Kansas City Royals win 2015 World Series


For the first time 30 years, the Kansas City Royals are World Series champions. They beat the Mets 7-2 in 12 innings in Game Five Sunday night. Matt Harvey was brilliant, but the Royals scored two in the ninth to tie and then five in the top of the 12th to win. Here’s the box score and here’s the wild WPA graph.

I’m going to remember Eric Hosmer’s mad dash for home plate to score the tying run in the ninth more than anything. I was at the game for CBS and I literally stood up out of my chair and put my hands on my head when he broke for home. It was that kind of moment. What an insanely fun and memorable play:

The 2015 Royals have very few ties to the Yankees. In fact, no player on their World Series roster ever suited up for the Yankees. Joba Chamberlain did appear in six regular season games with Kansas City, however. Joba has two World Series rings now. How about that?

Pitching coach Dave Eiland played two stints with the Yankees (1988-91, 1995) and was the team’s pitching coach from 2008-10. He coached in New York’s farm system from 2003-07 as well. Bench coach Don Wakamatsu spent the 2013 season as a special assignment scout with the Yankees and hitting coach Dale Sveum played 30 games with the 1998 Yankees. No, really.

Congrats to the Royals for winning the World Series and to the Mets as well for their tremendous season. That is some rotation they have over there in Flushing.

Second base option off the board: Zobrist goes to Royals

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

The best second base option is officially off the board. The Athletics have traded Ben Zobrist to the Royals for pitching prospects Sean Manaea and Aaron Brooks, the club announced. Oakland is in full blown sell mode, having now traded Zobrist, Tyler Clippard, and Scott Kazmir. The Royals, meanwhile, are all-in with Zobrist and Johnny Cueto.

The Yankees were said to have interest in Zobrist for the last several weeks and it made perfect sense. Stephen Drew hasn’t hit all year and Zobrist, a switch-hitter with contact skills and defensive versatility, has put up a .268/.354/.447 (125 wRC+) batting line with more walks (12.2%) than strikeouts (9.6%) this year. His batting average is higher than Drew’s on-base percentage (.263).

The Royals paid a fair price for two months plus one October of Zobrist. Brooks is an up-an-down depth arm, a David Phelps type but not quite that good, while Manaea is a high-end pitching prospect with a history of injury issues (hip and abdomen, mostly). Baseball America ranked him as the 81st best prospect in the game before season.

Going from Drew to Zobrist was the biggest possible position player upgrade the Yankees could have realistically made at the trade deadline this year. (#RealTalk: Going from Drew to Zobrist is a bigger upgrade than going from Jose Reyes to Troy Tulowitzki.) The best available second base option now is, uh, Martin Prado? Egads.

Rosenthal: Royals acquiring Johnny Cueto from Reds

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
(Joe Robbins/Getty)

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Royals are set to acquire ace right-hander Johnny Cueto from the Reds. The two sides were close to a deal yesterday before things fell apart when Cincinnati got scared by something they found in the medicals of another player involved in the deal. Apparently the two sides were able to work out a trade anyway.

The Yankees had reportedly been scouting Cueto for weeks, which makes total sense. He’s both a great pitcher and also a rental, making him a perfect fit for a team in need of rotation help and wary of taking on long-term deals. It’s unclear if the Yankees ever had serious talks with the Reds about Cueto. We also don’t know who the Royals are sending to Cincy, so I can’t offer up a comparable Yankees package.

Even with Cueto and Scott Kazmir (traded to the Astros) off the board, there are still plenty of pitchers on the trade market. Cole Hamels is the big name, but he comes with a hefty contract. Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy, and Mat Latos are other rental options. The Tigers remain undecided about whether to trade David Price. The package for Cueto will give us an idea of what it would take to acquire Price, who would look might fine in pinstripes.

