The Mets return to the Fall Classic for the first time since they lost to the Yankees in the 2000 World Series. They won the National League East by seven games with a 90-72 record behind one of the most talented young pitching staffs that baseball has ever seen when it comes to pure stuff.
All four of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz are capable of throwing in the upper 90s, but they all “pitch” instead of just throw the ball as hard as they can. This means that they know how to outthink the batter and utilize off-speed and breaking pitches in fastball counts. They are all age 27 or younger, and all four of them will become frontline starters in the very near future.
Their bullpen is highlighted by Jeurys Familia, who was arguably baseball’s biggest breakout star this season. He tied Armando Benitez for the most saves in a season in Mets’ history with 43 and posted a 1.85 ERA. They also added Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed to bridge the gap to Familia. The Mets bullpen lacks depth, but the game is essentially over once they get the ball to their closer.
The Mets are the first team to ever get to the World Series after scoring the fewest runs in baseball through July 31st, the non-waiver trading deadline. It was on this day they acquired Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers for Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. The Mets offense took off once Cespedes entered the lineup. He even warranted some National League MVP consideration, despite only playing 57 games in the senior circuit. But the guy to carry the Mets in the postseason has been Daniel Murphy, who set a Major League record by homering in six consecutive postseason games (this streak is active going into Tuesday night’s game one).
The NLCS MVP has been scorching hot in the postseason, hitting .421 (16-38) with 7 home runs and 11 RBI in nine games leading up to the World Series. A free agent at season’s end, Murphy does not typically hit for power. He has always hit for a high average and he has found a power stroke at the right time as the Mets look to win their first world championship since 1986.
The Mets will have their hands full against a Kansas City Royals team that has won back-to-back American League pennants and have not won a World Series since 1985. They silenced the critics who deemed them a fluke after they made it to Game 7 of the World Series a season ago by winning the American League Central by 12 games with a 95-67 record. They came back from a 2-1 series deficit against the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series and won games four and five to advance to the American League Championship Series, where they defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 4-2.
The Royals have essentially redefined how baseball is played. In an era that is all about power, Kansas City essentially plays the entire game of baseball and plays every aspect of the game well. They were second in baseball with a .269 batting average in the regular season and stole 104 bases, second in the AL. They were the only team in baseball to strike out fewer than 1,000 times for the season, which is a result of their contact-oriented approach at the plate. Defensively, the Royals are led by gold and platinum glove left fielder Alex Gordon, who is as good as it gets in running efficient routes and tracking balls down in the outfield. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain, third basemen Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, first basemen Eric Hosmer, and catcher Salvador Perez are all considered elite defenders at their positions and are all worthy of gold gloves. They had a franchise record seven all-stars this season, which was the biggest representation for any team.
As good as they are defensively, their calling card for the past two season has been their shut-down bullpen. Despite the loss of closer Greg Holland due to Tommy John surgery, one could argue that the bullpen is deeper now than it was a season ago. Kelvin Herrera brings constant 100 mph velocity in from the bullpen and flat out overpowers hitters. He also features a changeup in the low 90s and a power curveball. Over the past two years, Wade Davis is a combined 17-3 and has a 0.97 ERA, in 140 appearances. The former starter-turned-reliever has struck out four batters for every walk and has posted a 418 ERA+ over last two seasons (100 is league average). In the bullpen, Davis has seen his velocity increase to the upper 90’s and features a nasty cutter and curveball that consistently leaves batters shaking their heads as they walk back to the dugout. Davis served as Holland’s setup man until the injury, but many people in the game felt that Davis was the better pitcher. It is hard to find a better relief pitcher in baseball right now than Wade Davis.
Those two arms return to the World Series, but Kansas City has more weapons that can enable them to shorten the game even more. Ryan Madson was a dominant force in the Phillies’ bullpen from 2007-2011, but Tommy John surgery seemingly ended his career until the Royals gave him a look in Spring Training of this season. The former all-star has revitalized his career with the best bullpen the game has seen since “the nasty boys” with the 1990 Cincinnati Reds and his 95+ mph fastball and power changeup combination has seen Madson pitch in many high-leveraged roles throughout the season. Luke Hochevar was dominant in 2013, but missed 2014 with Tommy John surgery (which led them to moving Davis to the bullpen, and the rest is history). He wanted to return after watching his teammates accomplish what they did a season ago, and now he is glad to be a part of it after years of struggling. Kris Medlen and Danny Duffy are two guys that started in the regular season, but were moved to the bullpen as guys who could pitch multiple innings if need be.
This truly is a fascinating World Series matchup. My prediction is Royals in seven. Starting pitching got the Mets to this point, but the Royals can handle the velocity that the Mets will provide, are superior in every other area of the game and are motivated after losing the World Series a season ago. But regardless of what I think, enjoy every second of it because you will not want to miss this series.