Stats & Info: MLB

Climb on our back, we'll carry you to the top

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30

AP Photo/Jamie SquireMadison Bumgarner stands near the top of the best postseason pitching performers.
Madison Bumgarner’s postseason performance got us to thinking …

What are some of the other great recent examples of a pitcher (or a pitching tandem) single-handedly carrying a team to a World Series title?

If you go through major-league history, we’re putting Bumgarner in a class with the likes of Hall-of-Famers Christy Mathewson, Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. David Schoenfield covered that today in the Sweet Spot blog.

But let’s look at the last 30 years for examples, with our criteria being that a)you had to be great and b)you had to be great for multiple rounds …

Orel Hershiser, 1988 Dodgers
Hershiser came out of the bullpen to get a bases loaded flyout to center in the 12th inning of a one-run Game 4 win in the LCS that turned the series around and then shut out the Mets in the Game 7 clincher.

He then went 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA and was 3 for 3 as a hitter in a World Series upset of the Athletics, with a win in the series clincher.

That followed a close to the regular season in which Hershiser broke Don Drysdale’s record for consecutive scoreless innings.

Dave Stewart, 1989 Athletics
Dave Stewart was a workhorse for the 1989 Athletics, notching four of their eight wins, two apiece in the LCS and World Series.

Stewart threw eight innings in each of his two LCS wins and pitched a shutout in the World Series opener, then added a win in Game 3 after the series resumed (due to the San Francisco earthquake), pitching seven solid innings.

That postseason, Stewart went 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

Jack Morris, 1991 Twins
Morris was 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA in five postseason starts. He won two games in the LCS and two in the World Series and will be best remembered for his 10 scoreless innings in Game 7 of the World Series against the Braves.

Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, 2001 Diamondbacks
We pair these two, as they were best known as a duo, one that shared World Series MVP honors.

Johnson is the last pitcher to win three games in a World Series. He won two as a starter (including a shutout) and one in relief (Game 7). That postseason, he was 5-1 with two shutouts, a 1.52 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings pitched.

Schilling was 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA in 6 starts. He won a pair of one-run games in the LDS against the Cardinals, winning 1-0 in Game 1 and 2-1 in Game 5. He pitched a 12-strikeout complete game against the Braves in the NLCS.

He made three starts in the World Series, winning one and allowing no more than two runs in each. He yielded two runs in 7 1/3 innings in an epic duel with Roger Clemens in Game 7, which the Diamondbacks won on Luis Gonzalez’s walk-off hit.

Schilling logged 305 innings that season, between the regular season and postseason. No pitcher has pitched that many since then.

Josh Beckett, 2003 Marlins
Beckett had an epic two-week stretch to carry the Marlins to an improbable title.

With the Marlins down, 3-games-to-1, he shut out the Cubs in Game 5 of the NLCS. He pitched four innings of one-run ball in relief on two days rest to help the team to a Game 7 win in that series.

Though he lost to the Yankees in Game 3 of the World Series, he was terrific, allowing only two runs and three hits in 7 1/3 innings. Then, he pitched a shutout on three days rest in Game 6 in Yankee Stadium to clinch the series.

Cole Hamels, 2008 Phillies
Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in the postseason with at least one win in each round and copped both LCS and World Series MVP honors as the Phillies knocked off the Brewers, Dodgers and Rays to win their first World Series since 1980. The Phillies won each of his five starts.

Madison Bumgarner, 2014 Giants
Madison Bumgarner had two wins, a five-inning save, and an 0.43 ERA in the World Series.

He finished the postseason with a 4-1 record and a 1.03 ERA.

He won the Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh, and won both LCS and World Series MVP honors, clinching the World Series with five scoreless innings of relief in Game 7.
-- Mark Simon

By the math, the best of those was ...
There's a way to look at this and rank these from a statistical perspective.

Win Probability Added (WPA), a stat tracked by the Elias Sports Bureau and also found on and Fangraphs, measures how players affect their team’s win expectancy on a play-by-play basis.

Using this metric, we can quantify his performance across different eras and see how much he contributed to his team compared to other pitchers.

In Game 7, Bumgarner threw five scoreless innings in a one-run game, and had a WPA of .603, the highest by a reliever in any winner-take-all game in postseason history.

Bumgarner had a 1.26 WPA during this year’s World Series, the sixth-highest by any pitcher all-time in a single World Series. Three of the five names above him are in the Hall of Fame-- Waite Hoyt, Stan Coveleski and Christy Mathewson, the most recent of those being Hoyt in 1921.

Jack Morris isn't a Hall of Famer, but among the pitchers from the last 30 years, he rates a spot above Bumgarner with a 1.32 WPA.

But looking over the entire postseason, Bumgarner’s WPA (1.7) was the second-highest by any pitcher in a single postseason in MLB history.

The only one higher-- Schilling, who had a WPA of 2.1 with the 2001 Diamondbacks.
-- Lee Singer


Postseason Kernels

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30

AP Photo/David J. PhillipThere were plenty of standout performances this postseason en route to the Giants' championship.
Just 221 days, 18 hours and 21 minutes after the first pitch in Sydney, the 2014 MLB season has come to its inevitable end. But there's still time for a look back at some of the postseason's best oddities. We invite you to tell us which of these games was your favorite ...

