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World Series Preview: Giants (88-74) and Royals (89-73)

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The Royals and the Giants face off in the 2014 World Series. This is going to be fun.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Tuesday, October 21

5:00pm

Giants

LHP Madison Bumgarner

Royals

RHP James Shields

Wednesday, October 22

5:00pm

Giants

RHP Jake Peavy

Royals

RHP Yordano Ventura

Friday, October 24

5:00pm

Royals

RHP Jeremy Guthrie

Giants

RHP Tim Hudson

Saturday, October 25

5:00pm

Royals

LHP Jason Vargas

Giants

RHP Ryan Vogelsong

Sunday, October 26

5:00pm

Royals

TBD

Giants

TBD

Tuesday, October 28

5:00pm

Giants

TBD

Royals

TBD

Wednesday, October 29

5:00pm

Giants

TBD

Royals

TBD

Royals

Giants

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

94 (11th in AL)

107 (3rd in NL)

GIANTS

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

74.8 (1st)

-1.4 (8th)

ROYALS

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

101 (7th)

106 (11th)

ROYALS

Bullpen (FIP-)

86 (1st)

100 (11th)

ROYALS

Tomorrow, the 2014 Fall Classic begins in Kansas City as the Royals look to win their first championship since 1985 and the San Francisco Giants are looking to win their third in five years. The playoffs are all about narratives and storylines. Here's just a sampling for what you can expect to hear Joe Buck talk about for the next 10 days:

Even Year - The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. They missed the playoffs in 2011 and 2013. Some people have already crowned the Giants champions already. It's just math folks.

The Earthquake Series - Did you know that the Giants were in the World Series 25 years ago and that a major earthquake struck the Bay Area on the day of the third game? I bet you'll be reminded about it at least once a game this year.

George Brett and 1985 Royals - George Brett led the Royals to their last championship in 1985. Now he's the Vice President, Baseball Operations for the Royals. I'd expect at least three reaction shots per game and at least two live interviews -- awkwardly distracting from gameplay -- during the series.

The Plan - This World Series appearance is vindication for Dayton Moore who, in his eighth year as general manager, has finally seen his long-term plan for the organization come to fruition. Built around a strong, young core, this team has been fun to watch all postseason long and they haven't lost a game yet. It'll be a battle between two teams built to play in the National League, except one is from the American League.

Bud Selig - It will be the last World Series Bud Selig presides over as commissioner of baseball. I'd expect one awkward on-field ceremony and one live interview where all of the answers were written five months ago by a media intern.

The Royals:

If you've been following along this postseason, you've seen the Royals win by sticking to their strengths: putting runners in motion, bunting, a strong bullpen, and great defense. Ned Yost has caught some flak for some of his old school decision making but it's seems to have paid off for him so far. Every time he decides to bunt in an early inning or stick to his very defined bullpen roles, expect a million Sabermetric voices to cry out in terror before being silenced.

Key Players

LF Alex Gordon - Gordon had an amazing season in left for the Royals and has come through with some clutch hits in the postseason. He's clearly the star of this team.

CF Lorenzo Cain - Cain finally put together a healthy season and flourished in center for the Royals. He's made some stellar plays in the field and has been a steady presence at the top of the lineup.

C Salvador Perez - Perez has struggled at the plate this postseason (4 hits in 8 games) but his defense behind the plate has been valuable enough for the Royals.

Probable Pitchers

RHP James Shields

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

227

19.2%

4.7%

9.7%

45.2%

3.21

3.59

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Cutter

Knucklecurve

Changeup

92.5 mph;

29.6%

92.1 mph;

12.0%

86.4 mph;

25.3%

79.5 mph;

11.3%

85.2 mph;

21.8%

James Shields hasn't pitched very well in his three postseason starts, running an ERA over 5.00. Still, he's the unquestioned ace of the staff and he'll get the start in Game One. His pitch repertoire hasn't changed much from his regular season usage: heavy fastball usage, particularly his cutter, and a changeup as his primary offspeed pitch.

RHP Yordano Ventura

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

183

20.3%

8.8%

8.3%

47.6%

3.20

3.60

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Cutter

Curveball

Changeup

96.0 mph;

53.9%

96.6 mph;

19.9%

94.9 mph;

2.2%

82.8 mph;

14.5%

86.3 mph;

9.3%

Twenty-three-year-old Yordano Ventura has also struggled in his three postseason appearances but he'll get the start in Game Two anyway. His main weapon is his fastball -- all three grips have a positive run value according to FanGraphs.

