Tom Verducci's World Series preview
2:41 | MLB
Tom Verducci's World Series preview

After two rounds and a Wild-Card Game each, the Royals and Giants have captured their respective pennants and now fight for the World Series. But how does each team stack up against its opponent in the Fall Classic?

To find out, check out our position-by-position breakdown, as Cliff Corcoran (Giants) and Jay Jaffe (Royals) break down the starting lineups, rotations, bullpens, benches and managers for each team. See who has the edge at the plate, on the mound and in the dugout for this year's unexpected World Series matchup.

Complete postseason schedule, start times and TV listings

AVG: .311 | OBP: .364 | SLG: .491 | HR: 22 | RBI: 89 AVG: .260 | OBP: .289 | SLG: .403 | HR: 17 | RBI: 70

The 2012 National League Most Valuable Player and 2010 Rookie of the Year, Posey is simply the best everyday player on either roster in this World Series. In the postseason, he has hit .302, though without an extra-base hit, and he led the Giants during the regular season in all three slash stats (.311/.364/.490) as well as OPS (.854), OPS+ (143), home runs (22) and RBIs (89). Behind the plate, he posted an above-average caught-stealing percentage (30 percent) and ranked among the best pitch-framers in the game. The 27-year-old Posey is the only player to have appeared in all 41 of the Giants’ postseason games under Bruce Bochy, having started 39 of them behind the plate and the other two (both in 2012) at first base.

After batting a combined .301/.331/.451 in nearly a thousand plate appearances from 2011-13, Perez tailed off dramatically this year, and it's not hard to understand why. His 143 starts were 10 more than any other catcher in the majors, and he was behind the plate for 66 1/3 more innings than any other backstop; from June 1 through July 12, he started 37 of the Royals' 38 games. The workload took a toll. He had hit a stellar .287/.334/.455 through June but produced just a .234/.244/.355 line thereafter, playing through numerous aches and pains. He's caught every inning of the team's postseason run, despite conks on the head via the backswings of Josh Hamilton and Alejandro De Aza, the first of which generated a concussion scare. Perhaps not coincidentally, Perez is hitting just .118/.143/.118 with four hits and a walk in 35 postseason PA, at times taking particularly poor at-bats.

Defensively, Perez has a strong reputation — perhaps even overstated — due mostly to his arm. He threw out 30 percent of would-be base thieves, three points better than the league average. Thanks in part to a staff that does a good job of holding baserunners, he allowed fewer steals per nine innings (0.41) than all but three of the 35 catchers with at least 500 innings caught. That said, he was 7.3 runs below average via Baseball Prospectus' pitch framing metrics and another 4.0 below average via their pitch blocking metrics, his fourth straight year in the red on both fronts.

EDGE: Giants


AVG: .243 | OBP: .306 | SLG: .449 | HR: 12 | RBI: 27 AVG: .270 | OBP: .318 | SLG: .398 | HR: 9 | RBI: 58

A pair of errant throws undermined Belt’s attempt to follow up what looked like a breakout age-25 season (.289/.360/.481, 139 OPS+, 17 HR in 2013). On May 9, his left thumb was broken by a pitch, requiring surgery and keeping him sidelined until July. Barely more than two weeks after his return, Belt was hit in the face during batting practice, resulting in a concussion that kept him out of action for all but six games until Sept. 17.

Belt’s big improvement in 2013 was his career-high isolated power (slugging minus batting average) of .193, and before the thumb injury this year, he had hit nine home runs in 139 plate appearances, for a .240 ISO. Since returning from that injury, however, he has hit just four more home runs in 140 PA (postseason included) for a .134 ISO. This October, Belt has hit .286 with an excellent .409 on-base percentage, but his 18th-inning home run in NLDS Game 2 against the Nationals remains his only extra-base hit in 44 PA.

