After a 2014 season that ended in a heart breaking 3-2 loss in Game 7 to the perennial front runner San Fransisco Giants, the Royals knew they would have an opportunity to return to baseball’s highest stage in 2015. The only major losses to free agency in the ensuing offseason were pitcher James Shields, who declined a qualifying offer from the AL Champs to sign with San Diego (the Royals received a compensation pick for this), DH Billy Butler, who was drafted by KC with their 1st pick in the 2004 Draft and signed a tender with the Athletics, and Nori Aoki, who jumped ship for a chance at a repeat with the Giants.
The core of the lineup remained the same entering the 2015 campaign, with Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez all coming off of the best seasons of their careers in the previous year. Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar were secondary producers for the club, but all contributed solid numbers throughout the season and in Gordon’s pace, a Gold Glove winning defensive effort.
The notable offseason acquisitions for the reigning AL Champions included designated hitter Kendrys Morales, OF Alex Rios, starting pitcher Edinson Volqez, and reliever Kris Medlen. Morales turned out a spectacular 2015 campaign, drubbing a .290 batting average and leading the squad with 106 RBI AND 22 HR. His 58 walks and 103 strikeouts were both second behind Eric Hosmer in both categories. Volquez also turned out to be a productive pickup, tying Yordano Ventura for the team lead in wins with 13 while leading all Royals pitchers with 33 games started, 200.1 IP, and finished one strikeout behind the flame throwing Ventura for the team lead in K with 155. Rios and Medlen both suffered through injuries, but were productive in their limited time in the regular season and both made the postseason roster.
2015 was a dominant season for a KC squad which won their division by 12 games over the Twins. The Royals has a winning record against every American League Team except the Yankees (2-4), Houston (2-4), Toronto (3-4), and the Rangers (3-4); all playoff teams.
The postseason kicked off with a challenge right away: a 3-2, hard fought series victory over the new kids on the block, the Astros. After a furious comeback to win Game 4 with 5 runs in the 8th inning and 2 more for insurance in the 9th to with the game 9-6, the momentum had all but swung in the Royals favor.
A matchup with another offensive firepower awaited KC in the Championship Series in the form of the volatile Toronto Blue Jays. The series featured every range of emotion from anger when both teams had multiple incidents that cause the benches to clear, a rarity in the playoffs to despair for the losing team, which happened to be Toronto after 6 games.
This 2015 Kansas City Royals team is one that is marked by its chemistry, with the entire productive core returning from their 2014 World Series adventure, and consistently getting better as the years progress. After winning only 75 games in 2013 and 86 last year, this year’s 95 wins are the most for the club since a 97 win season in 1980, ironically losing in the World Series to the Phillies that year in 6 games.
Ned Yost and his team have many questions to answer in their second trip to the World Series in as many years. Is this the year they lift the Commissioner’s Trophy after being so close? Will they be able to defeat the Mets and their dominant pitching? Who will step up and produce in clutch situations? These will all be answered in two weeks time, and the Royals hope they can go golfing this summer with heavy hands, weighed down by championship rings.