SAC 2014 World Series Preview by Justin Block

giants

royals

It is finally here, the 2014 World Series between the two magnificent wild card teams of baseball.  First we have the undefeated ALCS champions with a perfect 9-0 postseason record, The Kansas City Royals.  On the other side are the NLCS champions, who have the even year magic, the San Francisco Giants.  It has been 12 years since two wild card teams met in the World Series, and it is ironic that the Giants were in that series as well. During the divisional rounds, both of these teams were considered underdogs, because they were going against the top teams in their respective league, the Anaheim Angels and the Washington Nationals.  However these two teams have beaten the top dogs in their leagues.  It proves to show that no matter how much success you have during the regular season, it is the post-season that ultimately determines a team’s success.  For example in the NFL, the Denver Broncos had a magnificent 2013-2014 season, but they had their worst game during the most crucial matchup, the Super Bowl.  These two underdog teams had the most unexpected wins and series that I have seen.  This will be a unique World Series, which could possibly go to a game 7. Let’s take a look to how each team made it to the World Series.

bumgartnerIt’s an even year and every Giants fan knows its importance.  For the last five years the Giants have won two World Series and that is during the even years.  This has been one of the weirdest superstitions in baseball, and it could happen again in the 2016 MLB season.  The Giants failed to beat the free spending Dodgers in the NL West, but managed to clinch the NL Wild Card spot.  It would be no problem for the Giants as they have Madison Bumgarner pitching.  Bumgarner on road games has been a beast with 11 wins and only 4 loses with a 2.22 ERA (Earned Run Average) and a 0.98 WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched).  This ensured a Giant victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  In the past postseason road games, the Giants were known to win most of their road games as they won their last World Series games in Texas and Detroit.  This was proven true in the NLDS game as the Giants won the first two games in Washington.  Known fact, the Giants have won 2 of 7 from the Nationals during the regular season, but they humiliated them at Washington, when the Nationals could have easily won game 2.  In the NLCS game, the Giants have won most of their games via Cardinals defensive errors. For instance, in the bottom of the 10th inning of NLCS game 3, Gregor Blanco dropped a sacrifice bunt that would result in an error by the pitcher Choate, and the Giants won the game.  This is one of the many errors that the Cardinals have shown in the NLCS.  Even though the Giants ran away with the pennant, they still need more improvements if they are to win the World Series.

If the Giants want to win the World Series, then the only thing they need to do is to score earned runs and utilize their bullpen.  The Giants starting pitchers showed supremacy in the early postseason, but they do not have a primary closer.  In the first half of the regular season Sergio Romo was the starting closer, but lost his role after his two blown saves against the Colorado Rockies.  In the 2nd half they have been trying to find a secondary closer with experience, like Santiago Casilla.  However, Casilla draws at least one walk every game, which is not a good start for a closer, so the Giants need to find a new closer that could help them. They hope it could be Hunter Strickland, but he is currently having postseason struggles.  The Giants would want Strickland as the closer, because he throws at least 100 mph fastball.  During the NLCS and NLDS, the Giants got most of their runs from opposing teams’ errors, so there weren’t any earned runs until game 5 of the NLCS.  The Giants only scored three home runs in the NLCS and it was all in game 5.  If the Giants are to be productive, they need their 3-4-5 hitters to bat-in runs.  These small improvements can add to the Giants’ list of strengths.

vogelsongThe Giants during the postseason are lethal on the road and their starting pitching and defense are excellent.  As some of us know, Madison Bumgarner is the lethal pitcher for the Giants this year, but it is not just him on fire during the postseason, it is also Jake Peavy, a former Boston Red Sox pitcher, and Ryan Vogelsong, who was the key pitcher for the Giants in the 2012 postseason.  In the 2014 season Ryan Vogelsong’s pitching status declined, and he had a record of 8-13 with a 4.0 ERA with 178 Hits and 151 SO.  In the postseason, Vogelsong currently has a 2.5 ERA with 9 Hits and 5 SO, but the Giants have won in his postseason starts.  When Jake Peavy was in Boston, he had a horrific start to his season with one win and 11 loses, but since he came to San Francisco his performance greatly improved to 6 wins and 2 loses.  During postseason road games, the Giants are fairly dominant as they won most of their games on the road, especially their last 2 World Series.   In the NLDS game against Washington, the Giants have won the first two games in Washington, which highlights their road game performance.  Since the Giants have not swept any team in the 2014 postseason, they may have trouble facing the Royals, who have swept all their series in the 2014 postseason.

