There are few things I enjoy less in sports than seeing a New York team do well. The only time I can recall having cheered for a New York team was during the 2000 World Series, when I had no choice but to sit out the Fall Classic, or side with someone from New York, since that's all there was left.
At the beginning of this postseason, I posited that my dislike for the Royals had become so strong that were they to play the Yankees, I might find myself compelled to pull for those Bronx bastards. In all honesty, I don't think that's what would have happened. My hatred for the Yankees is far, far older, and when the series began I suspect it would have pulled seniority. I wouldn't have watched any of the series, which would have been a shame, because there isn't much baseball left to be watched at this point. Fortunately, the Astros saw to it that I wasn't faced with that scenario. Unfortunately, the Astros really blew it in Game 4 of their their ALDS series against Kansas City, and two weeks later I'm faced with the Royals versus a New York team after all.
These aren't the Yankees though, and so for the next five to nine days I'm with
Apu Nahasapeemapetilon Steve Barnes: "The Ny Mets are my favorite squadron."
Schedule (all games on FOX at 8:00 ET)
- Game 1 - Tuesday, October 27: Mets (Harvey) @ Royals (Volquez)
- Game 2 - Wednesday, October 28: Mets (deGrom) @ Royals (Cueto)
- Game 3- Friday, October 30: Royals (Ventura) @ Mets (Syndergaard)
- Game 4 - Saturday, October 31: Royals (Young) @ Mets (Matz)
- Game 5 - Sunday, November 1: Royals (TBD) @ Mets (TBD)
- Game 6 - Tuesday, November 3: Mets (TBD) @ Royals (TBD)
- Game 7 - Wednesday, November 4: Mets (TBD) @ Royals (TBD)
* if necessary
Royals starting pitchers vs. Mets hitters
Kansas City was very good this season in terms of not allowing the other team to score many runs. They gave up an average of just 3.96 per game, making them one of only four AL teams to come in below 4. The credit for that run prevention goes mostly to the team's bullpen and defense though, Royals starters pitched the fewest innings of any AL staff, and posted the AL's fourth-worst ERA.
New York had a very average offense this season, if you look at what they did on the whole. If instead of looking at the season as a whole though, you split it into a first half and a second half, they weren't average at all. In the first half they scored the second-fewest runs in the National League, and showed very little power. In the second half though, it was a totally different story, as they led the NL in runs scored and home runs. Some of that was due to the addition of Yoenis Cespedes, who was awesome, but one player can't make that big a difference, and what really turned things around was the improved play of a number of other Mets hitters, and the return of a couple others.
The Mets ought to be able to get the KC's starters, but they'll want to get to them early, because Ned Yost will likely lean heavily on his bullpen, and those guys are a lot better at shutting down offense.
Royals hitters vs. Mets starting pitchers
This matchup is the it story of this World Series. The Mets have a young group of flamethrowing starting pitchers, who collectively might be the best rotation in baseball. Everything they throw tends to come in faster than it does from most other pitchers.
The Royals are incredible at making contact though, and did really, really well against fastballs this season, even especially fast ones. Rather than waiting for the right pitch and falling behind in a lot of counts, they'll be aggressive from the word go, and might be better equipped to do something with those 98-MPH heaters than most teams. The Mets aren't just up there throwing fastballs though, they've got excellent secondary pitches too, and just because KC might be better equipped than most teams doesn't mean they're well equipped.
The Royals have had the best bullpen in baseball during the last couple years, but closer Greg Holland struggled late in the season and was shutdown, and others including Wade Davis have not been quite as effective lately as they were earlier. Meanwhile, Mets relievers, led by closer Jeurys Familia (who has often gotten more than just three outs) and usual starter and LGFT (that's "Let's Go Former Indian") Bartolo Colon has been very good of late. Kansas City still deserves the edge here, but it's not as large an advantage as it would have seemed three months ago.
This is an area that's a big advantage for Kansas City. The Mets aren't really a bad defensive team, they're a pretty average one. The Royals though continue to be one of the very best defensive teams in the game. Their outfield especially turns a lot more balls into outs than an average group. Fans tend to focus on the spectacular plays, and/or the boneheaded ones, which is understandable, because watching on TV and/or watching with an untrained eye, those are generally the only ones you can tell apart from the rest. Metrics that involve people closely watching plays from multiple angles though, KC's ability to turn what would normally be singles into outs is strong.
The is another factor that favors the Royals. It should be noted that the Mets (who stole the second-fewest bases in MLB during the regular season) have become a lot more aggressive during the postseason, and have been successful with that aggression, so maybe this gap has closed, but Kansas City has a stronger track record when it comes to taking the extra base. The bigger gap really though, is in each team's ability to prevent its opponent from taking the extra base. Royals catcher Salvador Perez does a great job of keeping base runners where they are, and the strong play of their outfield not only turns hits into outs, they also make it more likely that hits remain singles or doubles, not doubles or triples.
The rest of it
The Royals will have home-field advantage if the series goes to seven games, and while that didn't save them from Madison Bumgarner last year, the home team does win more often than it loses. (Home teams win ~54% of the time in MLB games, regular or postseason.) KC manager Ned Yost must be doing something right, to have his team in the Fall Classic two years in a row, but he makes a lot of questionable decisions, and tactically I'd prefer to have Mets skipper Terry Collins calling the shots.
The longer these games stay close, the greater KC's potential advantages would seem to be. Their starters don't seem likely to avoid unscathed though, and so in order to keep games close long enough to get those advantages, the Royals are going to need to do some damage against Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard.
Both groups have seemed incredibly poised, which is probably to be expected from teams that have reached the World Series. I don't think the Mets will be overwhelmed by reaching the biggest stage, but I also don't think the Royals will be intimidated by what New York can throw at them.
I expect a series of mostly close games, and the Royals have been tremendous at winning close games during the last couple years. I don't like it, but...