As he did in 2012 and for the first part of 2013, Hosmer put up underwhelming overall numbers en route to a 98 OPS+, but a stress fracture in his right hand — sustained via a hit-by-pitch — interrupted his progress as he was heating up, costing him nearly all of August. He hit just .246/.288/.343 with four homers through June, but even with the injury he batted a sizzling .321/.379/.521 the rest of the way. Hosmer has carried that hot streak into the postseason, hitting .448/.556/.759 through 36 PA, with two home runs in the Division Series.

Hosmer didn't show as wide a platoon split in 2014 as in years past, but there's no denying that he's weaker against lefties (.265/.308/.363 career) than righties (.280/.338/.444). Don’t be surprised if the Giants match Jeremy Affeldt or Javier Lopez against him in a high-leverage, late-inning situation.

Defensively, though he won the AL Gold Glove last year, the metrics place him as only slightly above average; he was three runs above via Defensive Runs Saved for the second straight year, and in that span, he's a combined 2.1 runs above average via Ultimate Zone Rating.

EDGE: Royals


AVG: .305 | OBP: .343 | SLG: .368 | HR: 1 | RBI: 18 AVG: .252 | OBP: .295 | SLG: .337 | HR: 6 | RBI: 66

The Giants’ top pick the year after their 2010 championship, Panik was taken 29th overall in the 2011 amateur draft. A shortstop at St. John’s University, Panik raked in the low minors but struggled upon simultaneously making the leap to Double A and moving to second base in 2013. He snapped back into form at Triple A Fresno this year, however, hitting .321/.382/.447. After some initial struggles in his first real major league opportunities in late June and July, Panik finally solved the Giants’ second base problem in August in the wake of the Dan Uggla experiment, hitting .345/.375/.423 over 204 PA from Aug. 4 through the end of the regular season.

Panik went 3-for-5 in the Wild-Card Game against the Pirates but has cooled off since then, batting .195 in the NLDS and NLCS combined. Still, his bat clearly plays in the major leagues and against fellow lefties, making the 23-year-old a potential long-term solution at the keystone for the Giants. His career minor league line of .296/.365/.403 is a fair baseline for expectations of his future production.

Signed to a four-year, $30 million deal this past winter, the 32-year-old Infante stopped the Royals' revolving door at second base, but that's about it. His slash stats (.252/.295/.337) were his worst since 2005, his 76 OPS+ and 0.7 WAR his worst marks since ‘07. A herniated disc that sidelined him for 19 days in May certainly didn't help, nor did a sore right (throwing) shoulder that briefly shelved him in late August. In the field, he was more or less average according to the metrics. He's hit just .207/.294/.207 in 34 PA this postseason, though after getting on base just three times in the Wild Card and Division Series combined, he reached seven times in the four LCS games.

EDGE: Giants


AVG: .246 | OBP: .324 | SLG: .368 | HR: 10 | RBI: 69 AVG: .285 | OBP: .317 | SLG: .377 | HR: 3 | RBI: 50

Always an excellent fielder, the 27-year-old Crawford’s hitting has improved slowly but steadily over his four major league seasons. This season, he posted career highs in on-base percentage (.324), slugging (.389), home runs (10), triples (10), total bases (191), unintentional walks (49), runs (54), RBIs (69), and just about any total-offense or total-value stat you can think of (from OPS through WAR). Those are still not impact numbers, but with the average shortstop having hit .255/.310/.368 in 2014, Crawford is no longer a player whose glove makes his bat playable, but one who is above-average on both sides of the ball.

An iron man who played in all 162 games, Escobar rebounded from a terrible 2013 at the plate to post a solid 2014. Though unable to string together two strong months in a row, he finished with a 92 OPS+, two points above the average AL shortstop. After going a perfect 22-for-22 in stolen bases last year, he swiped 31 in 37 attempts this season; his total ranked fifth in the AL, and via Baseball Prospectus' baserunning numbers, his +5.3 runs on his steals and other advancement opportunities (hits, outs, wild pitches and passed balls) placed him fifth in the league as well. Though he has a reputation as a slick fielder, he was nothing spectacular this year (-4 DRS, +1.6 UZR). He's hit .278/.297/.417 in 36 postseason plate appearances, including a homer in the ALCS.

