Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Summit

I guess the first thing you can say about the two teams that made it to the World Series this year is that playing in the Wildcard Game doesn't put you at quite the competitive disadvantage we're led to believe. Both the Giants and Royals played in this game, both won, the Giants doing so on the road and the Royals by coming back from a 4-run deficit, and basically rode the momentum from there. Since the Wildcard Game, the Giants have won 7 of their next 9 games to get to the World Series, riding Madison Bumgarner's arm, Pablo Sandoval's bat and Hunter Pence's hair. If you think that's impressive, the Royals won all 7 of the games they played in the ALDS and ALCS, first by outlasting the Angels in a pair of extra inning games and then beating them off the field completely, and sweeping the Orioles behind their bunch of relievers that throw 95+ and some absurdly good Outfield defense.

The point is, rest and Home Field Advantage doesn't exactly hold much water in the MLB Playoffs. If you're going to win, you have to be able to play some real Major League Quality games and pull off some of those out-of-nowhere plays. Both these teams have capitalized on clutch defense as much as anything else, and then they get key hits from unlikely sources. We've all seen the games and I don't think I need to name all the names, but just to give you some example, this has been a Postseason where guys like Travis Ishikawa and Lorenzo Cain have emerged as household names.

So, that brings us down to the World Series, where we have the San Francisco Giants, winners of 2 of the last 4 World Series Championships, against the Kansas City Royals, winners of 1 of the last 30 World Series Championships. I'd like to think that America would decidedly be behind the Royals, and that's certainly where I'm throwing my support, but I've seen quite a bit of ink in favor of the Giants. I can understand it. The Giants are going to come out tonight with Bumgarner and they're probably going to win and beat KC's best starter, James Shields. But after that, the Royals have some pluck and guts of their own that can match the Giants in Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. The Giants counter with a trio of the wiliest of veterans, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong. Bumgarner can turn a game by himself. None of these other guys can. When the bullpens are inevitably summoned, conventional wisdom favors the Royals because they have 3 guys in Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland that can lights-out you. The Giants lights out guy is Yusmeiro Petit, a middle reliever who ought to be under consideration for a Game 4 start given how well he's pitched lately. Otherwise, their relievers don't strike fear into the hearts of men, but they do manage to get the job done more often than not. Offensively, the Giants also gain an advantage by getting to use Michael Morse as the DH in Kansas City and KC loses out by having to sit Billy Butler in the middle games in San Francisco.

Ultimately, I'm going to go with the Royals in 7, because that's just how I see it. I don't know if there's going to be anything crazy, but I'd look out for some weird happening sometime around Game 6. Figure Bumgarner will win his games, KC will win Game 2 at home, one game in SF and come back and win the final two games at home. Maybe something out of the ghosts of Don Denkinger will take place and the Giants will cough up the 6th game, but Whitey Herzog and Joaquin Andujar won't be around to get tossed from Game 7 and I think Bruce Bochy is a little too mild-mannered. Still, the Royals seem like the team of destiny here.

No comments: