The Definitive Guide to the 2014 World Series
Prepare yourselves, sports fans: this will be one of the best weeks in American sports in all of 2014. The NFL is ignoring its controversies and winning its fans back with a crazy season where roughly eight teams look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Is Peyton the best ever? Will Cincinnati and Seattle make the playoffs? Are the Chiefs a true contender? (Yes to all three by the way.) College football is heating up too, with the first round of playoff rankings being released on Sunday night—and the top four slots could all go to SEC West teams, according to current advanced metrics. And in case a full weekend of football isn’t enough, we’re just eight days from the start of the NBA season!
But really, none of that matters right now. Not here. Not at the Fidelity Sports HQ. Here, and all ‘cross America, the big story is the Fall Classic: The 2014 World Series, featuring the hottest team in baseball, our own beloved KC Royals, versus the perennially overrated SF Giants. Despite what some blogging haters will tell you, this will be the greatest World Series of all time. For Royals fans, at least.
The Royals haven’t lost a playoff game all month—actually, in almost three decades. Look for Royals fans to bring their brooms to Game 1. It’s not pride; winning is all we know.
So it should come as no surprise that we KC faithfuls (and even the bandwagoners) are compiling all the reasons why the Royals will sweep this year’s Classic. Here are the top ten reasons, though there are surely dozens more.
The Royals haven’t lost a game in more than three weeks, are a perfect 8-0 in the postseason (an MLB record), won three straight extra-inning postseason games (an MLB record), and four total extra-inning games this postseason (another MLB record). They swept the Angels (who had the best record in the AL) by a total score of 15-6. Then they swept the Orioles (who had the second-best record in the AL) by a total score of 10-6. The SF Giants, on the other hand, had the lowest regular season record of any playoff team, didn’t sweep either of their NLDS or NLCS opponents, and—you could make the case—at 96-76, are one of the worst World Series teams ever.
2. Home Runs
The Giants hit 132 homers in the regular season and another five in ten postseason games. That equals a rate of 0.81 in the regular season and just 0.50 in the postseason. The Royals famously hit only 95 home-dingers during the regular season—dead last in the MLB and the fewest regular season total of any World Series team—but have been en feugo in October, with eight in as many games. So the Royals have almost doubled their long-ball rate from 0.59 to 1.00 when it matters. Translated to runs scored, the Royals are averaging 5.25 runs/game versus the Giants’ 4.10.
3. Web Gems
Without a doubt, the Royals have the better defense—at no point this season would that be disputed. The Royals have six potential Gold Glove winners. Six! Six of the best eight defensive position players in the American League are wearing baby blue right now!!! But the defensive web gems this postseason have been just ridiculous.
4. Home Field Advantage
With the first two games at the K, the Royals will jump ahead 2-0 without breaking a sweat. In the only Royals/Giants series this season—back in early August in Kansas City, MO—the home team won all three games, by a total score of 16-6. Look for the Royals’ home-field dominance to continue. Oh, and did I mention the Royals also had the best away-from-home record in the league during the regular season. It’s all adding up to another Royals sweep, and I’m only on reason #4!
5. The Warren G Harding Principle
In Malcolm Gladwell’s brilliant second book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, he describes how Warren G Harding was an uneducated, out-of-job young man who happened to be spotted by a prominent Senator who had just lost a reelection bid. The Senator was impressed with Harding’s tall, muscular physique, smooth body movement, and communication skills (the heavy-set Senator lacked all three) and proceeded to mentor Harding into the world of politics. The thought was: with the Senator’s brain and Harding’s natural look as a trustworthy, charismatic leader, Harding could rise far beyond where the career politician could go alone. Long story short, Harding became the United States’ 29th President, winning the election in the largest popular vote landslide (60% to 34%) in American history.
And then he proceeded to be one of the worst presidents ever.
