On Tuesday night, the Giants and Royals will face off in Game 1 of the 2014 World Series. (That’s the matchup we all predicted this preseason, right?) As the even-year streakers in San Francisco prepare to battle the seemingly unbeatable breakouts in Kansas City, Grantland asked MLB scribes Ben Lindbergh and Jonah Keri to offer five reasons each side could claim the crown. Prepare to be convinced!
Why the Royals Will Win
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Ben Lindbergh: It would be easy to make a case for Kansas City based on sentiment and momentum. The Royals haven’t lost since September 27, and their few postseason mistakes have either worked out in their favor or ultimately not mattered. They’ve racked up good karma by buying beer and leaving free tickets for their fans. They’re bringing back SungWoo, who presided over a sweep of San Francisco on his last trip to Kauffman Stadium. Surely the baseball gods, who’ve been generous to the Royals throughout this postseason run, wouldn’t favor a team that’s won two titles in the last four seasons over one that’s suffered so much since its last World Series win in 1985.
But while the mystical story lines add to the intrigue surrounding the series, we don’t need them to show why the Royals will win. In their previous postseason matchups, the Royals were underdogs. This time, they’re the better baseball team. Here are five reasons why.
1. Ned Yost Is a New Man(ager)
We were probably too hard on Ned Yost. Yes, his lineups looked a little weird, but the difference between an optimal lineup and a slightly suboptimal one is negligible. Yes, the Royals had the fifth-most regular-season sac-bunt attempts by position players, but bunts are underrated, especially on a slap-hitting team. Yes, Yost rarely pinch hit, but that’s partially because he didn’t have the personnel. (Less Raul Ibanez isn’t a bad thing.) And yes, he had the season’s most rigid relief roles, but he also had one of baseball’s deepest bullpens, which made his reliever choices less costly. Plus, his players like him, which is probably more important than tactical perfection.
However, Yost’s rigidity suggested he wouldn’t adapt to go-for-the-throat postseason baseball, which really would have sunk the Royals’ season. As it turns out, Yost — with an assist from pitching coach Dave Eiland, who counseled him on being more aggressive after a September bullpen decision backfired — has embraced October more than most managers, pulling his starters early, leaning heavily on his best relievers (more on that in a moment), and pressing his team’s advantages on the bases and in the field (more on that in a moment, too) by substituting Jarrod Dyson for Nori Aoki when the team is tied or leading late. Few managers would lift an above-average baserunner and fielder like Aoki, especially when doing so also means moving a starting center fielder like Lorenzo Cain over to right, but Yost has revealed himself to be far more flexible than we thought.
Bruce Bochy is one of baseball’s best managers, but so is Baltimore’s Buck Showalter, and the ALCS wasn’t the managerial mismatch that many (myself included) expected. If Yost keeps pulling the same strings he did against the Orioles, this series won’t be a mismatch, either, and he’ll never again have to pretend his name is Frank when he picks up his coffee at Starbucks.
2. The Back of the Bullpen Is Now Even Scarier
Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland were intimidating enough when they were used for only one inning apiece and almost never strayed from their seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-inning assignments. Now that Yost is showing some flexibility in how he deploys them, the relievers have leveled up. Holland and Davis have pitched in every postseason game; Herrera missed one with an injury, but appeared in the other seven. Herrera has twice recorded five outs and once gotten six; Davis pitched two innings in Game 1 of the ALCS, which he’d done just three times all year. Herrera has entered three times before the seventh — which he did only nine times during the regular season — and Davis pitched in the seventh for just the second time all year.
The end result: 25.2 combined postseason innings with a 1.07 ERA, and a far higher percentage of the club’s innings devoted to the team’s top three relievers. Orioles officials described it as “almost unfair.”
|Period||% of Relief Innings||% of Total Innings|
There’s no way the H-D-H trio could keep up that pace in the regular season, but the postseason schedule has allowed Yost to leverage his best bullpen assets while pulling his starters before they incur the dreaded times-through-the-order penalty. Although the Giants have a slightly lower postseason bullpen ERA, their relievers lack Kansas City’s overpowering stuff: The Royals’ staff had the fourth-highest average fastball velocity and the highest percentage of fastballs 95 and faster during the regular season, while the Giants’ staff ranked last and second to last, respectively.
