Checking in with a Kansas City reporter for a scouting report and a bullpen comparison

From 1969 to 1980, the Orioles and Kansas City Royals were well represented in the American League Championship Series.

One of those two teams played in the ALCS in 10 of those 12 years, with the Orioles playing six times and the Royals four.

But they never played each other, as they will starting tomorrow night in Baltimore.

I had a chance to get a Royals scouting report from Josh Vernier, the Royals insider for flagship radio station KCSP-AM/610 Sports Radio, who also reports for FOX Sports Kansas City.

Here is how our conversation on the Royals went.

Q: How special has it been like in Kansas City the last few weeks as the Royals made the playoffs for the first time since 1985?

Vernier: "You know, they lost an entire generation of fans. When the former owner, (Ewing) Kauffman died, they had a board of trustees really running the team. And they gutted the team payroll down to the $40-50 million range, even lower. There was no reason for kids to even follow baseball. The soccer club out here became big.

"The thing to enjoy most now is to watch the, say, 12- to 32-year-old fan fall back in love with baseball here. When I came here a few years ago, everyone told me this was a great baseball town.

"That wild card game last Tuesday was the best atmosphere I've ever been around and I also covered games in Milwaukee and Detroit. It doesn't matter where you walk now, you see that K.C. hat."

Q: The Royals' speed has been such a big factor for the team. How does it help them win?

Vernier: "Well, they are the first team in the history of baseball to make the postseason while being dead last in home runs and dead last in walks. This is a team where a walk is a rally.

"While a lot of things made it difficult for this squad to make the playoffs, like not hitting many home runs, it pays dividends in the postseason to get the man on and get in that pitcher's head.

"It doesn't garner much attention during the season, but in October when baserunners are hard to come by and you get one on first and have guys on your team that can take second base, it gives you a leg up on everybody.

"Terence Gore, when the coaches talk about his speed, you hear names like Willie McGee and Rickey Henderson. Jarrod Dyson is one of the fastest guys in the league and there are a number of speed guys some people around baseball sleep on, like Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki. They've got six or seven guys that can run."

Q: We know the Royals are a good defensive team. Who are their best defenders?

Vernier: "Alex Gorden takes the cake, the soon-to-be fourth-time Gold Glove outfielder. He is by far No. 1. Salvador Perez, at age 24, is I would say right there with (Matt) Wieters as the best young defensive catchers in the game. Escobar, the shortstop, is probably No. 3. He takes a lot of risks with balls in the hole so maybe the errors are a little higher that one would expect for a great defensive shortstop.

"Lorenzo Cain, in center and in right field depending what time of the game it is, is the fourth best defender and will likely vie with Adam Jones for a Gold Glove. Eric Hosmer won a Gold Glove last year at first base. They have a good five to six guys that are above or well above-average.

"(Mike) Moustakas is above-average at third and was up for a Gold Glove three seasons ago. Nori Aoki is a little below average, Omar Infante is average at best at second base, but there isn't a guy on the team that has been exposed defensively."

Q: Who is the leader of the Royals?

Vernier: "It begins with James Shields. Once he came in the trade prior to the 2013 season, everything started to change. The way he carried himself in the clubhouse was unlike any Royal I had seen.

"He has that aura, and I've seen Yordano Ventura have it, where he knows he's better than the opposition and he doesn't fear anybody. This is a very resilient bunch and I point to Shields for that. Alex Gordon is a lead-by-example guy. Never seen a more professional approach to the game with his day in and day out work."

Q: Manager Ned Yost has certainly gotten a lot of national criticism. How is he seen by the fans and media there?

Vernier: "By the fans, here is the best way to put it: I think maybe it's the vocal minority on Twitter, but they are all waiting to say, 'See, that is why Milwaukee ran him out.'

"The Twitter hashtag #Yosted has become a trending topic in this town every single night the Royals play. They keep waiting to say 'See, that is why he is a poor manager.'

"To me, Ned is a guy that, it's a player's game and he's going to put them in position. I don't know if we've seen, outside of the decision to go to Ventura in the wild card game, a truly poor decision.

"The media is fickle. Now that they are 4-0 in the postseason, a lot of the media loves him and they were crushing him midway through the season.

"I covered him in Milwaukee and this a completely different guy. Before, there was paralysis by overanalysis and he got the nickname 'Nervous Ned.' He's anything but that now. More hands off and he knows he can only control so much. He's more relaxed."

Q: Give us a take on the very strong back end of the bullpen?

Vernier: "(Kelvin) Herrera in the seventh, (Wade) Davis in the eighth and (Greg) Holland in the ninth are the first trio of teammates ever to throw 60 or more innings each with an ERA under 1.50. In fact there was never a team to have two relievers do that.

"Then mix in the 21-year-old rookie Brandon Finnegan, and he was pitching in the college World Series earlier this year. He is pretty much the lefty specialist and Jason Frasor is a nice righty out of the 'pen. That back end has almost made things unfair this season. The rotation only needs to give you six innings."

The bullpen comparison: As remarkable as the Orioles' back end bullpen trio of Darren O'Day, Andrew Miller and Zach Britton have been, the Royals can pretty much match them. A comparison:

Herrera: 4-3, 1.41 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .214 average against.
O'Day: 5-2, 1.70 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and .174 average against.

Davis: 9-2, 1.00 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and .151 average against.
Miller: 2-0, 1.35 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, .119 average against.

Holland: 1-3, 1.44 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, .170 average against, 46 of 48 saves.
Britton: 3-2, 1.65 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, .178 average against, 37 of 41 saves.

While the Orioles are 72-7 (.911) when leading after six innings, Kansas City is 65-4 (.942). The Orioles are 80-4 (.952) when leading after eight innings and the Royals are 79-1 (.988).

These bullpens are exceptional and having the lead going to the seventh could be huge in this series.

By the way, this article was making the rounds last night on Twitter.

Zach Wilt: Backs ends of bullpens present interest...
One more workout before Game 1 of the ALCS

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