At the onset of the 2014 season, I projected that this would be the year the Kansas City Royals returned to relevance (go ahead, search the March archives and check it out if you don’t believe me). I said that the boys in powder blue would go 90-72 (they finished 89-73), finish right behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, and win the AL Wild Card game. Heralded and trusted sites such as Fan Graphs had them finishing 79-83, while Covers.com had their over/under wins at 85.5. So, while the baseball world sits in awe at what the Royals have done, The Wayniac beat the experts on this one. Of course, I also projected the Arizona Diamondbacks would be the surprise team of the NL West and take home the Wild Card. How I bet against the San Francisco Giants in an even year is just plain old ignorant.
So how will this World Series go down? Will it be another walk in the park for Buster Posey and his boys from the Bay or will George Brett take home his second ring. It’s tough to say as both teams have many advantages over the other, which coincidentally leads to several disadvantages.
Many people are comparing these Royals to the 2007 Colorado Rockies, but that is absolutely outrageous. Here are the similarities. The Rockies had a better record, but like the Royals, swept their way to the World Series and had a long period of time off in between the LCS and World Series. That’s the end of the comparison. The Rockies were led by staff ace (and that term is used very loosely) Jeff Francis who had 17 wins and an ERA of 4.22 which trailed Aaron Cook‘s 4.12 ERA for second best in the rotation. The Royals are anchored by a legitimate ace in James Shields. The highest ERA in their rotation (4.13 by Jeremy Guthrie) was .01 points higher than those Rockies best ERA. And Greg Holland and Wade Davis are heads and shoulders above Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas. Those Rockies could hit, like every Colorado team before them, but where they fall short to these Royals is in pitching, and you know what they say, good pitching always beats good hitting. These Royals won’t be swept under the carpet like those Rockies were.
The Giants have nothing to prove to anyone as to why they are a legitimate threat to take down their third title in five years. They haven’t simply won two of the last four World Series, they dominated them sweeping one and winning the other four games to one. They are led by two of the best young players in baseball who eat their spinach in October and take it to another level. Well, Pablo Sandoval clearly eats more than spinach, but the man is an October legend while Buster Posey has become the clear cut leader.
Well, that didn’t clear anything up, did it? I think in order for The Wayniac to come to a solid conclusion, we need to break down the positional advantages of each team. At the end, it will be easy to see who the winner of the 2014 World Series will be, because as we all know, a simple statistical breakdown is always accurate, right Billy Beane?
A POSITION BY POSITION BREAKDOWN OF THE 2014 WORLD SERIES
Catcher: Buster Posey, SF vs. Salvador Perez, KC
This isn’t fair at all. Posey is a Rookie of the Year winner, he took home the NL MVP in 2012 when as a catcher he led the league in batting average, and is a beast in the World Series with a career .286 average, two home runs and five RBI. Perez was an AL All-Star this season… in a year in which Matt Wieters was hurt and Brian McCann couldn’t hit the ocean from a lifeboat.
1st Base: Brandon Belt, SF vs. Eric Hosmer, KC
These two have a lot in common. I feel like we have been waiting for both of their breakout seasons for a few years now. Both are supposed to be consistent power bats that play solid defense. Both spent a lot of 2014 injured. The big difference is that it seems as if Hosmer has been waiting for his post season chance his whole life. He’s batting .448 with two huge home runs and 8 RBI. Hosmer is the leader of the Royals offense, and thus far he has been playing like it.
2nd Base: Joe Panik, SF vs. Omar Infante, KC
Both of these guys have cooled tremendously since the post season started. So, is the advantage to the young kid playing with all of his heart or the crafty veteran who was signed to a four-year deal at the beginning of the season to bring stability to the Royals’ infield? Most people think Panik has the edge, but I see it differently. The main advantage for Infante is that he’s been to the Series before (against the Giants in 2012, ironically) and he batted .333 when he got his chance.
3rd Base: Kung Fu Panda, SF vs. Mike Moustakas, KC
A Panda and a Moose walk into a bar, who comes out on top? This seems like a no-brainer. Panda lives for the postseason, as evidenced by his 2012 World Series MVP performance. He has two rings in his short career and is a lifetime .325 hitter in the postseason. Moustakas has been highly raved about since he was drafted second overall by the Royals in 2007. It took awhile after yet another season of ups and downs for Moose, but this October, he has found his stroke.
