Who's better: the New York Mets' pitchers or the Kansas City Royals' hitters? Does either team have the edge defensively? Which unlikely offensive star is more likely to keep up his otherworldly act? We ran the numbers on the two World Series foes to find out.
A NEW WORLD SERIES ORDER?
This is the first World Series ever played that won't feature at least one of the 16 original MLB franchises that existed at the time of the first World Series in 1903. The Mets, who joined the National League in 1962 and in 1969 became the first expansion team to play in and win the World Series, will meet the Royals (established in 1969) in the first all-expansion-era-team World Series.
It's also just the fourth time since World War II (and the first time since 1975) that World Series opponents were both looking to end a championship drought of at least 25 years. The Royals and Mets won their last World Series titles in 1985 and 1986, respectively.
Most World Series appearances by expansion teams*
*Teams that started play after 1960
WHO HAS THE EDGE: THE METS' PITCHERS OR THE ROYALS' HITTERS?
The Mets' dynamic young rotation is difficult to hit against for a variety of reasons. As you might have read, they throw really hard. No team has ever pitched more fastballs this fast. Mets starters have averaged 96.0 mph with their fastballs this October, the highest of any team with multiple playoff games in a single postseason in the past five years. Mets starters have thrown 520 fastballs this postseason, and 423 of them (81 percent) have been at least 95 mph:
Mets starting pitchers this postseason
But the Royals can handle the Mets' heat because they feast on fastballs. While the flamethrowing Mets pitchers have given opposing teams fits, Kansas City's hitters have taken advantage of high-velocity fastball pitchers. Five projected Royals starters hit at least .300 against fastballs 94 mph or faster, and four of their projected starters had a strikeout percentage of less than 10 percent against such pitches
Including the postseason, they've hit .300 and missed on just less than 15 percent of their swings against pitches thrown 95 mph or faster, both best in majors. The Dodgers and Cubs hitters whiffed on a quarter of their swings against 95-plus mph fastballs against the Mets in the NLDS and NLCS. The Royals have missed on only 15.7 percent of their swings against those pitches this postseason:
Royals batters vs. pitches of at least 95 mph in 2015 (including postseason)
WHO'S BETTER DEFENSIVELY?
Kansas City led the American League in defensive runs saved, at plus-56. The Royals turned 70.2 percent of batted balls into outs and turned 74.7 percent of ground balls into outs. They also had nine No. 1 Web Gems, tied for fourth most in baseball -- and Alex Gordon (50) and Lorenzo Cain (49) both rank in the top 10 in the majors in DRS the past three seasons.
Meanwhile, Mets offensive hero Daniel Murphy ranks among the worst defensive players in baseball over the past three seasons, with minus-29 DRS. Travis d'Arnaud has minus-21 DRS over that same span, second worst among catchers. The Royals will try to exploit those deficiencies by simply putting the ball in play.
Defensive runs saved by position
IS THE JURY STILL OUT ON JEURYS FAMILIA?
On July 30, Mets closer Jeurys Familia allowed a go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth inning to Justin Upton, and the Mets blew a 7-1 lead in a loss to the Padres. The Mets were 52-50 at that point, three games out of first in the NL East. Since then, Familia -- who has recorded five saves, allowed only two hits and two walks this postseason, and been on the mound at the end of every postseason game the Mets have won this year -- and his team has been all but invincible:
A tale of two seasons
Jeurys Familia this season (including the postseason):
WILL ALCIDES ESCOBAR STAY AGGRESSIVE?
The Royals' shortstop has a hit in his past 10 games, the third-longest hitting streak in K.C.'s postseason history. Combined with the nine-game streak he put together last October, that makes him the second player in MLB history with a hitting streak of at least nine games in multiple postseasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The other is Derek Jeter (1996, 1999, 2000).
Escobar swung at 52 percent of pitches he saw in the regular season and had a .293 on-base percentage. But he's hacking more often in the postseason (56 percent). Escobar has been especially aggressive on the first pitch of plate appearances, and it's working for him. He's swung at the first pitch of the game in nine of the Royals' 11 postseason games:
Alcides Escobar's early attack
CAN DANIEL MURPHY SUSTAIN HIS POWER SURGE?
Murphy has already racked up so many superlatives. He's first player in MLB history to homer in six consecutive postseason games and also joined Lou Gehrig as the only players with seven straight postseason games with a hit, run and RBI. Murphy's seven homers this postseason tie him for second most in a single postseason, with Barry Bonds -- and he's one away from catching Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran for most ever. Murphy is also slugging 1.026 in the postseason, which, if it holds up, would be the second-highest ever in a single postseason (minimum 25 at-bats).
Highest slugging percentage in a single postseason
DOES HISTORY BODE WELL FOR A ROYALS FLUSH?
Kansas City is looking to become the first team since the 1989 Oakland Athletics to win the World Series the year after losing the World Series. The Royals are the sixth AL team to return to the Series the year after losing a winner-take-all World Series game and the first since the 1961 Yankees. Each of the previous five teams won the World Series the second time around:
Teams that have reached World Series a year after losing World Series
AL teams in divisional era (since 1969):