3. Anything You Can Catch, K.C. Can Catch Better
Royals pitchers allowed only the 12th-lowest batting average on balls in play (.292) this season, which doesn’t sound like the signature of an elite defensive team. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll find a 35-point home/road BABIP split, the biggest in baseball. The culprit: Kauffman Stadium, which has the most outfield acreage in the majors. Away from Kauffman, the Royals allowed only a .274 BABIP, which was tied for the lowest road BABIP and would have been the second lowest in the league over a full season.
The Royals’ starting outfield alignment is impressive enough, but it becomes almost obscenely effective late in games, when Dyson displaces Cain in center and Cain replaces Aoki in right. I wrote last week about the near impossibility of getting a fly ball to fall when Alex Gordon, Cain, and Dyson (who finished third, fourth, and ninth in outfield Defensive Runs Saved, respectively) combine powers. Over the past two seasons, that ultimate outfield has allowed a lower BABIP on fly balls than any other team over the same span, as well as what would have been the second-lowest SLGBIP.
In that article, I included a heat map of the Royals’ catch locations. As I noted then, though, that image gave no indication of what an average outfield’s heat map would look like. The following image, provided by Baseball Info Solutions, shows the zones in which balls that were airborne for between three and four seconds1 were caught at least 50 percent of the time from 2012 to 2014. The orange circles represent the range of league-average outfielders; the blue ones represent the range of Gordon, Dyson, and Cain.
BIS’s Scott Spratt chose this range, which encompasses about 20 percent of air balls to the outfield, because beyond four seconds “most outfielders catch everything” and under three “you’re relying heavily on your starting positioning.”
Clearly, the Royals define routine plays differently. With Dyson in center, the Royals can cover the field almost from foul line to foul line.2 If you root for the Royals, or even if you just enjoy good defense, the blue rings around those orange blobs should be a beautiful sight.
Cain might be better than Dyson in center, but the Royals don’t think the unit would work quite as well with Dyson in right.
The Royals’ outfield skills should help significantly in this series, for the same reasons they did during the team’s previous home games and away games in the ALDS. AT&T Park, like Kauffman and Angel Stadium, has a large outfield, and while the Royals aren’t as familiar with its ins and outs as the Giants are, their speed more than compensates for their lack of ballpark-specific experience. Had he not become the hitting hero, converted first baseman Travis Ishikawa’s main contribution to Game 5 of the NLCS would have been the fly ball he misplayed into a run-scoring double in the third. You won’t see Alex Gordon make mistakes like that.
Even better news for Kansas City: Among NL teams, only the Cubs and Mets had higher fly ball rates than the Giants. San Francisco’s batted-ball proclivities play right into the Royals’ hands.
4. The Offense Could Be Regressing in a Good Way
Entering October, the Royals’ lineup seemed likely to be their demise. As I noted in my AL wild-card game preview, Royals non-pitchers had produced a 94 wRC+ in the regular season, the ninth-worst mark in the majors this year and the worst by a playoff team since the 2007 Diamondbacks. The Royals had averaged only 4.02 runs per game, which ranked ninth in the AL, and hadn’t scored more than seven runs in a game since August 17.
Thus far, though, Kansas City’s offense has gone off script in October. The Royals have scored 5.25 runs per game in the playoffs, which would have led the majors during the regular season. They’ve topped seven runs three times. And they’ve done it against three of the best teams in baseball, in one of the colder months, and without the benefit of playing in any premium hitter’s parks.
It helps that the Royals have gone to extra innings in half of their postseason games, giving them additional chances to score, but that accounts for only a small portion of the difference. It’s also possible this is a small-sample fluke: The Royals had 17 eight-game regular-season stretches3 over which they scored at least as many runs as they have during their 8-0 playoff run.
