The 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Cinderella Kansas City Royals began in style last night with the former cruising to a 7-1 win.
This is just the second time in the 20 years since MLB introduced the Wild-Card, that two wild-card teams made it to the World Series. The first time occurred in 2002 when the Anaheim Angels faced off against the Giants. This is Kansas City’s first playoff and World Series appearance in 29 years. The Royals were victorious in their last World Series appearance. The Giants on the other hand and are looking for their third title in the last five seasons.
The Giants and Royals did play each other once in the regular season, with the Royals sweeping the three game series in August. It marks the first time since 2009 that World Series opponents have played each other in the regular season.
The Royals have been untouchable in the playoffs so far, steamrolling the Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and Baltimore Orioles. Despite the Royals magical run, I think the Giants will win the World Series due to pitching, manager and hitters.
The Giants have the advantage in starting pitching by having one of the better pitchers in the game, Madison Bumgarner.
In the regular season Bumgarner went 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.09 WHIP and he has only gotten better in October. The NLCS MVP posted a 1.42 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in four playoff starts this year. Bumgarner’s counterpart for Kansas City, James Shields, has struggled mightily during the postseason posting a 5.63 ERA 1.46 WHIP in his three starts, failing to live up to his nickname of Big Game James (Shields blames his disappointing performance on passing a kidney stone).
His postseason numbers contrast unfavorably to his 14-8 record, 3.21 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in the regular season.
The bullpens for both the Royals and Giants have been lights out. The Royals bullpen, led by Wade Davis, Greg Holland, with young power arms Brandon Finnegan (the only player in baseball history to pitch in both the College World Series and the World Series in the same year) and Kelvin Herrera, have put up a 1.97 ERA in 32 innings of work.
The Giants have been almost as good, but have the added factor of experience. Many of San Francisco’s relievers, including closer Sergio Romo, and long reliever Yusmeiro Petit have been a part of the Giants previous two World Series victories. Despite this, the Royals have an advantage in talent, especially in the back end.
Despite being known as a “small ball” team, finishing last in all of the Majors in home runs with 85, the Royals surprising playoff run has been extended many times thanks to the long ball.
The Royals hit eight homers so far this postseason, second only to the St. Louis Cardinals with 15. The Giants currently have six home runs during this postseason, tied for third with the Baltimore Orioles.
But even with the spaciousness of AT&T Park the Giants finished fifth in the National League with 665 total runs scored.
Kansas City finished ninth the in AL with 651 total runs. Stars like catcher Buster Posey, the 2012 NL MVP, outfielder Hunter Pence, a three time All-Star, and third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the 2012 World Series MVP, each with proven playoff success, gives San Francisco a big advantage.
But the Royals are no team to sleep on thanks to veterans like outfielder Alex Gordon, shortstop Alcedis Escobar, and designated hitter Billy Butler, along with young players third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer, and catcher Salvador Perez.
Bruce Bochy is far and away the biggest advantage for the Giants. At the helm for his eighth season, this is his third World Series appearance with the club and fourth overall as a manager, taking the San Diego Padres in 1998.
Ned Yost has done a tremendous job keeping Kansas City’s clubhouse loose and fun, something that appears to be working for the magical Royals. But it spoke volumes when his previous club, the Milwaukee Brewers fired Yost with just two weeks left in the season while the team was still in the Wild Card hunt.
Overall I expect this to be a great series between two evenly matched teams, but I believe that the Giants take home their third title in five seasons in six games.