AL Wild Card
It seems so long ago now (a month, in fact) but it gave us "Yostball," after the skipper's habit of bunting and running in unexpected situations. Kansas City had seven different players steal a bag, one shy of the record for any major league game (the Oakland Athletics had eight thieves against Minnesota on Aug. 1, 1976). They tied the postseason record of seven steals as a team, set by the 1907 Cubs and matched only by the Big Red Machine in the 1975 NLCS.

Cardinals-Dodgers, Game 1
Clayton Kershaw's disastrous seventh inning made him the first pitcher in postseason history to allow eight runs while also recording 10 strikeouts. No Dodger had done that in the regular season since Van Mungo in 1936. Meanwhile, Cards starter Adam Wainwright allowed 11 hits and six runs but got bailed out by the big inning. He's the first postseason starter with those totals to not lose the game since Scott Erickson of the Orioles in 1997. A.J. Ellis had four hits and scored three runs, becoming only the second Dodgers hitter ever to do that in the postseason. The other was Steve Garvey (1974 NLCS).

Giants-Nationals, Game 2
When go-ahead run Buster Posey was thrown out at the plate in the ninth, we literally played two. Brandon Belt finally homered in the 18th, only the third 18th-inning-or-later homer in Giants history. George "High Pockets" Kelly hit an inside-the-parker in 1922, while Larry Doyle in 1914 provided the deciding runs in what was (at the time) the longest National League game ever, a two-run shot in the top of the 21st in Pittsburgh. Yusmeiro Petit threw six innings of one-hit relief and got the win, something no pitcher in the majors had done since fellow Giant Ryan Jensen on May 4, 2002.

NLCS Game 2
Kolten Wong's walk-off made the Cardinals the first team ever to homer in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings of the same postseason game. The 5-4 final score was spread over nine different half-innings (no crooked numbers), tying the record for most runs in a postseason game without a multi-run inning. The Yankees set the record when they beat the Orioles in the 1996 ALCS when Bernie Williams hit a walk-off homer in the 11th.

NLCS Game 5
Travis Ishikawa hit the fourth pennant-winning home run since the start of divisional play in 1969. Magglio Ordoñez sent the Tigers to the 2006 World Series, while the others were both famous Yankee homers: Chris Chambliss in 1976 and Aaron Boone's 11th-inning shot in Game 7 in 2003. This year's NLCS was only the third postseason series with walk-off homers by both teams, the others being the 2004 NLCS and the 1988 World Series-- in which one was Kirk Gibson's legendary "one-legged" homer.

ALCS Game 3
Pushed back a day (in the only weather incident of the entire postseason), Jeremy Guthrie needed 94 pitches to get through five innings. That gave the Royals' bullpen another chance to shine. Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland each worked one perfect inning; they're the first quartet of relievers ever to do that in a postseason game. The entire ALCS was the first series in postseason history in which no starter-- for either team-- finished the sixth.

World Series Game 4
Eleven different Giants batters had hits, matching a World Series record last accomplished in 1960. Even Petit got in on the action, the first relief pitcher with a World Series hit since Al Leiter had a double in 1993, and the first Giants reliever with a hit since Clydell "Slick" Castleman in 1936. In a four-run third inning, the Royals sent 11 batters to the plate, including Jason Vargas twice. He became the first AL pitcher to bat twice in a World Series inning since Boston's Luis Tiant in 1975.

World Series Game 5
Madison Bumgarner threw the first Giants shutout in the World Series since Jack Sanford in 1962; the first walk-free World Series shutout for any team since Bret Saberhagen in 1985; and the first walk-free World Series shutout with eight strikeouts since, well, ever. The previous high for K's in a World Series shutout with no walks had been seven -- by Don Larsen in his perfect game in 1956.

World Series Game 7
Because it was Game 7. And because Bumgarner recorded just the second five-inning save in the majors in the past 20 years. Joaquin Benoit of the Rangers recorded a seven-inning save -- and nearly finished a combined no-hitter -- on Sept. 3, 2002, when starter Aaron Myette was ejected for throwing at the first batter. Much more on Game 7 here.

By the way, the season would not be complete without a hearty shout-out to the amazing Play Index, and also our partners at the Elias Sports Bureau. Most of this column's content would be difficult, if not impossible, without their help. A sincere thank-you.

And if you're wondering ... our favorite game?

The next one. See you in April.

Top stats to know: Giants win it all, again

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
The San Francisco Giants have lived up to their team name. They are now one of baseball’s dynasties.

The Giants won their third World Series in the past five seasons, beating the Kansas City Royals in Game 7.

It took an epic relief effort from Madison Bumgarner, who threw five scoreless innings to clinch a one-run win.

The Giants are the fifth franchise to win three World Series titles in a five-season span, the first since the Yankees won four from 1996 to 2000.

The Giants franchise has won eight times in total, tied with the Red Sox for the fourth-most titles in major league history, trailing only the Yankees (27), Cardinals (11) and Athletics (9).

The history
The Giants became the first road team to win Game 7 of a World Series since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Baltimore Orioles.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy won his third World Series titles. He’s the 10th manager to win three World Series. The other nine are all in the Hall of Fame. Bochy and Connie Mack are the only managers to win three titles in a five-year span for a team other than the Yankees.

Doing so required the Giants snapping their four-game losing streak in World Series winner-take-all games.

The Giants won 88 regular-season games, the fewest of any champ since the 2006 Cardinals won 83. They joined the 1997 Marlins, 2002 Angels, 2003 Marlins, 2004 Red Sox and 2011 Cardinals as wild-card teams to win the World Series.

