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World Series 2015 Preview

Now, I know you all take me to be a little biased when it comes to predicting baseball games including the KC Royals. But not today. No, today I take a totally unbiased and statistical analysis of the two best and only remaining teams in America’s Past-time: the NL Champion Mets of New York, NY, and the AL Champion Royals of Kansas City, MO. Good thing we have baseball-reference.com!

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Let’s get the basic team stats clear first.

Regular Season Stats

New York Mets
Record: 90-72 (7th)
SRS Ranking: 18th
Postseason: 7-2
Runs Scored: 683
Runs Allowed: 613
Scoring Margin: +70
Payroll: $97.29 million

Kansas City Royals
Record: 95-67 (2nd)
SRS Ranking: 4th
Postseason: 7-4
Runs Scored: 724
Runs Allowed: 642
Scoring Margin: +82
Payroll: $107.96 million

So, the Royals were the better team in the regular season, winning five more games and holding a much better SRS ranking (the most advanced team stat that accommodates strength of schedule).

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Batting Stats

Now let’s look at the lineups with some advanced stats—OPS+ is ballpark adjusted hitting, standardized across the league, where 100 is an average hitter; RAA is the number of runs that a player performed above or below an average player; oWAR is, of course, offensive Wins Above Replacement. Also, just out of the kindness of my heart, I’m using the Mets’ non-pitcher totals for batting stats.

Mets – Batting
Batting Avg: .244 (13th in NL)
OPS+: 98
RAA: 32
oWAR: 21.6
Home Runs: 175 (3rd in NL)
Stolen Bases: 51 (15th)
Strikeouts: 1290 (9th fewest)
Walks: 488 (7th fewest)

Royals – Batting
Batting Avg: .269 (2nd best in AL)
OPS+: 98
RAA: 30
oWAR: 21.0
Home Runs: 139 (14th)
Stolen Bases: 104 (2nd)
Strikeouts: 973 (1st)
Walks: 383 (15th)

The Mets are an odd bunch of stats: right about average in most categories, but with high marks in home runs (and doubles, actually), but low marks in batting average and stolen bases (and triples, actually). So expect NY to hit homers and doubles, but otherwise struggle to get on base.

The Royals are historically boring offensively: a ton of singles, followed by a lot of stolen bases. Despite below average power and a strange inability to draw walks, the Royals stretch out at-bats with the best of them, wearing out pitchers by fouling balls off into the cheap seats before either grounding out or getting on base.

Here are the key players at bat:

Mets
Daniel Murphy (.281 avg, 14 HR, 73 RBI, 2.0 oWAR, plus .421 with 7 HR, 11 RBI in the postseason)
Curtis Granderson (.259 avg, 26 HR, 70 RBI, 3.9 oWAR, plus .303 with 7 RBI)
Lucas Duda (.244 avg, 27 HR, 73 RBI, 2.6 oWAR, plus .214 with 1HR, 6 RBI)

Royals
Lorenzo Cain (.307 avg, 16 HR, 72 RBI, 5.3 oWAR, plus .275 with 1 HR, 7 RBI in the postseason)
Eric Hosmer (.297 avg, 18 HR, 93 RBI, 3.6 oWAR, plus .222 with 1 HR, 11 RBI)
Mike Moustakas (.284 avg, 22 HR, 82 RBI, 4.0 oWAR, plus .167 with 1 HR, 5 RBI)
Kendrys Morales (.290 avg, 22 HR, 106 RBI, 2.7 oWAR, plus .268 with 4 HR, 10 RBI)

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Pitching & Defense Stats

Mets – Pitching/Defense
ERA: 3.43 (4th best in NL)
Saves: 50 (3rd)
HR Allowed: 152 (3rd)
Walks: 383 (2nd)
WHIP: 1.179
SO9: 8.2 (6th)
defensive WAR: -1.6

Royals – Pitching/Defense
ERA: 3.73 (3rd best in AL)
Saves: 56 (2nd)
HR Allowed: 155 (2nd)
Walks: 489 (12nd)
WHIP: 1.282
SO9: 7.2 (6th)
defensive WAR: +4.8

In terms of pitching, both teams are among the best in their respective leagues—keep in mind that the AL always scores more runs, since there’s a DH and not a pitcher every 9 at bats, so that’s why the Royals ERA gives them a better ranking despite being a bit higher. Neither team gives up a lot of home runs and strike out batters at an above average rate. The Royals walk more batters but make up for it with a historically great defense (their +4.8 dWAR is unreal, while the Mets have a troubling -1.6).

Really, it comes down to starting pitching versus relief pitching.

The Mets have the best starting lineup in the Bigs right now: Jacob deGrom (2.54 ERA, 0.97 WHIP), Matt Harvey (2.71 ERA, 1.01 WHIP), Noah Syndergaard (3.24 ERA, 1.04 WHIP), Bartolo Colon (4.16 ERA, 1.23 WHIP). And a slightly above-average bullpen: Jeurys Familia (1.85 ERA, 1.00 WHIP), Sean Gilmartin (2.67 ERA, 1.18 WHIP), Hansel Robles (3.67 ERA; 1.01 WHIP).

