ALCS Preview: Royals may have edge not because their pitching is strong, but because Orioles' pitching is weak

The Kansas City Royals may have an edge over the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series not because their pitching is so strong but because the Orioles pitching staff is comparatively weaker.

However, the Orioles have the overall higher Box-Toppers team ranking and have two outfielders on Box-Toppers end-of-season 2014 All-Star team. The best-of-seven game ALCS begins Friday in Baltimore.

Below are position-by-position match-ups of each player likely in the starting line-up for both teams, along with the highest-rated starting pitchers in Box-Toppers points, the top closing pitcher and an extra pitcher. Also listed are each player’s Box-Toppers points earned in 2014, along with their overall rank among all players.

The top pitcher for both teams, James Shields of the Royals, had 13.7 Box-Toppers points during the regular season, ranking 22nd among all players. The Orioles top pitcher is Bud Norris, with 10.7, ranked 51st among all players. Only three other teams in baseball had their top pitcher earn fewer Box-Toppers points than Norris:

• Padres, Ross Tyson, 9.7.

• Red Sox, Koji Uehara, 9.0.

• Rockies, Tyler Matzek, 4.7.

In fact, the Orioles are one of only two teams in baseball whose leader in Box-Toppers points was a batter—Adam Jones, with 11.5 points, ranked 40th among all players. (The other team was the Rockies—Troy Tulowitzki had 11.6 points.)

Matching up the four top starting pitchers from highest to lowest Box-Toppers points from both teams, the Royals have the edge each time (see the chart below). The Royals also have the edge in closers (Greg Holland with 7.0 over Zachary Britton with 6.0). The Royals also have the edge when matching up the next-highest rated pitcher (Jeremy Guthrie, 7.0 over Ubaldo Jimenez, 3.7). And one more thing, not included in the chart below—the Royals also have the AL’s top middle relief pitcher, Wade Davis, who has 7.0 Box-Toppers points.

The Orioles have the edge in overall Box-Toppers team rankings from 2014. They rank sixth among all teams with 113.4 Box-Toppers points, while the Royals are ranked 10th with 101.1 points—the Royals were the lowest ranked team that qualified for any of the four league division series. However, the Orioles will play the ALCS without suspended first baseman, Chris Davis, who earned 6.2 Box-Toppers points during the regular season.

The Orioles also have two players who will be on Box-Toppers end-of-season AL All-Star team. Adam Jones had the most Box-Toppers points among AL outfielders with 11.5. Nelson Cruz was second with 8.5. The Orioles also have the most notable batter (not included in the prospective starting line-up below) coming off the bench—Delmon Young with 5.5 Box-Toppers points.

However, looking at the prospective starting line-ups below, Royals batters have higher Box-Toppers point totals at five positions, while the Orioles are better in four. Also, adding up Box-Toppers points for the nine batters and six pitchers listed below, the Royals have the point total advantage—83.1 Box-Toppers points vs. 81.5.

Both teams were able to get a lot of bang for their buck this season, spending comparatively little and making it all the way to the ALCS. The Orioles had an opening day payroll of $107 million, ranking 15th among all teams. The Royals’ payroll of $92 million, ranked 19th.

ALCS Game 1, Royals at Orioles

The pitching matchup Friday:

Royals: James Shields, 13.7 Box-Toppers points, ranked 22nd among all players, 11th among AL pitchers.

Orioles: Chris Tillman, 6.0 Box-Toppers points, ranked 152nd among all players, 53rd among AL pitchers.

Box-Toppers tracks who most helps their team win the most games. Using standard box score statistics, Box-Toppers uses a simple formula to determine a Player of the Game for each Major League Baseball game played. That player is the person who contributed most to his team’s win. In regular season games, players earn 1.0 Box-Toppers point for being named Player of the Game and can earn bonus points for being Player of the Day or top player or batter in their league for the day.

AL Championship Series player comparisons

Likely starting players for the Royals and Orioles listed by position with their Box-Toppers point total (BTP) for the 2014 regular season and their overall player rank among all players

Pos Royals BTP Rank Orioles BTP Rank
1B Eric Hosmer 2.5 368 Steve Pearce 7.0 121
2B Omar Infante 4.0 243 Jonathan Schoop 2.5 395
SS Alicides Escboar 5.0 190 J.J. Hardy 4.2 236
3B Mike Moustakas 4.0 251 Ryan Flaherty 0 761
CA Salvador Perez 4.7 210 Caleb Joseph 2.0 470
CF Lorenzo Cain 2.0 421 Adam Jones 11.5 40
LF Alex Gordon 3.0 203 Alejandro De Aza 1.0 537
RF Norichika Aoki 2.0 443 Nick Markakis 3.0 320
DH Billy Butler 2.5 365 Nelson Cruz 8.5 77
SP James Shields 13.7 22 Bud Norris 10.7 51
SP Danny Duffy 10.0 58 Miguel Gonzalez 8.7 70
SP Yordano Ventura 8.7 75 Wei-Yin Chen 6.7 131
SP Jason Vargas 7.0 107 Chris Tillman 6.0 152
CP Greg Holland 7.0 106 Zachary Britton 6.0 161
PI Jeremy Guthrie 7.0 113 Ubaldo Jimenez 3.7 270