Just like last year, we’ve brought on resident nerd/stat boy Ben Weinrib from The Knuckleblog to preview the World Series with us. This year’s Fall Classic is not Red Sox-Cardinals (thank God), and instead we take a look at a really fun matchup between the Royals and the Giants. Ben’s thoughts on the series are in normal text, my snark/contempt/general dissatisfaction is in italics.
The Royals led the majors in stolen bases this year with 153, and their 81 percent success rate on steals was also third in the league. The Giants, on the other hand, were second-to-last with 56 steals on the year, and their 67 percent success rate was fifth to last on the year. That’s a pretty stark difference, but when you look at how smart each team’s baserunners are as far as taking extra bases on hits and tagging up, they’re much closer. Using the advanced stat BsR, the Royals were 12th in the league at 1.1 and the Giants were 21st at -2.2, so the gap in baserunning isn’t nearly as far as one would think by just looking at the base stealing numbers.
To expand on that, the Royals have continued to run wild in the playoffs. They’ve got 13 stolen bases already this postseason, with no one else notching more than four. the Giants have three, but have also been caught stealing three times — the same amount as the Royals. Baserunning isn’t only about stolen bases, as you alluded to, but all those extra runners in scoring position have sure helped the Royals thusfar in winning their first eight games of the postseason.
I don’t have much data to substantiate this, but neither Bruce Bochy nor Ned Yost are known for being very good tactical managers by the sabermetric community. Bochy has a reputation for keeping his (starting) pitchers in for a couple batters too long, while Yost does way too many bunts and really botched this year’s Wild Card Game. Despite their negative reputations, though, Bochy has had much better results with a .539 winning percentage and two World Series titles in the past five seasons compared to Yost and his .482 winning percentage.
You’re mostly right, though Bochy is definitely in the upper tier of managers by almost anyone’s definition (dirty little secret — every manager is awful tactically by sabermetric standards, even Joe Maddon). A big reason his teams have done so well in the playoffs is his flexible use of the bullpen in the postseason. While he might have a reputation for leaving his starters in too long, he is also willing to use his closer in situations many aren’t — non-save situations and multiple-inning saves. In other words, he’s willing to use his best bullpen arm in the biggest situations of the playoffs and not just the ninth inning.
Yost sucks though, for sure.
So it turns out that Zack Greinke trade is looking really good for the Royals. The Kansas City picked up Lorenzo Cain (second on the team and 29th in the league in WAR with 4.9), Alcides Escobar (third on the team with 3.5 WAR), and Jake Odorizzi (who they later traded for James Shields along with Wil Myers; we’ll discuss that trade in a second).
Can’t argue with results:
I know we’ve talked about this trade before, but most of the baseball media (myself included) did not like the Wil Myers-James Shields trade at the time. The Royals were far from contention and traded the #4 overall prospect in baseball (according to Baseball America) for two years of a very good (but not #ELITE) pitcher. While I still don’t think it was the right decision at the time, it’s certainly paid off, since they made it to the World Series.
I didn’t love the deal at the time, but it’s also the type of trade teams make when they think they’re on the verge of the playoffs. We’ve proven over and over that everyone who makes the postseason has just as good a chance at winning the whole thing as anyone else, so doing whatever it takes to make it to the dance just makes sense.
Hindsight being 20/20, Myers hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire with the Rays. Prospects are never a sure thing, so a team like Kansas City might be smart to go ahead and deal them for proven talent when possible. No, I’m totally not still jaded by the ghost of Jeff Francoeur, shut up.
Fun fact: the Royals were the only team in the majors to not hit 100 home runs and were also last in the league with a .113 ISO. Not a single player on the team hit 20 home runs and only three players even reached double digit homers.
Isn’t that what Billy Butler is there for? Wait, I had something for this:
I made that back in July, and I just knew it would come in handy at some point.
Jake Peavy, the Giants’ Game 2 starter, has been a revelation since being acquired from the Red Sox at the Trade Deadline. His ERA dropped from 4.72 to 2.17 in large part because his walk rate dropped from 3.34 to 1.94 BB/9 and his home run rate dropped from 1.45 to 0.34 HR/9 (admittedly these aren’t drawn from the biggest samples). Who would have guessed that going from a hitter-friendly AL park to a pitcher-friendly NL park would make him look better?
So, it took you six whole talking points to work the Red Sox into this? That might be a new record, Ben.
Ready for me to ruin a (sort of stupid) nickname?
It can’t be a worse nickname than “Xander Bogaerts Frozen Yogurts”. I’ll never forgive you for that one.
Big Game James Shields has a career 3.72 ERA in the regular season and 5.19 ERA in the playoffs. Now he only has 50.1 career innings in the playoffs, but if you run a 1-tail Z-test, you get a p-value of 0.0209, which means there is a significant difference between the two ERAs. Math!
Yeah, I don’t know what that means.
I think this World Series is another great time to appreciate just how weird Hunter Pence is. Who taught him out to swing and throw? He still managed to be 31st in the league in WAR (4.7) despite looking completely uncoordinated. Let’s just appreciate this great video.
Nothing for me will ever top this fake scouting report written by Grant Brisbee over at SBNation, mostly because I think this was the actual reaction of any poor soul sent to see Pence in action:
The Royals bullpen led the league in WAR (5.9) and the Giants were 28th (0.5), but don’t be fooled. The Giants actually had a better ERA (3.01 vs. 3.30) and those WAR numbers are skewed because the Giants play in a better ballpark for pitchers, so they are held to higher expectations.
Uh, aren’t you supposed to be the advanced stats guy? What the hell is this? You’re favoring ERA over WAR? Stick to your role, Ben.
When the teams travel to San Francisco, I’d assume Billy Butler or Eric Hosmer will play first depending on if Madison Bumgarner is starting, but they’ve both been equally disappointing this year. The real question to me what the Giants will do at DH. It’s going to be a real black hole. Andrew Susac? Juan Perez? Mike Morse? That’s a cornucopia of suck.
Ban the DH.
Prediction: Royals in 6
Damnit Ben, I’m also going with the Royals in 6. So congratulations on your World Series championship, San Francisco Giants.