Oct 27

Mets-Royals Matchups

There’s nothing more the Mets can do about it now, as they get ready for their fifth World Series appearance. Manager Terry Collins has his guys; so let’s see how they measure up against Kansas City:

FIRST BASE

Mets: Lucas Duda is notoriously streaky, but hit 57 homers with 165 RBI the past two seasons. He struggled in the first two rounds to the point of wondering whether to sit him in Game 4 of the NLCS, but he broke out with a big game.

Royals: Initially noted for defense, two-time Gold Glove winner Eric Hosmer hit .297 this season with career highs in RBI (93) and runs scored (98).

Edge: Even.

WS-alt-trophy-MLB-590x533

SECOND BASE

Mets: Daniel Murphy established a career high this season with 14 homers, then added seven in the postseason, including in each of his last six games. He hit .421 with 11 RBI in the playoffs. Can he maintain this unconscious pace?

Royals: Once on the Mets’ radar, Ben Zobrist is the personification of steady. He replaced Omar Infante and hit .325 with two homers in the ALCS.

Edge: Mets.

SHORTSTOP

Mets: Wilmer Flores was traded in July only to have the deal for Carlos Gomez pulled. His tears that day made him into a cult figure. He has limits on defense, but hit 16 homers.

Royals: Murphy is hot, but so is Alcides Escobar with 17 postseason hits out of the leadoff position. The book on him is he likes to swing early, so the first pitch doesn’t have to be all that good.

Edge: Royals.

THIRD BASE

Mets: David Wright missed nearly five months this season with a strained hamstring and spinal stenosis, and has been inconsistent in his return. Wright was a miserable 1-for-16 in the NLDS, but started to show signs of offensive life against the Cubs.

Royals: Mike Moustakas improved offensively this year, but like Wright struggled in the playoffs. However, he hit a key homer in Game 6 of the ALCS.

Edge: Mets.

CATCHER

Mets: Injured early on, Travis d’Arnaud had a strong second half at the plate and hit three homers in the playoffs. He’s getting better defensively, but still has work to do.

Royals: Salvador Perez made his third straight All-Star appearance this summer and should win the Gold Glove. Perez only had three hits in the ALCS against Toronto, but two were homers.

Edge: Royals.

LEFT FIELD

Mets: Let’s face it; the Mets probably aren’t here without making the July 31 trade for Yoenis Cespedes, who hit 17 homers for them. However, Cespedes needed a cortisone injection for a sore left shoulder at the end of the NLCS.

Royals: Alex Gordon was a star last season, but a groin injury limited him to 104 games this year.

Edge: Mets.

CENTER FIELD

Mets: Juan Lagares won the Gold Glove last season, but struggles offensively, especially against right-handed pitching. He’s playing in Kansas City because of the designated hitter.

Royals: Lorenzo Cain scored the go-ahead run from first base on a single in the ALCS. In addition to his speed, Cain added 16 homers to his .307 average and 28 steals. He’s probably caused d’Arnaud to toss-and-turn the past few nights.

Edge: Royals.

RIGHT FIELD

Mets: Curtis Granderson was thrust into the leadoff role on Opening Day and thrived with 91 walks, a .364 on-base percentage, 26 homers with 70 RBI. He’s probably the Mets’ MVP.

Royals: Alex Rios never became the star projected of him, but is batting .368 in the playoffs.

Edge: Mets.

 BENCH

Mets: Collins opted for the veteran Kelly Johnson over Michael Conforto as the DH for Game 1. However, he could play in left field if Lagares sits when the Series goes to New York. The ceiling is high for Conforto, who hit nine homers with 26 RBI in 56 games. The Mets also have right-handed hitting Michael Cuddyer and hope Juan Uribe will be activated.

Royals: Kendrys Morals is another whom the Mets considered at one time. He hit 22 homers with 106 RBI during the regular season.

Edge: Royals.

ROTATION

Mets: Everybody raves about the Mets’ young starters, and with good reason: They throw smoke, are poised and love the spotlight. They also have reasonable contracts. Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71) will start Game 1, followed by Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54), Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24) and Steven Matz) 4-0, 2.27). Their combined 147 career regular-season starts is the fewest for a World Series rotation.

