Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY — When it comes to picking a World Series winner, we always go with experience.
Huey Alexander, signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1936, was the Sun’s original post-season prognosticator when we began this 25 year ago.
Then Jim Fregosi, signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1960, went through the exercise the previous 14 seasons.
And now Ken Bracey, who headed south in 1956 by the New York Yankees takes over breaking down the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals in the 110th World Series which begins at Kauffman Stadium Tuesday night.
Now, you might not recognize Bracey’s name.
Maybe you know some of the big leaguers Bracey pitched with during his nine seasons in the minors for the New York Yankees and the San Francisco Giants, breaking in with class-D McAlester:
Hall of Famer Juan Marichal, Manny Mota, Jay Alou, Bobby Bolin, Jose Tartabull, Chuck Hiller, Coco Laboy, Hal Reniff, Jay Ward, Charlie Dees, Vic Roznovsky, Jim Ray Hart, Bill Hands, Frank Linzy and Hal Lanier.
Bracey concluded his 47th season scouting when his Los Angeles Dodgers were eliminated. He scouted for the San Francisco Giants (1968), San Diego Padres (1969-1986, 1991-2009), Milwaukee Brewers (1987-90) and the Dodgers (2010-14).
“The post-season series have had some one-sided results, but the games have all been close. Exciting,” Bracey said from Dunlap Ill. “The one thing so far is good pitchers are making mistakes and getting the ball in to bad left-handed hitters — like Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter. It’s not the place to pitch them.
“Looking at the Giants and the Royals the position players are evenly split. If Kansas City ever loses a game they might lose three or four in a row, but they haven’t lost, so you have to ask wil lthey? Madison Bumgarner has to pitch the way he’s capable of for the Giants to have a chance.”
And his pick is …
“I give KC a bit of advantage because of the extra home game, I like the Royals in either six or seven games.”
While the Series does not come down to which first baseman gets the most hits, a position-by-position breakdown is one way of examining the two teams.
And now for our 25th annual post-season match-ups complete with players’ stats, Bracey’s comments and his ratings out of 10:
Giants: Buster Posey (22 homers, 89 RBIs, .311 batting average, .854 OPS). “The main thing is he’s a good offensive catcher and he has extra-base power. His throwing is average. Tim Hudson is quick to the plate, Madison Bumgarner is tough to run on, but if the pitchers don’t give him a chance … He’s a good everyday catcher. Whether he’s going good or not, he’s ready to hit in his the next at-bat. He never has his head down.”
KC: Salvador Perez (17, 70, .260, .692). “He’s a good defensive catcher, but he’s not that much of an offensive threat.”
Rating: Posey 8, Perez 7.
Giants: Brandon Belt (12, 27, .243, .755). “He’s been hurt a lot, but he’s a dangerous hitter. You can’t challenge Belt down and in, he’ll hit it 400 feet.”
KC: Eric Hosmer (9, 58, .270, .716). “He’s an upbeat player. You don’t see many first basemen with pep like him. No one will ever be as good as Keith Hernandez was with the glove, but he’s close. He might be there in a couple of years. Hosmer has improved with the bat. He used to get cheated. He’s their catalyst, their main guy.”
Rating: Hosmer 8, Belt 6.
Giants: Joe Panik (1, 18, .305, .711). “This bat is solid. I’d never seen him until we started following him in case we faced them in the playoffs. Like Game 5 he got a mistake inside. He’s stronger than I saw earlier.”
KC: Omar Infante (6, 66, .252, .632). “He’s a steady player, an average player. Not the offensive player the other guy is.”
Rating: Panik 7, Infante 5.
Giants: Pablo Sandoval (16, 73, .279, .739). “He doesn’t look like much but he can field his position. If they get a ball out over the player he’ll hit it foul line to foul line. He can look bad in back-to-back at-bats, but he’s always very dangerous.”
KC: Mike Moustakas (15, 54, .212, .632). “He’s the better defensive player. He can be pitched to easier than Sandoval. If you keep the ball away you can handle him. He was so bad earlier in the season they sent him to the minors. They’re making him look better by throwing where he likes it.”
Rating: Sandoval 7, Moustakas 5.
Giants: Brandon Crawford (10, 69, .246, .713). “Good steady shortstops. He’s a dangerous hitter.”
KC: Alcides Escobar (3, 50, .285, .694, 31 steals). “I like them both. Neither are what I would call great shortstop. Escobar doesn’t have the power of the other guy. He runs real well. You can win a World Series with either one.”
Rating: Crawford 6, Escobar 6.
Giants: Travis Ishikawa (2, 12, .274, .731). “He’s OK for having not player out there. He’s a first baseman playing out of position.”
