Duke Debates: San Francisco Giants

Pat Higgins | Sports Editor

The Giants enter their third World Series in five seasons just five days removed from a dramatic walk-off, pennant-winning home run from first baseman Travis Ishikawa in San Francisco. They face the Kansas City Royals, who have yet to lose a game in this year’s postseason.

The Giants first sank the Pirates at PNC Park earlier this month, and then strung together seven of nine wins first over the Nationals in the National League Division Series and then over the Cardinals in the Championship Series.

With a roster that includes seven players with World Series experience in both 2010 and 2012, the Giants enter the 2014 Fall Classic with the chance to become baseball’s latest dynasty. Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval headline a lineup that’s deep from top to bottom. Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Michael Morse, Travis Ishikawa and the rest of the cast have found ways to get around the bases to score runs. Not to mention Hunter Pence, who’s been a steal ever since he was acquired in a trade from the Phillies in 2012.

Starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner has emerged as the Giants’ ace after posting an 18-10 record and a 2.98 ERA during the regular season. In this year’s playoffs, he’s 2-1 with a 1.45 ERA in four starts, including a complete-game shutout over the Pirates in the Wild Card round. Overall, Giants starters are 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 10 games this postseason.

A trademark of their 2010 and 2012 World Series rosters, the Giants again tout a filthy bullpen that is crucial to success in October. Their top four relievers, Santiago Castilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, have combined to allow one run over 19.2 innings.

San Francisco will face an uphill battle traveling to Kauffman Stadium, where fans will experience their first taste of World Series play since 1985 in Games 1 and 2. The crowd should be wild in Kansas City, but if the Giants can manage to split the first two games, they’ll return to the West Coast with the chance to finish the Royals by the bay.

The Giants certainly have experience on their side, but the Royals have unquestionably demonstrated that their inexperience has no bearing on their performance. The Royals have mastered the art of producing in clutch situations, emerging victorious in four extra-inning games.

Winners of the Wild Card, the Giants return to the Fall Classic with a powerful lineup, a stocked rotation and a lights-out bullpen the formula for postseason success. They found ways to win games in 2010 and 2012, and many of the same faces remain in 2014.

If manager Bruce Bochy can navigate the Giants through the Fall Classic again, he’s a sure Hall of Famer. The last manager to win three titles in five years was Joe Torre, who guided the Yankees to three straight titles between 1998 and 2000.

The Royals have provided some of the most exciting stories and moments from the 2014 season, but the Giants’ combination of skill and experience will carry them to their third World Series crown in five years. They outmatch the Royals in starting and relief pitching, experience and power. If they split in Kansas City, they take over home-field advantage and return in Game 3 to the same field where they won the NL Pennant on a walk-off home-run.