The one thing these Giants haven’t done is win two in a row. This is the 14th straight season without a repeat World Series champion, tied for longest such streak all-time (1979 to 1992).

MVP: Who else but Bumgarner?
Bumgarner became the fourth pitcher to win league championship series and World Series MVP in the same postseason, joining Orel Hershiser (1988 Dodgers), Livan Hernandez (1997 Marlins) and Cole Hamels (2008 Phillies).

He’s the third Giants player to win World Series MVP, joining Edgar Renteria (2010) and Pablo Sandoval (2012).

Bumgarner was 2-0 with an 0.43 ERA in 21 innings in this World Series.

He's the first pitcher with two wins, a shutout and a save in a World Series since the save rule became official in 1969.

He'a also the first pitcher with two wins, a sub-0.50 ERA in at least 20 innings in a single World Series since legendary lefty Sandy Koufax for the 1965 Dodgers.

Bumgarner logged 52⅔ innings this postseason, the most of any pitcher in a single postseason (topping Curt Schilling’s 48⅓) and had an ERA of 1.03.

Bumgarner has now won three World Series titles. If he were never to pitch in the World Series again, his 0.25 ERA would be the best of anyone with at least 20 innings pitched.


Top stats to know: World Series Game 7

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29

USA TODAY SportsTonight's matchup of Tim Hudson, left, and Jeremy Guthrie will be the oldest for Game 7 starters.
The Giants and Royals meet in the seventh and deciding game of the World Series tonight at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Here are the stats you need to know before the teams take the field:

Odds are with the Giants

• According to numberFire simulations, the Giants have a 54.7 percent chance to win tonight's Game 7.

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Royals are the 61st team to trail 3-2 in the World Series.

• Like the Royals, 60.7 percent of them have forced a Game 7 (37 of 61).

• However, just 31.7 percent of them have won both Games 6 and 7 to win the series (19 of 60).

History is on the Royals' side

• The last nine times the World Series went a full seven games, the home team prevailed. The last time a road team celebrated a Game 7 win was the 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates, who won Game 7 at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium -- a facility demolished in 2002.

• The last seven World Series teams to force Game 7 by winning Game 6 at home won the title. The last to lose was the 1975 Red Sox, who lost the follow-up to Carlton Fisk’s dramatic Game 6 home run.

• As a franchise, the Royals have won their last four World Series elimination games, dating back to a 6-1 win over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the 1985 World Series.

• In those games, including Tuesday night’s Game 6, Kansas City has outscored its opponent 29-2.

Eldest Game 7 matchup

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, tonight’s matchup between San Francisco’s Tim Hudson and Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie is the oldest combined meeting of Game 7 starting pitchers in World Series history.

• At 39 years, 107 days old, Hudson is 15 days older than the previous elder statesman of Game 7 starters, Roger Clemens, who set the mark with a no-decision for the Yankees against the Diamondbacks in a 2001 loss.

• Elias also tells us that Hudson, who went 9-13 during the 2014 regular season, has the lowest winning percentage (.409) of any starter in a winner-take-all game in World Series history. Only four other pitchers to pitch this type of game even had a losing record during the preceding regular season: Johnny Podres in 1955 (9–10, .474), Jon Matlack in 1973 (14–16, .467), Hal Gregg in 1947 (4–5, .444) and Liván Hernández in 2002 (12–16, .429).

Stats to know: Royals rout forces a Game 7

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
The Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants will play one game to decide which team is baseball’s champion for 2014. That was made necessary by a 10-0 Royals romp in Game 6.

The Royals have won 14 of their past 17 postseason games dating back to Game 5 of the 1985 World Series.

Ventura aces Game 6
Royals starter Yordano Ventura came through with seven scoreless innings, helping the Royals both win and rest their key relievers to keep them fresh for Game 7.

Ventura is the first starter to throw at least seven scoreless innings in a Game 6 or 7 of the World Series since Josh Beckett of the Marlins beat the Yankees in Game 6 to clinch the 2003 World Series.

Ventura joined an impressive list of pitchers to do that in the last quarter-century, as noted in the chart on the right.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Ventura is the first rookie to start and win a potential elimination game in the World Series since John Lackey won Game 7 for the Angels against the Giants in 2002.

Royals bats come alive
The Royals scored seven runs in the second inning, the first team to score that many in a World Series game since the Giants in 2010 against the Rangers (seven runs in the eighth inning of Game 2).

The 10-0 shutout was the largest margin of victory in a World Series shutout since the Royals beat the Cardinals 11-0 in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

Lorenzo Cain had three RBIs, the first three-RBI game by a Royals player in the World Series since Darryl Motley in that 1985 Game 7.

Mike Moustakas hit his fifth homer this postseason, the most ever by a Royals player in a single postseason. The only Royals player with more career postseason home runs is George Brett with 10.

What to know about Game 7
The note you will hear repeated often throughout Wednesday is this:

The home team has won each of the last nine World Series Game 7s. The last road team to win Game 7 of a World Series was the 1979 Pirates, who rallied from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to beat the Orioles 4-1 in Game 7 behind a big game from Hall-of-Famer Willie Stargell.

The starting pitching matchup pits Tim Hudson of the Giants against Jeremy Guthrie of the Royals.

