By Travis Jaudon (@jaudonsports), Staff Writer
When I was a kid, my mother would frown on me for calling things (and sometimes people) “weird.” “It’s not weird, it’s just unique” she would say. I admire her effort, but certain things, like the World Series that begins this week, are just plain weird.
The 110th edition of baseball’s World Series features a matchup between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals. It’s a matchup that has the baseball world buzzing because of the weird (or unique if you prefer) variables in play.
Sure, I could tell you that this is the first World Series in 25 years that begins on a Tuesday, or that it features a matchup of two third basemen with nicknames of Moose and Panda, or even that it’s the first matchup in Series history of two teams with less than 90 regular season wins, but that’s merely the beginning.
Kansas City and San Francisco made history this year by becoming the first teams to ever win three playoff rounds in advance of the World Series. The Royals are trying to win the championship for the first time since 1985, which just so happens to be the last time they appeared in the playoffs. The Giants, on the other hand, are seeking their third title in five years, and a possible dynasty after winning in 2010 and 2012.
For the Royals, who have won nine consecutive playoff games, the journey here has been anything but normal. They are the only team in the history of baseball to finish dead last in homeruns (95) for the regular season, and still reach the championship. However, the Giants appearance in the Fall Classic is simply business as usual for Bay Area fans. San Francisco has won eight straight playoff series under manager Bruce Bochy while compiling an astounding 30-11 record over that stretch.
All the history that accompanies this series will make it a fun one to watch, but the on-field action is shaping up to be just as exciting. The Royals will run, then run, and then probably run some more on the base paths. While Kansas City led the majors with 153 stolen bases, the Giants were second to last in that department stealing just 56 bases all year. So how do the Giants counter the Royal’s running game? Buster Posey is the answer.
Posey, the Lee County, Georgia native, threw out would-be base stealers at a nearly 30% clip this season, which ranked him 5th in baseball. He will have to be able to continue at that pace for the Giants to keep the Royals from running wild. But how do the Giants score their runs? Not so easy.
The Giants hit 132 homeruns in the regular season, which ranked them close to the middle of the league, but they combined those homers with a high on base percentage and timely hitting with guys on base. The offenses will in all likelihood continue to produce at a similar rate as they have been the last two weeks, but the pitching will be what separates these two.
San Francisco will send Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, and Tim Hudson to the mound for games one through three while the Royals will counter with James Shields, Yordano Ventura, and Jeremy Guthrie respectively. Both teams rely heavily on their bullpen to get 9-12 outs a game, but these top-3 starters will be crucial for each team’s success in the Series. If any of them can pitch deep into the game and spare the bullpen for another night, their team’s chances of winning will go up tremendously.
So the unique World Series begins Tuesday night in Kansas City and the weird will be on display for the world to see. I like the Giants to win this series in 7 games because of their experience on the mound, behind the plate, and the manager’s office. But for a World Series with so many quirks involved, that outcome may be just too normal.