EDGE: Giants


AVG: .279 | OBP: .324 | SLG: .415 | HR: 16 | RBI: 73 AVG: .212 | OBP: .271 | SLG: .361 | HR: 15 | RBI: 54

Sandoval managed to avoid the disabled list this year for the first time since 2010, but his good health didn’t arrest his decline at the plate. His isolated power of .136 this season was a career low, and his rate of one unintentional walk every 19.2 PA was his worst since 2011. Sandoval is still more productive than the average third baseman at the plate, and a fine fielder despite his girth, but one could argue that the former two-time All-Star and 2012 World Series MVP was no more valuable this year than Crawford. True to form, Sandoval’s hot hitting this postseason has been primarily batting-average driven, as just four of his 14 hits have gone for extra-bases, all of them doubles. The five times he has reached base without the benefit of a hit include an intentional walk and a hit-by-pitch.

Take away his postseason run and Moustakas looks like a failed prospect. The 25-year-old has a career .236/.290/.379 line through four seasons and was even worse than that (.212/.271/.361) this year, with only a career-best 2.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio offering a positive trend. His four homers during this eight-game run, two of them extra-inning game-winners, have certainly come as a surprise, but even so, he's hitting just .241/.267/.655 in 31 PA. For his career, he's got a sizable platoon split, batting .245/.297/.396 against righties but just .211/.267/.328 against lefties. Though Moustakas has come up with a few big defensive plays in October, the metrics view him as another more or less average defender (-2 DRS, +2.6 UZR).

EDGE: Giants


AVG: .274 | OBP: .333 | SLG: .397 | HR: 2 | RBI: 15 AVG: .266 | OBP: .351 | SLG: .432 | HR: 19 | RBI: 74

Drafted by the Giants in the 21st round in 2002 and given early-round money to skip college, Ishikawa briefly looked like he might be the organization’s first baseman of the future, but his bat wouldn’t cooperate. He did get a ring as a reserve on the 2010 team, but he was outrighted off the 40-man roster that winter. It was then that the Giants tried to expand his repertoire to include the outfield, but he would pass through five other organizations and return to the one that drafted him before getting to ply that new skill in the majors.

Ishikawa opened 2014 as the Pirates’ starting first baseman, but was released before April was over. He returned to the Giants, then spent most of the next three months with their Triple A team in Fresno before Belt’s concussion made room for him on the 25-man roster. It was the simultaneous injuries to Angel Pagan and Michael Morse at the end of the season that forced the Giants to try Ishikawa in leftfield, giving him his first major league start in the outfield on Sept. 25. He has acquitted himself well there since, both in the field and with a big NLCS performance (1.198 OPS) capped by a pennant-clinching home run. It’s a nice story, but he remains a career .259/.322/.397 hitter who wilts against lefties and requires a late-game defensive replacement.

No player on the Royals deserves a moment in the spotlight as much as Gordon. Thanks to a combination of off-the-charts defense and above-average hitting, the 30-year-old former number two overall draft pick hasn't merely been Kansas City’s best position player for the past four seasons, he's also been one of the game's best players. His 24.0 WAR since in that time ranks eighth, and he’s been in the AL's top 10 three times, including this year, when his 6.6 WAR ranked seventh.

While a September slump cost him about 30 points of OPS, his final numbers were well ahead of what he did in 2013; his .351 OBP, .432 slugging percentage and 117 OPS+ were all team highs, as was his home run total. His platoon split was virtually nil (five points of OPS), though for his career, it's more substantial (.275/.355/.443 vs. righties, .253/.325/.418 vs. lefties). His 10th-inning home run in Game 1 of the ALCS proved decisive, but he followed that with five consecutive strikeouts; overall, he's batting .222/.400/.444 with 11 whiffs in 35 PA during this postseason.

Thanks to good range and a great arm, Gordon led all major league leftfielders in both DRS (27) and UZR (22.6); he's been at least 16 runs better than average in the former for four straight years and at least 12 above average in the latter for three of the past four. He's made numerous huge defensive plays in October, including four in the ALCS clincher.

