Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Royals Don’t Need A Broom When a Whisk Will Do

Kansas City rolled into the playoffs the hottest club in baseball, which unfortunately has sometimes been the kiss of death. Just ask the Angels and Nationals whom had the best record but didn’t have to play a meaningful game for so long before the playoffs that they were swept away by the intensity and right out of their first round series. The Royals journey has been well documented, on the outside looking in coming down the stretch, making the wildcard, then riding that momentum into the playoffs and winning 8 straight games, 4 in extra innings, and 4 by one run. Now that steam seems to be running out, they are still playing the same game, great defense, small-ball, full of sacrificing, bunting runners into scoring position, and trying to bring them home. However what has been missing has been the speed on the base paths and the timely hitting. Actually, the Royals are hitting rather well with runners in scoring position (.322) they just haven’t had that many, only 31 opportunities in five games. And the stolen bases? Only one, and they haven’t even attempted one after being caught by Buster Posey early in the series. Meanwhile the Giants have a lower average (.301) still respectable but have had 53 runners in scoring position. They also have only one stolen base, but that’s not what they do. That begs the question would you be more upset if you left runners in scoring position or if you didn’t have enough? The Giants may have left 39 runners in scoring position but they have had 16 more than the Royals over the course of the first five games, and most importantly San Francisco has out hit KC by almost 20, 52-33. With all of that said, and all of those stats, at the end of the day Kansas City still has the final two games at home and rest assured at the beginning of the season if someone would have proposed that to end the “Pine Tar Curse” all they had to do was sweep a two game series at home they would like their chances. After all they have already proven they could take four straight from the best baseball, and the odds are actually on their side as eight out of the last ten clubs that came back home down 2-3 won the final two games to take the series. So they don’t need the Royal flush, just get back to what got em’ there and hope that the Giants don’t bring back Bumgarner on two-days rest!

Monday, October 20, 2014

World Series Preview - The Wildest Cards in The Deck

And then there were two. After what always seems like it takes a full calendar year to complete the regular season came to a close, giving way to a post season that was one of the best and most surprising fans have ever been treated to. The clubs with the best record were both eliminated in their first series by teams that didn’t even with their division. The clubs with the highest payroll didn’t make it out the Divisional round, if the playoffs were determined by marketing dollars then the Dodgers and Tigers with rosters fill of Cy Young award winners, MVP’s, and Gatorade spokespersons should be throwing out the first pitch on Tuesday, but that’s not how it works. What did hold true was that the teams that were playing the best baseball are still playing and everyone else is home for the Holidays. The Royals and Giants needed all 162 games just to make it into the playoffs so it seems they’ve been playing playoff games for two months now, and therein could be the key, if you go in cold you get carried out cold, and conversely regardless of rest if you come in battle tested, you’ll last much longer. Regardless of what you might think the formula is and despite what it might look like on paper the two best clubs are the ones we have left standing, and they both needed to win a play-in game. The Giants got out of the blocks like they finished the season, playing their brand of baseball and simply just winning games. They burst out to a nine game lead on the Dodgers and looked like they were going to run away with the division. Then they hit a lull that culminated in the Dodgers coming up to A T & T Park in late July and sweeping their way back into contention. LA would eventually take over first, lead by 6 games down the stretch and hold off the Giants by winning 7 of their last 9 meetings. However once they got in, they’ve looked worthy to represent the National League going 8-2 against the League’s best. Meanwhile the plight of the Kansas City Royals was very similar. The Royals got out of the box fast including a 13-3 streak in June where they took control of the division but tough stretch in the second half of the season particularly against the division leaders Detroit who seemed to own them, put them in danger of missing the playoffs all together and fighting for that final playoff spot. But they got it an now they’re 4 wins away from the pinnacle it took them 29 years to get back to. KC has defied everything we thought we knew about baseball as we watched a club with a .549 winning percentage win 8 consecutive playoff games, sweep the team with the best record in baseball, win four extra-inning games (new record), and 4 one-run games. So the Series opens in Kansas City as they try to keep the win streak alive which got all kinds of things going through my head. Could you imagine if they manage to keep this streak going? What if they win 4 straight? This team goes down in the books as the greatest ever? Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinal teams of the past and this Royals clubs gets top billing over all of them? Or what about the Giants? In the first four games of the series they’ll send out pitchers where 3 of the 4 in their rotation have winning percentages of .538, .692, and .615 respectively. I look at this and ask how did they get this far? I mean, we’re all aware of the “every other year” phenomenon, and it make for great fodder but really?? In the end I don’t know if the Royals can keep it going and finish the post season with the most wins in MLB history, or if the Giants can win in another even numbered year, but I do know that I’ve seen every game of the playoffs thus far and these clubs, as unsexy as they may be, play the game the right way and it works for them. If they get a runner on first the either bunt or steal him into scoring position and then they get a timely base hit or move the runner over and get a sac fly. A walk is sometimes as good as a run with them. Defensively the Royals have been the best we’ve seen in years, quashing rallies with leather and breaking teams spirit in the process. A guy like Pablo Sandoval goes AWOL for 6 months, benched at one point during the season for lack of production, and suddenly is playing like the guy that took home a World Series MVP. And they did all of this with Angel Pagan, arguably their most consistent player in the lineup. We can all make strong arguments how one of the clubs watching from their living has more justification to be running out on the field on Tuesday but they would all be wrong. This is the World Series, and you don’t get this far without being the best in the world, and say what you will, the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals have proven that they are just that. Enjoy. View the complete World Series preview with highlights, stats, predictions, and more here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Body of Work Doesn't Get You Far In October

If the MLB playoffs were the NCAA tournament everyone’s bracket would be thoroughly busted at this point with club with the best record in all of baseball not only eliminated but swept out, and the club with the best record in the NL dropping the first two games at home to trail 0-2 going on the road. The Angels’ bats that had come through with timely hitting the entire season en route to 98 wins couldn’t get any when it counted and dropped two tough extra inning games to start the series and then it was all over but the shouting as they laid down in KC in game 3 to complete the sweep. In the other AL matchup the #2 Baltimore Orioles also brought their brooms as they swept the #3 Detroit Tigers away in very orderly fashion, by getting the upper hand in two one-run games that pushed them into the next round. Crazy how all of that stick in the Tigers lineup couldn’t produce more than one run at home in an elimination game and how the “Three-Headed Monster” of three consecutive Cy Young award winners couldn’t produce even one win. This will be a very long winter for both of those clubs and their fans as you would have to wonder how much more of a favorable matchup will you ever see for a chance to get to the show?
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