Neither has started a winner-take-all postseason game. Hudson pitched in relief in one, allowing a run in 1 2/3 innings in a Game 5 ALDS loss for the Athletics against the Yankees 13 years ago.

Hudson is 0-5 with a 5.51 ERA in his last nine starts (combining regular season and postseason). At age 39, he'll be the oldest pitcher to start a winner-take-all World Series game.

Guthrie is 4-0 with a 1.19 ERA in his last five starts, dating back to the end of the regular season. Elias notes that Guthrie's career record is 83-100 (.454 winning percentage), giving him the second-worst winning percentage ever for a starter in a World Series winner-take-all game.

Curly Ogden was 11-14 (.440) when he started (and pitched less than an inning) for the 1924 Senators against the Giants, as part of a gimmick to force the Giants to adjust their lineup mid-game.

The Giants last played in a World Series Game 7 in 2002, when they lost to the Angels. They are 0-4 all-time in winner-take-all World Series games, with three of the four losses by one run.

The Royals won their only World Series Game 7 in 1985.
What about Bumgarner?
There was a time when starting on two days' rest from your last start wasn't a big deal ... but that was a while ago. So Giants starter Madison Bumgarner will work out of the bullpen for the Giants on Wednesday.

The only pitchers in the divisional era to start a winner-take-all game on two days' rest from his previous start in the divisional era are Ron Guidry for the Yankees against the Royals in Game 5 of the 1977 ALCS and Derek Lowe for the Red Sox against the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

The last to do so in a World Series was Mickey Lolich of the Tigers, who beat Bob Gibson of the Cardinals on two days' rest in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series.

Bumgarner has pitched four games in relief in his career (three in the regular season, one in the postseason). In those four, he allowed no runs in 6 2/3 innings pitched.


Top stats to know: World Series Game 6

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28

Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesThe World Series returns to Kansas City on Tuesday night for Game 6. The Giants lead the series 3-2.
The San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals will meet in Game 6 of the World Series Tuesday night, with the Giants trying to wrap up another title and the Royals trying to keep their magical season alive.

What's at stake
The Giants are trying to win their third World Series in the last five seasons. They’d be the fifth franchise to do that and the first since the Yankees in 1996-2000.

The Royals are trying to do what they did in their last World Series appearance in 1985: win Game 6 to force a Game 7.

Getting to Game 7 has a significant historical meaning.

The home team has won nine straight Game 7s in the World Series. The last team to win Game 7 on the road was the 1979 Pirates in Baltimore.

Jake Peavy stats to know:
Jake Peavy, who will start Game 6 for the Giants, has a 7.05 ERA in his postseason career. That is the highest postseason ERA among active pitchers and the second highest all time (minimum 35 innings pitched).

Including Game 2 of this World Series, Peavy is 1-6 lifetime at Kauffman Stadium with a 6.50 ERA and 1.69 WHIP.

Yordano Ventura stats to know:
The Royals are 3-0 in games started this postseason by Yordano Ventura, who gets the start Tuesday night.

Ventura had the fastest average fastball velocity among starters this season at 96.8 mph.

But the Giants have had success against heaters this postseason. The Giants are hitting .319 against pitches of 95 mph or faster this postseason, best among playoff teams, including 6-for-16 (.375) against Ventura in Game 2.

Keep an eye on: Giants versus pitches out of strike zone
One of the advantages the Giants hold in this series is success against pitches out of the strike zone.

Giants batters are hitting .270 with 17 hits on pitches out of the zone, compared to .167 with 10 hits for the Royals.

The Giants have done so without going considerably beyond their means. They chased 31 percent of pitches out of the strike zone during the regular season. Their chase percentage in this series is 32 percent.

Pablo Sandoval has four hits against pitches out of the strike zone this series. That’s not unusual. He had a major league best 70 such hits during the regular season.

But some of Sandoval’s success seems to have rubbed off on his teammates. Seven of his teammates have a hit against an out-of-the-zone pitch this series, including Brandon Crawford, whose second such hit scored Sandoval in the fourth inning of Game 5.

Why is that notable?

Crawford had only eight hits against pitches out of the strike zone during the regular season, tied for the fewest in the majors among the 150 players who saw the most out-of-zone pitches in 2014.

Also watch: Royals bats don't have the same pop in World Series
The Royals are hitting .221 in the Series. Left fielder Alex Gordon is among those struggling most, with only two hits in 20 at-bats. But he's 10-for-30 (.333 batting average) in his career against Peavy.

One batter Peavy has handled is Eric Hosmer, holding him to four hits in 22 at-bats. Hosmer, who was hitting .448 (13-for-29) this postseason entering the World Series, is hitting .263 (5-for-19) in five games against the Giants.

Stat of the night: Shutout in Game 5 is reason to celebrate
Since World War II, five pitchers have thrown a shutout in Game 5 of a World Series tied 2-2. Madison Bumgarner is the most recent to do so.

In the previous four instances (each of which happened more than 40 years ago), each pitcher's team lost Game 6, but won the Series in the final game.

Top stats to know: Bumgarner dominates

October, 27, 2014
Oct 27
With each instance of postseason dominance, Madison Bumgarner is moving higher and higher up the ladder of baseball’s most elite performers on the biggest stage.

Bumgarner and Brandon Crawford combined to carry the San Francisco Giants to a 5-0 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 5 of the World Series.