Many of them, of course, overlapping.
However, we can’t discount the possibility that the Royals are a better offensive team than their regular-season production suggests. Earlier this month, the Steamer projection system produced its first player forecasts for 2015, some of which I cited in my recent article about the long-term outlook for this year’s postseason teams. In response to that piece, a reader asked me why so many of the pitchers on this year’s playoff clubs are projected to decline in value in 2015. The answer is that playoff teams are a selective sample: They’re often among the most talented teams, but they also tend to have had more breaks go their way. It’s tough to make the playoffs unless your players stay healthy and meet or exceed their projections, which makes them candidates for decline the following year.
This phenomenon applies to hitters, too. For example, compare the regular-season production of the Giants’ Game 5 lineup with the same players’ projected production for 2015.4 Green text indicates players who are expected to improve next season, while red denotes projected declines.
|Pos.||Name||2014 wRC+||Projected 2015 wRC+|
Steamer doesn’t produce hitting projections for pitchers, but based on his history, we wouldn’t expect Madison Bumgarner to outhit most of his teammates again.
All but two of the Giants are expected to hit worse in the near future than they did this year, which suggests that San Francisco got the most out of its offensive talent. The projections for the Royals’ lineup tell a different story:
|Pos.||Name||2014 wRC+||Projected 2015 wRC+|
Even though the Royals played well enough to qualify for the postseason (albeit barely), two-thirds of them are projected to improve next year. Steamer’s projections are estimates of each player’s true talent, which doesn’t always fully reveal itself in a single season’s stats. It’s possible, then, that right now the Royals are closer to what Steamer says they will be than to what they were for the season’s first six months.
Still, that doesn’t explain why the Royals have improved upon their regular-season walk rate by nearly 50 percent (becoming the most patient playoff team) and topped their regular-season AB/HR rate by 65 percent at a time of year when offensive performance typically suffers. Some of that boost is unsustainable. However, two of the players responsible for the outburst, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, have supported their stats with improvements in plate discipline, swinging at pitches closer to the center of the zone and letting bad ones go by.
In his newsletter, Joe Sheehan has observed that the team with the higher contact rate has won 31 out of 41 postseason series since 2009. That would seem to bode well for the Royals, who had the highest contact rate in the majors this season,5 but given that contact rate doesn’t correlate with scoring in the regular season, and that October defenses are even better at gobbling up balls in play, that apparent relationship could be an illusion based on a lurking variable or small sample.
Although the Giants have the highest in the postseason.
The Royals are an exciting team, but they’re not the new model for major league success. That said, they’ve followed their flawed blueprint to perfection, and their offense is about as good as a contact-based attack can be. They play in a park that produces doubles and triples; they have a less pronounced pull tendency on grounders than all but six other teams,6 which makes them less susceptible to the Giants’ effective shifting; and even before they called up postseason pinch runner/tiny Barry Bonds Terrance Gore, they’re the majors’ best base-stealing and baserunning team, which makes their singles mean more.
5. And After the Eighth Win, the Royals Rested
Five, if you exclude Ibanez and Josh Willingham.
Previous LCS sweepers went 1-5 in the World Series, which, while far from conclusive, is at least consistent with the theory that too long a layoff can be detrimental. In this case, though, rust probably won’t play a role: The Giants clinched the day after the Royals, and it seems unlikely that five days off would leave a club significantly less prepared to play than four.
However, while the potentially harmful effects of time off should be a wash, the positive byproducts might not be. As I argued before the ALCS, the Royals should benefit from a breather more than the typical team. Game 1 starter James Shields has thrown more pitches than anyone else in the majors this season. Game 2 starter Yordano Ventura has surpassed his previous record for single-season workload by 46 innings, and he left his last start with shoulder tightness after recording an average velocity 2 mph below his regular-season mark. Herrera left ALDS Game 1 with forearm tightness that sidelined him for Game 2, but he’s pitched in five straight games since then.
