It seemed like the immediate narrative after the conclusion of both League Championship Series was the Mets biggest strength may not be a strength in the World Series:
Royals vs. 95-mph+ pitches, MLB ranks in parentheses: BA: .284 (1st) SLG: .432 (2nd) K%: 15.1% (1st) Mets throw the most 95-mph+ pitches.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 24, 2015
As we all know, the Mets greatest strength is its good young pitching. The Mets pitching throws it hard and over 95 MPH:
- Matt Harvey – 96.54 MPH four seamer and 96.11 MPH sinker
- Jacob deGrom – 95.81 MPH four seamer and 95.49 MPH sinker
- Noah Syndergaard – 97.75 MPH four seamer and 97.78 MPH sinker
- Steven Matz 94.57 MPH four seamer
- Jeurys Familia 98.21 MPH four seamer and 97.66 MPH sinker
That’s not good news. Fortunately for the Mets, that’s not the whole story. While the Royals hit high heat well, they do not hit offspeed pitching and breaking balls well. The Royals are only hitting .220 on pitches 87 MPH and below. The highest percentage of Mets pitches this postseason was in this range.
We saw it in the NLCS. The Mets did throw their 95+ MPH fastballs, but they also mixed in their offspeed and breaking pitches early. The Mets pitching isn’t great just because of their fastballs. They’re great because they pitch great.
During the regular season, the Mets ranked second in WHIP with a 1.18 mark. They ranked fourth with a 3.49 K/BB ratio. They ranked fourth with a 3.43 ERA. They allowed the second least amount of walks, and they were sixth with a .243 batting average against. All said and done, if you want to beat the Mets pitching, you have to beat them. They’re not going to walk you, and they’re not giving up many hits.
This either lines up perfectly for the Royals or it’ll be a complete disaster. The Royals were second to last in walks. They struck out the least amount of times. They were third in team batting average. They were 24th (last in the AL) in homers, but they were 11th in slugging.
Overall, the Royals put a lot of balls in play against a staff that doesn’t allow a lot of hits. At times like this, I’m reminded of the adage of good pitching beats good hitting. It’s worked for the Mets so far this postseason.
Throughout 2015, Jacob deGrom has been the Mets ace. He deserved to get the ball in the first game of the playoffs. He delivered not once, not twice, but in all three of his postseason starts. So why hand the ball to Matt Harvey now?
First, it was his turn in the rotation. Players are creatures of habit. This goes doubly so for starting pitchers. There’s no need to take the pitchers out of their routine right now, especially with a long layover after sweeping the Cubs.
Second, deGrom needs a little more rest. His velocity has dipped by about three MPH. He’s had less control going from 71.7% strikes to just 61.5% in the NLCS. In addition, deGrom could benefit from extra rest. During the regular season, he posted a 2.63 ERA with more than five days of rest. That’s worse than his four day rest (1.47 ERA) numbers, but it is better than his five days rest numbers (3.27 ERA).
Third, Harvey may have more availability:
TC to Matt Harvey on Game 1: "You ready for it?" Harvey: "Damn right" And on working Game 7 in relief: "I'll be ready."
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) October 24, 2015
We saw the advantage it was having Noah Syndergaard available in Game 5 of the NLDS. You want your best pitchers as much as possible. That should include Harvey pitching in Game 7. Note, I believe deGrom would go to the whip as well if the roles were reversed.
Fourth, Harvey is pitching a little better right now. In his last start, Harvey pitched 7.2 innings allowing 4 hits, 2 earned, 2 walks, and 9 strikeouts. He was perfect through four. I’m not sure the Cubs even get a run in the game if not for a Juan Lagares misplay.
In his last start deGrom pitched well. He pitched 7.0 innings allowing 4 hits, 2 earned, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts. It’s picking nits, but deGrom wasn’t as good as Harvey. However, when you have three great starting pitchers, picking nits is all you have.
Fifth, through all of it Harvey might just be the better pitcher. It doesn’t change the fact that deGrom had a better year, but Harvey has better stuff. No, I don’t have something to link here. It’s just my belief. Harvey has pitched extremely well coming off of Tommy John surgery; the year in which pitchers struggle the most. Harvey has his same repertoire of pitches and added a curveball. He has more ways to get you out.
Overall, I’d go with Harvey. You can make an excellent case for deGrom as well. You can make a compelling case for Thor as well. In the end, that’s the best news. We’re arguing over three pitchers who would all arguably take the ball in Game One for the Royals.
