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2014 World Series preview: Royals vs. Giants

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MLB rules force the two teams to actually play one another a minimum of four times, but it's pretty clear which team is going to win.

Careful with that Bud, fellas, it's the finest craft beer sold in Missouri. * Photo
Careful with that Bud, fellas, it's the finest craft beer sold in Missouri. * Photo
Jamie Squire

The 2014 World Series kicks off tonight, with the Kansas City Royals hosting the San Francisco Giants in Game 1. This means we may have as few as four baseball games left before the cold dead of winter, during which we are forced to make due with inferior replacements such as football, basketball, hockey, and family. This means that no matter what you think of the two teams involved, you should cancel your plans for the next five to nine days and make time to watch*.

*I've been able to do that for every potential game night except for Saturday, when Game 4 will be played, when I'll be attending a Halloween party dressed as Walter White. This was my wife's idea, and she'll be dressed as Jesse. She'd never seen Breaking Bad until a couple months ago, at which time we began Season 1... followed by finishing Season 5 roughly six weeks later. I'd say she enjoyed it.)

Here is the schedule (all games begin at 8:07 ET):

  • Game 1: Tuesday, 10/21 - Giants (Bumgarner) @ Royals (Shields)
  • Game 2: Wednesday, 10/22 - Giants (Peavy) @ Royals (Ventura)
  • Game 3: Friday, 10/24  - Royals (Guthrie) @ Giants (Hudson)
  • Game 4: Saturday, 10/25 - Royals (Vargas) @ Giants (Vogelsong)
  • Game 5*: Sunday, 10/26 - Royals (TBA) @ Giants (TBA)
  • Game 6*: Tuesday, 10/28 - Giants (TBA) @ Royals (TBA)
  • Game 7*: Wednesday, 10/29 - Giants (TBA) @ Royals (TBA)

*if necessary

For coverage of these teams from people more in the know about them than I am, hit up Royals Review and  McCovey Chronicles. Which one is for which team? I'll never tell.

A brief rundown on which team is better at what:

Starting pitching

The Giants have Madison Bumgarner, who is the best starter in this series. KC's ace is James Shields, who has a nice nickname, but it doesn't really fit his actual postseason resume, which features a 5.19 ERA. Both rotations have been a mixed bag further down the line. Yordano Ventura is the one guy from spots 2 through 4 in each rotation that I'd want in 2015, but Jake Peavy has been excellent since the Giants acquired him. Neither of these teams is the '95 Braves, but San Francisco's group has been better.

Advantage: Giants (small)

Bullpen

Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrara have been amazing for months now. The Royals have probably the best bullpen in baseball, certainly the best bullpen in this series.

Advantage: Royals (large)

Defense

Kansas City also has probably the best defense in baseball, and it's been on display throughout the postseason, with a number of fine catches by Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain standing out in my mind.

Advantage: Royals (large)

Getting on Base

The Royals had a slightly higher team OBP (.314 to .311), but the Giants play many of their games in tougher parks for offense, so this is pretty close to a wash.

Advantage: Push

Power

Neither of these teams is going to make anyone forget Murderer's Row. They're each something more like Jaywalker's Column. The Royals hit the fewest home runs by any American League team since 1992, while the Giants were pretty middle of the pack among NL teams. Of course, Kansas City suddenly figured out how to hit the long ball this month, and is averaging one a game in the postseason, compared to San Francisco's average of just .5 per game. So, if you aren't bothered but small samples and you favor recency, KC might be the way to go.

Advantage: Giants (small)

Speed

The Royals stole an MLB-best 153 bases this season. The Giants stole an NL-worst 56. That's a dramatic difference, and it's been even wider in the postseason, with KC having stolen 13 bases already, compared to only 3 for San Francisco (despite SF having played two additional games). There's more to speed than just stolen bases, but the edges in this category all tilt heavily in one direction.

Advantage: Royals (large)

Management

Ned Yost has done a better and better job of managing his bullpen in the last couple weeks, getting away from his own strict rules about which guys could be used in which situations. Credit where it's due. That said, I think Bochy is one of the best.

Advantage: Giants (small, because the manager can't be a big advantage)

Intangibles (A majority of this is not really baseball)

Intangibles are intangible, so we can't really say who has the advantage there. Instead, I'll list a few random thoughts about these teams:

* The Royals hadn't been to the postseason in 29 years, which means their fans have been waiting a long time for some success. I'm supposed to be won over by that, but I don't find that I really am. This may be because most of their big fans right now haven't actually been big fans for the last 29 years. Like any successful team, they've brought a lot of fans out of the woodwork, and I don't find the plight of such fans in any way compelling. (Note: That is not to say there's anything wrong with getting more involved when your team is doing well, just that you shouldn't cry about how long suffering you are if you were't actually suffering for most of that time.) Maybe if I knew more KC fans, I'd find this point more compelling, but I only know one. Sorry Jeremy, we had a lot of fun playing old NES games together in college, and our tennis rivalry was one for the ages, but I won't be rooting for the Royals.

* Baseball has a lot of parity, at least when it comes to winning championships. This is due in large part to the advantages that can be bought with a higher payroll being largely nullified by the short-series nature of the postseason. In that context, it's pretty impressive that the Giants have reached their third World Series in five years. If they were the Yankees or Red Sox, I would hate them for that, but they're not the Yankees or Red Sox, so I don't hate them. Isn't it weird how I can just draw whatever conclusions I want from a narrative? If a team I dislike has a lot of success, I blame it on baseball financial structure. If a team I don't mind has a lot of success, I applaud their ability to win consistently. This is America.

* Who is Lorde? I can pick up from context clues that she's come sort of young female singer, but how have I completely missed out on her existence until hearing that San Francisco radio stations were not playing one of her songs. I bet she's been the musical guest on SNL, and so if I still watched SNL, I'd know wh she was. SNL viewing goings through four phases:

  1. Whoa, I get to stay up late and watch TV, this is awesome!
  2. SNL is the greatest, I love quoting my favorite zany characters catch phrases!
  3. SNL isn't as good as it used to be. I still watch though, because it's SNL.
  4. I'm an adult with free will. This is mostly unfunny and I'm done watching it.

I entered phase 4 two or three years ago, and so I don't know who Lorde is.

...I can't remember what I was talking about.

Prediction

When in doubt, I go with the American League team, because they faced tougher competition over the course of the season. When in doubt, I also go with the team I dislike more, because like the Dread Pirate Roberts said, life is pain.

Both of those factors favor the Royals, which is how I know they're going to win the World Series. The Princess Bride featured a six-fingered man, so I'll say this series goes six games.