The World Series starts tonight with the Kansas City Royals, who are looking to go one-step further than their heart-breaking loss to San Francisco in last year’s Fall Classic, against the New York Mets. To predict that the Mets to be here at the beginning of the season would be, to put it politely, an audacious claim.
Yet with some fantastic pitching, a few sly moves at the trading deadline, and terrific managing by long-time skipper, first time World Series participant Terry Collins, the Mets went from a humble spring to the National League’s best team. Yoenis Cespedes’ August might have been the best month of baseball any New York player has posted within the last ten years, and Daniel Murphy’s power surge led the Mets to a dominating sweep of the Cubs in the NLCS. But their strength has been their starting pitching, with their rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz combining for a record of 6-2 with a post-season best 2.65 ERA.
That ERA is nearly a run and a half lower than the Royals’ starting pitching, which nearly cost them in the ALDS against Houston. But a knack for finding clutch hits (KC is batting .414 in Late/Close situations) and a terrific bullpen (combined ERA of 2.85) has led Kansas City back to the World Series. Alcides Escobar, the Royals lead-off hitter and shortstop has batted .386 with five extra base hits in the post-season and was the Royals best hitter (and ALCS MVP) against Toronto.
The Royals and the Mets will both face post-season firsts. The Royals have not faced starting pitching as good as the Mets have, and the Mets have not faced a lineup as balanced and as contact-happy as the Royals. The Royals hitters have struck out 71 times in 365 post-season at-bats (19%), the lowest of any of the teams that advanced to the LCS.
Fielding and base-running might be where the series turns. The Mets, particularly with Murphy at second base, are more liable to make mistakes with the ball than Kansas City, who were third in the majors in terms of defensive efficiency (the percentage at which a team records an out when the ball is hit in play).
The key for the Mets is to take the lead early and rely on Harvey and the rest of their starting pitchers attack the Royals line-up. While most of the KC lineup can do some damage, no one (in a good week, maybe Eric Hosmer) can individually dominate. The Royals offense requires patience, working the count, and attiring the starting pitcher. If the Mets can get seven good innings from their pitchers and have the lead late, the Mets will be in comfortable position.
The Royals just need to make sure they wear down the Mets’ starters by the sixth or seventh inning and to limit the damage the Mets can do offensively. They need to rely on their biggest strength in this series: their bullpen. If KC has a lead or is trailing close late, they’re still in a great position to win games. Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson can shut down a game much better than whoever comes out of the pen for the Mets.
That’s no disrespect to Juerys Familia, the closer for the Mets who has yet to give up a run in the postseason. However, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, and Bartolo Colon have been unpredictable in this post-season, and the Royals will to win games late that they have no business winning should not be underestimated.
But when all is said and done, it is in New York where the Commissioner’s Trophy will reside. Not in the Bronx as it is accustomed to, but in Flushing. Simply put, good pitching most of the time will always beat good hitting. The Mets are very good and the Royals rotation will cost them.
Mets in 6