The Royals haven't won the World Series since 1985; the Mets haven't claimed a title since 1986. One of those droughts will end this season, as NL East champion New York gets set to square off against AL Central champion Kansas City in the Fall Classic.
To see how each team compares, check out our position-by-position breakdown, as Cliff Corcoran (Mets) and Jay Jaffe (Royals) break down the starting lineups, rotations, bullpens, benches and managers for each club. They then decide who has the edge at each spot in the Series, which begins on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
AVG: .268 | OBP: .340 | SLG: .485 | HR: 12 | RBIs: 41
AVG: .260 | OBP: .280 | SLG: .426 | HR: 21 | RBIs: 70
TRAVIS D'ARNAUD: Twice traded as a prospect, big things have been expected of d'Arnaud, but he missed 79 games this year due to a broken finger (hit by pitch) and a sprained left elbow (hyperextended in a collision at home plate). When healthy, though, he has mostly lived up to his top prospect billing. Since returning from a month in the minors on June 24 of last year, d’Arnaud has hit .266/.322/.485 with 25 home runs in 580 plate appearances, including the postseason. The 26-year-old has also emerged as a great all-around receiver: He excels against the running game, in framing and blocking pitches and in handling the Mets’ talented young rotation. His backup, 24-year-old rookie Kevin Plawecki, has yet to appear in a game this postseason.
SALVADOR PEREZ: The AL's toughest player to walk during the regular season (13 times, 2.4% of all plate appearances), Perez posted an OPS+ of just 89. While he's obviously a free swinger, he doesn't lack for power; he had the third-most home runs by a catcher in baseball this season and is tied for the team lead in postseason homers with four. He's one of Kansas City’s best hitters against the hard stuff (95 mph or higher), batting .317 with a .585 slugging percentage and a 12% whiff rate according to BaseballSavant.com, so don't be surprised if he runs into one or two pitches against the Mets' fireballers.
Defensively, Perez led the league in innings caught for the second year in a row. He's below average at shutting down the running game, less so in terms of throwing runners out (31%, where 32 is league average) than in stolen bases per nine innings (0.5, second-highest among AL regulars). He's a bit below when it comes to framing (-5.3 runs via Baseball Prospectus) and a bit above in pitch blocking (0.39 wild pitches plus passed balls per nine).
AVG: .244 | OBP: .352 | SLG: .486 | HR: 27 | RBIs: 73
AVG: .297 | OBP: .363 | SLG: .459 | HR: 18 | RBIs: 93
LUCAS DUDA: The Mets finally stopped forcing Duda to play the outfield last year, and he responded with a breakout season, hitting .253/.349/.481 with 30 home runs as the full-time first baseman. He largely replicated those numbers this year in his age-29 season (despite spending time on the disabled list late in the season for a back injury) and dramatically improved his performance against lefthanded pitching (.285/.333/.545 in 132 PA).
Duda had been in a slump for most of the postseason but broke out with a 3-for-4 performance in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Cubs, driving in five runs with two doubles, a home run and a walk in five plate appearances. A typically bulky first baseman, the 6'4" Duda isn’t terribly agile in the field, but he has quick reactions and good hands.
ERIC HOSMER: Though he's slumped in October (.222/.234/.311 in 47 postseason plate appearances), the 26-year-old Hosmer had a strong year at the plate, setting career highs in on-base percentage (.363), OPS+ (122) and RBIs (93), serving primarily as the team's No. 3 hitter. But his season was an uneven one, with an OPS that was 77 points higher in the second half (.863 vs .786) than the first. He showed a significant platoon split, too, hitting .279/.332/.398 with just four homers in 266 PA against lefties—43 points of OPS above his career norm, yet enough that he will remain a target of lefty specialists in the late innings. He’s the Royals’ best hitter against 95+ heat, hitting .381 with a .714 slugging percentage in the 42 times he put such balls into play this year (again via BaseballSavant.com).
Defensively, while Hosmer is a two-time Gold Glove winner, his work grades out roughly as average according to the metrics (dead even in Defensive Runs Saved this year, +6 runs over the past three).
