Given that these are both Wildcard teams that fought their way through a do-or-die Wildcard game, a League Division Series and a League Championship series, it’s kind of double-plus cool!
That the KC Royals have won eight games (losing none) is Major League Baseball history. No team has ever won their first eight post-season games. In the Division Series era, only one other team has ever swept their way to the World Series.
The Colorado Rockies, in 2007, went 3-0 against the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS and 4-0 against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS. Then they went down to the Boston Red Sox 0-4 in the World Series, but they did win their first seven post-season games.
Before the Divisional Series era, in 1976, the Cincinnati Reds also won their first seven post-season games. They took the Philadelphia Phillies 3-0 in the NLCS and then went on to sweep the New York Yankees 4-0 in the World Series. As such, the Reds did sweep the entire post-season that year, but that consists of only the NLCS and World Series.
The Boston Red Sox, in 2004, did come back from an 0-3 hole in the ALCS to win four games against the New York Yankees and then went on to sweep the World Series in four games against the St Louis Cardinals.
So winning eight straight games in post-season is currently a tie. Should the Royals manage to win the first game (which will be played in their home ballpark), then they will break the all-time record for most consecutive games, period.
The “C” in KC Royals seems to also stand for Cinderella! This team hasn’t been to the ball since 1985! The Giants will be fearsome opponents, but I’d love to see the Royals go all the way.
If you’re not into baseball stats, you can tune out now; the rest of this post looks at the numbers for the Royals and other post-season teams. Perhaps you might enjoy the Haiku For the Royals in the Moar Bazball post.
Okay, let’s talk stats. First, let’s take a look at how the Royals did at the plate:
The stat that stands out most to me there is the Runs/Game: 5.25 is noticeably above the League average of 4.07 in 2014. And as you can see from the differential (Δ), the Royals did better than their opponents in every category (and, in particular, held their opponents to a measly 3.25 R/G).
As a reference point, in the regular season this year, the Royals averaged 4.01 R/G and posted a .263/.313/.376 slash line. They ranked fourth in the League, with 1465 hits, and they ranked third in not being shut out (with only 7 SHO).
I like looking at offense in terms of percentages of Plate Appearances (PA). Here’s how the Royals stack up in terms of key percentages:
They actually did just ever so slightly worse than their opponents in Home Runs (HR%), and you want to do worse when it comes to striking out (K%). In fact, the Royals are not known for power — they had the least number of Home Runs in the league this year!
The 12.84% Runs percentage is very good. Again, as a reference point, during the 2014 season, they had a Runs percentage of 10.73% and a Home Runs percentage of 1.57%.
Baseball tends to be hugely about pitching, and post-season especially can be dominated by pitching (although, as the stats above show, the Royals were hard to dominate). Here’s a look at the Royals’ pitching stats:
If only my Minnesota Twins could pitch like this. The Royals’ bullpen, especially, has been “lights out!” Only 5% of the batters faced by the ‘pen had Runs! And just over one-quarter of them struck out!
Okay, so how about them Giants? Here’s the same tables for the Orange and Black:
What strikes me here is that the Giants were close to League average in R/G, but they did even better than the Royals in keeping their opponents from hitting or scoring. Their averages are lower than the Royals’, and generally speaking so are their batting percentages:
But they did better than their opponents (except for Home Runs), and that’s what matters!
The reference points for the Giants: During the 2014 season, they had a Runs percentage of 10.88% (averaging 4.09 R/G) and a Home Runs percentage of 2.16%. Their slash line was .255/.311/.389.
And finally, Giants’ pitching:
That is some pretty awesome pitching! Giants’ starters struck out more and walked fewer than the Royals’ did (although the Royals’ bullpen has a better K%). The sub-1.00 WHIP in all categories is impressive!
One consideration is that the Giants’ starters went deeper in games than the Royals’ starters. Starters for the Giants pitched to 65.5% of batters faced, the starters for the Royals pitched to only 56.9%.
Lastly, a stat that interests me is Runs/Hit, a measure of offensive efficiency. It’s thrown off a little by Home Runs, but basically it looks at how well a team gets runners home.
The Royals convert about 57% of their hits to runs (versus only about 40% for their opponents, which highlights the Royals’ strong defense).
The Giants convert about 47% of their hits, certainly lower, but they hold their opponents down to about 35%, so they are also defensively strong.
[If you’re wondering about the vagueness of those numbers, all those “abouts”, it’s because I track that stat as an overall average (total-Runs/total-Hits) and as an average across all games’ Runs/Hits. The numbers above split the difference.]
All-in-all, it should be an exciting World Series. The fun begins October 21st in Kansas City. GO ROYALS!!