Sometimes, minor discussions like this gives you the biggest hope the Mets will win this World Series.
There are times when something is so obvious and compelling that it just had to happen. Right? This year it seems like the Mets and Blue Jays are destined to meet in the World Series. Here’s why:
Did you ever see those Abraham Lincoln-JFK assassination similarities lists? On face value, it’s eery, but at the end of the day, they’re an amazing set of coincidences. It reminds me of the 1985 and the 2015 ALCS:
The players are all different. The front offices and managers are different, and yet, so far, the 2015 ALCS is following a similar script. If this is omen rather than coincidence, the Blue Jays win.
The Daniel Murphy Factor
By and large, the NL Cy Young voting is predicted to have Zack Greinke–Clayton Kershaw–Jake Arrieta finish 1-3 in some order. Daniel Murphy has homered off of all of them. Between the Royals and the Blue Jays, there is only one Cy Young candidate: David Price.
With the way Murphy has been playing this Murphtober, doesn’t it seem like he’s destined to homer off of another Cy Young caliber pitcher?
Referendum on the R.A. Dickey Trade
Look, no matter how you slice or dice it, the R.A. Dickey trade has been enormously successful for the Mets. Two of the biggest parts of this Mets team have been Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud. That also doesn’t include Wullmer Becerra, who is starting to become a real prospect.
However, for the Blue Jays, the trade was always about winning the World Series. It doesn’t matter is he’s the fourth starter. It doesn’t matter if he hasn’t pitched well in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter if Thor is better now. All that matters now is if the Blue Jays win the World Series.
If they do meet up, it’ll be a great story. Just ask Dickey:
Dickey: “What a script… If I could face Syndergaard in Game 7, wouldn’t that be something? … Great narrative.”
— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) October 19, 2015
Now that I’ve wasted all that time explaining why it’ll happen, we now know the Royals will win Game 6 or 7. It doesn’t matter to me who the Mets face so long as they win the World Series.
My favorite Mets team was the 1999 team. I loved everything about that team from Bobby V to Mike Piazza to Edgardo Alfonzo to Robin Ventura to John Olerud. It was my first real taste of a pennant race and the playoffs. I was lucky to be there for Pratt’s All Folks and the Grand Slam Single. I look back on the year with melancoly because of this:
In 2000, the Mets got Mike Hampton. The season became World Series or bust. A strange feeling for a Mets fan. Hampton would deliver. He was the NLCS MVP. The Mets then had to face the Yankees in the World Series. It was a cruel series with Todd Zeile‘s ball landing on the wall and falling back into play. Timo Perez didn’t run and didn’t score. Roger Clemens threw a bat at Piazza and wasn’t ejected. The series then ended in the most heartbreaking way possible:
The Mets would be terrible for the next few years, but everything came together in 2006. Our homegrown stars, Jose Reyes and David Wright, we’re becoming superstars. They were joined by the two Carloses: Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. It was a team that ran roughshod over the National League. Beltran was the best baseball player on the planet that year (who somehow didn’t win the MVP). The Mets had momentum in Game Seven with Endy Chavez’s catch. Here’s how that season ended:
In 2007, the Mets reloaded and were primed to go back to the World Series. They were up 7 with 17 to play. On the final game of the season, they sent future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine to the mound with his 300 wins. He wouldn’t be devastated when he got out of the first, but we would:
In 2008, the Mets diagnosed their problem, and much like 2000, they went out to get it. The Mets brought in Johan Santana, and he delivered. they needed him in a strange year that saw Wille Randolph fired after a win on the first game of a west coast trip. The interim manager threatened to cut Reyes if he didn’t come off the field after pulling up lame, and people acted like it was a good thing. Through all of that, the Mets were collapsing again, and yet an injured Santana took the ball on three days rest. He saved the season, but only for a day:
The last three were the most difficult for me because I was there. It got more difficult because Citi Field was initially a disappointment. It got worse because the product on the field was bad.
Then Matt Harvey came up and was an All Star. Jacob deGrom came from seemingly nowhere to become a Rookie of the Year and an All Star. They were joined by Noah Syndergaard. The Mets made a flurry of trades including one for Yoenis Cespedes. Daniel Murphy had an out of body experience. Then this happened:
All that pain. All that suffering. We know what it’s like to be Mets fans. There’s pain and suffering. However, there are moments of pure joy. It’s all the losing that makes nights like last night all the more special.
