Going against preseason predictions and beating all the odds just to make it into the postseason, the Royals and Giants seemingly breezed their way through their given division series and championship series rounds on their way to the World Series. So evenly matched, as teams with a great pitching staff, lineup and bullpen, you had to figure that this year’s Fall Classic was going to be a great one. And, as I predicted, it surely has been exciting so far.
In game one on Tuesday night in Kansas City, Madison Bumgarner of the Giants took on the Royals and their best pitcher James Shields. For the Royals’ fan base, this game was something that they haven’t been able to experience in a long time, with the Royals last having made the postseason in 1985. But unfortunately for them, things didn’t start off too well, with three runs being scored in the very first inning by the Giants, off a Pablo Sandoval RBI-double and a Hunter Pence two-run home run.
From there, things simply got worse for the Royals. The Giants scored yet again in the fourth and the seventh, plating a couple of runs each inning, to take the score up to 7-0. With Madison Bumgarner on the mound, the Royals faced an impossible climb to reclaim the game, as despite a solo home run from Salvador Perez in the seventh, that would be the only run Bumgarner allowed, giving up just a total of three hits.
With the Giants taking the decisive 7-1 game one victory, you began to wonder whether or not this was going to be as competitive of a World Series as it had been advertised to be. But all thoughts of that were erased in game two, as things were much more thrilling for the better part of the game.
However, things didn’t start off looking too good for the Royals once again. The first batter of the game, Gregor Blanco, blasted a solo home run off the Royals’ flamethrowing Yordano Ventura, who became the first rookie to start a World Series game for the Royals in their history. From there, though, the Royals answered back, scoring a run in both the first and second innings off of the Giants’ Jake Peavy.
The Giants would tie the game in the top of the fourth inning, before the wheels came off in the sixth. Jake Peavy, who had been fairly good through this point in the game, was lifted after allowing the first two batters of the inning to reach base. His replacement, Jean Machi, allowed an RBI-single before being lifted for Javier Lopez, who recorded one out before he was replaced by Hunter Strickland. That would turn out to be a big mistake.
Strickland, who hasn’t done much of anything in the postseason for the Giants, gave up a two-run double to Salvador Perez, followed by a two-run homer by Omar Infante — the fifth home run Strickland has allowed this postseason, tying the postseason record.
Jeremy Affeldt would come on following Strickland’s removal, finishing out the inning without any more runs, but over the course of the 32 minute inning, the damage had been done. The Royals’ unbelievable bullpen subsequently shut down the game, securing them the 7-2 win.
The Royals and Giants now head to San Francisco tied at a game apiece. If either team can sweep the three games, which begin on Friday, the 2014 World Series Champion can potentially be crowned at AT&T park. But although baseball is unpredictable, it’s likely that the series will head back to Kansas City for game six and (possibly) seven in the final days of October.
After botching my preseason division predictions for the American League and National League, and after completely missing with my postseason predictions, I should probably just sit back and watch the World Series unfold before me without giving too much thought as to who will win. However, that’s hard for me to do. I love making predictions, no matter how terrible at it I may be.
Despite picking every single losing team to move on in the division series round (I had the Tigers beating the Orioles, the Angels beating the Royals, the Nationals beating the Giants, and the Dodgers beating the Cardinals), I’m going to take a shot at picking the World Series winner. After all, I have a 50/50 shot. Maybe I’ll get lucky.
As you’re more than likely aware, the Royals swept the Angels and Orioles to move onto the Fall Classic for the first time since 1985, while the Giants beat out the Nationals and Cardinals to head to their third World Series in five seasons. With both teams having begun the postseason as Wild Card teams, this becomes the first time since 2002 that two Wild Card teams made it to the World Series. And therefore, with both having beaten improbable odds, it’s very difficult to predict with certainty who will win the best of seven series. But I’m going to try.