EDGE: Royals


AVG: .260 | OBP: .333 | SLG: .374 | HR: 5 | RBI: 38 AVG: .301 | OBP: .339 | SLG: .412 | HR: 5 | RBI: 53

Blanco has been a very valuable fourth outfielder for San Francisco over the last three seasons. He has no power and doesn’t hit for much average, but he’s a slick fielder who can play all three pastures, he can steal a base and his willingness to draw a walk makes him far more valuable at the plate than his slash stats would suggest. Blanco has a career .344 on-base percentage, and his .333 mark this year was the third-best figure among the hitters on the Giants’ World Series roster. Blanco has also become a postseason fixture for San Francisco, replacing Melky Cabrera in leftfield in 2012 after Cabrera’s drug suspension and replacing Pagan, who had season-ending back surgery in Sept. 25, in center this year.

Cain is one of this month's breakout performers, having earned ALCS MVP honors thanks to his 8-for-15 performance and defensive wizardry while hitting .353/.378/.441 through 38 PA overall. The 28-year-old speedster — the top piece acquired from the Brewers in the Zack Greinke deal — was the Royals' second-most valuable position player during the season, accumulating 5.0 WAR while setting career highs in batting average, OBP (.339), OPS+ (108) and steals (28 in 33 attempts). For the second year in a row, he was 24 runs above average according to DRS, excelling both in centerfield (+14) and rightfield (+10). He’s played the latter often as part of a late-inning substitution in which Jarrod Dyson comes off the bench and takes over the middle while Cain replaces Nori Aoki in right, something that's happened in all eight of K.C.'s postseason games.

EDGE: Royals


AVG: .277 | OBP: .332 | SLG: .445 | HR: 20 | RBI: 74 AVG: .285 | OBP: .349 | SLG: .360 | HR: 1 | RBI: 43

Pence is the kind of player who is good at everything but great at nothing and is thus easily underrated. That’s even more true in Pence’s case given how awkward he looks doing most of those things, something we now know is the result of a childhood case of Scheuermann’s Disease. Pence regularly provides his teams with a .280 average, 20 home runs, 50 walks, 10-20 steals at varying success rates, and he has a knack for making key catches in rightfield. He has also played in 383 consecutive games, starting all but one of them, a total that doesn’t count the Giants’ 26 postseason games since 2012, all of which he has also started.

A Japanese import in his third season stateside and first with the Royals, the 32-year-old Aoki is a contact-oriented hitter who struck out in a team-low 8.9 percent of all plate appearances. After hitting a combined 18 homers for the Brewers in 2012 and ‘13, his power dried up in 2014, but don't blame Kauffman Stadium; Aoki hit .322/.383/.419 at home, compared to a road line of .251/.318/.306, including his lone home run. While he's got speed, his 17-for-25 showing on stolen bases marked his second straight year with a success rate below 70 percent. He's shown a reverse platoon split since coming over, batting .319/.371/.405 against lefties compared to .273/.346/.380 against righties. He tied with Escobar for the team lead in sacrifice hits with eight and bunted more often overall (24 times) than any other Royal. In the postseason, he's hit .259/.344/.259, failing to produce an extra-base hit but striking out just once in 32 PA.

Aoki's defense has been hard to read; while he was eight runs below average this year according to DRS, he was 18 above in his two years in Milwaukee, and he has been a combined 8.2 above according to UZR. His arm is a plus but his routes can be adventurous. He almost invariably yields to the Dyson/Cain shift late in close games.

EDGE: Giants



Assuming the Giants don’t alter their roster for the World Series, the San Francisco bench will be entirely righthanded, with three rookies among its five members. Bounced from leftfield by a late-season oblique strain that kept him out of the Wild-Card Game and the Division Series, Michael Morse will draw his first starts since August as the designated hitter in Kansas City, giving the Giants a big, righthanded power bat in that position, while providing the same off the bench in San Francisco. Morse hit .279/.336/.475 during the regular season, a near-match for his career rates, and was 2-for-4 as a pinch-hitter in the NLCS with a game-tying home run in the decisive fifth game. However, while Morse has put up representative numbers as a pinch-hitter in his career, he has hit just .220/.250/.276 over a larger sample (132 PA) as a DH.