Harding looked the part, but he wasn’t the real thing. We overestimate looks, Gladwell explains, and we misjudge talent based on appearance and other biases. The Giants, having made two World Series in the past four years, have the “look” and “feel” of a perennial champion. But don’t be fooled. History repeats itself. The Giants are just the latest example of the Warren G Harding Principle. (See also Gladwell’s essay “The Talent Myth” in What the Dog Saw.)
The Royals have the best bullpen in history. That is a fact. Undisputed. The late-inning trifecta, Herrera in the 7th, Davis in the 8th, and Holland in the 9th, were nearly unhittable all season. In the regular season, their season-long ERA’s were 1.41, 1.00, and 1.44 (respectively). That’s ridiculous! In their 204.1 combined innings, they were 14-8 (relievers rarely have winning records) with 53 holds, 49 saves, and 258 strikeouts. Insane.
But wait, there’s more. In the eight postseason games, the Herrera-Davis-Holland team, facing the AL’s toughest hitters, have posted ERA’s of 1.08, 0.96, and 1.13. Each one has improved! In 26 and 2/3 innings—roughly three total games—they have combined for a 2-0 record, given up only 3 runs, while logging 4 holds, 6 saves, and 30 strikeouts!!!
Again, this is another undisputed advantage for KC. They led the MLB with 153 steals (the Giants had only 56), and now lead all postseason teams with 13 steals. Average rate of steals per game in the playoffs? Royals 1.63 vs Giants 0.30. So for every SF steal, you’ll see seven or eight KC steals. Considering each steal is worth 1/3 of a run, that means a 3-0 run advantage for the fleet-footed Royals. THAT’s what speed do, baby!!!
8. The Ghost of Barry Bonds
I know the Giants have made the Fall Classic twice since Bonds was busted for doping and ruining baseball for about a decade, but it’s time for that ghost to finally ruin San Fran when it counts most. My prediction: not a single home run for the cursed Giant Juicers this Series.
9. The Fidelity Factor
According to SportsNation, 48 of 50 states are rooting for the Royals. And California—the Giants’ own state!—is split at 50-50. (Only Utah is in favor of the Giants.) Now, of course popular opinion is not always right, but the people are rarely this wrong. See, America is behind the Royals for one great reason: the Fidelity Factor. The three rules of Fidelity Sports all favor a Royals World Series banner hanging at the K by the next Monday Review: (1) The Team Comes First—the Royals have lost player after player to the big boys, but they are building a team, an organization, heck, a family, over their in KC, and it’s paying off. (2) There’s No Substitute for Hard Work—sure, it helps to have $15 million dollar players (the Giants’ payroll is $155 million to the Royals’ $91M, and they have three $15M men to the Royals’ none), but money doesn’t translate to wins the way gritty, hustlin’ hard work does. (3) Good Things Take Time—the Royals have spent 29 years building this team. What could go wrong?!?!
10. It’s Not Just Momentum—It’s DESTINY!!!
There’s just too much moving forward right now to bet against the Royals. The only question is: will they sweep the Giants or slip up enough to drop a single game? If they drop a single game but win out 4-1 (or even 4-2, in order to win the Series at home), the great debate will be: Are they the greatest baseball team of all time?
But I don’t think this week will leave much room for debate. We’re spotting the Giants $65,000,000 and they still won’t compete! In keeping with the theme of the last three weeks, the Fidelity Sports council can’t help but predict a clean sweep for the KC Royals, a World Series crown, and a clear statement of The Greatest Baseball Team Ever Assembled By and For the Pleasures of God.
World Series Predictions
Game 1 (Tuesday night, 8pm, in KC): Royals 2, Giants 1
Game 2 (Wednesday night, 8pm, in KC): Royals 2, Giants 1
Game 3 (Friday night, 8pm, in SF): Royals 2, Giants 1
Game 4 (Saturday night, 8pm, in SF): Royals 2, Giants 1
World Series MVP: Alex Gordon, LF, Royals