Good health coupled with weak bench bats and Yost’s tendency to stick with one lineup made the Royals only the fifth team in the wild-card era to have nine players make at least 500 plate appearances. They’ll all be in the lineup tomorrow, perhaps feeling somewhat refreshed by days off they rarely received during the regular season.
Salvador Perez topped the closest catcher’s innings-caught total by more than 65 innings, and he’s added another 80 to his total in the playoffs. His 1,328.2 combined regular-season and postseason innings caught already rank fifth on the all-time single-season list; assuming he continues to catch every inning in the World Series, he’ll pass Jason Kendall (1,362.1 innings in 2008) to take the second spot in Game 4, and he could displace record-holder Darren Daulton (1,384.1 in 1993) for the top spot in a potential Game 7 (or sooner, depending on extra innings). Perez’s wRC+ sank by almost 50 percent in the second half as his walk rate plummeted, his strikeout rate rose, and he chased pitches outside the strike zone more often than any other qualified hitter. His struggles have extended into 35 postseason plate appearances, resulting in a .118/.143/.118 playoff line, although he has corralled his chase rate to some extent.
Omar Infante also cratered late in the season, posting the fourth-worst wRC+ of any qualified second-half hitter as a shoulder problem sapped his power and weakened his throwing arm, but he hasn’t missed a start since August. Both players might need full offseasons to recover from their offensive funks, but in the meantime, several days of rest and treatment can only help. Research suggests that performance improves after regular rest days, so while we’ll never know whether the Royals’ overall offensive uptick stems in part from the slower postseason schedule, it’s not implausible.
Oh, and thanks to the American League’s continued success in the All-Star Game, the Royals will have a fourth home game if the series goes seven. In a matchup between two fairly evenly matched teams, every extra edge helps.
The favored team has lost every series so far in this year’s wild postseason, and for the first time, the Royals aren’t underdogs. Even the people of California, the Giants’ home state, think the Royals will win. Compared with snapping a 28-season playoff drought, though, stopping this fall’s streak of defeated favorites should be a cinch. Playoff prediction is futile, but the Royals have the talent to complete their crazy ride. Royals in seven.
Why the Giants Will Win
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Jonah Keri: The San Francisco Giants are in the World Series for the third time in five years. They’re a talented, balanced bunch capable of beating the opposition in multiple ways. They’ve never lost a playoff series under manager Bruce Bochy.
And they’re not going to lose this one, either. Here are five reasons why.
1. Yusmeiro Petit Is an X-Factor
Even the best strategists can get caught up in riding the experienced hand, which is what happened to Bochy when deciding his Game 4 NLCS starter. Among 43 qualified National League starting pitchers this season, Ryan Vogelsong ranked seventh-worst in park-adjusted ERA and 10th-worst in park-adjusted FIP.7 But he’s a roster mainstay and team leader, and he’d been nearly unhittable in his playoff career, posting a 1.19 ERA while allowing just 18 hits in 30.1 playoff innings pitched.
This after posting a 5.73 ERA last year that was the second-worst mark in the NL for any pitcher with 100 or more innings pitched; his now-retired ex-teammate Barry Zito ranked last, at 5.74.
So Bochy weighed Vogelsong’s five prior playoff starts, including 5.2 innings of one-run, two-hit ball against the Nats in the NLDS. He then considered his alternatives: two-time Cy Young winner turned erratic spare part Tim Lincecum, or 29-year-old swingman Yusmeiro Petit, who had pitched like Mariano Rivera out of the bullpen this season, emerging as a weapon Bochy didn’t want to mess with.
Well, the Cardinals crushed Vogelsong for four runs on seven hits in three innings in Game 4. Meanwhile, Petit has destroyed all challengers as a long reliever this October, firing nine shutout innings while allowing just two hits and striking out 11. Now, Bochy faces an even tougher decision: keep using Petit as a bullpen assassin, or start him in Game 4 of the World Series.
