I thought I’d take a brief look at some things to watch for in the World Series.
1) The MadBum/Shields Death Matches
Madison Bumgarner and James Shields are the aces of their respective teams, so they’ll be squaring off multiple times in this series. Bumgarner is the NL’s overlooked ace, with other starters like Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Johnny Cueto, among others, dominating the NL spotlight. Bumgarner has been quietly steady though, and has shined in the postseason, leading SF to it’s third WS trip in five years.
Meanwhile, James Shields, who was acquired specifically to lead KC to the playoffs, has done that. His numbers aren’t as good as Bumgarner’s though, and seem to represent the stats of an above average starter than a true ace, but he has the ability to rise to the occasion, so it’s possible he’ll match Bumgarner blow for blow.
Many would say that this 22 year old from the Dominican Republic is KC’s true ace, and there’s some merit to that argument. His regular season stats were only a tiny bit worse than Shields, and given that he’s only 22 and this was his first full season, there’s a chance he’s just getting started and in the ensuing years will emerge as a real ace for KC. If that does happen, it’ll be interesting to see if KC will be able to hang on to him once free agency rolls around. That’s a long time down the road though. For now, let’s enjoy his coming out on the national spotlight that is the World Series.
3) The Entire Kansas City Bullpen
There’s been plenty been written already about the trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland, so I won’t go into much detail about them here. They’ll be worth watching though, partly to see if Yost sticks to his regimented routine and only uses them in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings respectively, or if he adapts and is more flexible with them. In addition to those guys, Yost has other effective releivers to use, notably Brandon Finnegan, Jason Frasor and Tim Collins. Finnegan is a rookie lefthander who was promoted at the end of the season who has shined in the post-season. He’s a Sinker/Slider/Changeup pitcher with solid velocity.Frasor is a veteran releiver acquired by KC from the Rangers in July who has done a good job for the Royals since his acquisition. He’s a Four Seam/Slider/Splitter pitcher who generates quite a few groundball outs. Collins hasn’t seen much action in the playoffs, but he’s a solid option. He uses a solid Four Seam/Curve/Changeup combo. These are just three options, there are others, including whichever starters get assigned to the bullpen for the series. Yost has plenty of options beyond the Cerberus.
4) That’s What Speed Do vs. Buster Posey
Buster Posey’s caught stealing percentage is one of the lowest of his career, at 30 percent. Given that KC is loaded with speedsters, it’ll be interesting to see if they test his arm. The Royals have three guys with 28 or more stolen bases in Jarrod Dyson, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. In addition, Alex Gordon has 12 stolen bases and Nori Aoki has 17. Then of course there’s designated pinch runner rookie Terrance Gore, who’s on the team strictly for his speed. KC’s speed will make this series much more interesting if Yost takes advantage of it often.
Another thing that’ll factor into this is how quick SF’s pitchers are in delivering the ball. A quick delivery will slow the KC running game a bit, and I know MadBum has a reputation for having a quick delivery, so watch that as well, for him, and the other SF starting pitchers too.
5) Joe Panik
Until Panik arrived, second base was pretty much a black hole for the Giants, to the point where they even tried out Dan Uggla. Afer that predictable failure, the rookie Panik arrived and stabilized the position by hitting .305 and providing at least average defense at the position. This is consistent with his minor league stats, which also suggest a guy who’ll get on at a good clip. Panik’s minor league OBP was typically 60 points higher than his batting average, which is pretty solid.
This has been covered a bit, so all I’ll say is it’ll be interesting to see if Yost realizes he’s going to have to adapt if he wants a shiny ring on his finger. He did in the ALCS, we’ll see if that continues in the WS.
7) Little Ball
Neither team is known as an offensive powerhouse, so it’ll be their ability to manufacture runs that will likely win the series. Bunting, taking the extra base, stolen bases and other small ball tactics. KC has the advantage here in regard to speed, but Bochy is the better tactician.
8) KC’s Other Defenders
Much has been made of KC’s outfield, but the rest of the team is pretty good with the glove too.Catcher Salvador Perez and Third Baseman Mike Moustakas are also Gold Glove winners and the rest of the infield (1B Eric Hosmer, 2B Omar Infante and SS Alcides Escobar) are also good fielders as well.
The Giants also have their share of good relievers, one of which has been Petit. A swingman who’s alternated between the rotation and the bullpen, he’s been a key figure in SF’s playoff run, earning two wins in nine innings without allowing a run. His ability to pitch long stretches of effective relief while SF tries to make a comeback or take a lead in a tie game might be a big factor in SF winning the series.
10) Salvador Perez
Perez is perhaps the best catcher in the American League, combining solid offensive skills with a good arm. He led the AL with a 42 percent caught stealing rate. Posey may be the better offensive catcher, but Perez is perhaps the better all around catcher.
So there’s a few things to keep an eye on in what will be a very interesting World Series.
Thanks for reading.