On paper, the Royals aren't a special team. They hit the fewest home runs in baseball during the regular season and posted a middle-of-the road ERA and defensive efficiency ratio.
And yet, here they are hosting Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night against the Giants, who've won two of the past four championships. More incredibly, Kansas City has yet to drop a game this postseason, going 8-0 beginning with their wild-card game victory against the Athletics in 12 innings.
Although these Giants have quite a few holdovers from their World Series titles, they also needed a wild-card round win to kick-start their run. This year marks the first time since MLB expanded the postseason to five teams per league that each league's champion appeared in all three rounds before the World Series.
Here's a glance at how these teams matchup, along with a prediction for who will be the champs within about a week.
The Giants might have this World Series' two best hitters in their lineup, and they have a pair of rings each. Buster Posey (2012 NL MVP) is hitting .302 with five RBIs for San Francisco this postseason, and teammate Pablo Sandoval's (2012 World Series MVP) .326 average and four doubles lead the team.
That said, the Royals bats are uncharacteristically hot right now. Mike Moustakas has four home runs in eight games, Eric Hosmer has a series-best .448 average to go along with a .759 slugging percentage -- also tops in this matchup -- and Lorenzo Cain is batting .353 with four RBIs and three doubles.
The real question is whether Kansas City can sustain it's success at the plate. They ranked second in the AL in team batting average during the regular season, so it's feasible they'll continue to create scoring opportunities.
Still, history favors San Francisco at the plate thanks to a wealth of World Series experience.
Madison Bumgarner won 18 games during the regular season. He's also 2-0 in his two World Series starts for the Giants without ever allowing a run. He's also pitched to a 1.42 ERA in four postseason starts this year.
It's safe to say Giants manager Bruce Bochy will feel confident giving him the ball to start Game 1.
After him, the starters are less certain. Aging Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy have been mostly fine, but Ryan Vogelsong has struggled in the NLCS.
Countering Bumgarner tonight is "Big Game" James Shields, who has not lived up to the moniker during the postseason. He's allowed four runs over five innings twice in three starts, and Kansas City can't afford that kind of outing from its top pitcher at this point.
Suffice to say, starting pitching isn't the Royals' strong suit right now. Their bullpen, on the other hand, has been stellar. The combination of Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland has a combined 1.05 ERA over 252/3 innings this postseason. Once manager Ned Yost yanks his starters, things seem to calm down on the mound.
The Giants' relief staff has pitched even better in October. Yusmeiro Petit, Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt have yet to yield a run over 22 innings combined.
This would seem to be San Francisco's series to lose. They're the superior team when it comes to the eye test, and they've been this far before and could be four wins away creating chatter of baseball's first dynasty since the late-90s Yankees. Could the Royals keep the surprises coming and win their first championship in 29 years? Sure. But the smartest pick here is the Giants in five games.