Update: Cueto was traded for left-handers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed, both clubs announced. I’m not sure there’s a good Yankees equivalent. Jacob Lindgren, Manny Banuelos if they still had him, and Brady Lail? That doesn’t really work. Eh, whatever.

Yankeemetrics: A Royal Sweep (May 25-27)

Homers are awesome. (Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke/Newsday)
Homers are awesome. (Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke/Newsday)

Chicks dig the longball, right?
14 runs. Five homers. Seven extra-base hits. Win!

Well, I guess that’s one way to break out of the worst slump by a Yankee team in nearly 20 years. The Yankees entered this week having lost 10 of 11 games for the first time since 1995, and responded by pounding the Royals 14-1 in the series opener on Monday afternoon.

They also snapped a season-high six-game losing streak — and did so in historic fashion: It is the first time ever that the Yankees snapped a single-season losing streak of six-or-more games with a blowout win by 13-or-more runs. (On a side note, in 1902 they did end an 11-game winless streak, that included a tie, by beating the Tigers 15-1).

They wasted no time in trying to stop the skid, scoring eight times in the bottom of the first inning — a frame that included three homers, a double and four singles. It was their most first-inning runs since taking a 12-0 lead on July 30, 2011 against the Orioles. The last time they crushed three homers in the first inning of a game was August 6, 1999 at Seattle.

With nearly every guy making a positive contribution, let’s highlight two notable career-firsts: Slade Heathcott crushed his first homer and Jacob Lindgren pitched in his first game.

Heathcott put together an impressive line in his first four major-league games: 5-for-12 (.417), HR, double, three runs, three RBI. The only other Yankee outfielders in the last 100 years to hit .415 or better with that many runs scored and RBI in their first four career games were Joe DiMaggio (1936) and Joe Lefebvre (1980).

Lindgren pitched the eighth and ninth innings, allowing no hits or runs, to finish off the win. He’s the first Yankee age 22 or younger to pitch at least two hitless innings in his major-league debut since Stan Bahnsen in 1966.

After winning one game in a brutal two-week span, the Yankees won for the second time in two days … against the team with the best record in the league. Baseball, folks.

Mark Teixeira provided the power and Adam Warren the pitching, leading the Yankees to a 5-1 win on Tuesday night. Teixeira drove in four of the team’s five runs with a first-inning homer and a fifth-inning double. It was his 377th career home run, tying Norm Cash and Jeff Kent for 70th place on the all-time list.

Warren put together the best starting pitching performance of his career, holding the Royals to just one run on two hits in 6 1/3 innings. It was his third straight quality start, giving him an ERA of 2.75 over his last three turns. In that span (May 13-26), all other Yankee pitchers combined for three quality starts.

Big Mike is back
The Yankees completed a sweep of the defending AL champs (yes, I really wrote that) with a 4-2 win on Wednesday afternoon, giving the team some much-need momentum heading into its west coast trip.

Michael Pineda bounced back after getting roughed up in his previous two starts, giving up one run on six hits with eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. His signature slider was back in form, netting him seven whiffs on 18 swings against the pitch. Pineda had gotten just six whiffs on his slider in his previous two outings combined.

A-Rod, of course, did the milestone thing again. His three-run homer in the third inning gave him 1,995 career RBI, which broke Lou Gehrig’s American League RBI record and moved him into sole possession of third place on the all-time list (or at least since 1920 when RBI became an official stat).

Despite allowing an unearned run, Dellin Betances kept his 0.00 ERA intact by striking out the final two batters in the eighth inning. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in any of his 23 appearances this year, the third-longest such streak to begin a season by any right-hander. The only righties with longer streaks are Todd Worrell (25 in 1995) and Brad Ziegler (29 in 2008).

5/25 to 5/27 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals


For the second time in less than two weeks, the Yankees and Royals are hooking up for a three-game series, starting with a Memorial Day matinee. This time the scene shifts to Yankee Stadium. The Royals took two of three when these two clubs met in Kansas City last weekend. The Yankees are trying to snap a six-game losing streak.

