Here’s a very interesting fact regarding this year’s World Series. The Mets-Royals matchup is the first in the history of the Fall Classic to involve two teams from MLB’s expansion era, which began in 1961. In other words, 2015 is the first year that both participants did not exist when the first World Series was played in 1903. Of course some of the original teams changed locations and names, the Brooklyn Dodgers are the Los Angeles Dodgers etc., but there was always a connection between at least one of the participating teams and an original team from 1903.
With this in mind, I will offer a detailed analysis of the two young, exciting teams that will begin playing Tuesday, comparing lineups and making my predictions on the outcome. I’ll start with the pitching staffs, reviewing both the starters and relievers.
As we all know by now, the Mets starting four range from excellent to unbelievable. During this postseason, starters Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have thrown 38% of their pitches at 95 mph or better, no other team comes close to matching those numbers. With the up and coming Steven Matz as their fourth starter, this starting staff is better than any in baseball. That being said, here’s an interesting fact that can somewhat negate the greatness of the Mets pitchers. During this past season, the Royals batted .284 and slugged at .436 against fastballs of 95 mph and above and struck out against them on only 15.1 percent of their at bats. The Royals starters, consisting of Johnny Cueto, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Met castoff Chris Young while passable, do not compare to the Mets group. Cueto shows flashes of greatness but has been very inconsistent, the other 3 starters are average major leaguers at best. Advantage Mets.
The tables turn regarding relief pitching. Met Jeurys Familia has been great all season and virtually unhittable as of late. His 1.85 ERA, 43 saves and 1.0 whip are top of the line. However, the setups guys are ok at best. Clippard is a much travelled, certainly hittable journeyman, Reed and Robles show flashes of strength but are middle of the pack performers. The key to the Met pitching staff as a whole is getting length out of the starters, bypassing the middle relievers and having Familia close things out. Royal closer Wade Davis has been unbelievable of late, his .79 whip tells you all you need to know about his effectiveness. Madson and Herrera are mainstays of are a very solid setup group that is used adroitly by manager Ned Yost. Bottom line, the Royal bullpen is considerably stronger than the Met’s group. Advantage Royals.
Let’s move on to the starting catchers. Met Travis d’Arnaud, originally regarded as a top prospect, came into his own the second half of this year hitting 12 homers and knocking in 41 runs in only 239 at bats. His defense has been solid as well, and barring injury, it appears he might grow into a top NL catcher. His Royal counterpart, Salvador Perez, aka El Nino, batted .260 with 21 homers and 70 RBI’s, is strong defensively and a team leader. Love the way d’Arnaud is developing but have to give the edge to Perez. Advantage Royals.
Over at first, we have Met slugger Lucas Duda. Nice power numbers, 27 homers and 73 RBI’s in an injury shortened season, only a .244 batting average. Bottom line, he can be pitched to, but if you make a mistake say goodbye to the baseball. His fielding is passable, not going to make many great plays but won’t hurt you. Eric Hosmer, the Royal first baseman, is a budding star who seems to get one clutch hit after the next. In 2015 he batted .297, with 18 homers, 93 RBI’s and 98 runs. He’s a competent fielder and a spirited team leader. Advantage Royals, although I’ll qualify this by reiterating that if pitching mistakes are made by the mediocre Royals’ starting staff, Duda can take over the series.
As we move to second base, after seeing what Daniel Murphy did over the last two series, all I can think of is the famous restaurant scene from “When Harry Met Sally” when after Meg Ryan does her thing the older woman at the neighboring table says “I want what she’s having.” Homers in a record 6 consecutive postseason games, great fielding plays, a brilliant baserunning move, he is hotter than hot. In truth, Royal Ben Zobrist has been at least his equal career wise but the advantage right now has to go to Murphy. Advantage Mets.
Have to favor the Royals at the next position, shortstop. Alcides Escobar, the MVP of the ALCS in which he batted nearly .500, has gotten a hit in 10 consecutive games and seems to be peaking at exactly the right time. He’s a solid, if unspectacular hitter, a dynamo in the field and as all the Royal players seem to be, a spirited performer. Met Wilmer Flores has come on this year with his 16 homers and 59 RBI’s but is streaky at the plate and a liability in the field. Advantage Royals.
Moving to the hot corner, Met David Wright has been injured most of the year and didn’t do much in the NLCS. His resume is outstanding, but injuries and knuckleheaded Met management turning Citi Field into a cavernous, non-homer friendly park have caused his numbers to drop off markedly. Mike Moustakas, on the other hand, improved his batting average 72 points from .212 in 2014 to .284 in 2015 and had 22 homers and 82 RBI’s. On paper, it appears Moustakas is the choice here, but given Wright’s history and what has to be his overwhelming desire to win this series, I’m calling this matchup a draw.
Let’s get into the outfield, starting in right. Curtis Granderson had a solid season batting .259 with 26 homers and 70 RBI’s for the Mets. He’s an adequate fielder with a below average arm and can still motor around the bases. KC’s Alex Rios had stardom written all over him when he came up to the big leagues but never achieved what was expected of him. This year he batted .255 with only 4 homers and 32 RBI’s. He’s a skilled outfielder with a strong arm, but on balance Granderson is the better veteran player. Advantage Mets.
In centerfield the Mets have Yoenis Cespedes, who was instrumental in turning their season around. In 57 games he hit 17 homers had 44 RBI’S and batted .287. He is a decent outfielder with an excellent arm that he shows off to excess. His shoulder has been bothering him, but he’s insisting it will be ok, time will tell in this regard. Royal Lorenzo Cain is an exciting 5 tool player with unlimited potential. This year he hit .307, scored 101 runs and had 16 homers and 72 RBI. He flies around the outfield from gap to gap. I love Cain, but given the explosiveness of Cespedes I’m calling this spot a draw.
Last but not least, let’s talk about leftfield. As of late, the Mets have been using rookie Michael Conforto, who had some great moments as a rookie and looks to be an important player in the future. The Royals have Alex Gordon, another veteran who has not achieved the stardom expected of him. The 2nd overall pick of the 2005 draft had this year shortened by injury and ended up hitting .271 with 13 homers and 48 RBI’s. Although Conforto might ultimately end up being the better player, I have to go with Gordon’s experience. Advantage Royals.
The DH will be used for games played in Kansas City, they use Kendrys Morales, who had a strong year batting .290 with 22 homers and 106 RBI’s. The Mets will most likely use Michael Cuddyer whose best days are behind him. Clearly the Royals have a significant advantage here, especially considering they have home field advantage so if there is a deciding game seven the DH will come into play.
All in all, the Royals have the better team. On the other hand, the Mets starting staff is fantastic and to use the old baseball adage, good pitching beats good hitting. If the Mets had a better bullpen I would have them winning in six. If their starters can go 7-8 innings, the Mets could win in five. However, given how close the Royals came last year and the overall strength of their roster, I’m calling the Royals in seven.