World Series Recap
For the third time in five years the San Francisco Giants are World Champions. The Giants latest World Series title came last night after a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals in Game Seven of the series.
The star of the series was starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who pitched five innings of relief in game seven picking up the save. The performance came on just two days rest after Bumgarner had pitched a complete game shutout in game five of the series.
He was 2-0 with one save and a 0.43 ERA in the World Series which earned him Most Valuable Player honors. His 0.25 ERA over the course of three different World Series is the lowest in history among those with at least 20 innings pitched.
Being overshadowed by Bumgarner’s historic performance were both Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence. Sandoval, the 2012 World Series MVP, picked up 26 hits over the course of the postseason which is the most ever. Meanwhile Pence hit .444 during the World Series with a .500 on-base percentage.
In a new era of baseball in which managers are expected to use their entire pitching staff in elimination games, it came as no surprise that neither game seven starter made it that far. Giants’ starter Tim Hudson, who is the MLB active leader in wins and won his first World Series, made it one and two-thirds innings before being pulled in favor of Jeremy Affeldt. Affeldt pitched two and a third scoreless frames before handing the game over to Bumgarner and wound up getting the win.
Meanwhile, Royals’ starter Jeremy Guthrie made it three and a third before Kelvin Herrera was brought in with two men on in the fourth. Herrera gave up the single that allowed Sandoval to score what was ultimately the game-winning run before pitching two and two-third innings, striking out four.
Guthrie, Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland were the only Kansas City pitchers to see action. When just those three relievers had to be used, the Royals usually won games this postseason but the three runs credited to Guthrie were too much to overcome with Bumgarner lurking in the Giants’ bullpen.
Game seven came a night after the Royals 10-0 victory in game six extended the MLB season another day. Kansas City who almost saw their season end in the wild card game, in which they were down 7-3 in the eighth inning of against the Oakland Athletics, could not make magic happen again even after Alex Gordon reached third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in game seven.
The question of the game years from now may end up being whether Gordon should have tried to score on the misplayed ball in the outfield whether than the Royals have to try and get another hit off of Bumgarner. Salvador Perez, who had the highest average among Kansas City batters in the World Series, came up next and fouled out to end the series.
After failing to win a World Series in their first 51 years in San Francisco, the Giants now are a dynasty. They became just the fifth franchise in baseball history to win three championships in five years joining the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia/Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals. The dynasty however is probably one of the odder ones in sports history considering they missed the playoffs the two years they did not win it all and finished ten games below .500 in 2013.
Giants’ catcher Buster Posey now has three World Series rings in five seasons playing at the major league level. Posey might have been the real shock of the series, although not a positive one. The former NL MVP hit just .154 in the World Series and failed to pick up an extra-base hit in the entire postseason.
At the end of the day though the Giants did not need Posey, all they really needed was Bumgarner who picked up his third World Series ring also in five seasons at the major league level. The early success Bumgarner and Posey have had in their early seasons is comparable to that which New York Yankees Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter had in the late 1990’s when they each won four rings in five years early in their careers.
The joke is now that every even number year the Giants win it all, which has been true since their titles have come in 2010, 2012 and 2014. So is 2016 next? Despite having the oldest average age in baseball this season, the Giants still have some young key pieces. Posey and Bumgarner are not going anywhere, while infielders Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and rookie Joe Panik are also all under-30.
Panik breathed life into this San Francisco team in 2014, hitting .305 after taking over second base in June. His diving stop to begin a double play in the third inning of game seven may have saved a run and was arguably the most important defensive play of the series.
While Hunter Pence is 32, he has shown no signs of slowing down and should continue to be a key part of the Giants for the next few seasons.
The big question of San Francisco’s offseason surrounds Sandoval and his pending free-agency. While the team has made it a priority to keep home grown talent around, Sandoval plays and excels a position (third base) that lacks depth and his price will certainly not be cheap. If the Giants can keep him they will be in even better shape to keep their dynasty going, but if they don’t they still have other key pieces sticking around.
On the other side of things, it looks like the Royals also have the potential to keep things going. This was the first time Kansas City had tasted October baseball since they won it all in 1985, a stretch of 29 years. Right now it looks like fans at Kauffman Stadium will not have to wait that long to see their team play on the biggest stage again.
Six of the players in the Royals’ game seven starting lineup are under 30. Seven of the 11 pitchers the team used this postseason were under 30. The bullpen trio of Herrera, Davis and Holland which was so dominant for Kansas City all season are all under 30.
23-year old Yordano Ventura showed in game six of the series that he can be a potential ace while 24-year old Perez is already a two-time All-Star at the sport’s most demanding position. Eric Hosmer and ALCS-MVP Lorenzo Cain should also help anchor the Royals in the immediate future.
The big question of the Royals offseason involves pitcher James Shields. Shields was the number one starter for Kansas City the past two seasons, but he will be 33 come December and with Ventura and Dan Duffy as much younger potential aces it is tough to imagine the Royals will shed too many tears if he does not stick around.
The Royals were the feel-good story of the 2014 postseason who captivated sports fans, but at the end of the day they fell one run short of the team that has arguably been the best in baseball since 2010. The 2014 MLB season ended with a five out save by one of the best postseason pitchers of all-time and now attention begins to turn to 2015.
Pitchers and catchers report in February.