What Have The Royals Done Lately?

Remember when Chase Headley hit that three-run home run to give the Yankees the lead against the Royals nine days ago, a game the Yankees eventually won? The Royals had not lost since that game until the Cardinals took them down yesterday. They’ve won five of six since the Headley homer game and currently have baseball’s best record (28-15) and run differential (+65).

Offense & Defense

Manager Ned Yost’s club is averaging 4.91 runs per game with a team 113 wRC+, making them one of the best offenses in the game. They never strike out — they have baseball’s lowest strikeout rate at 14.4% (Red Sox are next lowest at 17.0%) after having the lowest strikeout rate last year (16.3%), the second lowest the year before that (17.2%), and the lowest the year before that (16.8%). That’s their thing. The put the ball in play and run like hell.

Cain. (Presswire)
Cain. (Presswire)

The Royals are currently without OF Alex Rios (broken hand) and backup C Erik Kratz (foot inflammation), neither of whom is expected to return this week. The offense is led by former high draft picks 1B Eric Hosmer (156 wRC+) and 3B Mike Moustakas (149 wRC+), who are getting plenty of help from DH Kendrys Morales (137 wRC+) and OF Alex Gordon (134 wRC+). OF Lorenzo Cain (118 wRC+) and C Salvador Perez (114 wRC+) are also having fine years.

SS Alcides Escobar (93 wRC+) has been good for a shortstop, though 2B Omar Infante (69 wRC+) is not having a good year at all. OF Paulo Orlando (92 wRC+) has gotten most of the playing time with Rios out. OF Jarrod Dyson (30 wRC+) is mostly a pinch-runner/defensive specialist right now. IF Christian Colon (91 wRC+) and backup C Drew Butera (95 wRC+ in very limited playing time) are the remaining extras on the three-man bench.

The Yankees just played the Royals a week and a half ago, and since Kansas City’s roster hasn’t changed at all since then, I’m just going to quote myself for the defense:

Defensively, the Royals are second to none. Hands down the best defensive team in MLB. Gordon, Cain, Dyson, and Hosmer are elite defenders; Moustakas and Escobar are somewhere between above-average and elite; Perez and Orlando are above-average. Infante is the worst defensive regular on the team and even he isn’t all that bad. It gets no better than this group. Celebrate every time a ball drops in this weekend.

And there you have it.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. KC) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (Career vs. NYY)
The Yankees and Guthrie are certainly familiar with each other following all that time the 36-year-old spent with the Orioles. He has a 4.75 ERA (4.75 FIP!) in eight starts and 47.1 innings this season while getting no strikeouts (8.8%) and no ground outs (36.1%). Guthrie doesn’t walk anyone (6.4%), keeps the ball in the park (0.95 HR/9), and gets righties (.307 wOBA) out better than lefties (.394 wOBA). At this point of his career Guthrie works mostly with low-90s four-seamers and sinkers while mixing in a few upper-80s cutters. A mid-80s changeup is his go-to offspeed pitch, though he’ll also thrown a handful of mid-80s sliders and upper-70s curves per start.

Tuesday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (Career vs. NYY)
A week and a half ago the Yankees roughed up the 26-year-old Duffy, scoring four runs on four hits and four walks in five innings, forcing him to throw 113 pretty high stress pitches. Duffy hasn’t started since. He’s been dealing with shoulder stiffness and the Royals used some off-days — they had a similar schedule as the Yankees last week, off-days on Monday and Thursday — to skip his spot. Duffy has a 5.87 ERA (4.56 FIP) in eight starts and only 38.1 innings this season (so 4.2 innings per start), with below average strikeout (16.9%), walk (10.7%), and ground ball (37.1%) rates against an average homer rate (0.95 HR/9). He throws really hard, sitting in the mid-90s and bumping the upper-90s with his four-seamer, at least when his shoulder isn’t acting up. Duffy’s top secondary pitch is a low-80s curveball, though he’ll also throw some mid-80s changeups as well.