AVG: .281 | OBP: .364 | SLG: .491 | HR: 14 | RBIs: 73
AVG: .276 | OBP: .359 | SLG: .450 | HR: 13 | RBIs: 56
DANIEL MURPHY: Sub-par in the field and prone to mental mistakes, Murphy’s value has always come from his above-average work at the plate. In the past, that meant a batting average around .290 with doubles power but few walks. This year, he cut his strikeout rate in half and experienced a power surge over the final two months of the regular season, then turned into Lou Gehrig in October. His 1.462 OPS this postseason is the fifth-highest for a player with 28 or more plate appearances in a single postseason, and his seven home runs are one shy of the record for a single postseason, though his strikeout rate this postseason has reverted to its pre-2015 level. The biggest question stemming from the Mets’ five-day layoff is, will that extended break turn their newest superstar back into Daniel Murphy?
BEN ZOBRIST: Acquired from the Athletics on July 28, Zobrist rebounded from a rough start in Oakland, which included four weeks lost to surgery to repair a left medial meniscus tear. He hit .281/.365/.456 in 479 plate appearances after the operation, filling in for the injured Alex Gordon in left before taking over second base from the struggling Omar Infante. Zobrist produced more value (1.2 WAR) in 59 post-trade games than he did in 67 with Oakland (0.7). Still, it was a step down from the five-win player he'd been in Tampa Bay. A switch-hitter, he's traditionally been stronger against lefties than righties (.823 vs. .769 in career OPS) but showed a wide split this year (.926 vs. .753, with BABIPs of .357 and .255), all of which may have had something to do with his injury and recovery.
Defensively, he was an uncharacteristic 12 runs below average via DRS, but those numbers boil down to small sample sizes with two teams in leftfield and second base with spot duty at third base and rightfield, with the injury possibly a factor as well. He's been a dangerous hitter out of the No. 2 spot in the postseason (.326/.375/.558), with six extra-base hits including homers in ALCS Games 4 and 6, not to mention 10 runs scored in 11 games.
AVG: .263 | OBP: .295 | SLG: .408 | HR: 16 | RBIs: 59
AVG: .257 | OBP: .293 | SLG: .320 | HR: 3 | RBIs: 47
WILMER FLORES: Flores started 96 games at shortstop for the Mets during the regular season and became a fan favorite when he shed tears on the field during a late July game after learning he was about to be traded to Milwaukee. But that deal fell through, and though Flores had enjoyed a career year, the now-24-year-old was benched in October in favor of Ruben Tejada, who has a superior glove and better on-base skills. That arrangement lasted until Chase Utley broke Tejada’s leg in the Division Series, at which point Flores returned to the post.
Like Murphy, Flores’s limited value comes from his bat. He has real power and has hit well in these playoffs (.292/.370/.458), but he typically eschews walks and is below average in the field.
ALCIDES ESCOBAR: Whether it's good luck or small-sample silliness, Esky Magic is working for the Royals. The light-hitting shortstop won ALCS MVP honors and is riding a 10-game postseason hitting streak, batting .386/.408/.545 in 50 plate appearances. Despite turning in his worst year at the plate since 2010 (.257/.293/.320 for a 68 OPS+), Escobar has become a fixture in the leadoff spot, defying all logic. He has also become known for swinging at the first pitch of the game, almost invariably a first-pitch fastball in the strike zone, and he is now 7-for-10 with three extra-base hits when swinging at the first pitch in the playoffs. For what it's worth, he hit .364/.367/.477 on first pitches during the regular season and .386 against fastballs of 95 mph and up, numbers that suggest the Mets should plan their approach more carefully than previous opponents have. Though his 17 steals (in 22 attempts) represented his lowest total since 2010, he's got plenty of speed and base running smarts (+4 runs this year), and he's solid to above-average in the field, with UZR (+7) liking his work considerably more than DRS (-1).
