The San Francisco Giants are back in the World Series for the third time in five years and a lot of people think they are going to come out on top again.
But while the Giants have more household names, it is the upstart Royals, playing in their first postseason since 1985, who are going to lift the World Series trophy at the end.
Here are the four biggest reasons:
The Giants pitching is not as good as you might think.
Starting pitching is often the biggest factor in a short series like the World Series. The Giants are the National League club, have big-name pitchers, and a reputation for having good starting pitching.
But while the Giants starting pitching is good, it is not as deep as year’s past and the Royals staff is much better than most may realise.
Here is the second-half Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) numbers for the projected starting pitchers for each game. FIP is similar to ERA but takes into account that pitchers have different defenses and pitch in different ballparks, and is generally considered a better indicator of how well a pitcher is pitching.
The Giants will start two very good pitchers (Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy) and two mediocre pitchers (Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong). Meanwhile, all four of the Royals’ starting pitchers have posted a second-half FIP under 3.75.
The result is a decided pitching advantage for the Giants in just two games (2 and 6) and a slight advantage in two more (1 and 5) while the Royals have a decided advantage in the other three games.
The Royals have a real DH.
Until Major League Baseball gets smart and starts using the designated hitter in the National League, something that is inevitable, the American League will almost always have an offensive advantage in the World Series, especially when the AL team has home field advantage as the Royals do.
The reason is that most AL teams have a designated DH, a guy who is used to, and mentally prepared for, sitting long periods of time in between at bats.
This season, the Giants played ten interleague games in AL parks. While that is a small sample, it is enough to at least give us a sense that they are not very good at it. Giants DHs hit .231 with no home runs and a .516 OPS during the regular season.
Meanwhile, Billy Butler started 108 games at DH for the Royals. That’s his job and while he is not great (.259 avg, .642 OPS as a DH), he is better than what the Giants can throw out there (Michael Morse?).
The Royals have a secret weapon just waiting to be unleashed.
Much has been made of how the Royals are in the World Series in large part because of their gutsy decision to trade their best prospect for James Shields. Often forgotten is that the Royals also received relief pitcher Wade Davis in that deal with the Tampa Bay Rays and he has arguably been the second most important pitcher for the Royals this season.
Davis led all MLB relievers with a 1.00 ERA and was second in FIP (1.19) and Wins Above Replacement (3.1). He has been a beast and at one point this season he made 33 straight appearances without allowing a run and only allowing one inherited runner to score.
But Davis’ most amazing stat is that he has not done the one thing that kills all relievers. He has not given up a home run all season. At some point in this series, Davis is going be a difference-maker.
The Royals have home field advantage.
Kansas City waited 29 years to get back to the playoffs and now they are four wins away from winning the World Series.
Thanks to the AL All-Star team, the Royals have home field advantage in the series and potentially four home games.
The Kauffman Stadium crowd is going to be nuts and the Giants are going to have a hard time winning a game six or seven in Kansas City. Just check out the average ticket prices for each on the secondary ticket market.
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