By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
With the first 4 games with Kansas City under our belts, there are a few things we can take from this series worth mentioning. Below are a couple to ponder.
Same rules, no sharing between Holly and Kurt. Let’s see where they ended up on these 2 subjects.
1. What was most surprising in this last series with Kansas City?
It was the difference in approach between the two teams. KC came in with guns blazing and you could tell they did much preparation in anticipation of the showdown. They hit the ground running and especially in the first game, the Tigers didn’t know what hit them. The guys wearing the Old English D appeared surprised and performed flat, scoring only 2 runs in 2 games. But then the Tigers woke up halfway through and split the series, although neither of them was easy.
The emotional energy KC exhibits is shocking. Unlike the Tigers, it runs visibly above ground and is very contagious among the entire team. The fans appear to feed off this energy and likewise, the team feeds off its fans. I think coming so close to winning that ring last year put a bigger fire in their receptive belly. Right now, they appear much more hungry and feel they have to prove they weren’t a fluke.
Well for one, the sellout crowds. All of last season, it appeared KC fans were waiting for the team to fall apart. They have been so used to the losing, it looked as if they were waiting to see if this whole winning thing was for real.
I guess the World Series appearance has won them over and they are itching for more. If they had read the press clippings about their prospects for this season, maybe the stands would still be sparse. But they were in playoff form already in May. The team has certainly shown them they plan to give it another go.
On the other hand the Tigers surprised me by how they continue to be stymied by Chris Young. If they have shown any evidence of disciplined hitting, it all goes out the window when he is on the mound. Regardless of team or circumstance, they continually look like they have never faced this guy before.
2. Do you expect the rest of this year to be a race with KC?
Absolutely – a great team doesn’t plummet in the standings because they lose two players. KC definitely has the mental edge which is a huge part of the game, inspiring better performances out of almost everyone.
Looking at the stats, Detroit nudges out KC in fielding by one position but KC takes the top slot in overall pitching with Detroit in 7th place. They don’t have masterpiece pitching performances but everyone, esp. the bullpen, is solid and does their job well.
And in hitting, KC ranks third, with Detroit in 8th place. They have better numbers in all categories than the Tigers except for triples and HRs. The majority of their starting lineup is hitting over .300 with 2 others close to .300. But they don’t like walks – they are contact hitters and like to put the ball in play and then use their speed.
The Royals remind me a lot of the ’84 Tigers – almost an entire lineup of solid guys with multiple tools. No huge stars but a team that has a different player each night capable of getting the job done.
I don’t think there is any question. I have heard all the talk about the White Sox and Indians and their potential contention for the division crown, but they first need to get to .500 with the Twins before they can be taken seriously.
The Royals and Tigers are more than likely going to have these kinds of series all season. Detroit looks to have caught up to KC in a couple of areas, speed and defense. And they look to have the advantage in starting pitching as the Tigers have a truly established ace that can take over a game. The Royals don’t have that guy.
The Royals edge is in their bullpen and in their ingenuity at the plate. One case in point is what seemed to be a concerted effort to beat the shift with bunts to the empty left side of the infield, almost as if they have been working on it. KC is also better offensively than last season, so they certainly can compete with the Tigers in that area. So with all of this in mind, this has “tight race” written all over it.