Juan Perez, one of the aforementioned rookies, is the defensive replacement for Ishikawa in the late innings as well as the backup for Blanco in center and is thus likely to see the most action after Morse. Joaquin Arias and Matt Duffy are the utility infielders. Duffy, another rookie, is also the team’s fastest pinch-runner, having memorably tied Game 2 of the NLCS by scoring from second base on a wild pitch in the top of the ninth inning. Andrew Susac is the third rookie and the team’s backup catcher. With a .792 OPS, he’s also the best bat on the bench aside from Morse, not that the others provide much competition.

After hitting a combined .298/.364/.459 from 2007-13 , the 28-year-old Billy Butler set across-the-board career lows this season, batting a meager .271/.323/.379 en route to a 95 OPS+. Digging into the PITCHf/x data, while he continued to hit fastballs well, he showed considerably less power against them than in the past, with his ISO (slugging percentage minus batting average) dropping from a meaty .209 (2008-2013) to a mere .136. Meanwhile, he was eaten alive by breaking stuff, hitting just .204 with a .280 SLG against curves and sliders. Righties ate his lunch and the sack, too, holding him to a .255/.301/.352 line; for the course of his full career, he's hit a respectable .288/.347/.424 against them while demolishing lefties at a .314/.393/.519 clip.

All of which is to say that when the series shifts to San Francisco, if manager Ned Yost is playing the percentages, he might want to consider starting Butler in Hosmer's place against Madison Bumgarner in a potential Game 5. Butler played first during Hosmer's injury; for his career, he's about seven runs below average there per year.

Elsewhere on the Royals' bench, the key weapon is the lefty-swinging Dyson, who hit .269/.324/.327 and stole 36 bases in 43 attempts; he's entered five postseason games as a pinch-runner and finished all eight in centerfield, where he was an impressive +14 DRS in part-time duty. Late-season callup Terrance Gore is a pinch-running specialist who in 16 total games (regular season and playoffs) has batted just twice while going 8-for-8 in steals with six runs scored. Righty Josh Willingham is the top DH alternative to Butler and the longball threat, though he hit just .215/.346/.397 with 14 homers this year and has been limited to two postseason PA. Jayson Nix was added to the World Series roster in place of Christian Colon; Nix can play the outfield while Colon is strictly an infielder, but he hit only .133 in 2014 with three teams and didn't have a hit in seven games for the Royals. Backup catcher Eric Kratz, who has yet to play an inning this postseason, is an above-average framer, blocker and thrower who hit just .218/.243/.391 split between Toronto and K.C. this year.




Just as Posey is the best hitter on either team, Madison Bumgarner, who will start Game 1 for San Francisco, is the best pitcher on either team. The 25-year-old lefty has posted a 1.42 ERA through his first four starts this postseason, each lasting at least seven innings, starting with a dominant, 10-strikeout shutout of the Pirates in the Wild-Card Game and including 7 2/3 scoreless innings in NLCS Game 1 against the Cardinals.

The 25-year-old lefty will be followed in the series by three veteran righties in Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong.

Peavy, who won the World Series with the Red Sox last year, will start Game 2. He pitched surprisingly well after coming over to the Giants in a late-July trade, shrinking his walk and homer rates and experiencing some correction in his batting average on balls in play. In two starts this postseason, he has allowed just two runs in 9 2/3 innings, but he has also walked six men against only five strikeouts. Peavy has made seven career postseason starts in his career, but is still looking for his first quality start.

Hudson, who will pitch Game 3 when the series comes to San Francisco, had an 8.72 ERA in September while struggling with a hip issue. He’s been far better in his two postseason starts, allowing five runs in 13 2/3 innings and striking out 13 without walking a batter (though he did hit one).

