KANSAS CITY, Mo. – There are all kinds of advanced metrics and statistical analysis being used to determine which team will win the World Series – Kansas City or San Francisco.
I’m going to pick a winner based on the greatest analytical tool that exists. My eyes.
Listen, advanced statistics can be interesting. And they can be a valuable took for gauging performance. But in the interest of keeping it as simple as possible, here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the two teams.
First base – Eric Hosmer has been tearing the cover off of the baseball in the postseason. Brandon Belt of the Giants has some pop, but he’s not Hosmer. Edge: Royals.
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Second base – I really like Giants rookie Joe Panik, who will be a star someday. He’s one of those tough-as-nails kind of players. Kansas City’s Omar Infante has been one of the few Royals who has struggled in the postseason. Edge: Giants.
Third base – A few weeks back, this wouldn’t have been a debate. Suddenly, though, KC’s Mike Moustakas has found something. He’s hit three homers in the postseason. Still, the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval has been one of the finest postseason players in recent history. The Panda is a really tough out when it counts most. Edge: Giants.
Shortstop – I like Alcides Escobar in the leadoff spot for Kansas City, even though he rarely draws a walk. He’s so good defensively, too. San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford hasn’t hit much in the postseason, but he has pop with 20 doubles, 10 triples and 10 homers during the regular season. This is close. Edge: Royals.
Left field – Travis Ishikawa hit the winning three-run homer against Michael Wacha and the Cardinals in the NLCS. But he’s an emergency player because of a season-ending injury to Angel Pagan that forced Gregor Blanco from left to center field. Meanwhile, Kansas City’s Alex Gordon has had another solid, strong season. He’s no superstar, but he’s as consistent as anyone the Royals have both offensively and defensively. Edge: Royals.
Center field – The Giants historically have struggled when Pagan is on the shelf. He’s one of the best center fielders and leadoff hitters in baseball. Blanco has picked up nicely, though. But Kansas City’s Lorenzo Cain has been elite in the postseason. Edge: Royals.
Right field – Hunter Pence is one of the most enigmatic players in baseball. You watch him and you’re not sure how he gets it done. Year after year, though, he gets it done. He’s a centerpiece player for the Giants. Kansas City’s Nori Aoki does some things well, but he’s no Pence. Edge: Giants.
Catcher – Suddenly, KC’s Salvador Perez can’t buy a hit. But he’s so strong defensively that he has to be in the lineup every day. Perhaps he’s worn down, even though the Royals have had plenty of postseason rest. Regardless, he’s the second best catcher in this World Series, as almost any other catch in baseball would be. San Francisco’s Buster Posey is a superstar. Edge: Giants.
Designated hitter (AL park) – Billy Butler will be the DH for the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Michael Morse, injured for the past month, made a startling return in Game 5 of the NLCS with a game-tying homer off the Cardinals’ Pat Neshek. Butler is more accustomed to the role but Morse is a factor. Edge: Royals, slightly.
Starting pitching – There’s really only one true ace in this World Series and that’s the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, who starts Game 1 tonight. Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong round out the Giants’ rotation and none of them will scare the Royals. Conversely, Kansas City’s rotation consists of James Shields (Game 1 starter), Yordano Ventura, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas. Shields hasn’t been as strong in his postseason starts as the Royals would have liked but Ventura, if he’s healthy, can be dominant. Edge: Royals.
Bullpen – Both teams are strong here, but nobody can match Kelvin Hererra, Wade Davis and Greg Holland in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. This is Kansas City’s biggest advantage over any team, even the Giants. Edge: Royals.
Manager – Without getting into specifics, let’s just say Bruce Bochy, who has two World Series rings, gets the nod over Ned Yost. Edge: Giants.
So which team am I picking?
I like Kansas City, the red-hot Royals. It won’t be a sweep; it’s much more likely to go seven games. So that’s my pick – Kansas City in 7.