I am not a fan of the wild card in baseball. Not even remotely. This postseason has warmed me up to the concept somewhat, though. First, the two wild card
games were interesting in different ways ó Kansas City for the incredible drama, and San Francisco for the crushing dominance. Then the two teams showed
that they had just been saving themselves for the postseason. Why do more in the regular season than you have to when you can save it all for the playoffs?
Both teams have been brilliant, and this one sets up as one of the more unlikely but simultaneously fantastic World Series matchups in recent memory. With
the series starting on Tuesday, the time is now to make some final 2014 World Series predictions:
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We donít know the pitching matchups yet, but we can make one safe guess. James Shields will be completely rested, so he is sure to get the opening-game
start. Madison Bumgarner could come back for that game on full rest, so it seems more than likely that the Giants will go with their ace as well. That is a
matchup for the ages. I give the Giants an edge, but Shields is no slouch, and itís a close matchup. Bumgarner has been the best pitcher in the playoffs,
though. Beyond that, the rotations are a reasonable matchup ó some strengths on both sides, and no obvious edges. The best that each team can hope for is
to minimize the impact of the opposing ace and hope for the best.
This is where it really gets interesting. The Royals havenít lost in the postseason, and the biggest reason is the three-headed wonder in the bullpen.
Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland have been amazing in the playoffs, but that is nothing new. They were remarkable all year ó 21 times this year
all three appeared in the same game and didnít allow a run between them. The Royals were an incredible 65-4 when they had the lead after six innings, so
the Giants are going to have to score early to have a chance here.
It would be easy to give the Royals the big edge here, but the Giants are no slouches. They donít have quite the talent at the back end that the Royals do,
but they sure have a whole lot of bullpen depth ó as they showed when they beat the Nationals in 18 innings in the NLDS without looking particularly
strained on the mound. They also have a strong closer in Santiago Casilla, who hasnít allowed a run in 17 postseason appearances. He has had scary moments
ó the ninth in Game 5 against the Cardinals was a bit touchy, and he didnít finish the game ó but he finds way to get it done.
The biggest advantage the Giants have is that Bumgarner seems all but certain to go deep in every start, so the bullpen isnít as strained as it could be.
The Royals will have an edge here, but I predict that this is going to be the biggest factor in the outcome of this series. The Giants donít have an
overpowering offense, but they have consistently found ways ó often crazy ways ó to put runs up late in games. The Royals have gotten a lead ó like they
did in their clinching game against the Orioles with two runs in the first ó and then held it once they got it. Itís a clash of styles and a test of what
the Royals have been able to do so far.
The Royals are very strong defensively. They have found their way onto the highlight reels time and again in the playoffs with crazy, almost impossible
defensive plays. The Giants arenít scoring runs in bulk; aside from Game 5 against the Cardinals the long ball has not been working for them. They are
hitting just .244 in the postseason as a team. Runs will be a little tougher to come by against a team with at least six players who are elite caliber
defenders. This is an edge for Kansas City.
There is an obvious experience edge for the Giants overall ó they are in their third World Series in five years, while many of the Royals werenít even born
when the team last played in the World Series in 1985. That experience differential is there with the managers as well. Bruce Bochy is the perfect choice
to run this San Francisco team, and he obviously knows all there is to know about getting a team to shine in October. Kansas Cityís Ned Yost is no stranger
to managing ó he took over the Brewers in 2003 ó but this is his first time in the postseason and definitely his first time in a spotlight anything like he
is in now. He has done a good job this year, but he has also been saved a couple of times when his team has overcome questionable decisions. San Francisco
has a huge edge here.
The bottom line:
Oddsmakers are not any more clear on how things could turn out here than most people are ó Bovada has both teams at 10/11 to win the World Series. I struggle to see
Bumgarner losing here ó certainly not twice. Bochy is also a huge asset for San Francisco. The Royals bullpen is great for three innings, but the Giants
get the edge if games go crazy long. The Royals are slightly better both at the plate and in the field, but the gap isnít large, and there are a couple of
batters ó Sandoval, Posey and perhaps Pence ó that I would like to have at the plate in a crunch situation as much as anyone. I have nothing but respect
for both teams. In the end, though, I just have to go with San Francisco. Their experience is obviously so much better, and they are going to ride that to
victory in a tough, thrilling series. Your 2014 World Series Champions will be the San Francisco Giants.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham