How Unlikely Are the Cardinals' and Royals' Playoff Power Surges?
In the regular season, no two teams hit fewer home runs than the two playoff squads from Missouri.
Maybe it's something in the air there, but for the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals, dingers were hard to come by. Kansas City was the only team in the Majors that failed to reach 100 home runs as a team, totaling just 95 during the regular season. St. Louis wasn't a whole lot better, hammering just 105 balls out of the yard in 2014.
The Cardinals' team leader in home runs was Jhonny Peralta, with 21, followed Matt Holliday's 20. Only two other Cardinals players, Matt Adams and Kolten Wong, reached double figures in homers. The Royals, meanwhile, did not have a single player reach the 20-homer mark. Their team leader, Alex Gordon, had just 19, while Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas were the only other Royals players in double figures, with 17 and 15, respectively.
Surely, if St. Louis and Kansas City were going to advance through their League Championship Series and get together for an all-Missouri rematch of the 1985 World Series, they'd have to do it with great pitching, excellent defense, and lots of small ball, right?
After bashing four home runs in last night's 5-4 Game 2 win against San Francisco, the Cardinals have now hit 11 in 6 playoff games. That's 10.4 percent of their regular season total, and 16 of their 23 runs scored in the postseason have come via the longball. According to ESPN Stats & Info., they are averaging 16.8 AB per HR this postseason, which would be the third-best rate in a single postseason in MLB history.
Last night's hero was the diminutive Wong.
Wong is not the biggest player on the field, but he did manage to hit 12 homers during the 2014 season, so it's not like he's Ben Revere or anything out there. Still, he would have been an unlikely choice to hit a walk-off homer last night.
Kolten Wong is 5-foot-9. According to Elias, he and Kirby Puckett are unofficially the shortest players to ever hit a postseason walk-off HRâ€” ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 13, 2014
Matt Carpenter, who also went deep last night in Game 2, now has four homers in the playoffs, which leads all NL players. That's half of his regular season total of eight. And last night, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Cardinals became the first team in Major League history to homer in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning of a playoff game. Oscar Taveras' seventh-inning blast tied the game, Matt Adams' eighth inning laser put St. Louis ahead, and Wong's blast won it after the Giants tied the score in the top of the ninth.
The Royals' postseason power surge has been even more unlikely. They have hit eight home runs in six playoff games, all victories. That is 8.4 percent of their regular season total. Entering the playoffs, Kansas City hit one extra-inning home run all season. In the playoffs, they've hit four extra-inning homers, which is more than any team in Major League history.
And Moustakas, who hit 15 homers all season as the team's number-nine hitter, is tied with Carpenter for the MLB lead in postseason homers with four. Elias says Moustakas is just the second player in baseball history to homer four times from the number-nine spot in the lineup, joining the Angels' Adam Kennedy, who went deep four times in the 2002 playoffs. K.C.'s Eric Hosmer, who hit nine regular season long balls for the Royals, now has two in October.
Look, baseball is weird, and baseball in October can sometimes border on the insane. There is no explaining this power surge from the Cardinals and Royals. The only thing to do is enjoy it, and see how long these two teams can continue to defy logic.