Update on World Series 2015

It’s now down to the two teams we predicted. Who will win World Series 2015? (Dean Hoffmeyer/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

It’s now down to the two teams we predicted. Who will win World Series 2015? (Dean Hoffmeyer/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Back when we made our World Series 2015 predictions, we posed a couple of possibilities for who might wind up on top at the end of the regular season. We figured that the Kansas City Royals would become the unquestioned leaders of the American League, and we really didn’t give too much credence to any other possibility. We had two major choices for the National League, but the New York Mets were a close favorite. As it turns out, both of these predictions were completely accurate. Now that we know this for sure, we’d like to take a deeper look at both of these teams to see who might come out on top by the seventh game of World Series 2015.

We know that some of you are probably disappointed not to see the Chicago Cubs in the final running, if for no other reason than the fact that Marty McFly had predicted it first. But we don’t forecast major sporting events by basing our outlooks on science fiction. We picked these two teams as World Series 2015 frontrunners for a reason, and that’s what we’d now like to talk about. We’ll also touch on some of the major issues facing each team as they go into the final stretch of the postseason, before ultimately discussing how they match up against each other.

New York Mets Pros

Back when we first reported on this, the Mets had the most runs in the entire MLB. They didn’t quite continue to deliver this same performance throughout the regular season, but they’re doing alright on runs in the postseason. At 43 runs, they’re third in the MLB for the postseason thus far. The Mets’ offense is one of the major reasons that fans of Back to the Future II won’t get to see the Chicago Cubs win World Series 2015 and end the longest curse in baseball history. A lot of that offensive credit goes to Daniel Murphy, who set an MLB record when he got a home run in his sixth playoff game in a row.

But it’s not all about offense. Pitchers like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are also integral to the Mets’ defense. Other starters in the series included Steven Matz and Matt Harvey, both of whom have earned their stripes. Between the NLDS and NLCS, the Mets had to stand up to some pretty stiff competition in order to secure their World Series 2015 position. Harvey, Matz, deGrom and Syndergaard had to outpitch the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Jake Arrieta, all of whom were noted in our National League Cy Young predictions. With some of the best pitchers of the season leaving the mound, the Mets stepped up and outdid them time and time again.

New York’s skills on the mound can be emphasized even better in World Series 2015 if they make a few strong choices regarding their rotation. The New York Post analyzes the strength of their pitchers fairly well, making an excellent rotation suggestion in the process. The order they suggest is Harvey (Games 1 and 5), deGrom (Games 2 and 6), Syndergaard (Games 3 and 7) and Matz (Game 4). Of those four pitchers, Matz is arguably the only one you don’t want starting twice in the World Series. At the very least, he isn’t quite as desirable as the other three. But with Harvey starting, deGrom keeping up the pace, and Syndergaard keeping them alive in the clutch if it gets to Game 7? That rotation could give the Mets a huge shot at winning the whole thing. Which is good, because they appear to be going with it.

It’s worth noting that the Mets wouldn’t be the first team in history to win the World Series with a pool of young pitchers at their disposal. This sort of thing has happened before, albeit in a time when the postseason was much shorter. But the pitching strength of the four starters we’ve mentioned, aided by a roster rife with talent in pitchers such as Bartolo Colon and closer Jeurys Familia, is something else. This really might be their year.

New York Mets Cons

Our implication here isn’t that Bartolo Colon is bad at what he does. It’s just easy to find pictures of him looking goofy. (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports)

Our implication here isn’t that Bartolo Colon is bad at what he does. It’s just easy to find pictures of him looking goofy. (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports)

In looking at some of New York’s weaknesses, we should briefly mention Daniel Murphy. His performance has the Cubs thinking that the Curse of the Billy Goat is over and the Curse of the Murphy has begun. To be fair, Murphy’s not letting it get to his head, even when his postseason run is being touted over Carlos Beltran’s awesome run in 2004. But there’s another athlete he’s been compared to as well: Jeremy Lin. This comparison by the New York Post was made in good spirit, but remember that Linsanity didn’t last forever. Lin’s fifteen minutes of basketball stardom were over as quickly as they began. Hanging our hopes on Murphy could be dangerous. And if you’ll forgive the pun, Murphy’s law suggests that the Mets’ offense may soon have to step up and fill the hole left by his exit from the spotlight.