KC: Alex Gordon (19, 74, .266, .783). “No doubt KC has an advantage here. He’s one of the best defensive left fielders I’ve ever seen. The guy in Cleveland Michael Brantley is pretty good. Gordon’s a good hitter. He struggles with left-handed hitters.”
Rating: Gordon 8, Ishikawa 4.
Giants: Gregor Blanco (5, 38, .260, .707, 16 steals). “He’s an enthusiastic guy, yet he’s not a good lead-off hitter — he doesn’t take enough pitches. He can make all the plays but he’s not going to make you forget Angel Pagan.”
KC: Lorenzo Cain (5, 53, .301, .751, 28 steals). “No contest. This guy has improved more than anyone in the game. He plays right, plays centre and he can run.”
Rating: Cain 8, Blanco 5.
Giants: Hunter Pence (20, 74, .332, .777). “The far superior player of the two. He’s a hell of a player. He can be 0-for-10, you can look at him and he looks like he’s 5-for-his-last-10. He’s awkward as hell throwing, although he has a strong, accurate arm.”
KC: Nori Aoki (1, 43, .285, .710). “He’s played well for them in the second half of the season.”
Rating: Pence 8, Aoki 5.
Giants: Mike Morse (16, 61, .279, .811). “He has big-time power and you saw it in Game 5. Morse is rusty he’s been hurt.”
KC: Billy Butler (9, 66, .271, .702). “I’m not a Billy Butler guy. He has not developed the way everyone hoped he would. He’s healthy and hit the ball better late in the season.”
Rating: Butler 6, Morse 5.
Giants: Juan Perez (1, 3, .170, .494), Joaquin Arias (0, 15, .254, .581), Andrew Susac (3, 19, .273, .792)Gary Brown (0, 1, .429, .857), Matt Duffy (0, 8, .267, .602). “Durry can do some things. He can bunt and run. Perez is a singles hitter. There’s no power if Morse is in the lineup. I saw Susac and he’s better than KC’s back-up.”
KC: Jarrod Dyson (1, 24, .269, .651, 36 steals), Christian Colon (0, 6, .333, .864), Erik Kratz (0, 2, .176, .808), Jayson Nix (0, 0, .000, .000),Terrance Gore (0, 0, .000, ,500, 8 steals), either Raul Ibanez (2, 5, .188, .603) or Josh Willingham (2, 6, .233, .732). “No one is going to throw Dyson or Gore out — but they won’t run against Bumgarner. Dyson gets the best out of his speed. And Gore can fly too. Those guys will be a force.”
Rating: KC 6, Giants 3.
Giants: Madison Bumgarner (24-18, 2.98), Jake Peavy (6-4, 2.17), Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57), Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00). “Bumgarner is the most dependable on both sides. If he pitches well in two or three games … it’s going to be tough for KC. Don’t get me wrong Clayton Kershaw is great, but Bumgarner throws easy. Hudson was bad in September but kept the ball down the last couple of starts. Is he real dependable?”
Rating: Giants 7, Royals 7.
Giants: Jeremy Affeldt (4-2, 2.28), Javier Lopez (1-1, 3.11),Jean Machi (7-1, 2.58, 2 saves), Yusmeiro Petit (5-5, 3.69), Sergio Romo (6-4, 3.72, 23 saves), Hunter Strickland (1-0, 0.00), Tim Lincecum (12-9, 4.74). “I’d be surprised it they don’t start Petit instead of Vogelsong. Petit has a heck of a back-door slider. They had a good bullpen and depth in Romo.”
KC: Wade Davis (9-2, 1.00, 3 saves), Kelvin Herrera (4-3, 1.41), Brandon Finnegan (0-1, 1.29), Jason Frasor (3-0, 1.53), Danny Duffy (9-12, 2.53), Tim Collins (0-3, 3.86). “Their bullpen is lights out, all their starters have to do it get to the sixth with the lead. You can’t hit stuff like Herrera and Davis in the sixth, seventh and eighth. Herrera has been impressive. Davis? unhittable.”
Rating: Royals 10, Giants 8.
Giants: Santiago Casilla (3-3, 1.70, 19 saves). “He’s had all the confidence in the world and then in Game 5 he looked like he had fear — like before.”
KC: Greg Holland (1-3, 1.44, 46). “One of the best. He’s been consistent.”
Rating: Holland 10, Casilla 7.
Giants: Bruce Bochy. “He’ll get the most of his bullpen. A lot of guys can run a bullpen. I’ll tell you why he’s the best: he never panics and players like him. He never rips anyone. He and I were together for years in San Diego.”
Rating: Bochy 10, Yost 8.
Finally: When the interview was finished, Bracey asked how he did taking over for the all-knowing Fregosi, who died Feb. 14.
I said, “well, I wish I could now hang up, call him and tell him how much better you were than he ever was.”
Said Bracey: “I wish I could call him too.”
– Follow Bob vElliott on Twitter @elliottbaseball