Raise your hand if you foresaw a Baltimore-Kansas City ALCS matchup back in April. Anyone? Anybody at all? No? That’s what I thought. It’s a matchup that’s 30 years in the making and it features ball clubs that find a way to win in vastly different ways. The Royals stole more bases than any other team in the league while the Orioles plodded along the base paths, finishing dead last in baseball, 12 behind the next slowest team. Instead the O’s mashed their way to victory, racking up a Major League best 211 homers in the process, more than double the number of dingers hit by Kansas City. Both teams feature solid starting staffs and deep bullpens that have been dynamite this year when protecting a lead. This series has all the makings of a barn burner. So who’s going to win? Let’s take a run-through at some of the more salient points:
After slugging their way to victory for the better part of the 2014 season, the Orioles continued that trend in their opening playoff game, piling up 12 runs and 3 homers. And while Baltimore piled on a bit once Scherzer left the game, the O’s still managed to tag the 2013 Cy Young Winner with 5 runs in 7.1 innings, which was more than enough for the victory. So how did the O’s do it?
Thanks to a dominating performance by tournament MVP Robinson Cano, some great pitching by the likes of Samuel Deduno and a brilliant bullpen, and some flashy defense, the Dominican Republic was able to complete their quest for the World Baseball Classic title, defeating Puerto Rico 3-0. The WBC final capped a perfect 8-0 run for the star-studded Dominican roster as they outscored opponents by a 22 run margin over the 8 game tournament.
The Dominicans, much like the Japanese in ’06 and ’09, brought a style all their own to the tournament. But where the Japanese brought regimented execution and excelled at the little things, the Dominicans exhibited flair, flash, and some of that Caribbean vibe. Jose Reyes was a bundle of energy at short and he combined with his double play partner Cano to work magic in the middle of the infield. Samuel Deduno and the brilliant bullpen were full of energy from first pitch right until the final arrow out of the quiver was fired by Fernando Rodney. This Dominican team was brilliant all tournament and they are a deserving World Baseball Classic champion. Now onto the all-tournament team:
About a week ago I took a look at the potential roster for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. I decided since I had so much fun the first time around that I would do it again. Only this time I want to take a look at the roster for one of America’s biggest threats to the crown, the always talented Dominican Republic. The Dominican has yet to have a real breakthrough in the World Baseball Classic and the 2009 edition was particularly embarrassing for a nation with so many big league players. The Dominicans, despite having perennial All-Stars like Robinson Cano, Pedro Martinez, and the still-good Hanley Ramirez dotting the diamond, were knocked out in the qualifiers by the Netherlands in a tight 2-1 contest. This year’s roster should be similarly star-studded once again, particularly on the infield, where there could be more All-Stars than positions available. The manager has already been announced and it’s going to be former Kansas City Royals coach Tony Pena. As always the World Baseball Classic allows each country to carry a 28-man roster.
Earlier this week I took a look at the best pitching staff in baseball this season, the Tampa Bay Rays, and today I want to take a look at the team with the best, highest-scoring lineup in baseball, the Texas Rangers. Texas has outscored every team in baseball this season and the margin, quite frankly, isn’t even close. The New York Yankees homer-ific attack is 38 runs behind in 2nd place, and the National League’s best outfit, the Milwaukee Brewers, have scored 42 fewer runs.
Sit down and watch a couple Rangers games sometime over the next couple of weeks, and you can immediately note the biggest reason why: no team in baseball possesses more depth, one through nine, than Texas. Leading off with Ian Kinsler, on down through the destructive middle of the order featuring Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre among others, this team is stacked. Hell, they just called up top prospect Jurickson Profar, and all he’s done so far is hit .333 with a homer and a game-winning RBI in 3 games. Texas has an excellent mix of speed, power, on-base ability, and clutch hitting to outscore any club in baseball, so let’s run through it, 1 through 9.