The Royals' Bullpen: Why Kansas City Is One Game Away From the World Series
The Kansas City Royals are one game away from the World Series.
Let that marinate in your brain for a second. The Royals, who have won all seven of their playoff games so far this postseason, are one win away from sweeping the favored Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series, after winning Game 3 last night 2-1.
They are doing it with both small ball and homers. They are doing it with decent, if not spectacular starting pitching. They are doing it with terrific defense. And they are doing it with the best bullpen in Major League Baseball.
Last night, Kansas City was extremely happy to get five innings of one-run ball from their starter Jeremy Guthrie. Following Guthrie, the Royals then got a shutdown inning each from Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and closer Greg Holland. Those four relievers combined to record 12 outs without giving up a hit or a walk, while striking out three.
It's an incredible luxury to have in the postseason, the ability to shorten games to a five- or six-inning affair. It is perhaps more important than having a shutdown rotation, which didn't work out so well for Washington, Detroit, Oakland or the Los Angeles Dodgers here in October.
Want to know how good K.C.'s relievers have been in the playoffs? Scary good.
And if you exclude the wild card game against Oakland, the Royals bullpen has a 1.11 ERA in 24.1 innings in the ALDS and ALCS.
This season, Kansas City relievers got 5.9 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) from their bullpen, tied with the Yankees for most in the Majors. Overall, their numbers were ridiculously good.
Last night, Kansas City's bullpen success was led by the arms that have been so outstanding for the team all season long.
The Royals have so many flamethrowers coming out of the bullpen that it's impossible for opposing offenses to feel good about making a late-game comeback against them. According to FanGraphs, Herrera averaged 98.1 mph on his fastball this season, Holland averaged 95.8, and Davis averaged 95.7. And Danny Duffy, perhaps their best starting pitcher this season, is pitching out of the 'pen in the playoffs. He averaged 94.8 mph on his fastball this year.
Kansas City feels that if they can enter the sixth inning tied or with the lead, they're going to win the baseball game. And in Game 3 against an Orioles team largely dependent on the home run, they were successful. They were also aided by some outstanding glove work, continuing perhaps some of the best defense that has ever been played in MLB's long postseason history.
Kansas City has found a formula that is working for them. Get decent starting pitching. Hit the occasional home run. Manufacture runs (the winning run scored on a sacrifice fly last night). Play incredible defense. And shorten games with a bullpen that is almost untouchable right now.
It has the Royals one win away from a World Series that has been 29 years in the making.