Vogelsong, the Game 4 starter, rebounded from a dismal, injury-plagued 2013 season with improvements in peripherals, velocity and luck. Still, his ERA+ was just 87, and he was lit up in his NLCS start (3 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 4 R). That was a sharp break from his five previous postseason starts, in which he had compiled a 1.19 ERA, among them his Division Series start against the Nationals in which he allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings.

During the regular season, the Royals' rotation ranked second in the AL in quality start rate (59 percent) and fourth in ERA (3.60) but just ninth in FIP (3.89). They were one of only two AL teams that had four starters each post an ERA+ of 100 or better, with Jeremy Guthrie (96 ERA+) a particularly effective fifth starter. Guthrie is part of the postseason rotation because lefty Danny Duffy, whose 157 SERA+ led the team, has been relegated to the bullpen due to workload concerns. During the postseason, the unit has delivered a 3.80 ERA, but registered only three quality starts, with Yost growing increasingly aggressive in turning the game over to his A-list relievers.

Staff workhorse James Shields (3.21 ERA, 3.59 FIP) will start Game 1; he's been wobbly in two of his three postseason starts but has nonetheless whiffed 15 in 16 innings. Game 2 starter Yordano Ventura (3.20 ERA, 3.60 FIP) is the velocity king, owner of the majors' fastest average speeds on his four-seam fastball (98.3 mph), sinker (97.6 mph) and cutter (94.7 mph), though for all that heat, the 23-year-old rookie struck out just 7.8 per nine this year. If their ALCS order holds, Guthrie (4.13 ERA, 4.32 FIP) will start Game 3 and lefty Jason Vargas (3.71 ERA, 3.80 FIP) Game 4. Neither misses many bats but both have low walk rates, with the latter issuing just 1.8 unintentional passes per nine. Vargas didn't smother lefties the way Duffy did, but he did hold them to a .268/.306/.355 line.

EDGE: Giants



Santiago Casilla took over closer’s job at midseason and converted 21 of 22 save chances. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 12 appearances dating back to mid-September.

Sergio Romo lost the closer job by blowing three of five saves in late June, but quickly reestablished himself as Casilla’s primary set-up man and has returned to dominance over the last three months, allowing just three runs in his last 30 appearances for a 1.13 ERA, stranding all eight of his inherited runners and striking out 23 men against just one walk over that span.

Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez give manager Bruce Bochy a pair of lefthanded options out of the bullpen. Affeldt hasn’t allowed a run in his last 17 appearances and has actually been even harder on righties (.228 average allowed) than lefties (.231) this year. Lopez, who is more of a pure matchup reliever, held southpaws to a .194/.248/.290 line during the regular season.

Yusmeiro Petit is the long man and has combined with Casilla, Romo, Affeldt and Lopez to allow just one run in 28 2/3 innings this postseason, though that came on a walk-off home run by the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong off Romo in Game 2 of the NLCS.

During the regular season, the Royals' 3.27 ERA was fifth in the league, and they were one percentage point worse than average (29 percent) when it came to allowing inherited runners to score. The unit's 3.29 FIP ranked second in the league on the strength of a league-low home run rate, which included setup men Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis becoming the first teammates in baseball history to throw at least 50 innings in relief without allowing a single homer; Davis didn't even allow an extra-base hit until July 31. Furthermore, Herrera (1.41 ERA), Davis (1.00) and closer Greg Holland (1.44) made the Royals the first team in history in which three relievers posted ERAs of 1.50 or better while throwing at least 50 innings. In addition, Kansas City is only the second blub in which multiple relievers posted FIPs below 2.00, something Davis (1.19) and Holland (1.83) managed this year.

With Yost adhering to a rigid formula — Herrera for the seventh, Davis the eighth and Holland the ninth — the Royals went 65-4 in games they led through six innings, and 72-1 through seven, both AL bests. Thanks to an increased willingness to use the two setup men for more than an inning (something Herrera has done three times in the postseason, Davis twice), a trio that accounted for 14 percent of the team's regular season innings has upped its share to 32 percent in the postseason, that while delivering a combined 1.05 ERA and 10.5 strikeouts per nine.

