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Previewing the World Series with ESPN's Aaron Boone

Aaron Boone, the radio analyst for ESPN radio for this World Series and Monday Night Baseball TV analyst for ESPN, takes some time to talk about the upcoming matchup.

Allan Kee/ESPN Images

Aaron Boone will be calling the World Series from ESPN's radio booth with Dan Shulman. Boone played for the Reds, Yankees, Indians, Marlins, Nationals, and Astros during his career from 1997-2009. Boone played for the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. He spent a few minutes chatting with us about the upcoming World Series between the Royals and Giants.

Royals Review: You'll be calling the game on the radio, and we know that is often about painting a mental picture for the listener. What will it be like calling the World Series on the radio and will you be doing anything different or special on the radio broadcast compared to television?

Aaron Boone: It's definitely a little different. The last 5 years since I've retired, fortunately I've gotten to do a division series each year on the radio, which I've loved. When I got the opportunity to do a full postseason with a guy like Dan Shulman, it was something that I jumped at. I always tell people it's the reward of the job, getting to call games in the postseason on the radio.

I was that kid that grew up going to sleep at night listening to games on the radio. Still to this day driving around in my car, I love listening to the game on the radio. I view it as a privilege to get to do this.

As far as different, [in] TV the pictures are in front of you. In radio, there's the play by play guy. Number one, it's about him and giving him space to describe the action and making sure you're always not speaking when any action is occurring, whereas in TV sometimes you can go on because the pictures are in front of you. I try to be very cognizant of that.

In my analysis, I feel like I do more post-play analysis than more first-guessing or saying what's going to happen. I do try and do that still, but I try and really explain the play from a player's standpoint-how difficult or how easy or what happened well. I do view it as we're painting a picture for the listeners, and I try and feed off of Dan as much as I can in that regard.

Royals Review: It's the end of the season, and every player has got to be playing with some sort of pain. Salvador Perez has caught a ton of innings and taken some hits to the head with a bat. Alex Gordon ran into a fence. As a player who played in the World Series, how do players approach taking care of their bodies, aches, and pains in preparation for this World Series with the unique knowledge that "there really is no tomorrow; this is it"?

Aaron Boone: How you prepare yourself with whatever you're dealing with physically is the same. It's the treatment you need to do. That being said, I don't really think you feel tired at this point. The reality is I'm sure you are a little bit, but so is everybody else. This time of year, to feel like you're at your best is not hard.

That being said, if you're dealing with legitimate injury, that's a little different obviously. I don't think you feel tired. I think by and large, all these guys understand the position they're in, the chance of a lifetime that's in front of them. Playing in the World Series, most or all have envisioned. Fatigue, at least what you're feeling, hardly exists.

Royals Review: Game 1 starter Madison Bumgarner is known for being a pretty deceptive pitcher. He can throw his fastball up without much fear. He can modify the break on his breaking pitch, whatever you want to call it (slider, curveball), to suit his needs. He has great mechanics. He hides the ball really well, and he's been really great this postseason. Given his deceptive nature and recent performance, how do you see the Royals approaching Bumgarner?

They have game-changing players on defense. Lorenzo Cain has obviously been one of those.

Aaron Boone: The same. They're a team that puts the ball in play better than anyone else. They're not a team obviously that works a lot of walks, but Madison Bumgarner's not gonna walk you anyway. I would expect them to be aggressive. Bumgarner's really upped his percentage of pitches where he's attacking hitters in, which is always a part of his game, but in the postseason (his last 2 starts), he's really upped the times he goes in on right handed hitters. He's really trying to establish his fastball in to right handers, and he's done a great job of it. I would expect that to continue.

**Below shows MadBum's fastball zone profile against RHH, comparing the regular season vs. the postseason**

madbum regular season vs RHH FA

madbum playoffs FA vs RHH

I view it as one of the best fastballs in the game. Obviously, there's tons of guys in this series that we're going to see that throw 98-99 miles an hour. Bumgarner's going to be 93-94, but the deception you talk about is real. You can know fastball's coming, and you see good hitters still not square it up properly just because of that deception. His length, where he releases the ball, it may be 93-94, but I think he gives the hitter the feel that it's much harder than that.

He's a guy that's obviously been in this situation so much in his career already even though he's only 25 years old and had tremendous success. I would expect him to be on the top of his game. Can the Royals string enough together to back up Shields and steal that game 1?

Royals Review: With Bumgarner throwing more and more a percentage of pitches in, he might continue to do so in this series. Do you think the Royals hitters might try to cheat on the fastball early in the count?

Aaron Boone: I think the Royals will be aggressive in trying to hit the fastball. The big thing is you can't chase them in there too much because he's so good at getting it in there. You don't necessarily want to be swinging at his pitches. Hitting is still about trying to get a good pitch to hit, trying to get a mistake from the pitcher. That, with Bumgarner, is getting the fastball on the plate, out over the plate, coupled with if he makes a mistake with the slider, where it slides out in the middle of the plate.