The probable pitchers for games one through seven (five through seven if necessary*) of the 2014 World Series are as follows:
Game 1: Madison Bumgarner (Giants) – James Shields (Royals)
Game 2: Jake Peavy (Giants) – Yordano Ventura (Royals)
Game 3: Tim Hudson (Giants) – Jeremy Guthrie (Royals)
Game 4: Ryan Vogelsong (Giants) – Jason Vargas (Royals)
Game 5*: Madison Bumgarner (Giants) – James Shields (Royals)
Game 6*: Jake Peavy (Giants) – Yordano Ventura (Royals)
Game 7*: Tim Hudson (Giants) – Jeremy Guthrie (Royals)
Keep in mind that the Royals’ starting pitchers past game two are the presumed rotation, as they are yet to reveal their full pitching plans. In addition, plans could change, sending a switch around of the starting pitchers for either team, but this is the way things seem to be set to happen as of now. Based on the starting rotations and my observations of each team’s games so far this postseason, here’s how I have things playing out for the World Series:
My pick to win Game 1: Giants
Though the World Series is beginning in Kansas City, I have the Giants winning the first game. With Madison Bumgarner on the mound, the Royals’ offense is surely going to have a hard time scoring runs, and I feel that although James Shields is opposing the Giants, that the Giants will do just enough to pull out the victory. Thus ending the Royals perfect postseason winning record.
My pick to win Game 2: Royals
After losing game one, in my mind, the Royals will likely have a little added incentive to take game two, not wanting to head to San Francisco down two games to none. With Jake Peavy on the mound, who has struggled at times this year, I feel the Royals will score early in this game, having a lead heading into the late innings. With such a strong bullpen, they should be able to lock down game two.
My pick to win Game 3: Giants
With the first game in San Francisco being tied at a game apiece, the Giants and Royals will be fighting to take the advantage in game three. However, back in front of their home fans, and with veteran Tim Hudson on the mound, I think the Giants will just edge out the Royals. Though both Hudson and Jeremy Guthrie have had struggles in 2014, I feel Guthrie will struggle slightly more.
My pick to win Game 4: Royals
Bouncing back to take game four, the Royals have to win this game, in my mind, if they want to head back to Kansas City. With Bumgarner on the mound once again the following night, they’ll have to capitalize on the Giants’ starting pitcher, Ryan Vogelsong. And I believe they’ll do just that, tying things up at two games per club.
My pick to win Game 5*: Giants
On the mound once again for the Giants will be their ace, Madison Bumgarner, who I feel will be lights out as ever. The final game at home for the Giants in 2014, I feel they need to win this game to take the 3-2 lead if they want any shot at the World Series. If they return back to Kansas City down a game, they’ll have their backs against the wall for sure.
My pick to win Game 6*: Giants
Although back in front of the Royals’ home fans, which are some of the most electric in baseball, the momentum carried from a game five victory will likely be too much for the Royals to take on. After losing in game two of the series, in my mind, I don’t think Jake Peavy will allow that to happen again. If all goes as planned, the Giants will once again be crowned World Champions of baseball on October 28th in Kansas City.
Before I begin my recap of my votes for the major MLB awards, I want to take a second to acknowledge both the Royals and the Giants on advancing to the 2014 World Series. Both teams were outstanding in their given league championship series, with the Royals sweeping and the Giants losing just once. And thus, it should make for a very entertaining World Series, which begins in Kansas City on Tuesday. But while I’m going to make some World Series predictions in my next blog post, this post is meant to focus solely on the major MLB awards.
Over the past week, or so, I’ve been typing up individual posts on who I feel most deserves the awards of American League and National League Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player.
Some of the choices were easy, while others took a great deal of debate. But in the end I went with my gut of who I feel deserves each award the most.
In case you missed a few (or all) of my Major League Baseball award posts, I wanted to do a brief recap. Here are my picks that I made for each category:
American League Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu
National League Rookie of the Year: Jacob deGrom
American League Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
National League Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
American League MVP: Mike Trout
National League MVP: Clayton Kershaw
Feel free to click the links associated with each award to be taken to my post on it, giving the full reasoning behind my picks. I’m planning to post a blog entry covering the winners of each award when they’re announced towards the middle of next month, comparing my original picks to the winners and giving my overall thoughts, so be sure to check back for that.
As I stated in my American League post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton and Clayton Kershaw, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the National League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
Adrian Gonzalez is one of two Dodgers on my list, but he stands the least chance of the two to win the MVP award, and the least overall shot of all the players on my list. Although he led all of Major League Baseball in RBI’s on the season, with 116, while batting .276 and blasting 17 home runs, Gonzalez still doesn’t quite have the overall numbers to win the Most Valuable Player award. Even so, playing in all but three of the Dodgers’ 162 games, Gonzalez definitely had a great season worthy of recognition.
