San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals Share Winning Postseason Formula


As was reflected in the scoreline in the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals, which ended in a one-run Game Seven, the two teams were incredibly evenly matched in more ways than one. The Giants have become a modern-day dynasty, winning three World Series in the last five years, and the Royals have the potential to follow a similar path with back-to-back trips to the Fall Classic already under their belts along with the claim to fame of bringing the Commissioner’s Trophy to Kansas City for the first time in 30 years. Their incredible success comes from following the same formula, one that will be looked at as the gold standard for other teams to emulate as the 2015 offseason begins.

Both teams play a similar small-ball style of baseball, putting the ball in play and limiting strikeouts to increase offensive production down the length of the lineup as opposed to hoping for a big home run from the middle of the order. In the 2015 regular season the Royals were the hardest team to strike out in all of Major League Baseball with only 973 strikeouts throughout the whole season, and the Giants weren’t far ahead with 1,159. Comparatively the Chicago Cubs, who struggled to produce runs against the talented pitching staff of the New York Mets in the NLCS, lead baseball with 1,518 punch outs for the season.

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They also are remarkably similar with regards to batting average. The Royals had the third best batting average in MLB with .269 for the year and the Giants were right behind them with a .267 average, showcasing the ability of both teams to put the ball in play consistently. Though they ranked towards the bottom in home runs, they were able to manufacture runs in other ways, an ability that served them very well in the postseason. They just never seem to quit offensively, making them very difficult to beat.

It is a perennial baseball proverb that pitching and defense win championships, and nowhere can that more clearly be demonstrated than with the Royals and Giants. Both teams have shown incredible strength within their pitching staffs and bullpens, as shown by their key extra-innings victories in the last two postseasons. The Giants won the 18-inning marathon game against the Nationals in game two of the 2014 NLDS on the backs of a huge performance by their bullpen, and the Royals did the same in the 14-inning Game 1 and the 12-inning Game 2 of the World Series this year.

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In the regular season, the Giants and Royals’ pitchers were separated in ERA by one hundredth of a point, 3.73 and 3.72 respectively. In the postseason, between complete games from Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto and relief performances from Jeremy Affeldt and Wade Davis, both teams’ staffs excelled under the bright lights of October.

Defensively, both teams flashed the leather all season and postseason long. The Giants lay claim to the second best defensive efficiency percentage in baseball, meaning that they convert 70.6% of the balls put in plays to outs, and the Royals aren’t far behind with 70.1% efficiency. And between the two of them, they have produced more highlight reel defensive plays than can be counted, assisted by both team’s four Gold Glove nominees, the most in their respective leagues.

The similarities between these two teams extends even into the very makeup of their organizations. General Managers Dayton Moore and Brian Sabean (and now Bobby Evans) both followed nearly identical paths in putting together core groups that are likely to continue to succeed together in the very near future.

By capitalizing on high draft picks gained from years of struggles, the Royals accumulated Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Greg Holland, and then they added among others Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera through amateur free agent signings. Add to that smart trades like the Zack Greinke trade, which gave them both 2014 ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain and 2015 ALCS MVP Alcides Escobar, and the James Shields trade which not only brought in a top-end starter who influenced their young rotation during his stay, but also Wade Davis, who has become one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

On the Giants’ side of things, they similarly complied talent through all avenues, with Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, and Matt Duffy all being drafted by the organization and with names like Sergio Romo originally being selected in the 28th round of the draft. They also used trades to build their roster, with Jake Peavy, Marlon Byrd, Mike Leake, and George Kontos all coming to San Francisco via trades and Hector Sanchez and Ehire Adrianza coming in by way of amateur free agent signings.

Next: San Francisco Giants: Let the Free Agency Frenzy Begin

These two teams play remarkably similar games and have the potential, barring injuries, of being highly competitive in the regular season and postseason for years to come. They were separated by just one run in 2014 and their mentalities and style of play along with the construction of their organizations serve as models to the rest of MLB. From pizza to potent offense, they share a great deal in common with each other and will be fun to watch in the coming years.