Mets/Royals World Series Preview

Full disclosure from the beginning, I am a die-hard Mets fan of 31 years, so I will try to contain my jubilation and table my bias regarding this preview.  The 2015 World Series  will be represented by 2 teams that have been woefully bad for much of the past two decades.  Both clubs turned things around by bringing up quality talent from their farm systems and filling the gaps with great trades and solid role players.  Both clubs are also chasing their first World Series win in 29/30 years.

The Royals had much success in the late 70s and 80s culminating with a World Series victory in 1985.  They would contend in the West for the rest of the 80s.  By the mid 90s, they had become a bottom dweller in the American League.  Throughout much of the 2000s, they were among the worst teams in all of baseball.  2010 was a turning year for the team as they called up young talents Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, and Mike Moustakas.  They also traded Zack Greinke, acquiring Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and other prospects from the Brewers.  Although they would still struggle, the foundations for the current team were coming together.  Last year, with the Tigers collapsing down the stretch, the Royals surged their way into the playoffs and caught fire through the first two rounds.  This year, they signed veterans Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales in the offseason and bolstered their pitching staff and lineup by trading for Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist at the deadline.  The Royals are a comeback team, having come from behind 3 times to win in this postseason already.  They have a lot of confidence that they can win any game no matter what the circumstances.  That pervasive attitude among the team makes them hard to put away.

The scary part of this team is the timely hitting.  Morales was the only Royal to notch 100 RBI this year and no one had more than 22 homers.  However, they have tons of players who can hit in the clutch and they seem to have a different guy step up each night.  Escobar and Cain have been great table setters, and the Royals have had clutch hits from Morales, Zobrist, and Perez throughout the playoffs.  Plus they still have Hosmer and Alex Gordon who can both ignite at any moment.  Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura, and Cueto are all capable of pitching lights out, but they aren't untouchable.  The starting pitching is competent, however no one has had a dominant season or postseason run.  If the pitching can keep the Royals close in games, their lineup can manufacture runs in several different ways.

2015 marks the first time since 2009 that neither the Giants or Cardinals won the NL pennant on the way to the Fall Classic.  The Mets are certainly an out of left field surprise to represent the National League in this year's series.  Like the Royals, they have had many stretches with terrible teams in the past few decades.  Their last World Series appearance was 2000, losing in 5 games to the Yankees in the subway series.  They are also approaching 30 years since a title, having last won in the infamous 1986 series with the Red Sox.

As they approached the midseason point this year, the Mets had the worst ranked offense in baseball with many analysts comparing them to a Triple-A lineup.  It was a foregone conclusion to most that the Washington Nationals would run away with the NL East leaving the Mets and Braves to vie for 2nd place and...maybe...a wildcard opportunity.  The Mets pitching staff kept them in the hunt for the first half of the season, but they were without David Wright, Lucas Duda started to slump after a hot start, and they didn't have much additional offense.  The team had fallen behind Washington 4.5 games and needed a push.  They were heavy into a deal for Carlos Gomez (who they originally had and sent to Minnesota in the Johan Santana trade) right at the break.  That deal fell through, paving the way for the Mets to pick up Yoenis Cespedes for a couple of prospects.  When I heard about them getting Cespedes, I was sure they gave up one of their young arms, but the pitching staff was kept in tact.  Cespedes ignited the Mets, along with a Nationals breakdown, and catapulted them to their first division title since 2006.  They went from the worst offense in baseball to the best offense in baseball down the stretch.

This postseason for the Mets has been dominated by power pitching and the unforeseen and other wordly hitting display by Daniel Murphy.  The much maligned Matt Harvey seems to have shed his concerns about innings in order to chase a title.  Harvey picked up key wins against both the Dodgers and Cubs.  Jacob deGrom has found a way to battle his way to 3 wins while not having his best stuff.  Noah Syndergaard has shown great poise for a 22 year old beating the probable Cy Young winner in Jake Arietta and holding his own against the other potential Cy winner in Greinke.  The bullpen has also been lights out as Jeurys Familia has not allowed a run as of yet.  The biggest story thus far has to be Murphy who has caught fire over the past two weeks.  After just 14 home runs all season, Murphy has 7 long balls already in the postseason, including a record setting 6 games in a row current streak.  He's gone deep against Clayton Kershaw (twice), Greinke, Arietta, and Jon Lester, four of the best pitchers in the game. 

Ultimately, I think this World Series comes down to the ages old battle of power pitching versus clutch hitting.  Can the young Met arms continue to throw smoke, locate their pitches, and rack up strikeouts?  Can the comeback Royals keep the magic going with timely hits and key run production?  Will the layoff for New York impact their momentum especially for Murphy?  These are some of the biggest question marks coming into next week.  If Kansas City can put up runs against the Mets' fireballers, they will take the series far and can certainly win the whole thing.  Likewise if the Mets can avoid the vaunted Royals bullpen and strike early and often against their starters, they will take control of the series. 

It should be a great World Series, and although I'm pulling for the Metropolitans, that never say die attitude of the Royals has me very weary indeed.  Mets in 6 (of course I'm biased).       

1 comment:

  1. The question is are the Mets a team of destiny or did they just get hot at the right time? I don't know either. I hate the Mets (Phillies fan), but I am rooting for them since they came out of nowhere to get here. In July we were making fun of them with 4 & 5 hitters hitting below .200. The Cepedes trade seemed to turn the season around and I think he should be MVP. needless to say, I think the Royals in 6.


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