AVG: .289 | OBP: .379 | SLG: .434 | HR: 5 | RBIs: 17
AVG: .284 | OBP: .348 | SLG: .470 | HR: 22 | RBIs: 82
DAVID WRIGHT: The 32-year-old Wright is both New York’s team captain and the only Met to play for both the 2006 and ‘15 playoff entrants. He missed most of this season due to spinal stenosis but made a successful return to the lineup in late August. He’s no longer a power threat but is still a tough at-bat and the team’s top on-base threat, which makes him an ideal No. 2 hitter. Besides draining his power, Wright’s back condition has not obviously hindered him at the plate or in the field since his return.
MIKE MOUSTAKAS: Though he's been struggling in the postseason (.167/.217/.262 in 46 PA), Moustakas has been putting together decent at-bats. Like Hosmer, he built on last year's strong October to turn in his best year in the majors, setting career highs across the board with his homer and RBI totals, a .284/.348/.470 line, 43 walks, a 120 OPS+ and 4.4 WAR. Much of the improvement owes to a less pull-happy approach; while 44% of his balls in play went to rightfield and 25% to left in 2014, those numbers were 37 and 29, respectively, this season. Likely as a result, his BABIP shot from .220 to .294, and he cut his strikeout rate from 15% to 12%. The change appears to have particularly helped against lefties, as he hit .282/.338/.485 with 10 homers in 231 plate appearances against them, compared to an anemic .172/.241/.313 with three homers in 108 PA last year. He grades out as slightly above average defensively, with the capability of making stellar plays.
AVG: .270 | OBP: .335 | SLG: .506 | HR: 9 | RBIs: 26
AVG: .271 | OBP: .377 | SLG: .432 | HR: 13 | RBIs: 48
MICHAEL CONFORTO: The 10th overall pick in last year’s draft, the 22-year-old Conforto was called up directly from Double A in late July and quickly established himself as New York’s regular leftfielder. A typical power-hitting corner outfielder, Conforto will come out of games for a defensive replacement when the Mets have a lead in the late innings and sit against lefthanded starters. His only hit this postseason was a home run off the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke in Game 2 of the Division Series, but he has started just five of the Mets’ nine games due to the frequency with which the team has faced southpaws. That won’t be an issue against the Royals' all-righthanded rotation.
ALEX GORDON: Gordon led the team with a .377 on-base percentage this year but is currently buried in the lineup's eighth spot. The only solid explanation for that is that he hit just .250/.327/.365 in September after missing nearly two months due to a severe groin strain and has hit a tepid .250/.325 /.417 in the postseason. He's the team's most selective hitter, with a 12% walk rate and an average of 3.99 pitches per plate appearance, and he's an outstanding defender in leftfield, though his injury prevented him from reaching double digits in DRS for the first time since 2010. Likewise, he stole just two bases in seven attempts and was a run below average on the base paths after being +3 runs in each of the past two. He's had no significant platoon split in either of the past two seasons, and just a 48 OPS-point split in his career (.798 vs. righties, .750 vs. lefties), so he's not likely to be a focal point of the Mets' late-inning maneuvering. He has been the most vulnerable Royal to the hard stuff, with a 24% whiff rate and just a .250 average with a .400 slugging percentage.
AVG: .291 | OBP: .328 | SLG: .542 | HR: 35 | RBIs: 105
AVG: .307 | OBP: .361 | SLG: .477 | HR: 16 | RBIs: 72
YOENIS CESPEDES: The Mets’ big deadline acquisition is a five-tool stud who is nonetheless overextended in centerfield, averse to talking walks and not typically a stolen-base threat. Still, Cespedes works deep counts and combines speed and power in all aspects of his game. His right arm is a major weapon in the field, and his 35 home runs this season (17 of them coming with the Mets after his July 31 trade from the Tigers) were a career high. Cespedes wasn’t solely responsible for the transformation of New York’s offense since his arrival, but he nonetheless looms large in the cleanup spot.
