The World Series is now set and the huge advantage that the New York Mets have in starting pitching could be enough to offset the edges the Kansas City Royals have elsewhere.
The small World Series favorites could have a bigger edge than their modest series price may suggest as those National League Champion New York Mets prepare to square off with the American League Champion Kansas City Royals with Game 1 of the best four-of-seven series set for Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO Tuesday night at 8:05 ET, with the entire World Series televised nationally on FOX.
The posted series price at 5 Dimes has New York as a moderate favorite for the NLCS at current odds of -115.
Two Very Deserving Teams
This matchup is not a fluke by any means as these terms certainly earned the right to be here. We had the Mets’ starting pitching rotation rated as the best of all the playoff teams this year, and that has come to pass, first by beating the Dodgers in five games including wins over Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and then by blowing away the Cubs in a four-game sweep in the NLCS, beating probable National League Cy Young Award Winner Jake Arrieta along the way.
Now, we freely admit that we had the Kansas City starting rotation rated the second worst of all the playoff teams ahead of only the Texas Rangers. However, that has not mattered as they took advantage of a poor Houston bullpen to beat the Astros in five games and then relied on their excellent bullpen heavily while being the winning MLB picks in six games over the favored Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS.
Best Starting Rotation in Years
However, while the Royals got away with mediocre starting pitching to win the first two series to get here, they did not face rotations as great as the Mets possess either, giving the Mets probably the most important advantage any team can have in a best-of-seven series, with those great starters neutralizing the edges that the Royals have in other areas.
In fact, this Mets’ rotation is the best we have seen in years from one through four, with four starters all in their 20’s that all throw at least 95 MPH and all have impeccable command. And the Mets have already announced their rotation for the first four games, as it will be Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in that order.
Harvey was the Mets ace at the beginning of the year and the only reason he may have relinquished that title to deGrom over the second half was because he was on a pitch count late in the year as the Mets successfully kept him below 200 innings, both as a precaution after coming back from Tommy John surgery this year and also to keep him fresh for the post-season.
All those pitch limits obviously go out the window at this time of year though and Harvey was brilliant in Game 1 vs. the Cubs while beating Jon Lester 4-2, allowing two runs on only four hits with nine strikeouts in 7.2 innings. For the season, Harvey finished a deceptive 13-8 as he had a 2.71 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 188 strikeouts vs. just 37 walks in 189.1 innings.
That great strikeout-to-walk ratio is a recurring theme among the Mets starters, which is one of the reasons they are tough to beat in a short series and rather remarkable for a rotation so young. deGrom will go in Game 2, and he finished 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 205 strikeouts vs. 38 walks in 191 innings.
Surely, the Royals get a break in Game 3, right? Well, that is incorrect as Syndergaard had the highest average velocity on the staff hitting 100 MPH on many occasions while going 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 166 strikeouts vs. 31 walks in 150 innings. And the fourth starter Matz may have the least experience in the rotation having made just four regular season starts, but the young southpaw was 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 35.2 innings.
Royals Have Bullpen Edge, But Will it Matter?
Granted, Kansas City may have the best bullpen in baseball and the Royals have better overall offensive numbers than the Mets in this series, although New York was better offensively the second half of the year after acquiring Yoenis Cespedes. Still, those edges for the Royals may not come to fruition as they do not figure to score their usual quota of runs vs. the awesome Mets starters, which in turn should lead to fewer leads for the great bullpen to protect
And just to give you an idea of the state of the Kansas City rotation, in only one game this post-season has a starter gone more than six innings, which was Johnny Cueto in his eight-inning masterpiece in the deciding Game 5 of the ALDS vs. the Astros, and only twice have the starters gone exactly six innings, meaning that they have lasted fewer than six innings in eight of the 11 Kansas City playoff games!
Sure, we get that Manager Ned Yost can afford to have a quick hook with such a great bullpen, but as mentioned the Royals cannot be expected to score as many runs as usual in this series so they may need a lot more from the quartet of Cueto, Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Chris Young. The problem we see there of course is that we are not so sure a Royals’ staff whose starters have a cumulative 4.41 ERA this year is capable of giving more.
We have a great deal of respect for the Royals and the entire Kansas City organization, and this is a team that can contend for more world championships in the immediate future if it can keep its roster mostly intact while adding a quality starting pitcher or two. However, we simply feel that the Mets will have that edge in starting pitching in this series in every game, and that is simply too much to overcome in a four-out-of-seven series.
And the Royals having the home field advantage may even hurt them in a strange way because if the Mets win at least one of the first two games in Kansas City, which we believe they will, then this series may not return to the “Show Me” state with the middle three games in New York, potentially making this a shorter series than many expect with the New York Mets being crowned World Series Champions.
Mets in 5
MLB Pick: Mets -115 (series)