RHP Jeremy Guthrie

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

202 2/3

14.4%

5.7%

9.4%

43.6%

4.13

4.32

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

92.1 mph;

36.2%

91.3 mph;

15.4%

85.0 mph;

14.6%

75.0 mph;

7.9%

86.2 mph;

25.5%

The Royals haven't announced the rest of their rotation past Shields and Ventura but if Yost sticks with the rotation he used in the ALCS, Jeremy Guthrie will get the start in Game Three. He was able to hold the Orioles to just one run in five innings in his only postseason start.

LHP Jason Vargas

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

187

16.2%

5.2%

8.2%

38.3%

3.71

3.84

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Cutter

Curveball

Changeup

87.3 mph;

43.4%

87.0 mph;

13.5%

84.7 mph;

0.3%

74.7 mph;

12.1%

80.4 mph;

30.4%

Here's a fun Jason Vargas story: back before he had established himself in the Mariners' rotation, a friend and I had the opportunity to get Jason's autograph before a game at Safeco Field. My friend didn't hesitate to ask and Vargas became one of his favorite players. I decided to save the one baseball I brought to see if I could get another signature from someone more impressive. Oops.

The Giants:

The Giants are playing in their third World Series in five years and have been carried by the same core of players each time. They've maximized their strengths over these last five years, both solid hitting and great pitching have earned them two championships and the potential for a third.

Key Players

C Buster Posey - One of the best hitters in the game, Buster Posey has surprisingly been fairly quiet this postseason. He has 13 hits in 43 at bats but no extra base hits.

RF Hunter Pence - These facts are all you need to know about Hunter Pence.

3B Pablo Sandoval - Pablo Sandoval became a postseason hero in 2012 and has been a key contributor for the Giants this year as well. As well as he's hit for the Giants, his defense at the hot corner never ceases to amaze me, not because he's a world-class defender but because his body type makes every play he makes look like he's a world-class defender.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Madison Bumgarner

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

217 1/3

25.1%

4.9%

10.0%

44.4%

2.98

3.05

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

92.0 mph;

27.2%

92.0 mph;

17.2%

88.1 mph;

34.1%

76.4 mph;

14.0%

83.7 mph;

7.3%

Madison Bumgarner has emerged as the ace of the Giants' pitching staff this year and has dominated in the postseason. He relies on his fastball and slider to rack up strikeouts. He also isn't a slouch at the plate but he does have something to learn about chugging beer.

RHP Jake Peavy

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

202 2/3

18.5%

7.4%

9.1%

38.5%

3.73

4.11

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Cutter

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

89.9 mph;

26.0%

89.9 mph;

26.6%

86.5 mph;

18.4%

82.2 mph;

6.0%

79.7 mph;

11.9%

82.4 mph;

10.6%

Returning to the National League was all Jake Peavy needed to start his career renaissance. After being traded to the Giants from the Red Sox, he's started to use his fastball -- all three grips -- more often and that has translated to a great results and some excellent starts in the postseason.

RHP Tim Hudson

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

189 1/3

15.2%

4.3%

9.3%

53.1%

3.57

3.54

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Splitter

Sinker

Curveball

89.1 mph;

10.2%

83.5 mph;

22.6%

80.8 mph;

14.9%

88.9 mph;

43.4%

75.6 mph;

8.4%

Tim Hudson has survived this long in the majors by sticking to a very simple game plan: eliminate walks and make hitters pound the ball into the ground. It's been very successful for him and the Giants have reaped the benefits. He'll make a start in AT&T Park where his groundball tendencies are maximized.

RHP Ryan Vogelsong

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

184 2/3

19.4%

7.4%

8.8%

38.4%

4.00

3.85

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

90.4 mph;

38.8%

90.3 mph;

9.1%

87.9 mph;

19.7%

77.0 mph;

18.6%

83.5 mph;

13.5%

Looking at Ryan Vogelsong's splits is like looking at Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At home, opposing batters have a wOBA of just .276; on the road, that mark jumps up to .373. In other words, at home, opposing batters hit like B.J. Upton but they hit like his battery mate, Buster Posey, on the road. It's a good thing Vogelsong is scheduled to start Game Four in San Francisco.

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The 2014 major league baseball season is almost at an end. It all comes down to the Royals versus the Giants. How fun has this postseason been to watch? Who are you rooting for?

I think the Giants are going to win in six. What are your predictions?