Late Update: Duffy was placed on the 15-day DL today because of his shoulder. Jason Vargas will be activated off the DL and start tomorrow in his place. Vargas had a 5.26 ERA (5.25 FIP) in five starts and 25.2 innings before his elbow starting barking.

Young. (Presswire)
Young. (Presswire)

Wednesday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. KC) vs. RHP Chris Young (Career vs. NYY)
Young, 35, befuddled the Yankees last week, holding them to one run in 5.1 innings. To be fair, he’s been doing that to everyone this season. Young has a 0.78 ERA (2.95 FIP) in four starts and six relief appearances — he moved into the rotation a few weeks ago when Jason Vargas hit the DL with an elbow issue — despite a below-average strikeout rate (17.7%) and an utter lack of ground balls (21.1%). He doesn’t walk anyone (6.9%) and does keep the ball in the park (0.26 HR/9), though that latter number is unsustainably low. No one is that good at suppressing homers. Young stands 6-foot-10 and he pitches up in the zone with a mid-80s fastball, generating a frickin’ ton of pop-ups, which he’s been doing it for a decade now. He’ll also mix in some low-80s sliders but not many.

Bullpen Status
The Royals have, hands down, the best bullpen in baseball. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances may be the best left-right bullpen duo, but as far as an entire bullpen top to bottom, it’s Kansas City, easily. Yost’s bullpen has a 1.68 ERA (3.29 FIP) overall and yesterday he only used RHP Luke Hochevar (1.33 FIP) and RHP Joe Blanton (4.73 FIP) for one inning each. That’s it. Everyone else is fresh.

Starting from the ninth inning out, the Royals have RHP Greg Holland (3.73 FIP) as closer, RHP Wade Davis (1.76 FIP) in the eighth inning, RHP Kelvin Herrera (3.46 FIP) in the seventh inning, and Yost will often use RHP Ryan Madson (3.23 FIP) in the sixth inning. LHP Franklin Morales (3.36 FIP) is the only lefty but that doesn’t matter. All those other guys get lefties out too. RHP Jason Frasor (4.40 FIP) rounds out the eight-man bullpen. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then check out Royals Review for everything you need to know about the best team in baseball.

Yankeemetrics: May 15-17 (Royals)

The large lefty officially has a winning streak. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
The large lefty officially has a winning streak. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Royal crush
The Yankees’ worst skid of the season continued with a 12-1 loss to the Royals on Friday night. Entering this series, they were the only AL team that hadn’t given up at least nine runs in a game this season. It was the first time the Yankees opened their season with a streak of at least 36 straight games allowing eight-or-fewer runs in each game since 1981 (38 games).

Michael Pineda‘s first start since his 16-strikeout game on Mothers Day couldn’t have been any more different than that historic one just a few days earlier.

He didn’t strike out his first batter until he got Lorenzo Cain swinging in the fifth inning, and that was the only guy that got rung up by Pineda in the game. Seems improbable, right? Almost. The last pitcher to get only one strikeout (or zero) in a game after whiffing at least 16 batters in his previous start was Mark Langston in 1988.

Although he struggled to put away batters, Pineda didn’t have any problems with his control, recording his fifth walk-free start of the season. Dating back to last September, Pineda hasn’t walked more than one guy in each of his last 10 games, pitching more than five innings in each of those starts. The only other Yankee in the last 100 years to fashion a streak like that was David Wells, who had also had a 10-game stretch in 1998 where he gave up one or fewer walks and pitched more than five innings in each outing.

Throwback Saturday
How do you snap your longest losing streak of the season? This formula usually works: a vintage performance from your former ace pitcher and a couple longballs from the middle of the order.