LORENZO CAIN: Another 2014 postseason breakout performer, Cain put together his best season in the bigs, setting across-the-board highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, homers, RBIs, walks (37), WAR (7.2, fourth in the AL) and OPS+ (126). He also stole a team-high 28 bases in 34 attempts and tied with Erick Aybar and teammate Jarrod Dyson for the league lead in base-running runs (+6). Despite playing through a bone bruise in his knee, he can still burn, as he showed with his mad dash in ALCS Game 6, when he scored the pennant-winning run from first base on a single. He's gotten his share of big hits thus far in the postseason but has hit just .275/.375/.375 in 48 plate appearances. Defensively, he's outstanding in center, 18 runs above average via DRS; this year, he logged just 19 innings in rightfield, so don't expect the same kind of late-game switcheroos that manager Ned Yost used last October.
AVG: .259 | OBP: .364 | SLG: .457 | HR: 26 | RBIs: 70
AVG: .255 | OBP: .287 | SLG: .353 | HR: 4 | RBIs: 32
CURTIS GRANDERSON: Reunited this year with former Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, Granderson enjoyed his best season since he was in the Bronx in 2011. He reversed the steady decline in his batting average, drew a career-high 91 walks and recovered some of his faded power as well. Establishing himself as a viable leadoff man with a team-leading on-base percentage among qualified hitters, he was New York’s most valuable everyday player during the regular season and has had a strong postseason, reaching base at a .385 clip and swiping four bases in five attempts.
ALEX RIOS: The lineup's grizzled veteran at 34 years old, Rios missed seven weeks with a fracture in his left hand and turned in his worst season since 2011, both at the plate (73 OPS+) and in the field (-6 DRS) en route to -1.1 WAR. That said, he's been trending upward as the season has continued, batting .267/.302/.400 since the All-Star break and .333/.389/.485 in 36 plate appearances in the postseason, so perhaps it was just a matter of his hand fully healing. Despite his age, he does have enough speed and base running savvy to go 9-for-9 in steals during the regular seasons (he’s 1-for-2 in the playoffs), but he's become enough of a defensive liability that he sometimes yields to Paulo Orlando in the late innings.
METS DH/BENCH: Unless they activate Juan Uribe, who has missed the entirety of the playoffs so far due to a chest injury, the Mets’ primary pinch-hitters and designated-hitter candidates are veterans Michael Cuddyer and Kelly Johnson, a righty and a lefty, respectively. Cuddyer has hit .344/.427/.531 in 75 career pinch-hitting appearances, including the postseason. Johnson (above) hit 14 home runs during a season split between the Braves and Mets and can play five different positions. Juan Lagares is one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball and will often enter late in games as a defensive replacement, pushing Cespedes to left. Starting Lagares with Conforto or Cespedes at DH is also an option. Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis is a lefty alternative to the righty Lagares but has only appeared in one game this postseason and is not as accomplished in the field. Either centerfielder could be used as a pinch runner. Rookie backup catcher Kevin Plawecki and shortstop Matt Reynolds, the latter of whom was the injury replacement for Ruben Tejada and has yet to make his major league debut, have not appeared in a single game this postseason.
ROYALS DH/BENCH: Morales rebounded from a terrible 2014 and provided a major upgrade over the departed Billy Butler at the DH spot, leading the team in RBIs and tying for the lead in homers. He's brought the thunder in the postseason as well, hitting .261/.311/.561 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 45 plate appearances. For his career, the 32-year-old switch-hitter has been significantly stronger against righties than lefties (.822 vs. 734 in terms of OPS), with a wider-than-normal split this year (.901 with 18 homers vs righties, .771 with four homers vs. lefties). If there's bad news, it's that confining him to pinch-hitting duty when the series shifts to New York means losing a significant middle-of-the-order bat.
Elsewhere on the bench, speedster Jarrod Dyson (.250/.311/.380 with 26 steals in 29 attempts) was a key weapon last year but hasn't been utilized nearly as much this postseason, making just three appearances but going 2-for-2 in steals. Terrance Gore, 4-for-5 in steals including the postseason, never bats but is around for pinch-running purposes as well. Paulo Orlando is a strong defender (+8 DRS in just 604 innings mostly at the corners) with a bit of pop and zero patience (five walks and seven homers in 251 PA). Drew Butera might have more worth as a mop-up pitcher than a mop-up catcher; if he's starting, something has gone very wrong. Infielder Christian Colon, who hit .290/.356/.336 in 119 PA, has yet to see postseason action but could be useful in a potential double-switch situation involving the pitcher and Ben Zobrist during the games at Citi Field.