Royals 2The Kansas City Royals were ahead of their respective division until they lost crucial games against the Detroit Tigers to clinch the wild card.  However this is still something to celebrate for the Royals as they have not clinched a playoff spot since 1985.  Their wild card game against the Oakland A’s was the most dramatic wild card game.  The Oakland A’s could have won, but the Royals tied the game in the 9th inning.  The Oakland A’s gained the lead again, but the Royals tied it and won the game in the 12th inning when Salvador Perez scored the walk-off run.  However, this was not the first time the Royals will play in extra innings.  In the ALDS the Royals played in extra innings twice against the Angels and won both games.  It eventually led to a sweep that would lead them to face the Baltimore Orioles.  During their postseason run, most of the Royals wins have been close victories.  The KC Royals are a pretty solid team with great pitching, excellent defense, an amazing bullpen, and great clutch hits.  The Royals have amazing strengths that definitely qualify them to be the top dogs in the American League.

Royals 3The Royals are the team to beat if the Giants want to win the World Series, but first they have to get through their A-rank defense and clutch time hitters.  Like in Superbowl 48, defense wins championships, and the Royals are are quite a defensive specimen with Lorenzo Cain, Norichika Aoki, and Mike Moustakas all making some excellent defensive plays.  The defense was superb and robbed the Angels and Orioles of opportunities to score.  Lorenzo Cain’s amazing defensive skills are defintely the key components for the Royals to win their games as well as becoming the ALCS MVP.  Besides their defense the picthing is also phenomenal.  The Angels had a low scoring game even though they were presented with many chances, but the Royals pitchers threw balls that eventually led to popouts and groundouts.  The Royals have a better chance to win, because their bullpen is better than that of the Giants.  Most of the postseason wins have come from the bullpen.  Their bullpen has more strikouts than the Giants’, but they are still very balanced in other areas.  The bullpen allowed only one home run, while the Giants’ allowed 7.  Even though the Royals have all the necessities to win, they still have some problems.

The Royals have been consistently good with scoring runs, but the one problem they may need to improve on is starting pitching.  Recall that during the postseason, the Giants’ starting pitchers have better performances than in the regular season.  The Royals starting pitchers have been decent but they’ve only had two wins from starting pitchers this postseason.  Compared to the stats of the Giants starting pitchers, the Royal’s rotation allowed more hits and HRs, and had fewer strikeouts and innings pitched than the Giants.  The Giants could use that to their advantage for scoring early.  Since the Royals are undefeated, they come in with momentum, but if they were to lose the first game, their confidence could be shot. The Royals may have a hard time recuperating after they finally lose a game.  The Royals could emerge rusty come Game 1, and there is precedent for teams coming off of sweeps to get swept themselves on the big stage. For instance in the 2012 World Series the Tigers swept the Yankees, but after long days of rest(even from interleague baseball), the Tigers got swept by the Giants.  The Tigers are not the only team to sweep in the ALCS and lose in the World Series.  It also happened to the 1990, 1988 Oakland A’s, 1981 Yankees, etc.  Some teams were successful after a long period of rest, but now it is the Royals’ turn to see if the resting period affects their gameplay.  If the Royals want to win the World Series, their pitchers must be consistent throughout the game and need to avoid falling behind and putting their bullpen in the whole.

This will be an exciting World Series, with the undefeated Royals up against the even year magic Giants.  The Royals have not been to a World Series in a long time, so this might be new for some of them.  However they have Home-field advantage which is good for them right?  No it is not, because recall that the Giants have done supremely well against opposing teams on the road.  After two games, I expect a tie, and then during the Giants’ three game home stand they would lead the series 3-2.  When they get back to Kansas City, the Royals would tie the series in game 6, and then finally the Giants will win game 7.  That is my World Series prediction.  Giants win 4-3.

WS

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