As October’s cold wind blows and fall’s chill is in the air, baseball is in its final stanza as the swan song for the 2015 season begins to play.
On Tuesday night, the Kansas City Royals will welcome in the New York Mets to start the 2015 World Series. The Royals, who came within 90 feet of a potential championship last season, are trying to secure the elusive last victory needed to end a 30-year championship drought.
The New York Mets are much like the Royals of 2014, a Cinderella story who succeeded faster than some expected. Led by a stable of young, hard-throwing arms, and a revamped offense that brought them from one of the worst offensive teams in the National League, to one of the best, the Mets are a feel good story who are also looking to end a near 30-year championship drought.
The question left is who is going to win?
Let’s breakdown each position to see who has the advantage going into the 112th Fall Classic.
This one isn’t too hard to decide. d’Arnaud has had a few big hits in the 2015 postseason, but hasn’t done too much to edge out one of the game’s best backstops. Although Perez only slashed a meager .136/.174/.455 in the ALCS, he’s still done a superb job defensively and his four home runs in the playoffs have made pitchers take notice every time Perez is in the batter’s box.
If the Lucas Duda who hits five home runs in the course of a week would show up, then this might be a close call. Duda, yet again, has seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. Besides Game 4 of the NLCS, Duda hasn’t done much this postseason. Hosmer, on the other hand, has been a key contributor to the Royals’ run. There is perhaps no hit bigger than Hosmer’s single in the 8th inning of Game 6 of the ALCS that brought home Lorenzo Cain to score the go-ahead and eventual winning run that secured the pennant.
Murphy has posted the second-highest OPS ever in the playoffs and hit a home run in six straight playoff games. Do you know who else has done that? No one. Zobrist has been playing exceptionally, too. But no one in the history of the playoffs has hit has well as Murphy is hitting right now. Sorry, Zobrist.
Flores was called upon to step up after Ruben Tejada was taken out by Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Two of the NLDS. Flores has responded by posting a solid slash of .292/.370/.478 in his 24 postseason at-bats, but Escobar has been just a little bit better. Escobar set a postseason record by collecting a leadoff hit in the first four games of the ALCS and became the second player ever to collect at least 10 hits and five RBI from the leadoff spot in an LCS series.
This is one of the harder ones to choose since neither Moustakas or Wright has really done much this postseason. Wright’s bat did show some signs of life in the NLCS, scrapping out four hits in 15 at-bats. Wright did manage to walk five times to only striking out four times in the NLCS. Moustakas hit a big home run — although one can certainly question if it were a home run or just a great sell job by a Royals fan — in Game 6 of the ALCS to help the Royals eventually win the pennant. Besides that, the Moose hasn’t been loose. Based on experience and overall career play, the Captain will win this one.
The Royals possess one of the best outfields in baseball. They feature players in Cain and Gordon that have rifles for throwing arms and can cover the gaps as well as anyone. Their bench outfield depth is good, too. Paulo Orlando — who at one time could only hit triples — can cover as much ground as anyone. And you cannot forget the other burner with some potential gold coming to his glove, Jarrod Dyson. Not only can Dyson burn you with the glove, he is an invaluable asset late in games who can steal a base even when everyone knows he’s going.
The Mets’ outfield is solid, too. Before Cespedes came over in a trade from the Detroit Tigers, the Mets were one of the worst offensive clubs in baseball. Cespedes changed all that by blasting 17 home runs in only 57 games with the Mets and helped lead their postseason charge. Granderson had a revitalization of sorts in his second year with the Mets, posting his highest marks in average, on-base percentage, slugging and home runs hit since 2012. Lagares isn’t much a threat with the lumber, but is one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball. Michael Conforto is another dangerous Met outfield bat. Skipper Terry Collins likes to use Conforto only against right-handed hurlers due to his inability to hit southpaws. Conforto will probably see the bulk of the playing time over Lagares in the World Series due to the right-handedness dominance the Royals feature in their rotation.
The Mets outfield as a whole hasn’t done much this postseason, but has made some big defensive plays. The Royals outfield has been excellent both from an offensive and defensive standpoint. But Granderson, and especially Cespesdes, both have the skills to change an entire series if they get locked in. With Conforto most likely going to get the most at-bats he’s seen in a postseason series, who knows how he responds.
The Royals outfield defense is too good and Cain and Gordon are as good as duo as they come for them not to have just the slightest of advantages.
Advantage: Royals by an eyelash
There is really no need to elaborate on this one. Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz have the potential to blossom into the next John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux trio of ace starters the Braves featured in the 1990’s.
If the Royals lose this series, it’s going to be solely because their starting rotation was just not good enough to match the Mets exemplary starting staff.
This is where the Royals make their money. They just hope their starters go long enough with a lead to hand the ball off to a stable of dominating relievers. Pick your poison. Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, Luke Hochevar or Wade Davis. Everyone in the Royals’ bullpen is capable of coming out and pitching multiple scoreless innings and have the ability to turn any nine-inning game into six. If you’re losing the Royals after seven innings, chances are you aren’t going to beat them.
The Mets’ bullpen was revamped during the season, and although it doesn’t have much depth, there is still some quality there. Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon are both capable of coming out and giving you solid innings to bridge the gap to the back-end of the team’s bullpen. Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard have done a decent job, but no one in maybe all of the postseason has been as dominating as Jeurys Familia. Doing his best Mariano Rivera impersonation, Familia has been asked to get multiple-inning saves a few times already and has done so almost effortlessly. In 9.2 playoff innings, Familia has allowed just two hits, struck out six batters, and has walked no one.
The depth may not be there, but the Mets do have a couple of arms capable of getting it done when the game is on the line. Still, the Royals bullpen is their strength and take this one by a large margin.
Last but not least the DH. This spot is a big factor for the Royals due to the fact they will be without one of their best hitters, Kendrys Morales, when they travel to Citi Field. The Mets could utilize this spot by using Conforto in the DH spot allowing them to use their best defensive outfield while in Kansas City. Or they could use Juan Uribe as well. Nonetheless, skipper Ned Yost is in for quite the dilemma come time to travel to New York to try and figure out how to get Morales in the lineup.
After breaking down every position, who has the advantage? And most importantly, who wins?
The Mets are going to beat the Royals in six games. The Mets starting staff is going to be too much for the Royals to overcome. The Royals are a scrappy team that is very hard to keep down. Just ask the Toronto Blue Jays. The Royals don’t stop coming at you and still put together great at-bat after great at-bat no matter the score. But the Mets staff is just too deep and capable of shutting down any lineup in baseball.
If the Royals rotation was a bit deeper, it would make this choice harder. But with Cueto’s inconsistencies, Volquez’s sketchy command and Ventura’s ability to let his emotions get the best of him, if the Mets get a lead early, the Royals will be trying to climb a hill that is as big as Mt. Everest.
But if the Mets starters look the slightest bit human and fall behind late, the Royals bullpen will take this series over and lead them to a championship.
It’s going to be a great series, but the Mets are going to bring home their first title since 1986.