We’re Mets fans. We were there for all of this. There are older fans who experienced more pain, but also more joy. There are younger fans who only know losing. Now, we’re all Pennant Winners. It’s like the 80’s again when the Mets are the best team of baseball. We’re “Back in the New York groove!”
Nothing can make a team look bad like great pitching. Nothing can take a red hot team to their knees like great pitching. As anticipated, the Mets have had great pitching. Here’s how the Mets starters have performed:
Matt Harvey 7.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
Noah Syndergaard 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
Jacob deGrom 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
It’s the reason why the Cubs have been shut down thus far. This is the same Cubs team that scored 20 runs in a 3-1 win over the Cardinals in the Division Series. The Cubs entered the playoffs winning eight in a row before taking out the Pirates in the Wild Card Game.
The Cubs back are against the wall, and they get a slight break tonight with Steven Matz. We’re going to see what the Cubs are made of tonight. I expect them to bring their best.
I still expect the Mets to win.
The Mets are up 2-0 in this series because they repeated the same formula from last night: (1) great starting pitching; (2) Daniel Murphy hitting homers; and (3) Curtis Granderson being a table setter.
Noah Syndergaard used his fastball to overpower the Cubs lineup. On only two days rest from his relief appearance, he would pitch 5.2 innings allowing three hits, one earned, one walk, and nine strikeouts. The nine strikeouts but him in elite company:
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 19, 2015
Thor allowed his first and only run when Kris Bryant hit an RBI double. He walked off to a standing ovation and gave way to Jon Niese. Niese pitched today despite recently losing a family member. He summoned everything he had and struck out Anthony Rizzo. As he left the mound to cheers, he pointed to the sky as if to say thank you to the new angel who was at his side tonight.
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) October 19, 2015
The Mets got three of those four runs in the first. It started with a Granderson single. He scored on a . . . wait my notes can’t be correct . . . let’s me check the box score online. Wow, Granderson scored on an RBI double from David Wright. That is why you let your best players play. Speaking of your best player, Murphy hit yet another homerun.
Daniel Murphy has homered in 4 straight playoff games. 1969 World Series MVP Donn Clendenon homered in 3 straight. pic.twitter.com/zfvUU52o3v
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) October 19, 2015
In the third, Granderson reminded everyone he should be in the way too soon MVP discussion. He walked and stole second. This gave the Cubs the opportunity to walk Murphy rather than let him hurt you again. Granderson then stole third and scored on the Yoenis Cespedes infield single. To further his MVP case, Granderson robbed Chris Coghlan of a homerun:
When you have great pitching and two players in a dogfight for NLCS MVP, you’re going to be up 2-0 in the series. After taking care of home field, the Mets travel to Wrigley with a significant advantage in the starting pitching matchup. Let’s let Bon Jovi take us out since the Mets are halfway there while living on a prayer:
At the game yesterday, it was cold and windy. It’s not surprising after all. It is Flushing in October. Tonight, it’s supposed to be colder. While I was running errands, it was even snowing today.
This has some effects on the game:
- Batters strike out more frequently;
- Pitchers have less control; and
- The balls carry less.
With less control, a pitcher may want to rely on his fastball more because that is the easiest pitch to locate. That’s where the Mets starting Noah Syndergaard tonight is an advantage.
Thor set a record this year for highest fastball velocity at 97.1 MPH. With this fastball (and secondary pitches), he struck out 10 batters per nine innings. During the postseason so far, his velocity has increased to 98.7 MPH. He’s striking out 13.5 batters per nine innings in the postseason.
As for the Cubs, they can’t hit the fastball . . . at least not one thrown as fast as Thor’s. The Cubs ranked 27th in the majors in batting average against pitches thrown 95 MPH and above. In addition, the Cubs struck out more than any other team in baseball; 127 times more actually. They struck out 10 times last night. If Thor brings his record setting heat tonight, the Cubs will be in line for another double digit strikeout night.
On this cold, cold night, the only heat will come from the right arm of Noah Syndergaard. If he brings the heat, we will see more of Pedro Martinez cheering:
— Metstradamus (@Metstradamus) October 18, 2015
We will be too.
While Terry Collins has made some strange tactical decisions, he made one very good one. He has started Noah Syndergaard in Game Two of the NLDS and the NLCS. This means he has gone up against Zack Greinke, and he will go up against Jake Arrieta. Depending on your point of view, he will have gone up against the two best pitchers in the NL this year.