Royals: Yordana Ventura had a breakout postseason in 2014, but seems to have regressed. In a word, he’s inconsistent. The Mets know Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto from their days in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, respectively. And, No. 4 starter is former Met Chris Young.

Edge: Mets.

BULLPEN

Mets: Closer Jeurys Familia won the job when Jenrry Mejia was suspended for PEDs. In 76 games, Familia had 43 saves and 1.85 ERA. The bridge to Familia was constructed in late-season trades for Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard. Both have been shaky, and arguably the strongest middle-reliever has been veteran starter Bartolo Colon.

Royals: As with Familia, Wade Davis won the Royals’ closing job by circumstance, an injury to Greg Holland. Kansas City’s bullpen is deep and reliable with Luke Hochevar, Ryan Madson, Kelvin Herrera, Danny Duffy and Franklin Morales.

Edge: Royals.

ON DECK: Mets Matters: Notebook.

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Oct 27

Harvey Got What He Needed

This is what Matt Harvey always wanted. So, let’s see if he can give the Mets what they need – at least a split in the first two games of the World Series.

With Harvey tonight and Jacob deGrom in Game 2 Wednesday, the Mets are playing their two aces from the outset.

HARVEY: Game 1 starter. (Getty)

HARVEY: Game 1 starter. (Getty)

A little over a month ago, Harvey – then embroiled in a controversy about his innings – went into manager Terry Collins’ office and said he wanted the ball, needed the ball. He wanted the shackles off; he wanted to pitch the way he believed he always could.

“I think during all of the stuff that was going on, I wanted to make it clear that I wanted to pitch,’’ Harvey said. “I wanted to be there.’’

The Mets were being dutiful about Harvey’s innings and cutting him back. However, with the Mets on the cusp of the playoffs, and talk swirling whether Harvey will be able to pitch, the No. 1 pick told his manager he didn’t feel ready. Harvey had two more starts remaining and told Collins he needed at least 100 pitches in each to build himself back up.

He made it with flying colors. He beat Cincinnati in the game that clinched the NL East. He wasn’t great, but beat the Dodgers in the NLDS and worked into the eighth against Chicago. The way the Mets have it planned, Harvey will go tonight and Game 5 if needed.

And, should the Mets need him, he’ll be available for Game 7 in relief, just as Madison Bumgarner was last year for the Giants. Bumgarner worked into the eighth in Game 1 against Kansas City; pitched a complete-game shutout in Game 5; then, unbelievably, pitched five scoreless innings in Game 7 for the save.

“The fact that they won, I think anybody wants to do what he did, and getting his team where they did,’’ said Harvey, adding he’s ready to do the same if his number is called.

Collins won’t let him throw 150 pitches tonight – he’s not stupid – but said Harvey will be given the benefit of doubt. If Harvey tells Collins he can go another inning, he’ll get it.

That’s how legacies are made.

 

ON DECK: Position-by-position comparisons.

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Oct 25

Examining Pros And Cons Of Mets’ Layoff

There is no telling how the Mets’ long layoff will come into play during the World Series. There will be rust if they lose Tuesday night; there will be needed rest should they win behind Matt Harvey in Game 1. Since it’s all speculation prior to the first pitch, here’s what I’m thinking.

HARVEY:  Bruised arm has time to heal. (Getty)

HARVEY: Bruised arm has time to heal. (Getty)

The Cons:

1) Will Daniel Murphy cool down? Nobody has ever been as hot as the Mets’ second baseman. Terry Collins said something the other day about Murphy’s legs needing a rest, but when you’re as hot as he has been, you want to keep swinging.

2) Turning it on again. It isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. Layoffs, in all sports, are hit and miss. The Mets limped into the playoffs, so there was speculation they might be an easy out. After surviving the Dodgers in the NLDS, the Mets hit on all cylinders against Chicago. When you’re as hot as they have been, you don’t want to stop playing. They can can rest during the winter.

3) The pitchers need to stay in a groove, too. Pitchers are especially creatures of habits, and if a pitcher is too strong the first thing to go is command. And, against a team that works the count and relies on contact such as Kansas City that could mean an early hole.

The Pros:

1) Rest can be good. There are some Mets, not necessarily Murphy, but others. perhaps catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores, that could use a day or two to regroup. You might also include Jeurys Familia in that group.

