Here is the final chapter in this amazing postseason drama. I went 0-4 in DS round, but came back with two correct predictions in the LCS. I also continue to predict longer series than they turn out to be.
Which leads to the challenge in predicting the World Series. These two teams are so evenly matched it seems destined for the Series to go 6 or even 7 games (haven’t had 7 games since 2011, and before that since 2001 and 2002). However, both teams tend to grab a lead and never let go, so it is entirely possible that one team runs away with it in 4 or 5 games (though they would be close games).
I think the Giants should win the World Series. They have some decided advantages: the better manager, the true Ace in Madison Bumgarner, the once-in-a-generation player in Buster Posey (perhaps Eric Hosmer will be this for the Royals but even with his strong postseason he has a way to go to earn that kind of label, despite being drafted ahead of Posey).
They also have some subtle advantages. A lefty heavy lineup, a flexibility to their roster and bullpen that either the Royals don’t have or don’t utilize, and a wealth of postseason experience to pull from.
If the Giants are going to win the World Series I think they need to win it the way they beat the Cardinals: in 5, by staying a step ahead and constantly putting the pressure on the Royals to deviate from their game plan.
Game 1: Shields vs. Bumgarner. I wrote way back when this all started that the Giants must win every Bumgarner start, and then changed my tune for the Cardinals series. I’m back on this tune. James Shields is a very good pitcher, but this is the one match up where the Giants have a clear advantage. They must win when Bumgarner takes the mound.
This is a critical game for the Giants. The Royals haven’t lost. They win Game 1 and they continue to think they will never lose. Immediately put them in the hole, though, and the whole mindset of the Royals, and the complexion of the series, changes.
My guess is the Giants will be able to score some runs, maybe 3, and Bumgarner shuts down the Royals offense. Giants 3-1.
Game 2: Ventura vs. Peavy. Yordano Ventura throws hard and has good stuff, but he’s not as dominant as one might think. He will be at some point in his career, especially if he keeps his velocity, but right now he can be had. Peavy will be coming off a lot of rest and so should be good to go and feeling strong. Much like the Cardinals series, this game will go to the bullpens early and be there for the taking by either team. The Royals will pull it out, and pull even. Royals 4-3.
Game 3: Hudson vs. TBD. This will likely be Tim Hudson going against another wiley vet in Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie is the kind of guy who would be a good starter in the NL West. He doesn’t strike out very many guys, has twice led the league in loses (on bad Orioles teams), has allowed the most hits in the AL once, and is the very definition of slighty above average pitcher (think Zito in his best years with the Giants). In other words, he’s exactly the kind of guy who would give the Giants fits if he played for San Diego.
A couple of other factors to consider in this game. First, the Royals will be without Bully Butler. There is no room in the field for their portly DH so he goes to the bench. Even thought Hudson is not a great hitter, the Giants gain an advantage with the Royals subtracting a DH and adding the pitcher to the lineup. Second, this will be Hudson’s first World Series start. He’s going to treat it like it might be the last time he ever pitches. I think he will pitch well enough and the Giants will have one of their better offensive games of the series: Giants 5-3.
Game 4: Vogelsong vs. TBD. Once again we don’t know who will start, but in all likelihood the Giants are looking at facing off against Jason Vargas. And, just like the Cardinals series, I see this being a boon for the offense and early exits for the starters. Game 4 is Yumeiro Petit time. Once again, the advantage goes to the Giants here, with Petit bailing the team out for the third time. This could also be a walkoff game, so we’ll say Giants 4-3 walking off in the bottom of the 9th.
Game 5: Repeat Game 1 starters. The story of Game 5 will be Madison Bumgarner putting the finishing touches on a remarkable postseason run. He will put his home field issues behind him and drive the nail into the Royals coffin. In the end, the story will be that Bumgarner was too good, and the Giants never allowed the Royals to settle into their preferred rhythym of playing ahead and relying on the bullpen. Giants 3-0.
Having said all that, there is very little that could happen in this series that would be shocking. The Royals could sweep. The Giants could sweep. It could go the full 7. I don’t know! About the only thing that would surprise me is one team completely falling apart: bad starting pitching, no help from the pen, no hitting. I expect every game to be competitive, to be close and tense, and to add some more gray hairs to my head.
About the only constant this postseason has been the completely unexpected, so buckle up and get ready for a wild ride! I’m going with the Giants in 5 but look forward to all the twists and turns this series will undoubtedly take.
One Final Thought: Who is the key player in this series for the Giants? In many ways it is Madison Bumgarner because he’s the ace, and the one significant advantage either team has at its disposable. In many other ways it is Buster Posey because he’s the Giants leader, he plays such an important position and, again, is the one, true once-in-a-generation talent in this series.
But in a very practical sense I think the most important player for the Giants is Brandon Belt. The Royals are extremely dependent on their right-handed power pitching out of the bullpen. If Belt (or any of the lefty swinging Giants) can get hot and establish themselves as a dangerous presence, it will force Ned Yost to think about mixing and matching, rather than sticking to the script. And once you see Yost mixing and matching, then you know the Giants are in his head. Watch for that.