The current reigning N.L. Most Valuable Player, Andrew McCutchen, posted very similar numbers to the ones he posted in 2013. But although they are extremely close in likeness, McCutchen doesn’t deserved the MVP award this year anymore than I felt he deserved it last year when he won. Batting .314 on the season, with 25 homers and 83 RBI’s, McCutchen surely had a great season. But missing a good portion of the year, and getting outperformed by two other players in the National League, McCutchen will likely have to try again in 2015.
Giancarlo Stanton comes in runner up for the National League MVP award, in my mind. It was a difficult decision to not give him the honor, but finishing out the year on the disabled list, along with another player completely dominating everyone else in the N.L., caused him to just miss out. Still, Stanton posted the best numbers of his career thus far in 2014. Blasting 37 home runs and tallying 105 runs batted in, Stanton was by far one of the top valuable players in the National League, but not quite the most valuable.
For me, the correct choice, although it’s a difficult one — especially given the fact that he’s a pitcher — for the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player award is Clayton Kershaw, who I also have picking up the Cy Young award. Coming back from an injury to begin the year, which caused him to miss the first month of the season, and still winding up leading baseball in wins and ERA is simply remarkable. Notching 21 wins, along with a career best 1.77 ERA, which was nearly half a run better than the next closest ERA in the National League, Kershaw should pick up his first career Most Valuable Player award for his amazing performances all season long.
Choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Corey Kluber, Felix Hernandez, Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Mike Trout, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the American League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez, while they were both terrific and extremely valuable parts of their team, can quickly be eliminated off the list for Most Valuable Player. Despite the fact that I have them finishing in the top two spots in Cy Young voting with their 2.44 and 2.14 ERA’s, respectively, they simply didn’t post historical stats that overtake the offensive numbers of an everyday position player in the American League. Therefore, while their teams would’ve definitely ended their seasons with much different records without them, neither one has the numbers for MVP.
On the other side of the coin, Victor Martinez posted some of the best numbers in all of the American League, and deserves to at least be in the MVP discussion. After breaking out and blasting 32 home runs and driving in 103 runs, Martinez certainly helped carry a Tigers team that held a lot of issues with their pitching staff, on this a year that Miguel Cabrera posted subpar numbers by his standard. Batting .335 on the season, second to only Jose Altuve in all of baseball, Martinez was one of the most well rounded players this season. Even so, he likely won’t end the year with MVP honors.
Nelson Cruz is one of the top options for American League MVP in my opinion, despite the fact that many people don’t see him as a top choice at all. Coming over to the Orioles in the offseason, and posting career highs in a number of categories, Cruz helped carry the Orioles to the postseason even at times when things weren’t looking too promising. Leading all of baseball in homers, with 40, and driving in over 100 runs for the first time in his career, Cruz had a fantastic season. But it wasn’t good enough to come out on top.
For me, the door has finally opened for Mike Trout to walk away with the 2014 American League Most Valuable Player award. Although his batting average was down from 2013, and his strikeouts were way up, Trout put together an MVP-caliber season to say the least. Along with scoring over 100 runs for the third straight season, Trout also blasted 36 home runs and recorded over 100 RBI’s (111) for the first time in his career. Everything together, after finishing runner up to Miguel Cabrera each of the past two years, the numbers Trout posted in 2014, combined with the down year by Cabrera, make things very likely that Trout will finally receive the Most Valuable Player award for his efforts.
As I stated in my American League Cy Young post, each season there are usually several pitchers from each league that have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year, however, it really wasn’t all that close. Although Adam Wainwright, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw all had great seasons, one simply stands above the rest. Even so, I’ll take the time to go over each of them anyway.
Adam Wainwright put together yet another strong season, going 20-9 over the course of 32 starts for the Cardinals. While he didn’t overly dominate the competition, he kept them off balance for the most part throughout the year, holding opposing batters to a mere .222 batting average against. Having posted the lowest ERA of his career thus far, with a 2.38 on the year, you’d figure Wainwright would stand a good shot at the Cy Young. But the talent he’s facing is simply too great for him to do so this time around.
Yet another strong candidate for the Cy Young award that will inevitably miss out is Johnny Cueto. After getting off to an unbelievable start to the season, Cueto began to pitch so well that he earned a few more votes after each and every outing. Even so, despite striking out 242 batters and subsequently putting together a mere 2.25 ERA over 243.2 innings pitched, Cueto will have to try his luck again in 2015. The season he put together will likely wind up as one of the best ever recorded by a runner up for Cy Young.