The Giants lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 set for Tuesday night in Kansas City, Missouri.

Bumgarner's amazing night
Bumgarner pitched the World Series' first shutout since Josh Beckett's series-clincher for the Marlins against the Yankees in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series.

Bumgarner is the first Giants pitcher to throw one in the Fall Classic in 52 years. The last was Jack Sanford against the Yankees in 1962.

Bumgarner joined Christy Mathewson as the only Giants pitchers with multiple shutouts in the same postseason. Mathewson did so against the Philadelphia Athletics in 1905.

What was unique about this one was that Bumgarner struck out eight and walked none. Bumgarner is the first to throw a World Series shutout that featured as many strikeouts and was walk-free.

Don Larsen came the closest, with seven strikeouts and no walks in his perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1956.

Bumgarner's career World Series ledger now reads: four starts, four wins, 31 innings pitched and one run allowed.

He's the first pitcher to win the first four World Series starts of his career since Lew Burdette of the 1957-58 Milwaukee Braves.

Bumgarner did this with a masterful curveball, one that netted him six strikeouts, matching the most he's ever had in any start.

If this one looked similar to his last shutout -- the wild-card game win over the Pittsburgh Pirates -- it was, and not just because he allowed four hits in each. Bumgarner had six strikeouts with his curveball in that game, too.

The supporting cast
Crawford had three RBIs to pace the Giants offense.

How's this for a World Series-based quirk?

The last four times a shortstop had three or more RBIs in a World Series game, he was a member of the Giants. Rich Aurilia did so against the Angels in 2002 and Edgar Renteria had two such games (including one as the No. 8 hitter in a Game 5) in 2010.

Looking ahead
The Elias Sports Bureau notes the Game 5 winner of a World Series tied 2-2 wins the series 66 percent of the time (27 of 41).

Top stats to know: World Series Game 5

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26
The Royals and Giants will be playing for the lead in the World Series when they meet tonight in Game 5.

Here are some of the statistical storylines our broadcast crew will be focusing on.

What’s at stake
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the Game 5 winner of a World Series tied 2-2 wins the series 66 percent of the time, with the most recent instance being last season when the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.

However, it wasn’t that long ago that a team rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win a World Series. The most recent instance was in 2011 when the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers in seven games.

The Giants have played in six previous World Series that were tied, 2-2. They’ve won none of them. The Royals only played in one- which they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in six games in 1980.

Madison Bumgarner top stats to know
The difference between Madison Bumgarner in the postseason at home versus on the road is stark and unusual.

Bumgarner is 1-3 with a 4.67 ERA in six career postseason appearances at AT&T Park. He’s 5-0 with an 0.68 ERA in six postseason road appearances.

Elias points out that Bumgarner is one of two active pitchers to win his first three World Series starts. The last to win his first four was Lew Burdette for the Milwaukee Braves in 1957-1958.

James Shields top stats to know
Since beating the Phillies in the 2008 World Series, James Shields has been very shaky in postseason play. He’s 1-3 with an 8.26 ERA in six postseason starts over the last five seasons. His big bugaboo is the home run- he’s allowed five in 28 1/3 innings pitched.

Shields had pitched at least five innings in every start this season but lasted only three innings in his loss to the Giants in this year’s World Series opener.

Giants hitter to Watch: Hunter Pence
Pence is 7 for 15 with five RBIs and three walks in this World Series.

Pence entered the World Series 0 for 11 in his career against James Shields, but was 2 for 2 against him, including a home run in Game 1.

Pence was 5 for 24 in at bats ending with a pitch in the lower half of the strike zone in the playoffs entering the World Series.

In the Fall Classic, he’s 5 for 12 with three walks.

Pence is one of three Giants to reach base at least 10 times via hit or walk and drive in at least five runs in a World Series since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958. The others are Chuck Hiller (1962) and Barry Bonds (2002).

Pence's seven-game World Series hitting streak is tied with J.T. Snow and Buster Posey for the longest in Giants' franchise history.

Royals hitter to watch: Alex Gordon
Gordon is 2 for 16, including 0 for 6 against left-handed pitching in the World Series. Gordon is 1 for 17 with six strikeouts against lefties in the 2014 postseason. Lefties haven’t been afraid to challenge him. He’s made 12 of his 16 outs against pitches that were in the strike zone.

Gordon hit .295 in at-bats against lefties that ended with a pitch in the strike zone during the regular season.


Top stats to know: Giants even World Series

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26

Rob Tringali/Getty ImagesThe Giants won their 30th World Series home game with an 11-4 Game 4 victory

The San Francisco Giants evened the World Series at two games apiece as they downed the Kansas City Royals 11-4 in Game 4 on Saturday night. Here are the top stats to know on the Giants’ big win.

Giants offensive outburst
The Giants scored 11 runs on 16 hits, tied for their third-most runs in a World Series game and second-most hits. There have been 11 instances of a team scoring at least 11 runs in a World Series game in the last 20 years and the Giants have done it three times. They are one of two teams to do it more than once, along with the Boston Red Sox, who have done it twice.

Poor old Brandon Finnegan
Royals reliever Brandon Finnegan allowed five earned runs in one inning of work, taking the loss, the first by a Royals reliever this postseason. Finnegan’s five runs allowed are the most by a relief pitcher in a World Series game since Colorado’s Franklin Morales allowed seven run in Game of the 2007 World Series against the Red Sox.