Hopefully, Bochy will come to his senses. Worst-case scenario, the Giants will have a pitcher who can replace a struggling starter in, say, the fourth inning, then stymie the Royals all the way to the seventh or eighth. Best case, the Giants will improve their starting rotation. Given how electrifying Petit has been this postseason, Bochy is probably smart enough to know that waiting for an 18-inning game or long relief opportunity isn’t the best way to use that asset. The 29-year-old right-hander is a soft-tosser, flashing a fastball that averaged less than 89 mph this season. But he possesses exceptional command, posting the ninth-lowest walk rate and third-best strikeout-to-walk rate (trailing only the elite duo of Clayton Kershaw and Jordan Zimmermann in the latter category) among the 68 NL pitchers with as many innings in 2014.
While Petit throws his share of lukewarm heaters, his secondary stuff has baffled opponents. According to the excellent analysis site Brooks Baseball, opposing hitters batted just .167 against his changeup, .168 against his curve, and .200 against his cutter this season.
Because Petit pounds the strike zone so often, he’s susceptible to the occasional extra-base hit. However, even that (along with the .462 slugging average he allowed as a starter) is deceptive, skewed largely by one September start in Colorado in which he got torched for six runs in four innings, with Rockies hitters connecting for three doubles, a triple, and a home run.
Of course, Petit won’t have to contend with Coors Field, nor anything resembling a power-hitting offense — because we’re not overreacting to a handful of outbursts from the Royals in the playoffs. Between the spacious dimensions of AT&T Park, Petit’s attack-the-hitter style and high fly-ball rate, and the Royals ranking last in the majors this season in home runs, expect to see few baserunners and plenty of harmless fly outs in Game 4 of the World Series. If Bochy hands Petit the starting nod, the Giants will fortify their rotation for the series and greatly improve their chances of winning what could be a pivotal game. And if for some reason Bochy doesn’t, Petit will continue to be a weapon out of the pen.
2. The Royals’ Bullpen Won’t Be a Massive Edge
Herrera, Davis, and Holland are delivering what might be the greatest performance ever for a trio of relievers. To give you a taste of their dominance: They’ve combined to allow just three homers in 230 innings during the regular season and postseason. Because the Royals keep getting leads, however, they’ve also thrown a ton of innings due to Yost’s “get ahead, get to the seventh, and give the ball to the big boys” game plan. And as Ben noted, that reliance has only increased during the postseason, with the trio accounting for 32 percent of K.C.’s innings pitched, compared with just 14 percent during the regular season.
And as Ben also noted, the Giants can’t match or even approach the Royals when it comes to flamethrowers. Giants pitchers threw 328 pitches that registered 95 mph or higher — just 1.5 percent of their total number of pitches this season; Royals pitchers fired 3,846 pitches that hit 95 or higher, 16.2 percent of their total and the highest mark in the majors.
That difference is particularly notable when comparing the teams’ bullpens: Key Giants setup men Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo averaged just 85.6 and 88 mph respectively with their fastballs, and only one reliever on the playoff roster, Hunter Strickland, averaged more than 95. And while Strickland might throw hard, he won’t be placed within 500 miles of a high-leverage situation with a left-handed hitter up after surrendering four homers to lefty swingers already this postseason.
Still, don’t confuse the lack of velocity in the San Fran pen with a lack of skill. Jeremy Affeldt, closer Santiago Casilla, and Lopez in particular have posted airtight performances despite low velocity. Affeldt has held opposing hitters scoreless in his last 18 postseason appearances, Casilla in his last 17, and Lopez in his last 15. Look for Affeldt and Lopez to take the mound a lot, and for top Royals playoff performers/lefty batters Hosmer, Gordon, and Moustakas to face Affeldt and Lopez from the sixth inning on in any close game. Lefties hit just .194/.248/.290 off Lopez this year (.180/.232/.272 in the three previous seasons) and just .231/.304/.317 off Affeldt (.226/.308/.293 in the three previous seasons).8
Right-handed hitters actually fared worse against Affeldt this year, batting just .228/.275/.287 with no home runs in 101 at-bats.
