It’s been nearly 30 years since either the Kansas City Royals or New York Mets won the World Series. The Royals won their only championship in franchise history in 1985, while the Mets took home the title the following season.
One of those title droughts is guaranteed to end this year, as the two teams get ready to meet in the 2015 World Series. Game 1 is set for Tuesday night in Kansas City, and a case can be made for both teams to win it all.
Odds makers are essentially calling the Fall Classic a toss-up. The betting odds vary, depending on the sportsbook. Bovada.lv has made the Royals favorites (-120), while the Mets are slight favorites at Sportsbook.ag (-115). At the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, both teams have -110 odds.
The last time Mets won World Series: 1986 The last time Royals won World Series: 1985 Soon a drought will end. pic.twitter.com/6LV2F5K2Cn
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 24, 2015
The two teams have traveled different roads to the World Series. After making it all the way to Game 7 of last year’s World Series, the Royals have been the best team in the American League all season, finishing with the AL's best record. Kansas City needed five games to win the AL Division Series, and they got past the Toronto Blue Jays in six games in the AL Championship Series.
New York entered the 2015 season having not reached the playoffs in nine years. They hovered around .500 up until the trade deadline, and most baseball experts expected the Washington Nationals to pull away and win the division. But after making a few trades, as well as some moves within their organization, the Mets put together among the best rosters in the NL, and perhaps all of MLB.
Few teams in baseball, especially not the Royals, can match up with the Mets starting rotation. Jacob deGrom has had an exceptional year, and earned wins against star Dodger pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard are perhaps the best combination of No.2 and No.3 starters in MLB, and both have come up big for New York when they’ve needed it most.
It could be Harvey that gets the start in the series opener because of deGrom's heavy workload in the postseason. But the rotation is New York’s strength either way, with Steven Matz and his 2.58 ERA in eight career starts ready to possibly go in Game 4.
The Mets’ pitchers overmatched the Chicago Cubs in their four-game sweep of the NLCS, allowing just two runs per game. Chicago’s bats went silent, despite being red hot to start the series. Kansas City’s offense won’t have an easy time scoring against New York’s young arms, but they might give the Mets their toughest possible matchup.
With three flamethrowers at the top of their rotation, the Mets have a 2.81 ERA in nine playoff games. Syndergaard has the highest average fastball velocity of any starting pitcher in baseball at 97.1 mph. Harvey ranks fourth and deGrom comes in at 12th, both averaging at least 95 mph with their fastballs. Mets closer Jeurys Familia also throws in the upper 90’s.
While the Cubs have trouble against hard-throwers, the Royals thrive when facing such pitchers. Their .269 overall batting average was tied for second in the regular season, and they have MLB’s top average against pitches of 95 mph or more.
— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 24, 2015
The Royals offense was a little better than average through 162 games, ranking sixth out of 15 AL teams in runs scored and finishing in seventh in OPS. But they are built for the postseason with their ability to manufacture runs and hit good pitching. Kansas City ranked second in the AL in stolen bases, and no MLB team came close to striking out as little as the Royals. They ranked 30th in baseball with 973 strikeouts, and the Atlanta Braves were next on the list, striking out 1,107 times.
It’s their ability to create runs and win the battle of the bullpens that’s gotten Kansas City to two consecutive World Series. When the Royals are able to keep games close through the first six innings, they often come out on top, sporting the AL’s best bullpen by far. After posting a 2.72 ERA in the regular season, Kansas City’s relievers have a 2.85 ERA in the playoffs, and they are responsible for five of the team’s eight postseason wins.
Keeping the game close until the later innings will be easier said than done against the Mets. The starting rotation is the Royals’ biggest weakness. Yordano Ventura came up big for Kansas City in Friday’s clincher, but he was less than stellar in his first three playoff starts. Johnny Cueto was terrific in Game 5 of the ALDS, but he gave up eight runs in his last start and he has a 6.82 ERA in his last 12 starts. Edinson Volquez and Chris Young have been solid for the Royals this season, but they are more than hittable.
Despite facing the NL’s top three Cy Young candidates in five of their eight playoff games, the Mets are scoring 4.8 runs per game this postseason with 14 home runs. While anomalies like Daniel Murphy’s six straight games with a home run and Lucas Duda’s 1.355 OPS in the NLCS aren’t likely to continue, it should come as no surprise that the Mets are scoring a lot of runs. New York led the NL in runs after the All-Star break, and their lineup is one of the deepest in baseball.
Daniel Murphy named NLCS MVP .529 BA, 4 HR He hit as many HR as the Cubs did (Photo: Getty Images) pic.twitter.com/XqDuZGpLMW
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 22, 2015
If Murphy or Duda cool off, the Royals still have Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright and Curtis Granderson to contend with. The likes of Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto aren’t easy outs, and the Mets will take advantage if Kansas City’s starters are struggling.
New York’s middle relief was it’s biggest weakness this season, but the backend of the bullpen has gotten the job done. Familia hasn’t allowed a run in the playoffs, and he’ll get the Mets more than three outs if need be.
A win in four or five games by either team would be surprising. The Mets starting pitching is too good for them to lose in a short series, and the Royals seem to always find ways to win. But New York has the advantage in the rotation and on offense, and going 4-1 on the road this postseason means they shouldn’t be affected much by not having home-field advantage. Kansas City has the edge in late, close games, but their bullpen isn’t quite as good as it was last year. The Mets are the better team, and the Royals could see another team celebrate a championship at Kauffman Stadium for a second straight year.
New York in six