Hosmer joins Gordon

One of the few bright spots for the Royals Saturday night was Eric Hosmer, who was 3-for-5 with an RBI. Hosmer has 10 RBIs this postseason, tied with Alex Gordon and Willie Aikens for most by a Royals player in a postseason.

Bochy joins exclusive club
Saturday night’s win was the 40th postseason win of Bruce Bochy’s managerial career. He’s the fifth manager to win 40 career postseason games, joining Joe Torre (84), Tony LaRussa (70), Bobby Cox (67) and Jim Leyland (44).

Giants 30th home World Series win
The Giants’ win in Game 4 was their 30th World Series victory at home all time. They are one of four MLB teams to win 30 home World Series games. The Yankees (67), Cardinals (31) and Dodgers (30) are the others.

Top stats to know: Royals win Game 3

October, 25, 2014
Oct 25
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsThe Royals won their 10th game in 11 games this postseason.
The Kansas City Royals have a 2-1 lead for the first time in three World Series appearances.

The only other time the Royals have had any lead in the World Series was after winning Game 7 in 1985.

Kansas City has now won 13 of its past 14 postseason games dating back to the 1985 World Series, handing the Giants their fourth loss in their past 20 postseason games, and their first loss in their past seven World Series home games.

In the process, Royals manager Ned Yost joined Ozzie Guillen (2005) as the only managers to win 10 of their first 11 postseason games.

Flawless bullpen
Once again, the Royals' bullpen came through to help save the day.

The bullpen allowed no hits in four scoreless innings. Kansas City relievers have a 1.08 ERA and opponents are hitting .136 against them since the beginning of the American League Division Series.

Greg Holland finished it off with his seventh save this postseason, tied with five other closers for the most saves in a single postseason. Holland has 27 straight saves dating back to the regular season and hasn’t blown one since July 24.

The bullpen took over after Jeremy Guthrie left the game before recording an out in the sixth inning. Guthrie is the first pitcher to start and win a postseason game without striking out a batter since Andy Messersmith did so for the Dodgers in the 1974 National League Championship Series against the Pirates, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Sixth inning is the charm
After Lorenzo Cain knocked in the first run in the first inning, Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer extended the Royals' lead to 3-0 in the sixth inning. Gordon now has 10 RBIs this postseason, tying Willie Aikens for the most in a single postseason by a Royals player. Hosmer became the first player to notch a World Series RBI on his birthday since Junior Ortiz (Twins) and Rafael Belliard (Braves) did so on the same day 23 years earlier to the day.

The Royals have scored seven of their 11 runs in the World Series in the sixth inning.

The Cain RBI came after Alcides Escobar hit the first leadoff double in a World Series game since Jimmy Rollins in 2008's Game 4. The Royals scored a first-inning run in consecutive World Series games for the first time since Games 3 and 4 in 1980.

The Royals are now 10-1 this postseason, the third-best win percentage by any team in a single postseason in the wild-card era. The 2005 White Sox and 1999 Yankees were both 11-1.

The Royals are now two wins away from winning their second World Series title, and history is on their side. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams that win Game 3 on the road of a World Series tied at 1-1 have won the series 75.9 percent of the time (22 of 29).

Top stats to know: World Series Game 3

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24

AP Photo/Charlie RiedelBirthday boy Eric Hosmer can join an exclusive club with a home run tonight.

The World Series moves west Friday night as the San Francisco Giants host the Kansas City Royals with the series tied at one game apiece. Here’s what you need to know about Game 3.

How important is this game?
This is the 55th time the World Series has been tied 1-1 in a best-of-seven series. In the previous 54 instances, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the World Series 38 times, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The road team actually has a winning record in those Game 3 scenarios at 29-25, and road teams that win Game 3 of a 1-1 series have won the World Series 22 times.

Long time coming for Game 3 starters
The Giants’ Tim Hudson (3003.0 IP, 214 wins) and the Royals’ Jeremy Guthrie (1616.1 IP, 83 wins) will each make their World Series debuts. That's the second-most combined innings (4,619.1) and wins (297) before a World Series matchup in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cy Young and Deacon Phillippe matched up in the Fall Classic on October 1, 1903, with a combined 6,599 innings and 487 wins. For the record, that was Game 1 of the first-ever World Series.

Posey power outage
Buster Posey’s bat has gone silent this postseason. After posting a .592 slugging percentage and 22 extra-base hits over August and September, Posey has zero extra-base hits in 52 postseason at-bats, and his .288 slugging percentage is 12th out of the 19 players who have had a postseason plate appearance for the Giants.

Giants streaking at home
The Giants have won six straight World Series games at home, one game shy of tying the Yankees and Red Sox for fourth-longest streak in World Series history. No other National League team has won more consecutive World Series games at home than the Giants.

Eric Hosmer can join exclusive club
Game 3 falls on Eric Hosmer’s 25th birthday. If he can hit a home run, he’ll become just the third player in MLB history to hit a postseason home run on his birthday. Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria hit a home run against the Boston Red Sox in the 2013 American League Division Series on his birthday, and the Royals’ Willie Aikens hit two home runs on his birthday in Game 1 of the 1980 World Series on October 14, 1980.

Top stats to know: Royals bounce back

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
The Kansas City Royals evened the World Series with a decisive win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 2.

It looked like the Giants would seize upon their Game 1 momentum by scoring early and often to put the game away. But this time, a first-inning run did not set the tone for the rest of the game.

