Sep 26, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals take batting practice before the game against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
5. Home Field Advantage
Both the Houston Astros and KC Royals are well-tailored for their home parks. The Kansas City Royals went 51-30 at home this season, which was the second best home record in the American League. Meanwhile the Astros finished an even better 53-28 at home, tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for the A.L.’s best home record.
Fortunately for the Kansas City Royals, three out of the five games in the ALDS are scheduled to take place in Kauffman Stadium.
Spacious Kauffman Stadium is not a particularly good park for the Houston Astros. Built to play in the bandbox known as Minute Maid park, the Astros are a team that scores by launching the long ball. They finished second in the American League with 230 home runs. However, the cost of those long balls was the second-highest strikeout rate in baseball.
That’s not the optimal profile to succeed in Kauffman Stadium, which has more outfield area than any park in the American League. The KC Royals succeed in their big stadium by putting the ball in play, moving base runners, and playing defense. While the Astros do have good team speed (they led the A.L. with 121 stolen bases), they’re more of a slugging team than one built to scratch out runs.
The Astros lineup features seven players with more than 100 strikeouts during the season, and five batters with 22 or more home runs. Conversely, only two KC Royals players had more than 100 strikeouts. Three true outcomes (home runs, walk, strikeouts) hitters like Luis Valbuena, Chris Carter, and Colby Rasmus will see many balls that would fly out of Minute Maid, die on the warning track in Kansas City.
And, the Kansas Royals have the outfield defense to run down pretty much everything.
It doesn’t help the Astros that the KC Royals feed off their home crowd. The 2014 Kansas City Royals ripped through the American League with a perfect 8-0 record in the playoffs, before falling to an experienced San Francisco Giants team that won three titles in five seasons. The 2015 Royals figure to pick up where last year’s team left off.
The Astros face a tough challenge against a team perfectly tailored for their home park, who also hold home field advantage.