Your Official HardballTalk World Series Preview

28 Comments

Just as we all predicted back in March, the Royals and the Giants will face off in the World Series. Or maybe some of us didn’t predict that. Heck, maybe some of us all but wrote off these teams in July. It’s been a crazy up and down season for both of them, and now here they are, back up again and ready to square off in the Fall Classic.

Try to remember how this all works next March when the experts are, once again, predicting things.

But just as no one can predict what’s going to happen before the season begins, no one can really predict what’s going to happen here. Basically every favorite in a postseason series has lost and neither the Giants nor the Royals have some monster, dominating player which makes them a clear-cut favorite here. Not that that matters either. Baseball’s best hitter, Mike Trout, and best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw are watching this on TV like you are. Because October refuses to follow scripts.

But we’re not flying totally blind here, obviously. And we can at least attempt to break this down somehow. If, for no other reason, than the games don’t start of nearly 11 hours.

The Matchups:

Game 1 Tonight in Kansas City: Madison Bumgarner vs. James Shields
Game 2 Wednesday in Kansas City: Jake Peavy vs. Yordano Ventura
Game 3 Friday in San Francisco: TBA vs. Tim Hudson
Game 4 Saturday in San Francisco: TBA vs. Ryan Vogelsong
Game 5 (if necessary) Sunday in San Francisco: TBA vs. TBA
Game 6 (if necessary) next Tuesday in Kansas City: TBA vs. TBA
Game 7 (if necessary) next Wednesday in Kansas City: TBA vs. TBA

“Big Game James” Shields has the better nickname, but he also has a career playoff ERA of 5.19 and hasn’t distinguished himself this October. Worth noting, though, that his best start of the season came in a four-hit shutout of the Giants back in August. Madison Bumgarner is clearly the best pitcher on either team. After that, a mixed bag for both teams. Jake Peavy has been a revelation since being traded to San Francisco from Boston and now stands to win a World Series with a second team in two seasons. Ryan Vogelsong has been a poor pitcher for a couple of years now but, somehow, has managed to turn it on in the postseason. Behind Shields the Royals have the hard-throwing Ventura and then a couple of guys in Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas who are just as capable of putting up zeros each night as they are of getting shelled. It’s not a insanely large advantage, but as far as the rotation goes, San Francisco is better. ADVANTAGE GIANTS

The Lineups:

Again, the Giants have the best player on either team in Buster Posey, but see the stuff about Mike Trout above when it comes to weighing star power in October. Neither of these teams will hit you with an offensive blitzkrieg, but the Giants had, surprisingly, one of the better offenses in the National League this season and the Royals have been scoring runs in bunches this October. One factor to all of this is that both teams do a great job of putting the ball in play. We live in the age of the strikeout, so simply putting wood on the ball is a plus. As far as the head-to-head of it all, the Royals will miss Billy Butler in the games in San Francisco, but the same goes for every AL team in the World Series. Overall, I like what the Royals have been doing lately than what the Giants did all year, when a lot of the team’s big offensive numbers were posted early in the year. Yes, I know recency bias is a fallacy of some kind, but we are in seven-game crapshoot territory here. ADVANTAGE ROYALS

The Bullpens:

What the Royals have done with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland has been near-historic this season. Nothing is certain in life but death and taxes, but right after that comes “the 2014 will beat you if they have a lead by the seventh inning.” What’s more, Ned Yost seems to be willing to stretch Herrera and Davis more as the postseason wears on, so maybe we can adjust that to the sixth inning. The Giants’ pen is not bad at all, of course, with Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Javier Lopez putting in outstanding performances this year, even if they don’t throw as hard as the Royals’ relievers. Plus: Affeldt and Lopez match up really well with the Royals’ lefty batters, and there is none better at playing the situational matchups than Bruce Bochy. ADVANTAGE ROYALS

The Managers:

Ned Yost was the butt of a lot of jokes in September and the early part of the playoffs due to his small ball tendencies and a lot of curious choices when it came to late inning matchups. But he has done quite well in the ALDS and ALCS, taking counsel from his coaches and, one may guess, listening to his critics. He’s still not John McGraw out there, but he has not screwed up massively in a few weeks right now, and that’s something. On the other side of the field, well, Bruce Bochy has been there, done that, won the trophy and is probably on his way to the Hall of Fame. If you can recall an instance when Bochy has made a tactical blunder, well, you’re a better man than I am. ADVANTAGE GIANTS

The Magic:

I don’t believe in voodoo, momentum or teams of destiny, but I know a lot of people do, so let’s talk about that. The Royals have not lost a playoff game yet, and haven’t lost any games since September 27. Everything is clicking for them, they’re a great story and they play in a city absolutely starving for a championship. The world is an absurd place, and my love of that absurdity can’t help but smile at the notion of Ned Yost, who was probably close to being fired back in May, hoisting a trophy. The Giants, meanwhile, have all of the playoff experience anyone could want and seem to excel at winning it all when everyone favors the other guys. Edgar Renteria hitting bombs in 2010? Beating the tar out of Justin Verlander in 2012? That stuff doesn’t happen unless you made a pact with some supernatural force in exchange for temporary, mortal greatness. It’s a hard call, but with the caveat that the universe is a random, uncaring place which has no time whatsoever for your mortal beliefs about fate, destiny and magic, let’s give the nod here to the better, more uplifting story. ADVANTAGE ROYALS

The Prediction:

This is a fun matchup but an even matchup and anyone telling you that they know what’s going to happen is selling you snake oil. So I’m jus going to give a guess, partially informed by my fascination with shut-down bullpens and partially based on my wishes and desires. ROYALS WIN IN SEVEN, in what I hope to be an exciting, seesaw battle.

Javier Baez, D.J. LeMahieu have disagreement about sign-stealing

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
11 Comments

Fellow second basemen Javier Baez of the Cubs and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies got into a disagreement in the top of the third inning of Sunday’s game at Coors Field over sign-stealing.

LeMahieu reached on a fielder’s choice ground out, then advanced to second base on Charlie Blackmon‘s single. While Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were batting, Baez was concerned that LeMahieu was relaying the Cubs’ signs to his teammates. Baez decided to stand in front of LeMahieu to block any information he might have been giving to Arenado and Story. LeMahieu got irritated and the two jawed at each other for a bit. Umpires Vic Carapazza and Greg Gibson had to intervene to tell Baez to knock it off.

There has always been a back-and-forth with alleged sign-stealing. As long as teams aren’t using technology to steal signs, it’s fair game for players to relay information to their teammates about the opposing team’s signs. Last year, MLB determined the Red Sox went against the rules and used technology — an Apple watch in this case — to steal signs from the Yankees. Other teams in the past have been accused of using binoculars from the bullpen to steal signs. In this particular case with Baez and LeMahieu, there was no foul play going on, just Baez trying to make the Rockies cede what he perceived to be their slight competitive advantage.

The Cubs went on to beat the Rockies 9-7 on Sunday.