CC Sabathia scattered six hits and allowed one run over seven innings, earning his second straight win after going winless in his first six starts of the season. This was the fourth time Sabathia has started a game with the Yankees on a losing streak of at least four games – and he is now 4-0 in those four starts.

Chase Headley hit a tie-breaking three-run homer in the fifth inning and Alex Rodriguez added a solo shot in the ninth inning to provide the power in the Yankees’ 5-1 win. Three of Headley’s five homers this season have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead, and each of those three has come with two outs in the inning.

For A-Rod, it was his 10th homer of the season, and he joins Mark Teixeira as Yankees with double-digit homers in 2015. The only other seasons in the last 40 years when the Yankees had two players with at least 10 homers within the team’s first 38 games were 2005 (A-Rod and Tino Martinez) and 2009 (Teixeira and Johnny Damon).

A first for everything
As bad as the Yankees offense has been recently, they still had not been shut out in 2015 until Sunday’s 6-0 loss in the series finale. They were one of two MLB teams that had scored at least one run in every game this season, along with the Tigers and Blue Jays. It was the first time they had been blanked since September 15, 2014, snapping a streak of 51 straight games with scoring a run, which was the longest active streak among all major-league teams.

The loss was also the Yankees’ first one on a Sunday this year. Entering the game they were the only team undefeated (5-0) on Sundays in the majors this season.

Chris Capuano‘s first start of the season was “not what you want,” as he gave up four runs before he was pulled in the fourth inning. He’s the first Yankee to allow at least four runs in three innings pitched or fewer in Kansas City since David Wells on August 11, 2003. Sunday (May 17) also happened to be the anniversary of Wells’ perfect game against the Twins in 1998. So there’s that, at least.

5/15 to 5/17 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals


Man, 2015 is weird. The Royals are the defending AL champs, the Yankees have missed the postseason the last two years, the Royals have one of the game’s top closers over the last few seasons, the Yankees are on their third closer in three years … what in the world is going on here? The Yankees and Royals begin a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium tonight.

What Have The Royals Done Lately?

The Royals had to settle for a split of their four-game series with the Rangers this week. They’ve won six of their last ten games and are 22-13 with a +42 run differential on the season. That’s the best record and run differential in the AL, both slightly ahead of the Yankees (21-15, +28).

Offense & Defense

After getting just enough offense en route to the AL pennant a year ago, the Royals are one of the best offensive teams in the league this year, averaging 4.94 runs per game with a team 115 wRC+. They still don’t hit for a ton of power (only 28 homers) but they once again have baseball’s lowest strikeout rate (14.6%) by several percentage points. They put the ball in play and run like hell.

Hosmer and Gordon. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Hosmer and Gordon. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

The Royals are without OF Alex Rios (127 wRC+) due to a broken hand, but the lineup still features breakout stars 1B Eric Hosmer (172 wRC+) and 3B Mike Moustakas (136 wRC+). They’re perfect examples of why you don’t give up on young hitters if they struggle early in their careers. Sometimes it takes time. Moustakas has reinvented himself as an opposite field hitter in an effort to beat the shift. Teams still shift on him — he was the ninth most shifted hitter last year and so far this year he’s 11th — but now he can beat it on occasion and isn’t totally helpless.

OF Alex Gordon (144 wRC+), OF Lorenzo Cain (129 wRC+) and DH Kendrys Morales (131 wRC+) are all providing high-end offensive support. SS Alcides Escobar (119 wRC+) too. C Salvador Perez (95 wRC+) has been basically average but 2B Omar Infante (52 wRC+) has been bad, ditto the OF Paulo Orlando (76 wRC+) and OF Jarrod Dyson (42 wRC+) platoon that has replaced Rios. IF Christian Colon and C Drew Butera are the last two bench pieces.