Another major issue facing the Mets is a lack of familiarity with their World Series 2015 opponent. This technically goes for both sides, but it still warrants a mention. The last time the Mets faced the Royals was in 2013, when their roster was a bit different. Not all of their starters have played against Kansas City, at least not with New York. The biggest issue here is Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura. He was one of the better pitchers in last year’s postseason, and the only batter for the Mets with any sort of real experience against him is Yoenis Cespedes. Not only did Ventura out Cespedes on six of the seven occasions they’ve faced each other, but Cespedes is going to be entering World Series 2015 having just recovered from a mild shoulder injury. There’s no telling what kind of form he’ll be able to maintain.

Also bear in mind that the New York Mets headed for World Series 2015 are not the same Mets we’ve seen over the past few years. It took them a while to build to the point they are at now, and a lot of that took some luck. This is always a scary thing for a team, as it indicates that the other shoe might drop at any time. They were fortunate to get here, but fortune runs out. There’s no guarantee that they can keep up their current momentum, and too much reliance on the belief that this is their year might actually weaken them. There’s no real indication that they’re skating by on faith alone, but it’s still a major concern. If they let their current success go to their heads, they might risk giving Kansas City the upper hand.

Kansas City Royals Pros

One obvious advantage that the Kansas City Royals have going for them in World Series 2015 is home-field advantage. This can be attributed to the 2015 All-Star Game, which the American League was fortunate enough to win. Granted, home-field advantage is only granted to Kansas City for the first two and last two games (provided that the series goes to Game 7). Even so, going 2-0 at the top of the series would certainly strengthen their status as championship contenders. Kansas City has a real chance to take control of this series from the very beginning, all thanks to an arbitrary rule granting importance to what should have just been an exhibition game.

But maybe we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the All-Star Game was arbitrary. After all, the Royals received so many votes for that game that many thought there had been some ballot stuffing at play. In other words, the victory in that game belonged to the Royals every bit as much as it belonged to the American League. Not only did Wade Davis pitch an inning without a single run being scored, but Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain (who was in the running for MVP) hit more than the Royals have hit in an All-Star game since 1989. It only took three hits to do that, but it still indicates that the team might be in rare form this year.

It’s also important to note that Kansas City manager Ned Yost was in charge of the American League team during that same win. And Yost seems to have some tricks up his sleeve for World Series 2015. While the Mets’ pitching lineup presents some issues for the Royals (we’ll get to that in a bit), the Royals’ pitching rotation is being kept secret until the World Series begins. The major suspicion is that Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto will be the first two starters, followed by Yordano Ventura and Chris Young. Cueto’s had some issues on the road, but confiding him to Games 2 and 6 will ensure that he gets to take the mound on his home turf. This would be a pretty smart move by Yost, but that isn’t even the major issue facing the Mets. The real issue here as far as New York is concerned is the fact that Kansas City has the opportunity to prepare for the Mets’ lineup. Kansas City isn’t affording their opponents that chance, and it might work to their benefit. Yost says he’s being “a little bit of a punk” by not divulging his strategy, but we have to wonder why more teams don’t do this.

In some ways, Kansas City lacks the type of raw talent we’ve discussed in terms of the Mets. But it almost doesn’t matter, because they make up for it in brains. Their offense knows the importance of never letting a pitcher get the second strike, because it puts their turn at bat on the line. Kansas City’s brain versus New York’s brawn should make for one heck of a series.

