After a long, grueling, season, Baseball’s Fall Classic is upon us. But the teams involved may not have been the pair that anyone picked preseason. It’ll be the New York Mets making their 5th World Series appearance (they have won 2) versus the Kansas City Royals making their 4th World Series appearance (they have won 1) beginning on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 on FOX at 8:00. Who has the edge in the ultimate battle of wills? Stay tuned for Overtime’s comprehensive World Series Preview.
New York Mets: Recap
In the franchise’s 54th season and 7th at Citi Field, the New York Metropolitans far exceeded expectations and rode their success (and a weak division) to their first NL East title since 2006. The Mets’ Opening Day lineup was a far cry from the squad they’re fielding now. After a midseason trade, the Mets’ biggest star is unquestionably center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, he of the .287 average and ridiculous .604 SLG with the Mets. Curtis Granderson put together his best season since 2012 by hitting 26 homers with a .364 OBP out of the leadoff spot, and young left fielder Michael Conforto platoons with Michael Cuddyer; the pair post solid production in the middle of the order. David Wright’s return from a career-threatening back injury has boosted the Mets immensely. The return of their captain both on the field and in the clubhouse has given the Mets the leadership and inspiration they need. First baseman Lucas Duda runs hot and cold, but has 30-homer power. Meanwhile, Travis d’Arnaud and Daniel Murphy provide middle-of-the-order thump, while Murphy’s resurgence in particular from an overrated, .770 OPS player into a 7-homer-in-9-games freak in the postseason has taken centerstage as October’s chief storyline.
While it is safe to say that the Mets have some bats, their real threat comes from their pitching staff, particularly their rotation. Matt Harvey is not on any innings limit after all; he spearheads the Mets rotation with a 100 mph fastball, killer slider, and a .222 BAA. Jacob deGrom was somehow even better than Harvey this year, posting a WHIP of 0.98 and an unreal 205-38 K/BB rate. And somehow, Noah Syndergaard was just as good as the aforementioned Harvey and deGrom; he posted 166-31 K/BB rate in only 24 starts to partner with his 100 mph fastball and hammer 12-6 curveball. Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard are a modern day Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Gary Gentry, an unbeatable trio of pitchers that not even the best lineups can dent. Young southpaw Steven Matz is the Mets’ 4th starter. The Mets’ bullpen isn’t perfect, but with such an elite rotation, most games are already a cinch. Still, Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Hansel Robles and converted starters Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese are an effective late-game bridge. The Mets have the Championship roster, now it’s up to them to finish the job.
Kansas City Royals: Recap
The 47th season of Kansas City Royals baseball was a fruitful one for the starved KC fanbase. After finally returning to the World Series in 2014 but falling just short, KC is back and better than ever in 2015. Shortstop and leadoff man Alcides Escobar had a slow 2015 season, but was the unanimous ALCS MVP after his outstanding showing versus the dangerous Toronto Blue Jays. Lorenzo Cain may be the best pure player that the Royals have; he hit .307 with 16 homers and stellar defense in center field. Quasi-Captain Alex Gordon is the heart and soul of the Royals, as he has been around since the ugly days of the mid-2000s. But Gordon has his chance to strike now; he’s a pesky on-base guy with top-of-the-line left field defense. Corner infielders Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas had a combined 40 regular season dingers and .820 OPS to partner with their flashy fielding. Catcher Salvy Perez may be a little out of gas after playing in 140 games as a catcher, but his combination of power and defense is among the MLB’s best. Utility man Ben Zobrist and veteran right fielder Alex Rios offer production from the top and bottom of the order, respectively. KC may not have one of baseball’s most star-powered offenses, but they get the job done when it matters most.
But much like the Mets, the Royals’ go-to strength is their pitching staff. Whereas the Mets have power arms in their rotation, the Royals have an excellent bullpen that is among baseball’s best even without injured closer Greg Holland. Wade Davis has done an excellent job in his stead in the 9th inning of games; he had an 8-1 record and 0.94 ERA in the regular season. After a couple of so-so years with the Tampa Bay Rays, Davis has received new life from the Royals as their primary late-game arm instead of a starter. Fireballer Kelvin Herrera specializes in generating weak contact, and reclamation projects Luke Hochevar and Ryan Madson have become solid options in the late game for manager Ned Yost. Members of the KC Royals rotation really only have to complete 5 or so innings due to their amazing bullpen, and this is a major benefit for a squad that doesn’t have an outstanding rotation. Deadline acquisition Johnny Cueto hasn’t been that great with the Royals this year (4.76 regular season ERA and a 4-7 record, not to mention a bust of an ALCS game against the Blue Jays), but is still a top-10 starter in this league. Inconsistent Yordano Ventura has been rocked at times this year, but is practically unhittable when he is on, as he was versus the Blue Jays in the Royals’ deciding Game 6 victory. Edinson Volquez was resurrected from the baseball dead to become the Royals’ most dependable starter, and soft-tossing, funky-throwing, 6’10” righty Chris Young is the Royals’ 4th starter. If the Royals have a lead after 6 innings, they are virtually unbeatable though, meaning the Mets will need to get off to fast starts if they want to win it all.
New York Mets: X-Factor:
Starting Pitching. It is no secret that the success of Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard will determine the Mets’ success in the Fall Classic. After all, it’s what got them this far anyway. But pitching in the World Series is a whole different animal for the Mets’ young, inexperienced starters. Versus the Royals’ deep lineup, the Mets’ young arms will have to at their finest for the Mets to win their third World Series and to have Wilmer Flores cry tears of joy.
Kansas City Royals: X-Factor:
Experience. You wouldn’t realize this when looking at the Royals’ roster, but their average age is 29.6 years old, the 5th-oldest roster in the Major Leagues. Due to this, about 65% of Kansas City’s roster has been in a World Series before, with most of this same team on the roster for last year’s near title run. Whereas the young, wide-eyed Mets only have one player on their active roster who has World Series experience (Curtis Granderson), almost all of KC has been here before and almost won it all, giving them a big edge.
It’s funny to think that in the 111th edition of the World Series, only now are we having the first ever matchup of two expansion teams. Both of these fanbases have been waiting way too long for a Championship, but only one team can take home the Commissioner’s Trophy as baseball’s best team. It’s going to be a great World Series, one that could easily go 7 games, but I’m picking the Mets. While the Royals have experience on their side, the Mets have the flair, the youth, and the swagger that has endeared the nation. It would be devastating for the Royals to lose 2 straight World Series, much like the Texas Rangers of 2010-11. I’ve been hesitant all season to declare New York the Mets’ town, but the narrative is true now: the Miracle Mets are back, baby. You’ve gotta believe.