It's raining. Maybe they'll play baseball tonight. Maybe they won't. Meanwhile, here's some stuff from Al Gore's invention:
--On ESPN Insider, Buster Olney writes about how the Royals are preparing for the Mets' starters:
"The way Kansas City Royals players describe how their teammate, Kendrys Morales, prepares to face an opposing pitcher sounds like a staff of math professors talking about a colleague who locks himself in a room and obsesses over a troublesome theorem.
They're not sure how he sees what he sees, and they're not sure whether they can see what he sees, because his observations are next-level. What they do know is Morales descends into some sort of mental cave, armed with videotape, and emerges with detailed answers. Lots of them.
Morales' breakdown of pitching and pitchers could be crucial over the next nine days, as the Royals attempt to solve what represents baseball's most challenging problem: How can you beat the New York Mets' starting rotation of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz? Mets starters have combined for an ERA of 2.65 ERA in the postseason, with 69 strikeouts in 54 ⅓ innings."
--The consensus story heading into the series seems to be exactly that: Mets power pitching versus Royals contact hitting. Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs examines how the Mets actually fared against contact hitting in the regular season:
"No group did well against Syndergaard, Harvey, deGrom, and Matz, because that wouldn’t make sense — the pitchers are just too good. But relative to themselves, the lower-strikeout groups did better than the higher-strikeout groups. Hitters who struck out at a below-average rate lost about 10% or so of their wOBA. Hitters who struck out at an above-average rate lost about 20% or so of their wOBA. It’s not like there’s a magic line at 20% strikeouts or anything, but this does support the gut feeling that the Royals might have something here. Where the Cubs were maybe a bit exploitable, the Royals might better defend themselves."
--Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk previews the Game 1 pregame ceremony. Hey, somebody has to do it. No surprise, George Brett is throwing out the first pitch. What, you expected Neifi Perez? Anyway, Craig says the ceremony will be a little less "patriotic" and that baseball is slowly moving away from this agenda, a relic of 9/11 and Bud Selig (I agree with the Craig that is a good thing):
"As I said last year, it’s hard to take issue with any one of those efforts, but it’s also the case that the obligatory manner in which we have imported patriotism and honoring of the military into baseball has caused us to lose sight of the fact that, even if doing these things are good and admirable, when we make our patriotism obligatory and mindless, we lose an essential part of it, which is thoughtfulness."
--Joe Sheehan breaks down the Series in his newsletter:
"The Mets have the three best starting pitchers in the Series. Even if you don't think Johnny Cueto is as bad as he's looked since joining the Royals, you'd still rather have Noah Syndergaard starting for you this week. One team having the three best starters in the World Series is notable, but not that unusual. The 1990s Braves had it a few times. The 2007 World Series, arguably, with the Red Sox and the Rockies. The Mets, though, may have the four best starters in the World Series, and that's rare. Steven Matz versus Cueto might have seemed a silly question in June, but on October 27, it's hardly so. Matz has issues staying healthy, which isn't relevant to the question of who the better pitcher is in a single series. With Matz facing off against Chris Young in Game Four, we can say with certainty that the Mets will have the best starting pitcher in every game of the Series.
The only other team I can find that might have had the four best starters in the World Series was the 1996 Braves, who faced the Yankees. Was 1996 Denny Neagle better than that year's version of David Cone, coming back from an injury, or Andy Pettitte? It's worth noting that the Braves lost that series in six."
--Joe Posnanski writes about the Royals returning to the World Series:
"A few words about Royals manager Ned Yost. I mentioned above that he makes some inexplicable decisions, and he does. But his team consistently makes him look good. Why do you think that is?
It could be luck, of course, though I do believe 'The Color of Money' line that luck, itself, is an art. It could be the oft-repeated quote that baseball managing is just not that important in the grand scheme of things -- good managers lose and bad managers win based on talent. It could be that each individual managerial decision is just not as significant as talk radio callers and columnists believe. It could also be that a con artist named Applegate came to Yost and made him a deal.
Then again, it could be that there is something Yost instills in his players, something more consequential than the small percentage decisions he must make during a game. People still refer to the Kansas City Royals as plucky or spunky or gutsy or some similar word which makes them sound a bit too much like the cast from 'Newsies.' Those words really don’t have the regal tone befitting a two-time American League Championship team, and every now and again you will hear people gripe that those word choices show a lack of respect for what the Royals have done."
"Easier to explain is the difference Kevin Long has made. Often the shortest man on the field, he becomes the tallest one when he's perched at the back of a batting cage. He was hired as the hitting coach last offseason, shortly after the Yankees let him go after seven fairly successful seasons. He immediately looked at the tapes of all the Mets hitters, so when Murphy texted him in January asking for an analysis, Long was ready."
--Finally, Rany Jazayerli of Grantland lists the 15 biggest plays in playoff history:
"Championship Probability Added measures how much a particular play influences a team’s chances to win, except instead of measuring its chances to win a game, it measures a team’s chances to win a World Series. It is calculated simply by multiplying a play’s Win Probability Added by the impact the game has on winning a championship.
For Game 7 of the World Series, that impact is 100 percent — the winner jumps into a dogpile and the loser stews all winter long. For Game 6, the impact is 50 percent, because if the team that leads the series 3-2 wins, its championship odds are 100 percent, but if that team loses, it drops to 50 percent. The impact is also 50 percent for a World Series Game 5 when the two teams are tied at two wins apiece and for Game 7 of a League Championship Series.
The No. 1 moment? You may be surprised, as a more famous moment from the same game has trumped the memory of an obscure Pirates hero."