By Kyle Madson / @madsports8
Following a 14-inning Game 1 thriller, the Kansas City Royals put a thorough beatdown on the New York Mets in Game 2, and somehow, the rest of this series seems like a formality. It sure feels as though the Royals are going to win their first World Series Championship since 1985.
Seriously, these last couple games are going to be a lot like the final three quarters of Super Bowl XLVIII when you felt bad for Peyton Manning as the Seattle Seahawks turned him into Ryan Leaf and the Denver Broncos into this season's version of any NFC East team.
Despite the fact the series shifts to Citi Field tonight, it's doubtful the series ever returns to Kansas City.
Now, in baseball, weird things happen. To write any team off at any moment in time is foolish. If the Mets get a dominant performance from Noah Syndergaard in Game 3 and find a way to knock Chris Young around early in Game 4, they’re right back in the series. That, however, is easier said than done. The Royals have effectively neutralized the Mets’ starting pitching, which was their biggest weapon heading in to this series.
The reason New York so easily tore through the Chicago Cubs is because the Cubs, for all their young talent, strike out A LOT. Their 24.5 percent strike out rate (K%) was the highest in the league during the regular season. The Mets' pitching staff, on the other hand, ranked ninth in the Majors in K%. From that perspective, it’s easy to see how the Mets cooled off the Cubs’ scorching-hot bats.
The World Series has been an entirely different story — a story in which the Mets’ pitching staff has not enjoyed the same success it had in the NLCS. So what gives? It’s the same guys throwing.
Simple: The Royals don’t strike out. Like, ever. They struck out at a clip of 15.9 percent this year, far and away the best in the league. Additionally, they tote the league’s lowest walk rate at 6.3.
Going in, it was no secret that Kansas City’s lineup could, and would, put the ball in play. The Mets weren’t going to roll at the 8.23 K/9 they enjoyed during the regular season. However, if they were able to bring Kansas City’s strikeout rate up to somewhere near league average (20 percent-ish), New York would have a chance.
Unfortunately for the Metropolitans, they haven’t done that. And there’s no indication that they will.
The Royals are just too good.
They simply don’t swing and miss. Josh Lewin on the Mets radio broadcast compared the Royals to Freddy Krueger during Game 2. He said the Royals are “seemingly impossible to kill.” Every team in the league (except for the one that has Madison Bumgarner on it) will vouch for this.
Matt Harvey learned the hard way. The right-hander has pitched in three playoff games thus far. His swing and miss percentages on all of his pitches are the lowest against Kansas City — by a WIDE margin. This is not to whittle an intricate game down to one statistic, but this is a very good indicator of why the Royals have enjoyed so much success against the deck full of aces that is the Mets’ starting rotation.
Harvey’s fastball averaged a 10.35 whiff rate against L.A. and Chicago. It was at 6.67 on Tuesday night. His changeup that induced an average 33.18 swing and miss rate dropped to 10 percent against Kansas City. His slider has gone from seeing batters swing and miss 18.35 percent of the time to 5.88, and his curveball whiff rate plummeted from 32.73 percent to 15.38 percent.
The same story could be told for Jacob deGrom, only on a more dramatic scale. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the fastballs, sinkers and curveballs the Royals swung through in Game 2 ...
ZERO. THERE WERE NONE.
deGrom’s fastball got a 15 percent whiff rate in his first two postseason appearances. His sinker, though it never induced a swing and miss against L.A., got a 15 percent mark against Chicago. His curve was getting batters to swing through it 15.77 percent of the time in the playoffs.
The Royals didn’t miss any of them. That’s astounding.
The long-haired righty’s changeup got a 10 percent whiff rate, and his slider cruised in at 15.38. Those numbers fall about 14 percent and 12 percent below their playoff averages. (Seriously though. That mane is glorious. And it never gets stringy and gross like most long hair does when a player sweats. Does he even sweat?)
This isn’t some anomaly. The Royals have done this all year. They play good defense, rely on good starting pitching, boast an elite back-end of their bullpen and put the ball in play enough to scratch across the runs necessary to win.
But let’s pretend the Royals aren't far and away the better team in this series. Let’s say, hypothetically, that the Royals strike out at a normal clip and don’t have Gold Glovers at every position. The Mets are still probably screwed.
Regardless of who they’re playing against, here’s what the Mets’ offense looks like right now: New York is currently dealing with the regression of Daniel Murphy (2-11 in the series with no extra-base hits), Yoenis Cespedes’s faulty shoulder (1-10 with no walks in the series) and a slumping David Wright (slashing .171/.320/.220 for the postseason). Aside from Lucas Duda, who is 8 for his last 16 with a home run and two doubles, there aren’t many bright spots for the National League champs.
But, as the late, great Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over 'til it’s over.” So, the Mets get to head home and dream of making this 2-0 series competitive again. Barring some small miracle, however, it looks like they’re going to find Freddy Krueger waiting there.
*All stats are sourced from FanGraphs and BrooksBaseball
Experiment 626. Coffee drinker and cat enthusiast. Pro-avocado. Anti-sac bunt. Habitual bat flipper. Alex Smith apologist. Yoenis Cespedes fanboy.