Of course, it helps if a manager can put his relief pitchers in position to succeed. Luckily for the Giants …
3. They Have Bruce Bochy
While Yost has shown great improvement this postseason, Bochy has a much longer track record of pushing the right buttons, whether by putting his relievers in the right spot, bringing the right guy off the bench at the right time, or recognizing that giving up outs on purpose is often a bad idea.
He also learns from his mistakes, which is why I’m optimistic that he’ll start Petit instead of Vogelsong, and that he’ll avoid pushing his starters too far in the World Series after St. Louis’s Randal Grichuk hit a seventh-inning home run off Tim Hudson in Game 3 of the NLCS. (Even without the benefit of hindsight, Hudson probably should have been in the showers by then.)
Though it’s true that managers need their players to come through if they want to succeed, having a future Hall of Famer in the dugout might end up swinging one of these games the Giants’ way.
4. Buster Posey Remains an MVP
In his excellent write-up of NLDS Game 2, FanGraphs’ August Fagerstrom looked at how home plate umpire Vic Carapazza’s inconsistent strike zone helped decide a series-swinging game in the Giants’ favor. But as Grantland’s Louisa Thomas noted last week, the hidden star of those many GIFs and images was actually Buster Posey. It sure looks like Carapazza threw more calls the Giants’ way because of Posey’s impressive ability to frame borderline pitches for strikes, while Nationals counterpart Wilson Ramos struggled in that department. The pitch-framing numbers that we have suggest the same: Posey is terrific at stealing strikes for his pitchers, and is significantly better than his Royals counterpart, Salvador Perez.
But there’s more. Posey threw out 30 percent of baserunners who tried to steal on him this season, better than the league average of 28 percent and consistent with his past performance (a 32 percent caught-stealing rate for his career, compared with a 28 percent mark for the league since Posey’s 2009 MLB debut). He’ll be a real deterrent against the Royals’ fleet of Ferraris, especially when compared with, say, the feckless A’s pitchers and catchers, who allowed a playoff-record-tying seven steals in the wild-card game.
As fast as the Royals are, they slowed their roll considerably against the Orioles’ stingy pitchers and catchers, going just 1-for-3 on steal attempts against Baltimore, with a Gordon pickoff to boot. (Caleb Joseph led all MLB catchers with as many games played by gunning down 40 percent of would-be base stealers.) That nullified what figured to be a huge Kansas City edge, since the Royals led the majors in stolen bases this year, while the Orioles finished last. Well, the Giants finished second to last, so if Posey and his pitchers can slow down the Royals’ running game, K.C.’s other potential major advantage in this series could vanish right alongside its perceived bullpen edge.
Yes, the O’s held the run game in check and got swept anyway, but the Giants aren’t missing three players the caliber of Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis. Angel Pagan is San Francisco’s only significant absentee this October. Plus, Posey is a better bet to avoid the kind of game-turning blunder that Joseph committed in ALCS Game 4, when he allowed Alcides Escobar to kick the ball out of his glove while sliding home. And the fact that Posey is a potent enough hitter to have won an MVP award won’t hurt, either. If the Royals dare to challenge him with pitches low in the strike zone, we could see another MVP-caliber performance in the World Series.
5. The Giants Are a Much Better Hitting Team
Strip out pitchers’ hitting and San Francisco batted .263/.319/.401 this season, the fifth-best mark for any team on a park-adjusted basis. Meanwhile, Royals’ non-pitchers also batted .263, but with a slightly worse .314 team OBP and a significantly lower .377 slugging average, netting just the 20th-best park-adjusted results.
If you’re wondering why the Giants scored just 14 more runs than the Royals did during the regular season, consider two factors: First, the Giants are an NL team, and using a lineup spot on a pitcher instead of a DH is no small thing. The second reason is something we’ve discussed a few times this year: cluster luck.