Billy Butler leads the Royals bats back
Gregor Blanco's leadoff homer for the Giants (the first in the franchise's World Series history) didn't deter the Royals offense. Designated hitter Billy Butler tied the game with an RBI hit in the bottom of the first, then put the Royals ahead to stay with a sixth-inning hit.

Butler is the first player in Royals history to have both a tying hit and go-ahead hit in a World Series game. He's the first Royals player to have both in a postseason game since George Brett in Game 3 of the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals scored five runs in their half of the sixth inning. Omar Infante's home run gave the Royals a comfortable cushion. It was his first career postseason home run, coming in his 145th postseason at-bat.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that only two players went longer before their first postseason homer -- Mark Lemke (192nd at-bat) and Lonnie Smith (170th).

The home run came against Giants reliever Hunter Strickland, the fifth homer Strickland has allowed this postseason. Strickland and Chris Narveson are the only relievers to allow five homers in a single postseason.

It was a rare off day for Giants pitchers in such a big spot. They had allowed only eight runs in their past seven World Series games combined.

Difference-maker: Herrera's sixth inning
Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera earned the win, escaping through trouble in the sixth inning by getting two outs on nine pitches.

Eight of the nine pitches were 100 mph or faster. Herrera then threw six more pitches of at least 100 mph in the seventh inning. His 14 such pitches in this game were a career high.

Herrera improved the record of the Royals bullpen to 7-0 this postseason. Theirs is the first bullpen to start a postseason with seven straight winning decisions. The only other bullpen to win seven times in a postseason was the 2003 Marlins.

Notes, stats and streaks
This is the first time the Royals have won either Game 1 or Game 2 of a World Series.

The Royals are 9-1 this postseason and have won 12 of their past 13 postseason games dating back to the 1985 World Series. They've won Game 2 of all three postseason series in 2014.

The Giants had their seven-game World Series winning streak snapped. This was their third loss in their past 19 postseason games.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Night: Giants' busy bullpen
The Giants used five pitchers to get through the bottom of the sixth inning.

The last team to use five pitchers in an inning in a World Series game was the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, who used five in an inning in Game 7 of the World Series against none other than the Royals.

The Royals won that game 11-0 to win the World Series.

Top stats to know: World Series Game 2

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

Ron Vesely/Getty ImagesThe Giants look to take a 2-0 series lead tonight in Kansas City.

After the San Francisco Giants took Game 1 by a 7-1 score Tuesday night, the World Series continues tonight in Kansas City, as the Royals look to avoid falling behind two games to none.

Importance of Game 2
The Game 1 winner has won 63 percent of the 108 World Series, and the historical title odds jump to 79 percent for teams that go up 2-0 (42 of 53).

Should the Giants win tonight, they'll be the 14th team to win the first two games on the road, and 10 of those previous 13 teams won the World Series.

However, of the four teams to go up 2-0 on the road since 1975, only one (the 1999 Yankees) went on to win the series. That list includes the 1985 Cardinals, who won the opening pair of games in Kansas City before the Royals came back to win their sole World Series title.

Historically, getting blown out in Game 1 at home hasn't been as devastating as you might think. The Royals are the fifth team to lose Game 1 at home by six or more runs, and the previous three all bounced back to win the World Series.

Which Peavy shows up?
Jake Peavy, who was traded from Boston to San Francisco in July, will become the third pitcher to start a game in consecutive World Series for teams in different leagues. He allowed two runs in four innings against the Cardinals in Game 2 last season.

His postseason record hasn't been good, with a 7.03 ERA in seven career starts, the third-highest postseason ERA for any pitcher with at least seven starts, behind Ed Figueroa (7.47) and Jaret Wright (7.07).

However, he's been good this year, allowing two runs in 9 2/3 innings in two starts.

Aided by the switch to the National League and pitcher-friendly ballparks, Peavy turned things around after the midseason trade. He had a 4.72 ERA and a .273 opponents' batting average with the Red Sox before posting a 2.17 ERA and a .231 opponents' batting average with San Francisco.

Throwing fire?
Yordano Ventura

Peavy's counterpart on the mound tonight, Yordano Ventura, will be the first Royals rookie to start a World Series game at any position. He looked great in seven innings of one-run ball against the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS, but he allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings against Baltimore in the ALCS before leaving with shoulder tightness.

During the regular season, Ventura threw 108 pitches at 100 mph or faster. All other regular starters threw a total of five such pitches (minimum 10 starts).

The known and the unknown
Ventura will have the benefit of unfamiliarity against San Francisco, as none of the Giants hitters have ever faced him.

But San Francisco is hitting a league-leading .377 on pitches of 95 mph or more in the playoffs, striking out only six times in 68 plate appearances.

Royals hitters will be happy to see Peavy. In 147 at-bats against him, the likely Kansas City starting lineup has hit a combined .313 with seven home runs and a .510 slugging percentage.

Designated hitter Billy Butler has three homers and a .424 career batting average against Peavy, his second-best average versus any pitcher (minimum 20 at-bats).

Shortstop Alcides Escobar has hit .409 against Peavy with two home runs, making Peavy one of two pitchers Escobar has homered off twice (Detroit's Max Scherzer being the other one).

Top stats to know: Giants romp in Game 1

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
The baseball postseason was due for a game like this, one that was basically over after the first time the San Francisco Giants came to bat and the first inning Madison Bumgarner threw a pitch.

