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How The Royals Can Beat the Giants

This article series is 3/3!

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals are 8-0 and 3 for 3 in series when I write these articles so why the hell stop now? Any of those other World Series primers you've read are meaningless. This is the Titanic of World Ser...wait...okay, this is the biggest one.

What the Giants do well:

Hit the ball: Despite playing in a pitchers park, the Giants have compiled the 5th (107) best weighted runs created  which includes an adjustment for their park. For reference, the Royals have the 20th (94) best wRC+. They aren't a stellar home run hitting team (18th in baseball) but they hit for both average and power in the non-home run variety. By linear weights, they are 11th in baseball (.317 wOBA). When do you a little conversion to runs created and factor in their park, voila, you get the 5th best offense in baseball.

Employ a pitcher named Madison Bumgarner: As I attested to in our round-table earlier today, Bumgarner is one of my favorite pitchers in baseball when you exclude anyone named Clayton Kershaw. He's not a monster of a pitcher, but I've been following him since the Giants grabbed him 10th overall in 2007 out of South Caldwell HS in North Carolina. He debuted at age 19 and by 21 he put up a 4.5 win season and has pitched 200+ innings every year since. He's got a career 3.15 FIP and 3.28 xFIP. He's second to Kershaw (by 0.2) in fWAR by a pitcher from age 20-24 since 2010 and 8th overall since 1980.

Age 20-24 seasons from 1980-2014

Name Team IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Fernando Valenzuela Dodgers 1267.2 7.21 3.19 2.93 2.89 25.3
Dwight Gooden Mets 1073 7.48 2.57 2.65 2.7 24.6
Bret Saberhagen Royals 1066.2 5.71 1.81 3.49 3.27 23.7
Roger Clemens Red Sox 767.1 8.14 2.53 3.08 2.88 23
Felix Hernandez Mariners 1070.1 8.11 2.81 3.24 3.48 3.39 22.2
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 944 9.29 3.25 2.79 3.01 3.42 21.9
CC Sabathia Indians 972.2 7.04 3.54 4.1 3.98 4.2 17.2
Madison Bumgarner Giants 942.2 8.46 2.16 3.07 3.14 3.29 16.3
Jeremy Bonderman Tigers 923.1 7.49 2.92 4.78 4.03 3.9 16.1

That is who the Royals are going to face to set the tone for the World Series. That's not ideal.

Fastballs and curveballs: Maybe this falls under the hitting category but I wanted to separate it. The Giants are the 3rd best fastball hitting team on a per 100 pitches basis. For curveballs they are the 7th best. The Royals throw more fastballs than anybody in the American League and have 5 pitchers who throw a fastball 50% or more of the time.

Generate outside swings: The Royals plate discipline problems have been told too many times before and they are one of the worst teams at not swinging at outside pitches. Unfortunately, the Giants are one of the best teams at generating outside swings.

What the Giants don't do so well:

Employ other pitchers not named Madison Bumgarner: I'd imagine when you chop off the best pitcher on a staff that the rotation isn't as good, and this clearly holds true for the Giants, but it's the difference between Bumgarner and the next guy is pretty big.

Pitcher FIP fWAR
Shields 3.59 3.7
Bumgarner 3.05 3.6
Ventura 3.64 2.7
Vargas 3.64 2.6
Duffy 3.92 2.0
Hudson 3.54 1.7
Guthrie 4.32 1.5
Peavy 3.03 1.3
Vogelsong 3.85 1.0

So for Game 2 of the series, the Giants will be throwing out the general equivalent of an uninjured Danny Duffy then the next two games will feature pitchers worse than Guthrie, sequentially (or possibly Bumgarner on short rest).

Pitchers when they don't pitch: On the defensive side of things, the Giants pitchers are pretty good defensively. That probably won't come into play much in the short series. What will come into play though is their pitchers hitting. For 2014, the Giants pitchers slugged 4 home runs, the best total in baseball. On the wRC+ side of things, they've also compiled the 4th best in the NL (albeit at a -4 wRC+). You don't expect pitchers hitting to be good, but relative to other not good hitting pitchers, the Giants hitting pitchers are pretty good.

Defense: If you factor out the Giants pitchers defense, the Giants are a bit different. Their pitchers have a +2 DRS (10th best) while the team as a whole was -5 (17th best). There's an even larger swing by Def (which is heavily weighted for pitchers), but it's more extreme than accurate I'd imagine. Regardless, the Giants aren't good at defense.

Swing at outside pitches and whiffs: Even more so than the Royals, the Giants have the 2nd highest O-Swing% and the 13th best O-Contact%. They chase at an large rate of outside pitches while making roughly average contact. Perhaps this is a direct correlation to their outside swinging tendencies, the Giants have the 7th highest swinging strike rate.

Giants hitters strikeouts on outside zones


Royals pitchers strikeouts on outside zones


Not a bad matchup for the Royals pitchers. They share similar zones that they strike out hitters on with zones that the Giants hitters strike out on.

It's just going to take the Royals to continue to do what they've been doing this whole playoffs to win this World Series. That's a tall order, especially given how they are 8-0 in this post season, but there are some good alignments for the Royals standard game plan.