It also means the Mets have set themselves up nicely in a pivotal Game Three of a series. In the first round, Thor had actually outdueled Greinke, but for an egregious call. As a result of that call, the NLDS was tied 1-1 instead of 2-0. The Mets got a 2-1 lead in large part because of the big advantage the Mets had in the Matt Harvey–Brett Anderson matchup.
Regardless of what happens tonight, the Mets have a huge advantage in Game Three. The Mets will be throwing Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54 ERA) against Kyle Kendricks (8-7, 3.95 ERA). Now, anything can happen, but you have to like the Mets chances to go up 2-1 or 3-0.
The Mets are fortunate they have three great pitchers. Yes, Thor is their third best pitcher, but he’s almost as good. As he showed in the NLDS, he can matchup with the best pitchers in the game. Anytime he toes the rubber, you have to believe the Mets have a chance to win. The Mets will tonight. They will in Game Three too.
They have a chance to win the World Series.
However, Murphy was all it took. In the first, after a successful challenge awarding Curtis Granderson an infield single, Murphy came up with one out:
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 16, 2015
It was later changed to a double and an error, but it was a huge RBI hit nevertheless. He would be stranded.
In the bottom of the first deGrom was hit HARD. He couldn’t locate at all. The 1-0 lead quickly became a 2-1 deficit. Every inning thereafter deGrom was in trouble. Deep trouble. I still don’t know how he kept rope-a-doping the Dodgers, but he did. His final line was:
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 16, 2015
The stat line is so misleading because deGrom was not good at all, and yet, he was brilliant. He summoned everything he had and somehow fought through six innings in the biggest game of his life. Sure, Game One was incredible, but I was more impressed by this. He won this game by sheer will.
He got the win because of Murphy’s help. With the Mets down 2-1 in the fourth, Murphy singled. With one out, Lucas Duda worked out a walk. However, with the extreme shift and Greinke failing to cover third, Murphy stole third:
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 16, 2015
He would score on a Travis d’Arnaud sac fly, but with the Mets sputtering offense, the inning would soon be over.
Murphy would come up again in the sixth, and did this:
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 16, 2015
He gave the Mets a 3-2 lead almost single-handedly. He went 3-4 with two runs, two RBIs, a stolen base, a double, and a homer.
After deGrom’s final inning, Noah Syndergaard, who had been up and down all game long (not an exaggeration) entered in the seventh. He Thortuted the Dodgers. He was seemingly the only Met to get doubles machine Justin Turner out in this series.
Jeurys Familia came in for the six out save. He zipped through the eighth. He got Jimmy Rollins to ground out to end the inning. He faced Chase Utley to start the ninth. He got perfect revenge by getting the coward to fly out to right on his way to saving this 3-2 game giving the Mets a 3-2 series win. The answer to your trivia question is Familia struck out Howie Kendrick for the final out.
This game was a microcosm of the Mets season. They struggled to score runs, but they got enough. They relied on their young pitching to take them home. It was very impressive. The Mets have now slayed the demons of 1988, 2007, and 2008.
This game was gravy as the NLCS will be. Lets Go Mets!
Between this past season, the missed workout, to the recent Boras interview, Mets fans were going to make Matt Harvey‘ first playoff start a referendum on him as a person and as a player. Then Ruben Tejada broke his leg due to a dirty Chase Utley “slide.”
I know everyone wants to make it bigger than what it is, but one simple truth remains. Harvey’s only job is to put the Mets in a position to win. Jacob deGrom did. Noah Syndergaard did as well (even if the Mets lost). The reason we’re expecting more than that? Well, it’s because it’s Harvey.
"I've got my ace going tomorrow," Terry Collins says, pointing to Matt Harvey.
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) October 11, 2015
He’s the ace on a staff of young aces. He’s the Dark Knight. He’s the guy who came back this year and gave Mets fans hope that all if this was possible. Harvey helped turn this hope into reality. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, he’s had a great year with terrific moments.
He went into Yankee Stadium, and he went 8.1 innings allowing two runs and striking out seven. He’s shut down the highest scoring team in the majors. He was the winning pitcher when the Mets clinched the NL East. Famously, he stayed in that game later than originally intended to get ready for the playoffs.
The playoffs are here. If you’re being honest, there is no one you want on the mound with the series tied 1-1 than a motivated Harvey. He’s motivated to show he’s better than deGrom. He’s motivated to avenge Tejada. He’s motivated to win the game.
This is the biggest game of the year. The Mets have never lost a home NLDS game. With Harvey in the mound, that’s not going to change. I’m expecting today to be a Happy Harvey Day.