Kansas City Royals Cons

As we mentioned above, the Royals haven’t faced the Mets since 2013, back before three of the Mets’ starters were on the team and one (Harvey) was not yet starting. While we noted the fact that this could put the Mets at a disadvantage, the same could arguably be said about the Royals. A few of their players have gone against the Mets’ starters while playing for other teams, but the results weren’t so great. Johnny Cueto was struck out by Noah Syndergaard while he was still playing for the Cincinnati Reds, delivering some weak pitches in that same game. Drew Butera must have called some bad plays against Jacob deGrom while he was playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, because deGrom struck out his batter with ease. And Alex Rios was around when Harvey pitched in the aforementioned 2013 game, but he was struck out as well.

The Royals still have their advantage with Yordano Ventura, but he hasn’t been nearly as great as he was in last year’s postseason. There’s no reason to expect that he’ll turn it around too easily this year. Ventura’s not really a disadvantage in and of himself, but the point is that the Royals can’t capitalize on this lack of familiarity between the two teams as well as the Mets can with their pitching lineup. Some may think that this lack of familiarity with their interleague opponent is not too big a deal, especially since Kansas City has more recent World Series experience. But trust us, they’re going to have to study their World Series 2015 opponents’ pitching styles if they want to come out of this on top.

The last thing we should mention here is hype. We noted our concern that the Mets might buy into the hype surrounding Daniel Murphy, but this concern is even great with Kansas City since the Royals as a whole tend to get hyped quite a bit. As if the 2015 All-Star ballot wasn’t proof enough, Fox News inadvertently added to the issue when they prematurely declared the Royals as the Mets’ opponents for World Series 2015. And when we say “prematurely,” we mean that Fox actually advertised Tuesday’s game between the Mets and the Royals while the Toronto Blue Jays were still in the running. Everything worked out in the end, but the point is that many people tend to simply assume that Kansas City is destined for greatness. With the strength of the Mets this year, destiny isn’t enough. The Royals are going to have to earn this one.

World Series 2015 Outlook

Thankfully for Kansas City, the stupidity of their mascot won’t be factoring into this series. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

Thankfully for Kansas City, the stupidity of their mascot won’t be factoring into this series. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN predicts that the Royals will win World Series 2015 in seven games, but we have to disagree. We think they’ll win it in five or less.

Hear us out. First of all, ESPN’s prediction is based on some faulty assumptions. One of their assumptions is that Cueto will be Kansas City’s Game 1 starter. While this is not outside the realm of possibility, we’ve already briefly mentioned that it wouldn’t be the smartest move. Yost is a qualified manager, and we can’t see him risking even one away game on a pitcher who’s currently doing better at home. Yeah, he’s one of their best in general. But it just seems a bit too risky. Plus, if these trends continue, keeping him off the mound at Citi Field will actually raise the Royals’ chances of winning at least one of those away games. Since we have faith that they can bring home both of their first two games, we think Cueto’s next turn on the mound will be what brings it home for them.

The Mets are good, and they have a solid defense. But Kansas City only has one error in the postseason. See, the thing you have to realize about the Mets is that they’ve got a lot of flash behind them right now, largely because of the Murphy factor. That flash is not unaccompanied by substance, but Kansas City is a little more consistent when going by the numbers. And while the Mets have one heck of a pitching rotation, the Royals are going to benefit from their ability to plan for each pitcher ahead of time (a benefit that, as we’ve mentioned, the Mets do not have). Furthermore, there’s nothing about Kansas City’s offense to suggest that they can’t take New York in a series, no matter what the stakes. All of this adds up to the Royals winning.

So, sorry if you thought we were leaning toward New York up there. They’ve still got a fighting chance, and who knows how we’ll feel after Game 1. But right now, calling it from a distance, we have to give it to Kansas City. This is one of the best Mets rosters we’ve seen in years, but—and we apologize for paraphrasing Lorde, here—they’ll never be Royals.