Defensively, the Royals are second to none. Hands down the best defensive team in MLB. Gordon, Cain, Dyson, and Hosmer are elite defenders; Moustakas and Escobar are somewhere between above-average and elite; Perez and Orlando are above-average. Infante is the worst defensive regular on the team and even he isn’t all that bad. It gets no better than this group. Celebrate every time a ball drops in this weekend.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. KC) vs. RHP Chris Young (Career vs. NYY)
The 35-year-old Young has a 0.78 ERA (2.71 FIP) with 23.2 K% and 6.1 BB% in 23 innings spread across two starts and six long relief appearances for Kansas City this year. He started the season in the bullpen but recently moved into the rotation when Jason Vargas went down with an elbow issue. Young is one of the most unique pitchers in baseball. He stands 6-foot-10 and he pitches up in the zone with a mid-80s fastball, generating a frickin’ ton of fly balls (26.8% grounders). Young uses his size and his deception to hide the ball and get pop-ups, and he’s been doing it for a decade now. He’ll also mix in some low-80s sliders but otherwise that’s the plan. Get them to hit the fastball straight up in the air.

Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (Career vs. NYY)
Duffy, 26, was a big part of the Royals’ rotation last year, but he barely pitched in the postseason (4.2 innings) due to a late season shoulder issue, and so far this season he has a 5.67 ERA (4.22 FIP) in seven starts and 33.1 innings. His strikeout rate is down slightly from last year (17.7% vs. 18.7%) and his walk rate (9.8% vs. 8.8%), ground ball rate (39.6% vs. 35.8%), and home run rate (0.81 HR/9 vs. 0.72 HR/9) are all up slightly. Righties (.391 wOBA) have hit him substantially harder than lefties (.315 wOBA), which has been true his entire career. Duffy throws really hard, especially for a lefty, sitting in the mid-90s and occasionally touching the upper-90s with his four-seam fastball. His top secondary pitch is a low-80s curveball, though he’ll also throw some mid-80s changeups as well. Duffy’s last two starts have been disasters — four runs in one inning and six runs in 3.2 innings — so I’m sure his confidence is a little low.

Volquez. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Volquez. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. KC) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (Career vs. NYY)
Replacing James Shields with Volquez has gone … surprisingly not terribly so far. The 31-year-old Volquez has a 3.19 ERA (3.47 FIP) in seven starts and 42.1 innings this season, with league average-ish strikeout (18.9%), walk (9.7%), and ground ball (48.8%) rates. His homer rate (0.43 HR/9) is less than half his career mark (0.92 HR/9). Volquez has a small platoon split (.270 vs. .252 wOBA in favor of righties) and after walking five batters in his first 28.1 innings of the season, he’s walked 12 batters in his last 14 innings. He does still throw hard though, sitting in the mid-90s with his four-seamer and sinker. Volquez also throws a mid-80s changeup and an upper-70s curveball, and on his very best days, both are put-away pitches. His stuff is really nasty when he locates, which is far too infrequently.

Bullpen Status
Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are awesome, but the Royals have a better bullpen than the Yankees based on depth. The good news is manager Ned Yost used all his key relievers yesterday. That includes closer Greg Holland (3.14 FIP), setup men RHP Wade Davis (1.68 ERA) and RHP Kelvin Herrera (3.44 FIP), and middle relievers RHP Ryan Madson (3.26 FIP) and RHP Luke Hochevar (1.64 FIP). Herrera has pitched the last two days, everyone else just yesterday.

All five of those guys are power relievers — they all throw hard and have a put-away secondary pitch. Madson is finally back from Tommy John surgery too. He didn’t pitch at all from 2012-14 due to elbow reconstruction and numerous rehab setbacks. Pretty cool to see him pitch so well despite the long layoff. LHP Franklin Morales (3.21 FIP), RHP Jason Frasor (4.56 FIP), and RHP Aaron Brooks round out the eight-man bullpen. (Brooks has yet to appear in a game this season.) Check out the status of the Yankees’ bullpen with our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Royals Review for the latest and greatest on the defending AL champs.