By Adam Brown
It’s here! It’s here, batten down the hatches, lock down the doors, the World Series is here. After almost seven months and over 170 games, the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals are just four wins away from taking home the most coveted award in the sport. In one corner, with an array of pitching, Daniel Murphy impersonating Mickey Mantle and representing the National League, the Mets sit on the cusp of a first title in 29 years. In the other corner, now back-to-back American League pennant winning, the clutch hitting, the Ned Yost-ing Kansas City Royals. We now have an unforeseen paradox of a New York team being the plucky underdog to the big, bad…Royals?
The series is evenly matched, like last years edition where the Royals were valiant in their 7 game defeat to Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants, it’s next to impossible to pick a winner with any definitive conviction.
The two offences look similar on paper, both have good middle of the lineup bats, the Mets boasting Cespesdes, Granderson and playoff Daniel Murphy, answered adamantly by the Royals trio of Cain, Hosmer and Moustakas. The Mets offence has been rejuvenated by the acquisition of Cespesdes, whereas the Royals also harvest their mid-season addition in Ben Zobrist, who offered a comprehensive upgrade over the corpse of Omar Infante.
Edge : Ever so slightly, Royals. Give me the consistent production of the Royals over a lineup reliant on career anomalies like Cespesdes and Murphy. The consistency of Escobar and Zobrist is a vital ingredient at the top of the order, parlayed with timely hitting from Hosmer and Moustakas, and the edge lies with Kansas City. Another factor is the defensive superiority on show for the Royals, in Gordon and Cain they have two gold-glove calibre of player, whereas the Mets outfield aside from Lagares is saddled with poor defence, bar Cespesdes throwing arm which is a good, yet infrequent weapon, which does a solid job of disguising his overall defensive inefficiency.
The Mets pitching deservedly has been lavished with praise throughout the season. In Harvey and DeGrom they have two dominant starters who have delivered truly exceptional season. Syndegaard and Matz, both rookies have solidified the rotation and offered far superior value than Bartolo Colon and Jonathan Niese, who become viable bullpen options due to the emergence of the youngsters.
The Royals rotation defines mediocre. Young a big beneficiary of good luck and ballpark factors, Volquez and Ventura were both solid, but not spectacular. The rotation is now reliant on a Cueto resurgence. Usually a dominant pitcher belonging towards the top of the profession has seen his performance drop significantly. As a Royal, Cueto laboured to a 4.76 ERA in 13 starts. The spike in ERA was mirrored by his home run rate rising, extra-base hit rate rising and strikeouts decreasing.
Edge: Big edge for the Mets. For the Royals to win this series, they will need good production from their starters and turn the game over to the bullpen to finish. The Mets, as displayed in the series against the Cubs, can make the series a complete mis-match with similarly dominant pitching.
The Kansas City Royals have become notorious for the excellence of their relief pitching over the past two seasons. Last season Herrera, Davis, Holland or HDH, solidified themselves as lights out, door shutting, flame throwing baseball anomaly.
This season the Royals are without the injured Holland, but can happily call upon Ryan Madson or Luke Hochevar.
Wade Davis has cemented a very strong claim to be seen as the best relief pitcher in baseball. He boasts an ERA of 0.94, over 10 strikeouts per 9 innings and a WHIP of 0.79.
The Mets can answer this with a very solid relief corp of their own. In Colon, Clippard and Reed they have a trio of arms to complement a flame throwing, lights out closer of their own. Jeurys Familia has been sensational for the Mets this season, albeit not on the scale of Davis, his 1.85 ERA and 9.9 K/9 is not to be dismissed.
Edge: Tie, whilst the Royals have the best single pitcher, and in Herrera have a versatile pitcher that can be good for more than the traditional three outs, the Mets boast more relievers that can be used as strict 1 inning relievers, have starters that can be used in mop up/innings eating roles. This could be where the team with the better performing bullpen wins the series.
Final Verdict: This series is a coin flip, it’s clichéd to call teams evenly matched, and we will see the differences over the course of the series, however it’s a series where it is difficult to predict a winner. Whilst the Mets have the far superior rotation and have the potential to shut the Royals bats down like the Cubs, the Royals have shown over the last two seasons they are like no other team when it comes to manufacturing runs and pouncing on any mistake.
The Royals bats are strong 1 through 7 and are a challenge for any pitcher, and whilst they aren’t loaded with the power the Mets can possess, they have the ability to string hits together, drive up pitch counts and manipulate the series into their style of baseball, if they can do this then it immediately shifts into their favour.
Kansas City Royals In 6
Royals in 6 – 17/4. It will be a tight series, one that seems set to go deep, so whoever you are leaning towards, take them to finish it late.
Lorenzo Cain MVP – 20/1 – By WAR, Lorenzo Cain is the best player in this series. He is comfortably the best player on the Royals, and he is 12th in the betting to take home the individual hardware. That seems too high, and with a bit of power in his bat, could have the iconic moment which seems to be a pre-requisite for taking the award home.
Leading after 4 games, – tie – 6/4 – As I have said ad nauseam during this preview, these teams are eerily similarly matched. It seems illogical to me that this series is over or close to over after four games. I would anticipate a couple Royals wins where they grind the Mets down, and a Mets win or two where their starter dominates.