It starts tonight. The World Series is afoot. By now, you’ve all heard about the magical #Yostseason of the Royals, and about the perils of facing the Giants with their #EvenYear sorcery. (Yes, Twitter has compartmentalized the sum of all postseasons for us, now TWEET IT.) So, what should we expect?
In summary, many things. In a more drawn out fashion…
1. Anything Anyone Tells You About What to Expect is Wrong.
Primary evidence: go back and look at how many people said that a Royals-Giants World Series was a sure-fire thing. Oh, wait, nobody did that? Nobody picked the Royals to even make it out of the American League? To even win any of the playoff rounds they appeared in? Nobody picked the Giants to surge past the Cardinals in five games? To make it to the postseason without Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum dealing their mound magic? Nobody expected the Addison Recorder‘s resident baseball columnist to go 0-8 in his postseason predictions?
Who the fuck knows anything, anyway, right?
2. Expect lots of bullpen duels.
The Giants have Santiago Castillo, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, and Yusmeiro Petit throwing junk in the back of their bullpen – that foursome have combined for 26.2 IP this postseason, allowing only 1 run between them. Meanwhile, the Royals have one of the best three-headed bullpen monsters in league history, pairing the law firm of Herrera, Davis, and Holland to devastating effect (prizes will be awarded to whomever creates the best photoshop of the Dreaded Three-Headed Bullpen Monster in the comments below). That threesome alone has pitched 25.2 innings with 3 runs allowed — KC’s bullpen combined has thrown a whopping 36% of the Royals’ postseason innings. In the regular season, such a rate would be utterly unsustainable. However, in this postseason, it’s almost the norm. With only a few exceptions, the standard quality start (6 IP, 3 ER or less) has become an endangered species. Managers have been playing for the edge with nearly every at-bat, turning the postseason ace into MLB’s version of the Bengal Tiger. With Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost handling the reins, expect more of the same, except for when…
3. Madison Bumgarner will turn the mound into his own personal Throne of Ascension.
If any pitcher can lay claim to the mantle of October’s Aces Past, it’s Bumgarner, who owns a 1.42 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and .170/.212/.232 slash line against. He’s been pretty damn good, and while his K/9 rate is only 7.96 (only, he says!), pitching to contact will play well into his hands, as the Royals are one of the most consistent groups of contact hitters in the leagues. Expect his two outings (I’m predicting two, as I don’t think this series lasts seven games) to be dominant affairs of 7 to 8 IP with 0 to 1 ER allowed.
4. Look for the Royals to speed their way across the bases… and into your hearts.
The Giants have attempted five stolen bases this postseason. Three have been successful. That’s not bad, but hardly indicative of a proclivity to swipe all the bags. Meanwhile, the Royals have stolen 13 out of 16 attempts. Buster Posey has strengths (more on those below) but he’s not exactly known for his arm. Expect for more swipes in the games to come.
5. Defense will be key to several games.
The Giants are a decent defensive team, though Hunter Pence, Travis Ishikawa, and Gregor Blanco aren’t anything to write home about. That being said, please note that Cardinals’ 1st baseman Matt Adams having the rough defensive range of the Harry Carey statue outside my door might have cost the Cardinals the key game of the NLCS. Meanwhile, enough superlatives have been written about the Royals that I can only bring you that most intangible of objects: gifs.
Presenting the Outfield Tag Team of Alex Gordon…
And Jarrod Dyson…
I’d say with the spacious outfields of the ballfields in KC and San Fran that we’re going to see a few highlights this series.
6. Home Runs might be few and far between.
The Giants have the player with the most home runs this year in Buster Posey, who led both teams with a whopping 22. Notable power sources like Billy Butler, Pablo Sandoval, and Brandon Belt — either through injury or malaise or down years — failed to produce at a usual clip. While the Royals have the postseason’s home run leader in Mike “Moose Dong” Moustakas, their eight round-trippers isn’t much better than the Giants’. With the aforementioned stellar pitching and stellar defense, don’t expect many more. Especially if…
7. …the Catchers control the Series.
Both Salvador Perez and Buster Posey are regarded as among the best young catchers in the game. Yadier Molina exited the NLCS prematurely with an injury, ceding the title of best catcher in baseball to whomever wins this series, in my mind. Posey’s offensive accomplishments have already netted him an MVP and are setting him on the track to a Hall of Fame career, and while his arm leaves a bit to be desired, his defensive work behind the plate is incredible. That whole kerfuffle about the expanded strike zone in the NLDS was probably the result of Posey’s ability to subtly pitch-frame, or set up how the umpire was viewing the strike zone. Meanwhile, Salvador Perez is the undisputed master of the frame in the American League. Much of the success of both rotations should fall at the feet of these two catchers — offense aside, it is their work that has brought these teams as much success as it has.
8. Expect to see a few players appearing in these uniforms for the last time.
Every postseason team deals with turnover — it’s a stated fact of life in sports that not everybody can stick around. Some players retire. Others regress and are demoted. Others feel that it’s time to get paid, and get paid well. Royals ace James Shields, whose arrival two years ago kick-started this crazy dream of Dayton Moore, will probably flee for greener pastures to the tune of $100 million (barring a sudden shift in how the penny-pinching Royals decide to pay their players). Meanwhile, in the city by the bay, Pablo Sandoval has all but stated openly that he will be moving on after the year is out. Expect for him to take somewhere in the $60 to $70 million range to play 3B/DH for some AL team, where his body type can follow the Prince Fielders/Big Papis of the World. Some fans may view them as traitors; others will send them off with a wave saying “Thanks for the memories;” others may salute them for seizing what little leverage they own in their careers to earn a salary in line with their means and abilities. Whatever happens, expect for them to move on.
9. Don’t expect this Series to go 7 games.
In the 13 years of postseason baseball in the 21st century, we’ve only seen three series go the full distance of seven games: 2001 (D’Backs over Yankees), 2002 (Angels over Giants), and 2011 (Cardinals over Rangers). The seven game series is a collection of mini-masterpieces – in each of those series, either team could have won at any number of particular moments. All it takes is for a few breaks to fall… or not fall. Having said that, the breaks are often few and far between, and if not seized, they fade into October nothingness.
This year, I see one team coming in with momentum, and another… coming in with momentum. There was talk that the five-game layoff between the Royals clinching and the start of the Series might do them in. To my mind, that argument was put to death the following night when the Giants clinched (what difference does one day of rest make?). With that in mind, I see Bochy being the difference-maker — his key moves will be what determines the outcome of the World Series.
(Disclaimer — my strategy in picking last time was to pick the team I didn’t want to win. It worked. Same principle applies here.)
Travis’ FINAL Prediction of the 2014 MLB Season: Giants over Royals in six games.