This was the first game this postseason that was not within two runs or fewer at the end of any full inning.

With Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence hitting and Madison Bumgarner dominating on the mound, the Giants cruised to a 7-1 win in Game 1 of the World Series. The Giants have won four straight World Series openers.

The Kansas City Royals' 11-game postseason winning streak ends, one win shy of the all-time record, shared by the 1927 to 1932 Yankees and the 1998 to 1999 Yankees.

Bumgarner among the all-time best
Bumgarner took a shutout into the seventh inning and was in control once he escaped one Royals scoring threat.

His World Series scoreless streak ended at 21 innings. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that it’s tied for the seventh-longest in World Series history. Whitey Ford, who turned 86 on Tuesday, holds the record at 33 straight innings.

It’s also the second-longest by a pitcher to start his career. Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson set that mark with a 28-inning streak more than 100 years ago.

Bumgarner’s road scoreless streak in postseason games also ended at a record 32⅔ innings. The Giants are 5-0 in Bumgarner’s postseason starts that were on the road.

Turning point: Pence’s home run
Hunter Pence’s home run extended the Giants' lead from 1-0 to 3-0 in the first inning.

Pence entered that at-bat 0-for-11 against James Shields, his worst current oh-fer against any pitcher.

Turning point II: Bumgarner’s escape
The Royals threatened in the third inning, putting men on second and third with nobody out, but Bumgarner got Alcides Escobar, Norichika Aoki and hot-hitting Eric Hosmer out to end that threat without a run scoring.

Those three hitters were a combined 1-for-12 in the game.

Hosmer, the cleanup hitter, was 0-for-4 and 0-for-3 against Bumgarner. Cleanup hitters are now 1-for-15 against Bumgarner this postseason.

Pablo power
Sandoval was 2-for-5 with 2 RBIs. He’s now 10-for-24 with six RBIs in six career World Series games (a .417 career batting average).

Sandoval’s double gave him 17 career extra-base hits in postseason. That surpassed Barry Bonds for the most in Giants history.

Sandoval extended his streak of consecutive postseason games reaching base to 24. Only three players in postseason history have a longer streak of reaching base (Miguel Cabrera 31, Chase Utley 27 and Boog Powell 25).

The outlook
Game 1 has been a tone-setter of late. In the past 11 World Series, the team that won Game 1 won the series 10 times. The last team to win Game 1 and lose the series was the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies.


Top stats to know: World Series Game 1

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
USA Today Sports, Getty ImagesMadison Bumgarner faces James Shields in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night.
The World Series begins tonight in Kansas City, as the Royals play their first World Series game in 29 years, hosting the Giants, who are in their third World Series in five years. Here's what you need to know:

Importance of Game 1
In the previous 108 World Series, 63 percent of Game 1 winners went on to win the title. But in the past 17 World Series, 15 Game 1 winners won the series; the exceptions are the 2002 Giants and 2009 Phillies.

The overall percentage is similar for home teams that win Game 1, as 43-of-63 (68 percent) proceeded to lift the trophy. However, 13 straight home teams to win Game 1 have won the World Series; the 1992 Braves are the last home Game 1 winner to lose the series.

If the Giants win, they'll look to join the 56 percent of road teams to win Game 1 and also win the series (25-of-45). But since 1982, only 5 of 12 road teams to win Game 1 also won the series.

Best or worst World Series ever?
On one hand, this World Series matches two of the worst regular-season teams to reach the Fall Classic. The Royals (89 wins) and Giants (88) combined for 177 regular-season victories, the second-fewest ever by two World Series teams in a non-strike season, behind the 176 wins in the 1973 Series between the Athletics (94 wins) and Mets (82).

On the other hand, the Royals (8-0) and Giants (8-2) are a combined 16-2 this postseason. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that's the best combined playoff record in the wild-card era entering the World Series.

The Royals are the first team to win their first eight games in a single postseason, and their 11 straight playoff wins since 1985 comprise the third-longest streak in MLB history, behind two 12-game runs by the Yankees, from 1998 to 1999 and 1927 to 1932.

Streaking managers
In his first postseason, Kansas City's Ned Yost is the first manager to win his first eight playoff games. He broke the record of Colorado's Clint Hurdle, who won his first seven games in 2007 before getting swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.

Yost's counterpart, Bruce Bochy, has won nine straight postseason rounds since 2010, the second-longest streak ever by a manager, trailing only Joe Torre's 11 straight with the Yankees from 1998 to 2001.

Aces up in Game 1
Madison Bumgarner
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco's Game 1 starter, hasn't allowed a run in 15 innings over his first two career World Series starts. Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson is the only pitcher in MLB history to not allow a run in his first three World Series starts.

Kansas City beat Madison Bumgarner 4-2 at Kauffman Stadium on Aug. 8, though Bumgarner did throw an eight-inning complete game, allowing seven hits and three earned runs. Kansas City scored twice on Billy Butler's home run and twice after an error in the sixth inning.

James Shields
Royals Game 1 starter James Shields threw one complete game and one shutout this season: against the Giants on Aug. 9.

But Shields has struggled this postseason, with a 5.63 ERA in his three starts. Perhaps his problem was the kidney stone he passed last week during the ALCS. Despite his difficulties, the Royals have won all three of his postseason starts, though two of them went to extra innings.