KC Royals: Could KC Have Won Title Without Johnny Cueto And Ben Zobrist?

jviril
Oct 28, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) is dunked with a cooler of water by catcher Salvador Perez (13) after throwing a complete game to defeat the New York Mets in game two of the 2015 World Series at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) is dunked with a cooler of water by catcher Salvador Perez (13) after throwing a complete game to defeat the New York Mets in game two of the 2015 World Series at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nov 1, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) turns a double play over New York Mets left fielder Michael Conforto (30) in the 7th inning in game five of the World Series at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) turns a double play over New York Mets left fielder Michael Conforto (30) in the 7th inning in game five of the World Series at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Cueto And Zobrist Made Critical Contributions In Playoffs

Johnny Cueto made four playoff starts resulting in a 2-1 record, and 5.40 ERA. While that doesn’t look very impressive, his numbers were distorted by one terrible start against Toronto in which he gave up eight runs in 2.0 innings. Aside from that stinker, Cueto had one solid start in game 2 of the ALDS against Houston, and two of the best playoff starts in KC Royals history in Game 5 of the ALDS and Game 2 of the World Series.

Cueto’s pair of two-hitters provided wins in the deciding game of the ALDS and put the KC Royals ahead two games to zero in the World Series.

Meanwhile, Ben Zobrist hit .303/.365/.515 with eight doubles, two home runs, and six RBI’s in the 2015 post-season for Kansas City. Zobrist also drove in the winning run in KC’s 5-4 win over Houston in Game 2 of the ALDS, and stroked a single during the Royals five-run rally in the 8th inning of Game 4 that staved off elimination.

Remember that the Kansas City Royals just barely survived against the Astros in the ALDS. As I’m sure many KC Royals fans are sick of hearing, the Astros were six outs away from sending KC home for the winter with a four-run lead. Remember also that the KC Royals also had to rally from a 4-2 deficit to win Game 2, with Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel pitching the next day.

I’m not sure the Royals could have afforded anything less than every bit of player value that they got during the tight Astros series. I think it’s pretty clear that both Zobrist and Cueto made critical contributions that allowed the KC Royals to survive a severe challenge.

That’s not to deny that other players might have performed well in their place. Christian Colon, who drove in the winning run in his only playoff at bat in Game 5 of the World Series, likely would have taken over second base had Zobrist not been on the team. Moore might have called up John Lamb to take the the place of the tiring Chris Young in the KC rotation if the Cueto deal didn’t happen.

While John Lamb’s 1-6, 5.80 ERA in ten starts with Cincinnati look bad on the surface, digging into the numbers shows that Lamb suffered from some bad luck, or bad defense, in Cincinnati. Lamb struck out an outstanding 10.5 per nine innings, while walking an acceptable 3.4 per nine. His Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) was a much better 4.13. The reason Lamb gave up so many runs seems to be an unusually low strand rate of 68%.

Lamb might have proved to be a live arm down the stretch, and in the playoffs, with the KC Royals defense behind him.

Next: Fangraphs Projects Losing Season For Royals In 2016

In the end, we can’t say for certain that the Kansas City Royals would have lost the World Series without Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. But, I sure as heck would not want to go back in time and replay the 2015 playoffs without their contributions.

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