As explained by Grantland contributor and The Power Rank proprietor Ed Feng, cluster luck refers to teams’ success in clustering hits together on offense, and scattering them when they pitch and play defense.9 There’s no evidence that any particular teams excel long term at clustering, and analysts have found that eventually the luck wears out. In fact, the Giants were the luckiest team in baseball by that measure earlier this season, when they owned the best record in baseball. When that luck dried up, they fell into a nasty slump, which ended with them losing their grip on the NL West lead and edging into the playoffs as a wild card. By season’s end, San Francisco had fallen to 18th in the majors in cluster luck … with Kansas City at No. 6.
It was previously detailed by several people, including sabermetric forefathers Bill James and Pete Palmer.
Here’s a look at Feng’s final regular-season cluster luck rankings. (The first figure shows how many total runs each team gained or lost due to cluster luck during the season; the first number in parentheses shows hitting luck, while the second shows pitching luck. So, the league-leading Mets scored 57 more runs than their offense and pitching/defense suggested they should have if they’d experienced average luck in sequencing hits.)
1. New York Mets: 57.29 (9.00, 48.29)
2. Seattle: 48.63 (27.67, 20.97)
3. Cincinnati: 41.94 (12.04, 29.90)
4. Baltimore: 40.00 (-13.53, 53.54)
5. Oakland: 39.71 (44.23, -4.51)
6. Kansas City: 31.46 (16.84, 14.61)
7. Texas: 14.93 (7.64, 7.30)
8. San Diego: 13.98 (-4.81, 18.78)
9. Los Angeles Angels: 11.01 (44.40, -33.39)
10. Minnesota: 9.83 (14.90, -5.08)
11. Toronto: 8.99 (-12.04, 21.04)
12. Washington: 5.12 (-9.92, 15.04)
13. Philadelphia: 4.87 (7.44, -2.58)
14. Atlanta: 4.47 (-29.24, 33.71)
15. Miami: 0.88 (-17.45, 18.33)
16. Boston: -0.39 (-13.36, 12.97)
17. St. Louis: -0.59 (-9.22, 8.63)
18. San Francisco: -1.06 (7.16, -8.22)
19. Milwaukee: -1.29 (-9.09, 7.80)
20. Cleveland: -6.12 (-17.96, 11.84)
21. Detroit: -7.78 (-14.46, 6.68)
22. New York Yankees: -10.36 (-5.51, -4.86)
23. Los Angeles Dodgers: -14.87 (-19.74, 4.87)
24. Arizona: -15.48 (-5.73, -9.75)
25. Colorado: -28.07 (-29.56, 1.49)
26. Chicago White Sox: -28.85 (-10.81, -18.04)
27. Pittsburgh: -40.53 (-42.80, 2.26)
28. Houston: -44.07 (-19.16, -24.90)
29. Tampa Bay: -48.93 (-30.20, -18.73)
30. Chicago Cubs: -67.81: (-20.64, -47.17)
Now, luck can show up anytime, and there’s no law that says a fortunate team like the Royals has to regress right now, even if it has bagged the equivalent of pocket aces for 30 hands in a row. It’s also possible that Hosmer and Moustakas in particular are better than their numbers suggested this season, even if some of their playoff heroics almost defy belief. Hell, the Giants themselves have pulled off some playoff weirdness, going through one stretch of six games in which 12 of the 22 runs they scored came home on something other than a hit. (They also went 242 plate appearances without a home run before netting three bombs in Game 5 of the NLCS, which is even weirder.) Still, if the larger sample is any indication, the Giants’ offense has performed better despite being less lucky, giving it a clear edge.
The Royals are still a very good team, playing great baseball at just the right time. They also went 3-0 against the Giants during the regular season. But when I run through both squads’ strengths and weaknesses, I reach the same conclusion every time: too much Posey, too much Bochy, too much Madison Bumgarner, too much Pablo Sandoval, too much San Francisco. Giants in five.
ESPN Stats & Info, Rob Arthur and Rob McQuown of Baseball Prospectus, and Dan Brooks of Brooks Baseball provided research assistance for this article.