Monday, October 26, 2015
A Long Way From There To Here
So far, he's been wrong 7 times. I think we'd all like him to be wrong another 4 times.
This is all so much to say that yes, there's a lot of good that sabermetrics can do when it comes to analyzing matchups and patterns but at some point, a lot of it can be thrown out the window, particularly when you get down to the World Series, and even moreso when it's your team that's vying for the prize. One need look no further than Daniel Murphy to prove my point. Who the hell saw that coming? What numbers would have predicted this?
For the most part, the Mets and the Kansas City Royals are similar teams that play similar styles of baseball. Nobody hits with tons of power, but they can crush mistakes and make their opponents work for outs. Both teams can shorten a game with their pitching; the Royals do so with an excellent bullpen while the Mets have done it by unleashing their murderer's row of starting pitching. If you're looking for a decided edge on either side, well, I don't think there is one.
By the time the first pitch is thrown on Tuesday night, the Mets won't have played a game in anger in 6 days, the Royals 4. Of course, it's a concern that the long layoff could get the hitters out of their grooves, particularly when you think of how hot someone like Murphy has been. But the Royals hitters have had to sit too. If anything, getting the Cubs series over quickly just as easily works to the Mets advantage. Sure, the hitters have to sit and get cold, but how many of them were cold to begin with? Of greater importance is that the pitchers, specifically Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, get some extra rest. Matt Harvey gets some extra rest too—it'll be 10 days for him—but the last time that happened, he struggled. Regardless, a struggling Harvey can still bring it and get the outs he needs to get. This is in stark contrast to the Royals rotation, consisting of Edinson Volquez, who's rediscovered himself with the Royals, Johnny Cueto, who's been uneven since going to the AL, the most volatile Yordano Ventura and Chris Young, who's resurfaced. The Mets have played nip-and-tuck games with opposing aces all postseason long, but they've eaten lesser starters for lunch. At least 2 of these guys classify as lesser starters. The Royals are a pain-in-the-ass kind of lineup that could make life difficult for the starters and be an abject nightmare if the Mets have to go to the bullpen early in any game. Of course the Royals have a decided advantage later in games, but only when it comes to depth. Certainly, Jeurys Familia can hang with anyone and he's proven it thus far this Postseason.
Not that it's at all of a secret who I'm rooting for, but the key for the Mets, just as it was against the Dodgers, is to just split the first two games on the road, and then come home and take it from there. You could say that the plan was similar against Chicago, except that the Mets made their lives easier by just winning all the games outright. A similar scenario would be great, but not likely. The fact that the Royals were in this spot last year and took the Giants all the way down to a 7th game isn't lost on me. That series was pretty close. I expect this one to be as well.
The fact is, the Mets haven't gotten here based on numbers or statistics. Looking at numbers reveals only so much (and in fact over a full season is inaccurate as it includes days when the lineup included names like "Campbell," "Mayberry" and "Muno"). Mostly, the Mets have gotten here because they've played with a unified front. When one has been down, someone else has been there to pick them up. Every game they've won so far this October has had this kind of a storyline.
A colleague used to say that the worst thing that happened to the Mets was that they went to the World Series in 2000, because it made them think that they were good enough. Making it to the World Series now, probably a year or two ahead of the schedule everyone had made for them, might not be quite as bad, given that there's a smarter front office in place now, along with a much better, and much younger core of players, but if you watched the Mets slog through years like 2001 and 2007 as though they were hung over from the prior October, well, you know that it's not so easy to get back to this point. Nothing is ever a given so this particular opportunity, as unexpected as it's been, needs to be appreciated. Baseball, and sports in general, are littered with cautionary tales of great players who tasted the trappings of victory at an early age and then never got another opportunity. This has been a long, 171-game haul to get to this point. And that's 171 games on the back of 6 seasons of total misery, on the heels of two seasons where greatness was on a platter for them and they couldn't close. You learn to appreciate these opportunities more as a fan when you think about Citi Field during Game 1 of the NLCS juxtaposed against some Tuesday night in September when there were barely 5,000 people in the building.
It's a long journey to get from there to here. Now there's one thing left to do.