World Series Preview
Written by: Alex Dittmar
It’s the end of October, and that means it’s time for the World Series. This year’s edition is an especially interesting match-up, the Kansas City Royals, who are making their first appearance in the postseason since 1985, and the San Francisco Giants, a team that has won two of the previous three World Series titles. Both of these teams are surprise participants in the fall classic this year. Both were Wild Card teams and had to win a Wild Card game to even get into the “real” postseason. And now here they are, fighting to be world champions.
How unexpected is this match-up? First, it’s only the second World Series to pit two Wild Card teams against each other. The first such series was in 2002 between the Angels and… the Giants. Second, the Royals and Giants have the second lowest combined win total in a World Series, not counting shortened seasons in 1918 and 1981. Neither team exceeded the 90-win mark, the first time that that has happened in baseball history. Neither has a go-to bat in the line up to get the job done. In fact, the Royals did not have one player with more than 20 HRs or 75 RBIs on the season. David Schoenfield of ESPN even went so far as to call this the “worst World Series ever.”
I look at it quite differently. I find it almost remarkable to see these teams face-to-face. Early on, the Royals were a below .500 team, fighting for respectability. Then, in their final 63 games, they went 40-23, the third-best record in baseball over that time, sealing a wild card slot and filling the adage of getting hot at the right time.
The Giants did the opposite, starting with the second-best record in baseball at 43-21 and then going under .500 the rest of the way. They bucked the trend, holding on and making the playoffs and then finding their rhythm come October, which seems to be the San Francisco way at this point.
As much as the World Series is supposed to determine the best team in all of baseball, it doesn’t mean the best teams always get there. These teams embody that, with neither one winning their division, and you could argue they were in fairly weak divisions. What matters though, is how you play come the postseason, and these teams have played better than any other team in October, which proves they deserve to be here.
The Royals are 8-0 in the postseason, the first team to start October that way. Coming into the postseason, the Royals were last in the majors in home runs, being the only team who did not hit at least 100. In the postseason, they are second in the league with 8, averaging one per game, and are well above the pace they set during the regular season. Half of those have come off the bat of third baseman Mike Moustakas, who only hit 15 all season. First baseman Eric Hosmer has been another key contributor, with two homeruns and a .448 batting average. ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain has also been a beast for the Royals offense. He hit .533 in the ALCS, and made some amazing defensive plays to save some runs. The pitching staff has been solid, 3 of the 8 starts in the postseason were quality starts, even with James Shields struggling. And when this team hands a lead to their bullpen, it’s pretty much over. Their three big time relievers, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland, have been shut down, each with an ERA of 1.13 or under. That kind of dominance in the late innings is almost impossible to overcome and could be a huge influence on the series.
While the Royals have had some big individual performances in this postseason, the Giants have not had any single player carry the offense, but everybody seems to contribute when they need to. Five different players have a home run and only two regular starters are hitting over .300 – Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval – who have only driven in five and one runs respectively. But guys like Joe Panik and Travis Ishikawa, who had only three homers all year, have come up big when it matters. It hasn’t been about big offensive production for the Giants, but timely offense. The reason that this has worked out is because of their stellar starting pitching. Madison Bumgarner, the NLCS MVP, now has 4 starts this postseason, all 4 being quality starts, good for a postseason ERA of 1.42. Jake Peavy also has an ERA under 2, and Tim Hudson’s is just over 3. Their bullpen has also been pretty shut down. Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt each have over 6 innings of work and have yet to allow a run. Casilla also has 4 saves. Every single game has been a close one, but they’ve found a way to win almost all of them.
These teams have proven that they know how to get it done. Can the Royals go 12-0 and complete the greatest postseason run in MLB history? Will the Giants continue their playoff magic on even-numbered years and deliver Bruce Bochy another championship?
It’ll be an entertaining series, but the Royals have gotten hot at the right time, and they appear to be the team of destiny. Royals in 6.