The bullpen as a whole has put forth a 1.80 postseason ERA with more than a strikeout per inning and just a .220 SLG allowed. Outside of the big three, 21-year-old rookie lefty Brandon Finnegan, a 2014 draft pick, has gotten the most work in the playoffs, making five appearances totaling 4 1/3 innings; with a bit more action, he could surpass his regular-season major league total of seven innings. Veteran righty Jason Frasor has four postseason appearances; acquired from Texas on July 16, he posted a 2.66 ERA and 8.7 strikeouts per nine in 47 1/3 innings during the regular season. Duffy, who has just one postseason inning, is presumably the long man, which leaves 5-foot-7 lefty Tim Collins — who has pitched just two-thirds of an inning so far — the short man (ba-dum-pum).



Bruce Bochy Ned Yost

Bochy was 2-4 in postseason series as the manager of the Padres from 1995 to 2006 and is 8-0 in postseason series as the Giants’ skipper over the past five seasons, a tally which doesn’t include the team’s Wild-Card Game victory this year. The Giants entered this postseason as an 88-win wild-card team and have already secured their third pennant in five years and the fourth of Bochy’s managerial career. It says something about Bochy’s leadership that players such as Romo, Lincecum and Morse have shifted into lesser roles without any loss in enthusiasm, and that he has established so many young players in his eight years at the helm in San Francisco, most notably Bumgarner, Posey and the entire starting infield. He has also had a surprising run of success with veteran cast-offs such as Blanco, Casilla, Petit and Vogelsong.

Strategically, Bochy’s greatest asset is his flexibility. He neither favors nor eschews any particular tactic, appearing to react to the game as it develops rather than coming to it with a preconceived notion of where to force the action. He’s not above getting his hands dirty, either. He led the majors by calling for five squeeze bunts (a lost art) this season, but he’s not an excessive meddler, either. His flexibility is most apparent in his astute use of the bullpen, which outside of the closer has no hard-and-fast roles, allowing him to use his high-leverage arms in high-leverage situations as the game, not the inning, dictates. He even used his closer in a tied game on the road in Game 2 of the Division Series! (That’s a good thing, by the way.)

The 60-year-old Yost has been a lightning rod for criticism for most of his 11 years as a major league manager, not all of it unfairly; his tactical weaknesses were his undoing for the playoff-bound 2008 Brewers, who jettisoned him in mid-September of that year. He's built a reputation based on small-ball tendencies, set lineups and rigid bullpen usage patterns, though not all of those are applicable at the moment.

Under Yost, the Royals do run more than any other team, and they're darn good at it, leading the league with 152 steals and ranking a close second with an 81 percent success rate. They're 13-for-16 in the postseason, and 9-for-9 from the eighth inning onward thanks in part to having Dyson and Gore as weapons off the bench. During the regular season, they used the hit-and-run more than any other AL team, but their tendency to bunt was overstated; they ranked just seventh in the AL in sacrifices (33) and fifth in total bunt attempts (85). They've gotten more bunt-happy in the postseason, with seven sacrifices, but to be fair, four have come in the eighth inning or later, in tight games where playing for one run was more easily justified.

As for Yost's other tactical quirks on both sides of the ball, the Royals' 51 pinch-hit appearances and 14 intentional walks were both league lows by a wide margin. Yost was the second-best AL manager in terms of instant replay; he was successful 62 percent of the time on 35 challenges.

While Yost won't be confused with a strong tactical manager such as his World Series counterpart Bruce Bochy, his Dyson/Cain/Aoki arrangement is an innovation that counts to his credit, and he's done some on-the-fly learning in the playoffs. He emptied his bench in the service of a remarkable late-inning comeback in the Wild-Card game and has grown more aggressive in handing his best relievers even more innings; he’s also cut back the bunts (just two in the ALCS). Other than the Wild-Card Game, we haven't seen had to see Yost manage from behind because you can count the innings in which the Royals have trailed on one hand. How he'll improvise if a starter is forced from the game early or if his lineup needs a jump-start remains to be seen.

EDGE: Giants

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