The Kansas City Royals are American League Champs and are going to the World Series (I never tire of writing that), and thanks to Glen Perkins and the American League All-Stars, will get home field advantage. Their opponent has yet to be determined, but the San Francisco Giants lead the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 with a chance to clinch the pennant in San Francisco tonight.
So who would you rather play?
The St. Louis Cardinals had the better record, going 90-72 in winning the Central Division, but finished with a pythagorean record of 83-79. The Cardinals were similar to the Royals in that they struggled to score runs, finishing ninth in runs scored in the league, were dead last in their league in home runs like the Royals, and finished with the fewest strikeouts in the league like the Royals. Unlike the Royals, the Cardinals could walk a bit, finishing seventh in free passes. The Cardinals are also a far cry from their 1985 base-swiping club. The 2014 Redbirds finished second-to-last in steals with just 57, and only second-baseman Kolten Wong finished in double-digits in the category.
The Cardinals have a very good rotation, with three starting pitchers with an ERA+ over 115 - Adam Wainwright (154), Lance Lynn (134), and Michael Wacha (115), although Wacha has been relegated to the bullpen. That leaves the mediocre John Lackey and rookie Shelby Miller, who has a less-than-impressive FIP of 4.51.
The Cardinals came into October fairly hot, winning 17 of 26 in September, and made quick work of the Dodgers in four games, but have run into a wall against the Giants. Yadier Molina is obviously one of the best catchers in baseball at holding a running game, but he is out with an injury and would be questionable at best for the World Series. The 37-year old A.J. Pierzynski has been getting starts in his absence, and Pierzynski has typically been average at throwing out base-stealers in his career.
The Royals went 3-1 against St. Louis this year, sweeping the short two-game series in St. Louis, and splitting the two-game series in Kansas City. Their only loss to the Cardinals was a 5-2, eleven inning game in Kansas City on June 4, and the Royals outscored the Cardinals 19-14 in their four matchups.
It would be fun in some respects to play the Cardinals as a re-match of the 1985 World Series. Having two teams in the same state playing on the national stage provides a great rivalry, as anyone that remembers the '85 Series can attest to. On the other hand, losing to the Cardinals this time would be insufferable. I can already hear the taunts "you didn't have Don Denkinger to bail you out this time!" Dare we take that chance?
The Giants were the last team to make the playoffs in the National League, finishing 88-74, and having to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates on the road to make it to the NLDS. The Giants needed just four games (although their 18-inning Game Two affair felt like two games ) to dispatch of the Washington Nationals before going up 3-1 on the Cardinals.
San Francisco finished fifth in the league in runs scored at 4.10 per game. They finished middle-of-the-pack in home runs, and don't feature any prolific boppers, but have four hitters with at least 15 home runs in Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, and Mike Morse (who is hobbled by a foot injury). The Giants don't walk much, but were middle-of-the pack in on-base percentage. They finished dead last in the league in steals. Catcher Buster Posey has been average with a 28% thrown-out rate for would-be basestealers.
The Giants have won two World Championships lately, so they have an experienced, post-season rotation with Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and Ryan Vogelsong. Like many other post-season teams, they have had some struggles in the bullpen, although overall their relief numbers are quite good, with the third best bullpen ERA in the league.
The Giants came to Kansas City in early August, but were swept in the three-game series by the Royals. They scored just six runs in the series, thanks in part to a huge 5-0 shutout by James Shields on August 9 in front of a packed house that included a Royals Review meetup.
So, who would you rather face? Does it matter?