For me, the only choice for the 2014 National League Cy Young award is Clayton Kershaw. Regardless of the fact that Kershaw missed over a month of playing time after making the start for the Dodgers down in Australia, causing him to record seven fewer starts than his closest competition, Johnny Cueto, Kershaw is in a class of his own.
For the fourth straight season, Kershaw lead all of Major League Baseball in ERA, posting an incredible 1.77 on the season. To go along with that amazing statistic, Kershaw was able to win 21 games, despite missing a month of starts, including one of which was of the no-hitter variety, in which he struck out a staggering fifteen batters. Keeping batters off the base paths, holding them to a .196 batting average for all of 2014, Kershaw is one of the best all-around pitchers the game has ever seen. And thus, after a great season, Kershaw should pick up his third Cy Young award of the past four years.
Each year there are usually several pitchers from each league that have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year is no different. The American League saw Garrett Richards, Chris Sale, Jon Lester, Dellin Betances, Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez all having great seasons. However, in the end, only one player can take home the Cy Young award.
Garrett Richards and Chris Sale both had fantastic seasons, but due to injuries at one point or another that caused them each to miss a few starts, they don’t quite make the cut. Richards helped a relatively subpar Angels pitching staff excel, going 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA; Sale performed amazingly for the White Sox, posting a 2.17 ERA and striking out 208 over 174 innings pitched. However, as mentioned, both of their stints on the disabled list hurt their chances. But despite missing out on the award this time around, they each stand a great chance at the Cy Young award if they can post the same type of stats in 2015.
Also making an appearance on my list but inevitably missing the cut is Jon Lester. Going from the Red Sox to the Athletics in July, Lester combined to post some great number on the year, holding opponents to a mere .236 batting average and recording a 2.46 ERA over the course of 32 games started. But although he was great, Lester didn’t necessarily dominate the competition, as is usually the case with a Cy Young winner.
Just the opposite, Dellin Betances completely dominated the opposition all season long for the Yankees. Over the course of 70 relief appearances, Betances achieved a mere 1.40 ERA while striking out 135 batters. With it not being all too often that a relief pitcher is even considered for the Cy Young, Betances certainly had a significant season. But unfortunately for Betances, a couple of starters had a better one.
One of the two top choices for the Cy Young award this season is Corey Kluber. While Kluber isn’t a household name, even after the great season he had, he is certainly well known to the batters he faced (and fooled) all season long. Striking out 269 batters on the season (second to only David Price in all of baseball) and putting together a 2.44 ERA, Kluber had an amazing season that will definitely earn him a good amount of votes for the Cy Young award. However, he doesn’t receive my (unofficial) vote.
For me, the difficult but correct choice for the 2014 American League Cy Young award is the Mariners’ star pitcher, Felix Hernandez. In what would be his second career Cy Young award, there’s truly no other player that deserves it more. Although Hernandez had a few rough outings, for the most part he was seemingly unbeatable, going on a streak of 16 straight quality starts at one point. With an ERA of 2.14 ERA, due to holding batters to an even .200 batting average for the season, Hernandez surely will receive the Cy Young award for his remarkable year when all is said and done.
As I stated in my American League Rookie of the Year post, watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the National League this season, with players such as Ken Giles, Jeurys Familia, Billy Hamilton and Jacob deGrom all having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award.
Ken Giles came up in June for the Phillies and was terrific through the rest of the season. Over 44 games pitched, Giles posted a 1.18 ERA and limited batters to a .164 batting average against. With the poor season the Phillies had as a whole, Giles was one of the few players you could count on night in and night out. And thus, he should be one of their biggest bullpen pieces moving forward. However, while he had a tremendous rookie campaign, not pitching the entire season and being a reliever hurts Giles, taking away his chances of the R.O.Y. award.
Another dominant reliever who spent the entire year in the big leagues was Jeurys Familia, who isn’t exactly a household name but will be a potential star for years. Familia, like the previously mentioned Giles, was one of the few bright spots on his team (the Mets), posting a 2.21 ERA over the course of 77.1 innings pitched. Though he didn’t strike out a ton of guys through the season, he was still very effective at getting batters out, and deserves praise for his achievements. Still, Rookie of the Year is a bit beyond what he was able to achieve.
The player many people felt had the Rookie of the Year locked down for the National League before the season even began was the speedy Billy Hamilton. Gaining national attention after stealing a minor league record 155 bases back in 2012, Hamilton quickly earned a name for himself as one of the fastest players in the game today. But although he stole a fair share of bags this season in the big leagues, with 56, that’s not good enough, in my mind, to earn him the Rookie of the Year award, especially when it goes along with a mere .250 batting average.
