By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ Ken Bracey made his debut as the Toronto Sun’s official post-season prognosticator last October.
He chose the Kansas City Royals to beat the San Francisco Giants.
He was wrong.
Not oh-so wrong. Slightly wrong. The Royals left the tying run at third base when the final out of Game 7 of the World Series was made.
Both the Kansas City Royals and the Blue Jays rallied to win their American League Division Series in Game 5s and now open the best-of-seven AL Championship Series Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Bracey, who retired from scouting with Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of the 2014 season, scouted 47 seasons after a nine-year career in the minors.
He pitched in New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants systems, then scouted for the Giants (1968), San Diego Padres (1969-86, 1991-2009), Milwaukee Brewers (1987-90) and the Dodgers (2010-14).
“Should be one heck of a playoff,” said Bracey from Dunlap, Ill. “KC is the type of team offensively that if one guy gets a hit they might not finish until four of five get hits. They can string four or five hits before you get another pitcher in there.
“Toronto is more long ball, two-run homers, three run homers attack. Toronto has more power, KC has more line drive hitters. Both can score. The rotations are even. I like KC’s bullpen better.”
In conclusion Bracey says the two clubs are “evenly matched.”
And the winner is?
“Toronto,” said Bracey, “the difference might be about the same distance as last year when the Giants won Game 7 with the tying run less than 90 feet away.”
While the Series does not come down to which centre fielder has the most hits, a position-by-position breakdown is a way of examining the two teams.
And now for our 26th annual post-season matchups complete with players’ stats, Bracey’s comments and his ratings out of 10:
Jays: Russell Martin (.240, 23, 77, .787). “In all my years I’ve never, ever seen the play where the catcher tries to throw the ball back to the pitcher, hits bat and the runner scores from third. The umps got it right. They knew the rule. Martin ought to kiss the Texas shortstop (Elvis Andrus) -- I’ve also never seen an inning start: E-6, E-3, E-6 -- and Jose Bautista too, that would have been an awful way to loose. Martin calls a good game. ”
Royals: Salvador Perez (.260, 21, 70, .706). “He’s a mistake hitter, but a he’s a good hitter. Now if you make good pitches you can get him out. He’ll get his hits but not a great hitter. He catches a good game and handles his staff very well.”
Rating: Perez 8, Martin 7.
Jays: Chris Colabello (.321, 15, 54, .886). “My hat goes off to him I never thought he would hit big-league pitchers. When he broke in his power was down the right field line -- foul. Now, he’s similar to Encarnacion.
Royals: Eric Hosmer (.297, 18, 93, .822). “A real good player, good against right-handed pitching. You have to made good pitches when it’s left on left. He’s a solid defensive player. Unless something happens injury wise he’s going to be a great player for a long, long time. I’ve heard some guys compare him to Todd Helton, now I don’t know he he’s a 3.000-hit guy like Helton.”
Rating: Hosmer 8, Colabello 5.
Jays: Ryan Goins (.250, five, 45, .672). “Game 5 he made those two bigs plays in the field and he got the bunt down in the seventh which helped set up the whole inning and Bautista’s home run. He has to do those things. He doesn’t hit a lot, but doesn’t hurt in the field. If Devon Travis is healthy he’s probably a utility man.”
Royals: Ben Zobrist (.276, 13, 56, .809): “This guy is a very good player. He’s from my area. He’s fortunate he gets to play second every day rather than bouncing around. A lot of people will be interested, I’m guessing. He’s a good clutch player.”
Rating: Zobrist 7, Goins 5.
Jays: Josh Donaldson (.297, 41, 123, .939). “There ain’t no 10s but he’s close. He’s a leader. One of the better players in the league. He’s going to be the MVP. Donaldson, Hosmer are good players but they push others the way they play. They’re hard to come by.”
Royals: Mike Moustakas (.284, 22, 82, .817). “He’s improved the last couple of years. Before if you kept the ball away from him you got him out for fun. He kills mistakes. He’s a tougher out now, middle in used to be his only sweet spot. He’s a good to above average defensive fielder. Not a great runner.”
Rating: Donaldson 9, Moustakas 6.
Jays: Troy Tulowitzki (.280, 17, 70, .777). “I don’t know if he’s healthy. No one knows if he’s 100% and he’s not going to tell anyone. When he was at Colorado he was a very good player. He might be 75%, am sure he feels something when he swings. What did he have two hits against the Rangers? He was a star in Colorado.”
Royals: Alcides Escobar (.257, 26, 75, .614). “He can run, do some things, once in a while he’s careless. He’s a good player for the top of your lineup he gets on base.”
Rating: Tulowitzki 8 (healthy), Escobar 6.
Jays: Ben Revere (.306, two, 45, .719, 31 steals). “No power, but he can hit. His arm will not play in KC, but the big park could help on balls he hits in the gap.”
Royals: Alex Gordon (.271, 13, 48, .809) “As good a left fielder as I’ve ever seen. Just excellent. He makes the same play -- the tough play -- all the time. He doesn’t blow tough plays. He’s a threat at the plate. He lost some time he was hurt, probably not the offensive year he wanted.”
Rating: Gordon 7, Revere 5.