2) The time to heal. From Yoenis Cespedes‘ shoulder to Juan Uribe‘s chest to pitchers Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, the latter two whose innings became an issue this fall, could use the time to regroup. The extra time should also benefit Harvey’s bruised pitching arm.

3)  The long layoff enabled Collins to set up his rotation the way he wanted, which was Harvey and deGrom in Games 1 and 2 on the road, and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in Games 3 and 4 at Citi Field.

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Oct 24

Harvey Named Game 1 Starter

The advantage for the Mets in sweeping the NLCS and having six days of rest is being able to set up your pitching to preclude working a starter on three days of rest. Ironically, for manager Terry Collins it means using the pitcher he tried to protect all season, Matt Harvey, at least twice in the World Series.

Harvey will start Game 1 Tuesday in Kansas City, followed by Jacob deGrom, Noah Synergaard in Game 3 at Citi Field and Steven Matz in Game 4. Harvey gets Game 5, followed by deGrom and Syndergaard.

Of course, if needed Harvey would be available to work in Game 7.

Collins said there are no pitch or inning restrictions in the World Series.

Part of what went into Collins’ decision was how much deGrom labored in his last two playoff starts, against the Dodgers and Cubs, respectfully. He has hinted since the end of the NLCS how much deGrom needed rest despite being 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA.

DeGrom had three starts in the first two rounds while Harvey only had one. Collins said he liked the idea of his two best going in the first two games, with Syndergaard getting the first game at Citi Field because he’s better at home.

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Oct 24

Murphy Showing Us The Folly Of WAR

Ladies and Gentlemen, I do not profess to be a disciple of baseball’s new statistical age. I do not know what Daniel Murphy’s regular season WAR was entering the playoffs, nor, do I know what his WAR is during this postseason.

I am sure somebody will find both numbers and post them with a delightful note how I don’t know anything. You may have your fun, but you will be wrong on that last point.

MURPHY: Can't measure this. (AP)

MURPHY: Can’t measure this. (AP)

WAR is a mathematical formula designed to provide a definite measure of a player’s ability to perform and produce. But, it is nonsense – or crap, ca ca, doo doo, bull or any other descriptor – for the simple reasons players are human and the variables of measure aren’t identical in each case.

These playoffs have shown us Murphy’s recent tear is beyond compare. He is having a once-in-a-lifetime stretch against the highest level of competition and under the hottest lights. That it is against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta under the glare and intensity of the playoffs should account for more than it coming against the Miami Marlins in May, but it doesn’t. The math comes out the same.

WAR doesn’t account for the human element within the player, or the outside variables. If WAR were a true measure, wouldn’t all conditions be the same?

Everything would be identical, as is a true scientific survey the measuring samples should be the same: the opposing pitcher; the weather; the field conditions; the lighting; how much sleep he had; the game conditions; what he had for breakfast; is he getting along with his WAG; and the home plate umpire? (Speaking of which, it is a shame what happened last night to the Blue Jays, but then again, lousing umpiring is a human element.) Also, in the cases of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, you would need the steroid dosages.

All those variables are different for each hitter, which makes the final number nothing more than a wild guess. The only true stats are those we’ve had for over a century: hits, runs scored, runs driven in and average. Of course, the new age disregards those numbers, foolishly calling them obsolete.

I once had a conversation with a retired player about the preponderance of statistics, and he liked my idea of a do-your-job stat. Going into each at-bat a player has a specific objective, whether it be to get on base, advance a runner, or drive him in. The success of that at-bat is dependent on what he does.

That’s why strikeouts are a necessary measure, as they tell us of an empty at-bat. Today’s young, baseball minds want everything to be the same, but that is impossible.

Murphy’s do-your-job stat for this postseason is more than phenomenal. It probably is beyond comprehension as he’s not only doing his job, but everybody else’s, too.

Yeah, I know I am older than most of you, but I have no intention of lecturing. However, I have covered well over 2,000 games and probably seen another 1,000. I know this much, what Murphy is giving us exceeds amazing. It’s something beyond what WAR vainly attempts to do. It is something you can’t draft on FanDuel.

So, turn away from your calculators, computers and stat tables, because you’re missing a historical reckoning. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until Tuesday to see him play again because what he has is fleeting and I don’t want to see him lose it.

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