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World Series Preview

World Series Preview

Lee Vowell

Lee Vowell is a co-host of the podcast Baseball Beer & BBQ and writes about sports and other sundries for various outlets.

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The 2015 World Series between the Kansas City Royals of the American League and the New York Mets of the National League feature two teams with contrasting philosophies of play. Which philosophy works best will determine who wins the championship this year.

The Mets want you to swing and miss at the 95+ miles-per-hour fastballs and occasional breaking pitches of their starting pitchers. This approach can be altered a bit according to the makeup of the opponent and because of the talent the Mets have. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers in this year’s division series, the Mets threw 47 percent of their pitches as something other than fastballs. In the League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs, 68 percent of Mets pitches were fastballs. The Mets starters, especially, are excellent at controlling their pitches for strikes which puts the pressure on the hitter to choose which pitch to try to hit. Try being the operative word because following are three of the Mets starters and the batting-averages-against on their favorite off-speed pitches this season:

  1. Matt Harvey: Slider, .176; Curveball, .191.
  2. Jason deGrom: Changeup, .144.
  3. Noah Syndergaard: Curveball, .184.

This means the Mets starters most likely will get a batter out one way or another. Plus, in the postseason this year Dodgers and Cubs batters came up empty on more pitches (140) against the Mets than balls they actually put in play (136). That is a bit crazy.

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The Royals, however, may be the one team that has the antidote to high-speed pitching. The Royals are not a home run-hitting club. They like their singles and doubles, and score on more singles and doubles, and can get those hits on any kind of pitch. Kansas City in this postseason is hitting .300 off pitches that were thrown 95+ MPH. Here are some regular season stats that should make Royals fans feel easier about facing the Mets starters:

  1. The Royals put 4,683 balls in play this year, the most in baseball.
  2. Royals hitters struck out a bit below 16 percent of the time they came to the plate; no other team was below 18 percent.
  3. The Royals were a combined 10-1 against a group that includes Corey Kluber, Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, David Price and Sonny Gray; in other words, the Royals are not afraid to go against great pitching.

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The Royals also like to use their team speed to affect the other team’s defense. Overall, the Mets are decent defensively, but the problem comes up the middle on the infield. Second baseman Daniel Murphy may be having one of the greatest offensive postseasons ever, but in the regular season he was a -6.0 Defensive Runs Saved and had a -1.3 Ultimate Zone Rating. Shortstop Wilmer Flores had an UZR of -2.5, but to make it worse 10 of his 14 errors in 103 games came on throws. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud only seems to throw out runners when deGrom is pitching (six of ten). When Harvey and Syndergaard pitch, d’Arnaud is a combined 4 of 30 caught stealing (13.3%). The Royals will surely test d’Arnaud early and often.

When it comes to the Royals pitching, they view things differently than the Mets. Kansas City wants their starters to pitch effectively for six innings and then turn the ball over to their fantastic bullpen. This philosophy has worked well for Kansas City for two straight years, and has not suffered even when the Royals closer, Greg Holland, was injured and replaced by former set-up man, Wade Davis. In fact, the Royals are 10-0 in the last two postseasons when they lead after the sixth inning. Plus, Kansas City’s starters are pretty good. Game three starter Yordano Ventura was 9-1 with a 3.10 ERA from July 26th through the end of the season, for instance.

Kansas City’s home ball park also can hurt an opposing team. The powerful Toronto Blue Jays struggled to score runs in the vastness of the park and Kansas City won every game at home in the American League Championship Series. The Mets offense has been spectacularly timely with home runs this postseason. Momentum can seemingly carry a team for two weeks and to a championship, but home runs are simply much more difficult in Kansas City. The Royals have home-field advantage in the World Series, and that should make the difference in the series.

Prediction: Royals four games to two over the Mets.

About Lee Vowell

Lee Vowell is a co-host of the podcast Baseball Beer & BBQ and writes about sports and other sundries for various outlets.

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