Jays: Kevin Pillar (.278, 12, 56, .713, 25 steals). “Pillar again made some fine catches playing the Rangers. He’s a good player and should be even better three years from now.”
Royals: Lorenzo Cain ((.307, 16, 72, .838, 28 steals) “He’s a lot like Gordon -- there isn’t a better centre fielder. He used to have a long swing. He’s enthusiastic and can do some things. He’s a guy who has come a long way. He scored from first on a single to centre when Carlos Gomez slipped and sat down.”
Rating: Cain 8, Pillar 7,
Jays: Jose Bautista (.250, 40, 114, .913). “Flipping the bat on Sunday wasn’t that good. No opposition would like what he did. In that situation he was out of line. He got caught up in the moment. But you know after the top of the seventh and the emotion, I might have done the same. He’s hit a ton of home runs of. You and I can’t imagine how it feels to do what he did in Game 5 -- we never hit them that far.”
Royals: Alex Rios (.255, 15, 67, .640). “He’s not the player he once was. He’s a mistake hitter. You can get him out. No more than an average player now. I know he got a big hit in Game 5 against Houston, but the good stuff gets him out. If he hurts you it’s because you make a mistake. He is one guy who didn’t become the player I thought he would be.”
Rating: Bautista 9, Rios 5.
Jays: Edwin Encarnacion (.277, 39, 111, .929). “Encarnacion is a dead fastball hitter with power, He’ll chase pitches out of the zone, not as much as he used to ... you have to get ahead of him. Texas didn’t throw him many strikes. He’s a very dangerous hitter especially in Toronto. He can hit them out of any where.”
Royals: Kendrys Morales (.290, 22, 106, .847): Above average DH because of the power he displays from both sides. You have to pitch him tough or else the balls aren’t coming back.”
Ranking: Morales 7, Encarnacion 6.
Jays: Marco Estrada (13-8, 3.13), LHP David Price (18-5, 2.45), Marcus Stroman (4-0, 1.67), R.A. Dickey (11-11, 3.91). “Estrada went from being a part-time starter to a No. 3 ... that’s what Dickey is. When Dickey is on, he’s good, when he’s not ... you have to hook him quick, like Gibbons did in Arlington. Price can be dominant, the best starter on either staff. Stroman’s stuff is good. He competes.”
Royals: Edison Volquez (13-9, 3.55), Yordano Ventura (13-8, 4.08), Johnny Cueto (11-13, 3.44), “Volquez now does a better job at getting his breaking ball over. Ventura is still a thrower. I give a little edge to Toronto because of Price, but if Cueto is at his best as he was in Game 5 against Houston, he will counter Price. Price is good but not as dominant as some years. The starters are not great but most days all three will keep you in the game. They’re good rotations, not great. You get behind 2-0 your plans go out the door pretty quick, like they did with Gibbons.”
Rating: Jays 7, Royals 7.
Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (7-6, 3.22), RHP Mark Lowe (1-3, 1.96), RHP LaTroy Hawkins (3-1, 3.26), RHP Liam Hendricks (5-0, 2.92), LHP Aaron Loup (2-5, 4.46) and RHP Ryan Tepera (0-2, 3.27). “Losing Cecil is a big loss he was pitching great. Texas had some tough left-handed hitters and Toronto survived, but I told you Rougned Odor is an animal. KC has as many good left-handed hitters as Texas.”
Royals: Kelvin Herrera (4-3, 2.71), Ryan Madson (1-2, 2.13), Luke Hochevar (1-1, 3.73), Franklin Morales (4-2, 3.18), Kris Medlin (6-2, 4.01), Danny Duffy (7-8, 4.08), Chris Young (11-6, 3.06).
“Toronto had better get some runs off KC’s starters because that bullpen can turn it into a eight or seven inning real quick. KC has better depth in the middle innings they have the better arms.”
Ratings: Royals 8, Jays 7.
Jays: RHP Roberto Osuna (1-6, 2.58, 20 saves). “He’s not consistent now, but I think he will be. He was electric in Game 5. Sanchez and Osuna are not easy but they don’t have the experience or depth KC has.”
Royals: Wade Davis (8-1, 0.94, 17 saves). “No one is better than Davis even when he wasn’t the closing (when Greg Holland was) he was still tough.. You get a hit off Davis ... there is no chance of back-to-back hits. Facing Pedro Martinez was like that.
Ratings: Davis 9, Osuna 7.
Jays: OF Ezequiel Carrera (.273, three, 26), INF Chad Pennington (.210, three, 21, .578), OF Dalton Pompey (.223, two, six, .664), C Dioner Navarro (.246, five, 20, .682), Justin Smoak (.226, 18, 59, .768)
“Smoak has gotten better. He’s a low ball hitter with power. He’s better than he was in Seattle, better than he’s ever been. If a pitch is down, he’s dangerous.”.
Royals: Paulo Orlando (.249, 7, 27, .713), Jarrod Dyson (.250, 2, 18, .691, 26 steals), Drew Butera (.198, one, five, .533), Terrance Gore (.000, 0, 0, .250).
“KC has some speed in Dyson and Gore? Can Toronto catching harness that?”
Ratings: Royals 6, Jays 5.