Advantage: Giants, but don’t be surprised if the Royals win a crucial game off the bat of Moose
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford, SF vs. Alcides Escobar, KC
Two scrappy players who seem to make the most of their opportunities. Crawford has way more pop in his bat which gives him the better chance for a more memorable play, but Escobar has the ability to sneak on base and start a huge rally. Escobar, however, has a better fielding percentage (.976 to .967) and better range factor (4.10 to 4.33) so the ability to prevent a run may be more valuable than scoring one.
Outfield: Travis Ishikawa, Hunter Pence and Gregor Blanco, SF vs. Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Nori Aoki, KC
Take away Pence and this isn’t even an argument. Lorenzo Cain took home the ALCS MVP award, but he could be the MVP of the entire post season thus far. He is batting .353 with four RBI and playing run-saving defense at the same time. Gordon has been somewhat inconsistent this October, but his hits have been at big times and he has made some breath-taking plays in the outfield. Aoki has one job: don’t make mistakes. Thus far, he hasn’t.
Hunter Pence is probably the best outfielder out of the bunch, but he has been awfully quite this October. He didn’t do much in the 2012 run for the Giants, so there is no reason to expect a major breakout. Ishikawa became a folk legend in San Fran after his three-run walk-off belted them into the World Series, but he has been nothing more than a role player at this point in his career. He was let go by the Giants and brought back after the injuries to Angel Pagan and Michael Morse, whose health would both change this dynamic drastically. Ishikawa is not a game changer however. I like Blanco. He’s scrappy and does a lot of small things the right way. But center field is all about Cain right now.
Bench/DH: A bunch of rookie bats, SF vs. Billy Butler, KC
Billy Butler has this aspect dominated. Josh Willingham is a legitimate name off the bench for the Royals. Plus, is there a more fun nickname than Zoom?
Giants: Madison Bumgarner is the best starting pitcher in the World Series. He is the ace and has a career World Series ERA of 0.00 over two championship runs. Game 2 starter, Jake Peavy still has a lot to offer, especially having the experience of winning a World Series last season. He has never posted a quality start, however, in his 7-start post season career. Tim Hudson, the starter for Game 3, is finally in the World Series, back in the Bay where he started his career nonetheless, and you can be sure he will be revving for a ring. Rounding out the staff, Ryan Vogelsong is a mixed bag. When he is on, he is Cy Young material. When he is off, he is Rick Vaughn material – I’m talking about the Rick Vaughn without glasses and cut-off shirt Vaughn.
Royals: James Shields is the unheralded ace of this staff. He has playoff experience and is good for a solid start pretty much every time he goes out. The rest is a huge question mark. How will rookie Yordano Ventura and his league’s fastest power pitch fare under the bright lights of the Fall Classic? Can lackluster Jeremy Guthrie pull off another impressive (and highly surprising) start in Game 3, his second career post season start? Can Jason Vargas continue his career rebirth and pitch yet another solid game? That’s a lot of question marks up against a Giants staff that is post season tested.
Bullpen: Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Yusmeiro Petit, SF vs. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, KC
This is closer than most think, but if you take away the post season experience of the Giants closers and the possible addition of Tim Lincecum who shines in the bullpen in October I think KC’s three-headed monster takes the cake. The Giants are deep with Affeldt and Lopez as quality lefties waiting for a huge situational at bat. but the Royals are the best bullpen in baseball and have been a hundred percent untouchable in October. They had three, THREE, pitchers finish the 2014 season with ERAs in the low ones. They aren’t as deep, but 2014 first round draft pick Brandon Finnegan has at least shown he has the moxie for playoff baseball. This could be the x-factor of the whole World Series. The Royals who are overmatched in the starting rotation really only need five quality innings from their starters. Herrera, Davis and Holland could dictate the rest.
So, the Royals have it by 6-3 in the advantage department. One huge advantage the Giants have, however, is Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti. Bochy knows how to manage every situation to win a World Series and Rags knows how to monitor arms, limit the oppositions offense and get the most out of every last pitcher in the pen. If you throw those two in as options, the Royals are still up 6-5. Which means The Wayniac has the Royals winning their first World Series in 29 years!
ROYALS WIN 2014 WORLD SERIES 4-2.