Meanwhile, the Royals’ starters are slightly above-average: Johnny Cueto (4.76 ERA, 1.45 WHIP with KC), Yordano Ventura (4.08 ERA, 1.29 WHIP), Edinson Volquez (3.55 ERA, 1.30 WHIP), Chris Young (3.06 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). But the bullpen is off-the-charts: Wade Davis (0.94 ERA, 0.78 WHIP), Kelvin Herrera (2.71 ERA, 1.12 WHIP), Ryan Madsen (2.13 ERA, 0.96 WHIP).

If you’re losing track of all these numbers at home, let me simplify this.

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Head-to-Head Advantages

Batting-for-Power: Mets
Batting-for-Bases: Royals
Starting Pitching: Mets
Relief Bullpen: Royals
Defense: Royals

In other words, it’s pretty darn even. Folks are making the argument that the Royals were the better regular season team, but the Mets were better in the postseason. What do the stats say? The Royals have faced much better teams in the playoffs: Blue Jays were 1st in SRS and Astros were 2nd; while the Mets beat the Dodgers (15th) and Cubs (12th). So going 7-4 against the two best teams is arguably more impressive than going 7-2 against two basically average teams

So, there’s a slight statistical edge toward the Royals based on SRS rankings, strength-of-schedule, and dWAR.

And if you add home-field advantage, which the Royals hold again since the AL won the All-Star Game (again), then you have to deal with the fact that KC went 51-30 at home and NYM went 41-40 on the road—a 10 game difference. (NYM went 49-32 at home and KC went 44-37 on the road—only a 5 game difference.)

No wonder the “experts” and Vegas line betters are mostly saying: Royals in seven. But now that you’ve survived all this nonsense, what does the Fidelity Sports Committee predict?

Dang, I’m glad you finally asked…

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo., during the 2014 World Series. (Photo by Denny Medley-USA Today Sports)

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo., during the 2014 World Series. (Photo by Denny Medley-USA Today Sports)

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Fidelity Sports Picks

As you can probably remember, I correctly picked both wild card winners and three of four divisional series champs. So 5 of 6 in the playoffs is pretty good, if I do say so myself, and I will, because my NFL fantasy team is looking frustratingly average (I blame injuries; looking at you Dez and J-Mac!), and I’m trying to redeem myself.

Here’s my thinking this series.

#1: The Mets are overrated. They were barely above-average all season, wouldn’t have made the playoffs in the AL, and somehow got freakishly hot behind a can’t-possibly-keep-it-up Daniel Murphy and their starting pitchers. This is just not a championship team. Based on advanced stats and their cupcake-light path to the Fall Classic, this may be one of the worst World Series teams in history.

#2: The Royals flaws can be masked. Our starting rotation is not deep, but we only need 3, maybe 4, pitchers, and if they struggle—when one does—not to worry, dig deep into the bullpen and pull a Chris Young or Luke Hochevar for long relief. Besides, this is a historically good defense.

#3: Home-field advantage gets amplified in the postseason. In baseball’s 162-game season, there’s not a huge difference in home-field dynamics (crowd noise, park size, outfield and foul range). But in the playoffs, having Games One and Seven at home is incalculably huuuuuuuge.

#4: Joe Buck is a moron. He’ll try to ruin the Series for all Royals fans, again, and will go on and on and on about the Mets’ pitchers—I’m betting Jacob deGrom becomes his Madison Bum Crush this year, and I’m already throwing up in my mouth. It’s not even just that Buck is a moron, but it’s that he’s so unashamedly NL biased, it’s horrifying to all true fans. I wouldn’t be surprised if he says the word “Cardinals” more than “Royals” in the series. Me? I’ll have him muted as usual, and just listen to rap music the whole time. Annoying as he is, he shouldn’t have a major effect on the Series outcome, especially as long as he remains isolated in his little glass box of microphones and men’s makeup. (If he starts doing interviews in the Mets’ dugout, and I wouldn’t put it past him, we’re in trouble.)

#5: The Royals are on a mission. As difficult as it is to recall, the Royals were thiiiiiis close (pinching my thumb and index finger together tightly and squinting my eyes and swallowing the pain of it all) last year. Game Seven, bottom of the ninth, runner on third… Then, freaking Joe Buck cursed us with his dumb voice. Whatever. I’m totally over it.

THIS IS OUR YEAR!!!!!

#6: I’m going to Game Two. Yup, Wednesday night in KC. You can find my old man and me in the waaay cheap seats in roughly Lee’s Summitt. But we’ll be there, haters. So you can count on a G2 win for sure.

There’s just too much going the Royals’ way,

My pick? Let’s just say there’s a reason I bought G2 tickets and not G6 or G7. This Series ends in Queens…

Royals in five.

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