For me, the player who deserves the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year award the most is the Mets’ Jacob deGrom. Though he didn’t blow away the competition like a lot of award winners do, deGrom was consistent enough all season long to earn the honor. Putting together a stat line of a 2.69 ERA over 22 games started to go along with 144 strikeouts, deGrom gave the Mets something to look forward to moving forward. Once their ace, Matt Harvey, returns in 2015, Jacob deGrom should be a strong number two starter in that rotation, likely having a Rookie of the Year award under his belt.
Watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the American League this season, with players such as Masahiro Tanaka, Collin McHugh, Dellin Betances and Jose Abreu all having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award.
Masahiro Tanaka came over from Japan in the offseason, where he had previously dominated the opposition. Picking up right where he left off for the Yankees, Tanaka put himself well in line to become the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star game, and began to be seen as the favorite to win the R.O.Y. award. However, shortly before the All-Star break, things fell apart. Getting hit with injuries, Tanaka wasn’t able to return until the very last portion of the year. And therefore, while he should be one of the top vote getters, with his 2.77 ERA over 20 starts, Tanaka will ultimately not receive the award.
Another pitcher who’s in the mix for Rookie of the Year, having stayed healthy throughout the season unlike Tanaka, is Collin McHugh. Pitching for an Astros team that had very few standout players, McHugh went 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA over the course of 25 games started. While he had a few poor outings this season, for the most part McHugh had a dominant string of performances. Any other season McHuch would be a top candidate for the Rookie of the Year, but this season the talent level of American League rookies was simply too great.
Dellin Betances was by far the most impressive rookie of the pitchers on my list. Posting a mere 1.40 ERA over the course of 70 games pitched, in which he held opponents to a mere .149 batting average, Betances was one of the most successful players on the Yankees in 2014. In addition to the low ERA, Betances struck out a staggering 135 batters, setting the new Yankee strikeout record for a relief pitcher, formerly held by Mariano Rivera. While I feel Betances should be seen as the top young relief pitcher in baseball, he unfortunately just misses out for top A.L. rookie of 2014.
For me, there’s no other choice for 2014 American League Rookie of the Year over the White Sox’ Jose Abreu. Getting signed out of Cuba during the offseason, Abreu came to the Sox with high expectations surrounding him. But instead of buckling under the pressure, Abreu thrived on it. Batting .317 on the year, along with 36 home runs and 107 RBI’s, Abreu had a season you very rarely see out of a rookie. Although he didn’t reach the all-time home run mark by a rookie of 49, Abreu did more than enough to deserve the American League Rookie of the Year award.
After a fantastic outing by their starting pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, the Washington Nationals appeared to be on their way to tying up the National League Division Series at a game apiece with the San Francisco Giants when they held a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the ninth inning on Saturday night. But a Pablo Sandoval RBI double, which extended his postseason hitting streak to thirteen straight games, quickly let the air out of an ecstatic Nationals team.
And things only got worse from there.
With the Nationals failing to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, the game proceeded to remain scoreless for the following eight innings. Upon reaching the 18th inning, the game subsequently tied the record for number of innings in postseason game history, set back in 2005.
Following the extended run drought, the Giants finally changed things in the top of the 18th inning with a solo shot off the bat of Brandon Belt, who was previously 0-6, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead.
The Nationals would send Danny Espinosa, Denard Span, Anthony Rendon — whose four hits on the night set a new franchise playoff record — and Jayson Werth to the plate in the bottom half, but they did little of anything against the Giants’ flamethrower, Hunter Strickland.
With the final out recorded, the game officially broke the playoff record for game length of 5 hours and 50 minutes set in 2005, lasting a staggering 6 hours and 23 minutes. The series now heads to San Francisco, with the Giants one win away from advancing to the National League Championship Series.
Although it’s not decided yet who the Giants will play if they wind up overtaking the Nationals, either the Dodgers or the Cardinals will be in for a battle. I have to admit I didn’t give the Giants, who have now won ten straight postseason games, nearly enough credit with my postseason predictions. They really have impressed me so far.
Having won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, they’re somewhat jokingly (and somewhat seriously) in line to possibly win the World Series again, in this yet another even calendar year. Although the Fall Classic is another couple of weeks away, and the Giants have several key games to get through first before they have any shot at World Series glory, you have to be happy with how things are looking if you’re a fan of the Giants.