METS STARTING PITCHERS
ROYALS STARTING PITCHERS
METS STARTING PITCHERS: In order, the Mets will start Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in Games 1 through 4 of this series. All four are young (deGrom, a 27-year-old converted college shortstop, is the oldest). All four throw hard (Matz, the least experienced and the lone lefty in the group, has the slowest fastball; it tops out just under 97 mph). All four have ace-quality stuff. Harvey (pictured), who finished fourth in the Cy Young voting in 2013, and deGrom, last year’s NL Rookie of the Year and a potential top-five finisher in this year's Cy results, have already demonstrated that skill over a full season. Syndergaard, who debuted in May and regularly hits triple digits with his fastball, is very close. Matz, who came up in June and went 4–0 with a 2.27 ERA in six major league starts, is still adjusting to the majors, but successfully so.
Save your stats about how well the Royals hit upper-90s heaters: These aren’t run-of-the-mill throwers. All four of these young men are pitchers with excellent secondary pitches, and not one of them has allowed more than three runs in any of their nine starts this postseason.
ROYALS STARTING PITCHERS: The Royals did not have a strong rotation during the regular season, ranking 12th in the league in both ERA and FIP (4.34 and 4.32, respectively). Some of that is irrelevant right now, as Jeremy Guthrie is off the roster and Danny Duffy is in the bullpen, but the reality is that Kansas City’s starters posted a 5.56 ERA through the first two rounds of the playoffs, delivered just two quality starts out of 11 and averaged 5.0 innings per turn. They have at least missed bats, striking out a batter per frame, but they've walked 4.7 per nine and allowed 1.1 homers per nine as well. Edinson Volquez will get the call in Game 1 with Johnny Cueto (pictured) in Game 2, quite possibly because of the team's hesitance to start him on the road due to his two October duds—a combined 12 runs allowed in 5 1/3 innings in the 2013 wild-card game and this year's ALCS Game 3. In all likelihood, that means Yordano Ventura for Game 3, with Chris Young for Game 4.
Volquez posted the best ERA (3.55) and home run rate (0.7 per nine) among the Royals' full-time starters, with adequate peripherals (3.82 FIP) and a solid 46% ground-ball rate. He threw six shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALCS despite four walks and has issued 5.2 walks per nine in his three postseason turns. Ventura posted the unit's highest strikeout rate (8.6 per nine), best FIP (3.57) and highest ground-ball rate (52%) during the regular season. He was strong down the stretch, with a 2.38 ERA, 81 strikeouts and just three homers allowed in his final 11 starts, totaling 68 innings. He ranked fourth in average fastball velocity this year at 97.1 mph, and his off-speed stuff was outstanding in the ALCS clincher, which helped him to his best start of the postseason.
Cueto struggled with the transition to the AL after being acquired from the Reds in late July: His strikeout rate fell from 8.3 per nine to 6.2, his ERA rose from 2.62 to 4.76 and his FIP jumped from 3.20 to 4.06. Not all of the decline was his fault (his BABIP shot from .237 to .345), and he posted a 3.24 ERA over his final four regular-season starts after asking Perez to set up with a lower target. Chris Young fared well as a five-and-fly-type in the regular season, posting a 3.18 ERA as a starter and dramatically outpitching his peripherals thanks to a .222 BABIP; he's the king of hit suppression thanks to his penchant for pop-ups, though he is homer-prone (1.2 per nine overall), and doesn't miss many bats (just 6.1 per nine).
METS BULLPEN: Armed with an unusual mid-90s splitter that he just started throwing in August (the pitch is typically a mid-80s off-speed pitch), Jeurys Familia has emerged as one of the most dominant closers in baseball and one capable of getting more than three outs if necessary. Familia has appeared in the eighth inning three times this postseason due in part to the struggles of deadline addition Tyler Clippard, who has allowed 13 runs in his last 17 1/3 innings dating back to Sept. 6. Addison Reed has been more reliable, posting a 1.45 ERA (postseason included) since arriving from the Diamondbacks in August.
