2.3 2B Goins 2.8
SS Correa -0.7 SS Escobar 13.8 SS Gregorius 14.6 SS Andrus 6.5 SS Tulowitzki 8.7
3B Lowrie 0.9 3B Moustakas 3.2 3B Headley 0.8 3B Beltre 12.9 3B Donaldson 10.2
LF Rasmus -3.3 LF Gordon 2.1 LF Gardner -5.8 LF Hamilton -1.2 LF Revere -7.1
CF Marisnick 3.3 CF Cain 16.3 CF Ellsbury -1.1 CF DeShields -3.7 CF Pillar 15.2
RF Springer -2.0 RF Rios -0.2 RF Beltran -9.8 RF Choo -10.5 RF Bautista -15.9

The metrics seem to hate Eric Hosmer for whatever reason. They are also not high on Astros whiz kid Carlos Correa despite a strong arm. Dallas Keuchel led all pitchers in Defensive Runs Saved at +13. Lorenzo Cain and Kevin Pillar are both among the top ten defensive players at any position in baseball.

Catchers

Catcher G SB CS PCT
Houston Jason Castro 103 42 24 36.4%
Kansas City Salvador Perez 139 66 29 30.5%
New York Brian McCann 126 50 28 35.9%
Texas Robinson Chirinos 78 29 12 29.3%
Toronto Russell Martin 117 40 31 43.7%

Both Castro and McCann had career years throwing out runners, they have historically fared worse. The Astros allowed the third-most stolen bases in the American League. Astros backup catcher Hank Conger allowed 42-of-43 runners to steal on him, the worst mark in baseball.

Pitching

Starting pitching

ERA ERA ERA ERA
Houston McHugh 3.89 Kazmir# 3.10 Keuchel# 2.48 Fiers 3.69
Kansas City Ventura 4.08 Cueto 3.44 Volquez 3.55 Medlen 4.01
New York Pineda 4.37 Severino# 2.89 Tanaka 3.51 Warren 3.29
Texas Gallardo 3.42 Hamels# 3.65 Holland# 4.91 Lewis 4.66
Toronto Price# 2.45 Stroman 1.67 Dickey 3.91 Estrada 3.13

#-left-handed

Scott Kazmir has struggled down the stretch with a 5.89 ERA over his last nine starts, so the club could turn to rookie Lance McCullers and his 3.22 ERA. Michael Pineda posted a FIP a full run lower than his ERA, at 3.34. Nathan Eovaldi was one of New York's better starting pitchers, but will likely pitch out of the pen after missing the last month with an elbow injury. Texas will have to decide between Colby Lewis and Martin Perez (4.46 ERA but 3.40 FIP) for their last rotation spot.

Bullpen

The Royals are well known for their bullpen prowess, but the Yankees pair of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller may be the most dynamic duo in any bullpen. The Yankees did not blow a single game when leading after eight innings this year. However, outside of that duo, the Yankees bullpen had a 4.46 ERA.

The Blue Jays have a very talented bullpen trio of Roberto Osuna, Brett Cecil, and former Royals pitcher Liam Hendricks, although Osuna is a 20-year old rookie who blew the save on Saturday against Tampa Bay. Astros relievers have a 5.72 ERA over the last 30 days, worst in the American League.

Bullpens Innings ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 Record leading after 6
Houston 457.1 3.27 3.38 9.11 2.66 61-7
Kansas City 539.1 2.72 3.56 8.38 3.19 73-6
New York 530.2 3.70 3.84 10.11 3.83 66-3
Texas 502.0 4.12 4.26 8.19 3.60 69-10
Toronto 475.2 3.50 3.71 8.68 2.46 76-14

Finally....

IT IS ALWAYS OCTOBER