Buster Posey

2014 World Series preview: Royals represent Giants’ toughest challenge yet

Alcides Escobar Kansas City Royals

In a lot of ways, the Kansas City Royals are a terrifying team.

  • They steal a ton of bases. They just start running and running and running, the ground starts to shake, and you’re left powerless to do anything other than drop the ball and marvel at the blue blur zooming around the bases.
  • Their pitchers all throw 100 mph (give or take).
  • They catch everything.
  • You thought Bryce Harper was overly fired up? Get ready for the combined bro energy of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
  • Turn the number on the front from blue to red and a Royals uniform looks like something a Dodger would wear.

See? Terrifying. Luckily for the Giants, they have a couple things going for them in this series (other than a roster full of players good enough to get to this point).

1. They’re fine with terrifying. A one-game playoff on the road against a team they sucked against in the regular season? Terrifying. Facing Harper, Jordan Zimmerman and a team that finished the regular season 33-13 in a short series? Terrifying. Trying to overcome “Cardinals Devil Magic” in the NLCS twice in three years? Terrifying.

That being said, the Royals’ combination of speed and confidence seems a little scarier than anything the Giants have faced in the playoffs since they were down three games to one in the 2012 NLCS.

2. They’ll face a rich man’s version of a standard Colorado Rockies starting rotation.

Sounds harsh, but they have a “Big Game” pitcher whose postseason ERA is 5.19 (5.62 this October with three homers allowed in 16 innings) in James Shields. Yordano Ventura throws hard, but his first taste of the playoffs led to some vomiting against the A’s — how will he handle the World Series?  Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas are a couple of dudes, no more and no less. (Of course, that’s probably what Royals fans are saying about Ryan Vogelsong and everyone in the Giants’ bullpen.)

This idea that the starters are the Kansas City’s main (only?) weakness puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on the Giants’ hitters to score early. And since this entire postseason has proven that no one knows anything about any of this stuff, Shields and the rest of the Royals starters will probably dominate while their bullpen suddenly becomes shaky.

Buster Posey San Francisco Giants 2014 NLCS Game 3

Matchups that could be important

Buster Posey vs. base stealers: This one is totally obvious — the Royals stole 153 bases and the Giants stole 56 (and 16 came from Angel Pagan). Get ready for a lot of throws to first base by Giants pitchers, and don’t look for Bruce Bochy to have Brandon Belt dance around in front of first base like Buck Showalter did with Steve Pearce. As for Posey, he’ll be prepared to field lots of bunts and throw darts to second and third base.

Pablo Sandoval vs. everyone: The last time he was in a Fall Classic, the Panda was named MVP. He’s also gotten on base in his last 23 postseason games and this is his last audition before hitting the open market.

Bruce Bochy vs. Ned Yost: I’ll be honest, I have no idea if Yost is that bad at making managerial decisions, either during or between games. I haven’t watched nearly enough of the Royals to get a good idea if he’s incompetent or an easy target. All I know is that he came off horribly when he bitched about the hometown fans after a walk-off win in late August, and he loves to have his players lay down sacrifice bunts. He can’t possibly fare worse against Bochy than Ron Washington in 2010, but if he shows some Matt Williams-y tendencies, Bochy’s team will almost certainly take advantage.

James Shields vs. the team he shut out: Yeah, I probably could’ve lessened the snark a bit earlier in this post since Shields pitched a four-hitter against the Giants on Aug. 9. Aaron Rowand’s cousin also picked up the Rays’ only win in the 2008 World Series with seven scoreless innings against the Phillies. Maybe the nickname isn’t so ludicrous after all.

Yordano Ventura vs. his own pain tolerance: He left Game 3 of the ALCS after 5 2/3 innings with a “stiff shoulder.” He says his shoulder is “awesome right now,” but the Royals have been walking a thin line with Ventura’s arm health all season. He left a start against Houston in the third inning with elbow discomfort on May 26, but he only missed one start and pitched well the rest of the season.

Giants pitchers vs. Royals LHHs: The Giants have held right-handed hitters to a ridiculously meager .165/.217/.201 slash line in these playoffs. Lefties are hitting .225/.291/.469 against San Francisco with 10 home runs, seven doubles and a triple (compared to just a double and two homers for righties in 34 more at-bats). If the Giants want to win their third World Series in five years, they’re going to need to keep Nori Aoki, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Jarrod Dyson from hitting like Harper, Jon Jay, Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras.

Prediction

Wait, you want an actual “this team will win in this many games” pick? I’m not sure what that’ll accomplish.

Here’s what I said about the Royals before the season started: “The most impressive-looking team I saw in Arizona. It’s a silly reason to pick a team first, but they won 86 games last year.”

I also picked Madison Bumgarner to lead the Giants to victory in the wild card game … against the Reds. I said the Royals would win the AL Central and get knocked out by the A’s in the ALDS. I also chose the Rays (who won 77 games this season) to beat the Cardinals in the World Series.

Since I’m awful at this, I’ll end with a prediction that doubles as a total copout: One of these teams will prevail in seven games, people will write about how the TV ratings were awful, and once it’s over we’ll never want to hear Lorde’s name (or music) again.

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