So far this October, Terry Collins has largely stayed away from middle men Hansel Robles and Sean Gilmartin in favor of re-purposed starters Bartolo Colon and Jonathon Niese. Both Colon and Niese can be used for length or for specific matchups.
ROYALS BULLPEN: Though they lost closer Greg Holland to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in September, the Royals' bullpen may actually be deeper than last year's crew, affording manager Ned Yost a plethora of options even if his starter can't make it through the fifth inning. The unit posted the league's lowest ERA (2.72), second-lowest home-run rate (0.8 per nine) and fourth-lowest FIP (3.56) during the regular season, and it has yielded a 2.85 ERA with 59 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 41 innings in the postseason. The unit’s gopher tendencies have been largely confined to Ryan Madson, who has given up half of the bullpen’s eight home runs through the first two rounds.
In Kris Medlen, whose five-inning stint in relief of Cueto in ALCS Game 3 saved the bullpen, Yost has a capable long man. In Luke Hochevar, Madson, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis (pictured), the manager has a stockpile of righties who can shorten games, miss bats and—particularly with Herrera and Davis—work more than an inning at a time. In Danny Duffy (.239/.291/.303 in 118 PA vs. lefties) and Franklin Morales (.192/.245/.313 in 107 PA vs. lefties), Yost has options from the left side, particularly with the former's average velocity jumping to 97 mph since going to the bullpen. Davis has been brilliant in both a setup role and as the closer; he has yet to allow a run in 6 2/3 innings this postseason while striking out 10, and he has allowed just one earned run and one inherited runner to score in 21 innings across the last two Octobers, with 11 hits and a 30/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
TERRY COLLINS: The oldest manager in the majors, the 66-year-old Collins is making his first appearance in a World Series. Collins has struggled to manage the workloads of his young arms, but he is respected in his clubhouse and has done little to prompt second-guessing this postseason. He is hands-off in terms of in-game offensive strategy, largely eschewing the bunt or putting runners in motion. He’ll replace Conforto defensively with a late lead and sit him against lefties, but he mostly lets his players play. However, he is liberal with the intentional walk, often using it to bring up the opposing pitcher in a big spot, a strategy which could be particularly effective against an AL team with one of the worst hitting pitchers in major league history in Johnny Cueto. Collins has used his bullpen well this postseason, making good use of Colon and Niese, being careful with Clippard and being aggressive in getting to Familia.
NED YOST: Notorious for his tactical weaknesses prior to 2014, the 61-year-old Yost can no longer be dismissed as a fluke now that he's guided the Royals to two straight World Series berths. For as much as his seemingly counterproductive batting order stands out, he's far more content to let his offense do its thing without intervention. This team is less small-ball oriented than either last year's squad or the stereotypes that relate to his earlier years.
Kansas City wasn’t quite as aggressive on the bases this year as last, but it still ranked second in the league in steals (104) and third in both attempts (138) and success rate (75.4%); the Royals are 7-for-10 this postseason. They were middle-of-the-pack in sacrifice bunts (33, with just two in the postseason), near the bottom on hit-and-run plays (257 swings with runners going, 86 balls in play) and dead last in pinch-hitter usage (36 PA), but sixth in pinch-runner usage (40 times). The team was 10th in the league replay challenges (33) but third in success rate (63%).
Where Yost has made his bones is in the handling of his bullpen, and while he has occasionally stayed with his starter a bit longer than it would seem prudent, his Royals were second-to-last in the league in terms of the number of times his starters faced batters for the third time (975); on a per-game basis in the postseason, his pitchers have done so fewer times than any non-wild-card team save for the Cardinals. He's got a good feel for handling his bullpen, even if it sometimes seems a bit too push-button oriented. He's happy to use the unit to shorten games, and his best relievers often work longer than an inning at a time. He’s become allergic to intentional walks, issuing fewer (10) than any other team in either league for the second straight year. Plus, he has a coaching and scouting staff with a great enough eye for detail to be a difference-maker, as third base coach Mike Jirschele's decision to send Cain in ALCS Game 6 demonstrated.