Royals Review: You're no stranger to being a hero in the postseason with your 2003 Game 7 walkoff home for the Yankees against the rival Red Sox. The Royals have had quite a few moments like that late in the game during this postseason, like Salvador Perez's walkoff hit in the Wild Card game and Moustakas and Eric Hosmer's home runs. It's almost to the point where the Royals fans almost expect heroism, and that expectation is magnified just because the Royals haven't been to the playoffs for so long. How do the players deal with these heavy expectations of being a hero?

Aaron Boone: They've dealt with them. They're living it. The biggest thing, especially for a team who for the most part hasn't been in this situation, that's happened for them is their confidence is probably at an all-time high. They're playing such a good brand of baseball that the confidence gets you through. Probably to a man on that Royals team now, they expect to go out and play well and compete and win. That's how I see it.

Royals Review: That's definitely a nice culture change from the teams of the 2000s.

Aaron Boone: Absolutely.

Royals Review: One of the guys who has been the leader of the confidence train for the Royals has been Jarrod Dyson. During the ALCS, the Orioles almost game planned around him whenever he was on the bases. Though he was caught stealing twice, Steve Pearce on first base would often come off the bag to hold him on, which I don't think I had seen before, but Pearce ended up out of position to field an Eric Hosmer ground ball. How do you see the Giants dealing with Kansas City's running game? Do you think they'll try to do anything unique or different, or will they stick to what they do?

Aaron Boone: First of all, that's the great matchup. Bumgarner is one of the best at holding runners. I think he led or tied the league at pickoffs, and he's very difficult to steal against. He's quick to home plate, and as a lefty, he has a real good move to first base. That's one of the interesting matchups in Game 1 that I'm looking forward to watching. Is he able to neutralize them, or is he just dominant at keeping runners off base anyway?

I can envision a very low-scoring game in Game 1. That's one the great matchups, Kansas City's speed vs. Bumgarner, who is one of the game's best at suppressing the run game. That said, I don't expect the Royals, if they get their speed on, to just shut it down. They're going to force the envelope. It's been their MO. It's been one of their huge reasons for success, so I would expect them to still pick their spots to where they are going to push the envelope from a baserunning standpoint even with Bumgarner. It'll be a little more challenging.

Royals Review: Given the win-or-go-home nature of the playoffs, the organizations are turning all their resources on to winning these short series games. Scouts, analysts, coaches, they're all trying to come up with ways to win the games. How does a player have input in this process, and how does a player integrate all this extra information, or is there even extra information?

Aaron Boone: You get to this point of the year, your opponent is very well scouted, so take the regular season times five. Team scouts have been following these teams and learning every tendency, finding every weakness. You have a couple days to go over that stuff. As a player, it's about taking that information, being able to process the information, and then somehow trying to apply it to your approach or how you're going to go about things to exploit the other team's weakness.

Royals Review: Lorenzo Cain has been pretty incredible this postseason. Have you ever seen anyone do the things he's done? His legend seems to grow each day in Kansas City.

Aaron Boone: He's obviously been in the middle of this team's great run. When I look at the Royals, the separator for them from other teams is their defense and their bullpen. Their defense is up there with as good a defense as we've seen. I think sometimes we give that lip service, "Oh, they play great defense." They have game-changing players on defense. Lorenzo Cain has obviously been one of those. When you have great outfield play like the Royals do, and the athleticism out there, they're taking away an extra base hit it seems like once a game or every other game. In the playoffs, where runs can be at a premium, and you're facing good pitching, it's that extra base hit that's taken away that eliminates the big inning. It takes that 2-run double for most teams and it's an out with the Royals. It is so huge, and Lorenzo Cain has been right in the middle of all of that. On top of it, [he's] hitting like crazy.

Royals Review: Do you have any bold predictions for this series?

Aaron Boone: I've gone with the Royals in 6. Obviously, nothing would surprise me. I feel like the Royals are a little better team overall, and that's why I'm going with them. Bumgarner will be tough. He'll pitch twice in this series, and I feel like the Giants have an advantage in those 2 games. If the Royals can somehow get one of those, or take care of the other ones obviously. I expect a very competitive, really well-played series. Both these teams have played really well, more so than just slug their way or dominate pitching their way. These teams have played at a really high level. I don't think we've talked about enough how...the Giants have been rock solid defensively as well.

Royals Review: Do you have any plans for BBQ in Kansas City?

Aaron Boone: I might be going to have BBQ over at my good buddy Rick Sutcliffe's house.

Royals Review: As long as you have some.

Thank you very much to Aaron Boone for his time. You can catch Aaron Boone with Dan Shulman on ESPN radio broadcasting the World Series.