How the Kansas City Royals can Win the World Series


Sep 26, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Royals players including

James Shields

(middle) celebrate with champagne in the clubhose after defeating the Chicago White Sox to clinch an American League wild card playoff berth at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Really. The formerly-lowly Kansas City Royals can win the World Series despite only getting an invite to the party as a wild card.

Not only does a Kansas City victory exist within the realm of possibility, it also would not be a complete shock.

Sure. We’ve all heard the throwaway line that MLB’s playoff tournament is about the team that gets hot at the right time. The saying may be a cliche, but it’s also true. The Twins won a World Series in 1987 after a season in which they won 84 games during the regular season. More recently, the cross-state St. Louis Cardinals won a title in 2006 after winning only 83 regular season games.

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Those 2 teams were weaker than the 2014 Royals, who actually have some significant strengths that make them belong in the post-season.

First of all, Kansas City is the best defensive team in baseball. The Royals sit atop the Fangraphs.com team defensive rankings with a 74.8 team rating, which is nearly 20 more than the 2nd place Baltimore Orioles (55.4).The Royals also have the highest Ultimate Zone Rating and lead MLB in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).

Pretty much every new-age defensive metric has the Royals on top.

Kansas City also strikes out less than any other team in the league, has the most stolen bases, and makes more frequent contact then any other team in baseball. The Royals force their opponents to play defense and when they fail, Kansas City has the speed to take full advantage.

However, the Royals need every run they can steal. Kansas City is the first team in baseball history to make the post-season after walking the fewest times as well as hitting the fewest home runs.

Overall, the Kansas City offense ranked 9th in the American League in runs scored with 651—which makes the lineup more middle-of-the road than in years past (when it was awful). If we use the more modern statistic of offensive Wins Above Replacement, the Royals fare better—ranking 6th in the A.L when you account for park factors and opponents quality.

Run prevention, however, is where the Royals excel. Their starters logged the 4th most innings in baseball at 986.2 innings, 2nd in the American League to the Tigers staff (1023.0). Those solid starters pitch in front of the league’s best defense, and are backed up by the best bullpen back-end in baseball. Indeed, Kansas City’s triumvirate of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland brought home wins 72 times, out of 73 chances, in games Kansas City led after 6 innings.

Basically, the Royals have 3 closers in the pen that they typically use in hold leads. You had better be ahead after 6 innings, because you’re not likely to rally against them.

The top of the Kansas City lineup also comes into the post-season riding a hot streak. The recent no. 1 and no. 2 hitters Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki both came into the post-season with active hitting streaks. Escobar has hits in his last 9 games, while Aoki has a hit in his last 8 games. Aoki, in particular, has been on fire in the month of September, hitting .379.

Basically, the Royals need to grab a lead by hook or crook and get into their bullpen. If the offense can score 4.6 runs per game like they did in August, this team can beat anyone, because they know how to turn tight leads into wins. If James Shields, rookie Yordano Ventura, and Danny Duffy are on their game, Kansas City will be tough to beat.

Have faith, Royals fans. Cinderella just doesn’t have an invite to the ball, she can take home the prize—and not because the Prince happens to feel sorry for her.