Tagged: Jacob deGrom

Rocky Mountain Baseball

Baseball is a team sport. Individual players do not guarantee World Series Championships, if they did Mike Trout and the Angels would have several Fall Classic victories already. Baseball fandom is the same way, individuals can enjoy the game, but baseball with friends is always better. Watching a baseball game on TV or in the stands, allows people to indulge themselves with the game and pause the rest of the world. Watching with your friends is even better as you self indulge and grow your friendship.

Bernie, Kevin, and I met in graduate school. Bernie and I met when he kicked a water bottle out of my hand at shoulder level to prove he could to someone. Critical life skills. I met Kevin through Bernie and other mutual friends. Unfortunately Kevin does not possess the same skills as Bernie, so our friendship followed a more usual path. Our individual love of baseball quickly became apparent, which after graduation led to our annual baseball road trip. This year we ventured to Denver to watch the Colorado Rockies host the Toronto Blue Jays in a three game weekend series.

Coors Field is a beautiful venue to watch baseball. The stadium was built after baseball realized cookie cutter stadiums were boring. Even the seats tucked behind support columns in right field have a good view of the field. Fans do not feel like they are passing through a cave when they are walking around Coors Field. You can see the field as you circle the lower level. Coors Field embraced the radical concept of fan comfort and enjoyment of their day at the ballpark.

Game 1- Friday

Coors Field has many great view points to watch a game. Our first night in Denver we sat in the Left Field bleachers, the Rockpile. The view was outstanding. We were aligned with first and second base, perfect for watching both teams turn a double play. The true artistry of baseball is lost on TV, players gracefully gliding across the diamond, a ballet in spikes.

Edwin Jackson started for Toronto, pitching for his record 14th MLB franchise, surpassing former teammate Octavio Dotel. Jackson entered the game with a 9.00 ERA in three starts for the Blue Jays. In the top of the first, Toronto drew two walks before a double play and a ground out ended any hope for early runs against German Marquez. In the bottom of the first, the first five Rockies reached base. Colorado scored four runs on three hits, including a two run home run by Trevor Story, a walk, and David Dahl reached on a strike three wild pitch. Jackson did strike out the side in the middle of the mess.

The Blue Jays fought back in the top of the second, with a lead off home run by Randal Grichuk and Cavan Biggio scoring on a Luke Maile RBI groundout. Colorado scored a run in the second and five in the third forcing Jackson out of the game. He gave up 10 runs in just 2.1 innings, ballooning his ERA to 13.22. Relieving Jackson was Elvis Luciano, the first MLB player born in the 2000’s. A Nolan Arenado RBI double in the fifth off Luciano and another two run home run by Story off Sam Gaviglio in the seventh gave Colorado a commanding 13 to 2 lead.

Toronto made one final push in the eighth inning. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a lead off solo home run on the first pitch from Chris Rusin, in to relieve Marquez after seven innings. Grichuk scored Brandon Drury on a sacrifice fly to right. Jake McGee came in to relieve Rusin with the bases loaded. Rusin faced six batters, allowing two runs, four hits, and a walk. McGee walked Maile to score Lourdes Gurriel and a sacrifice fly to right center scored Biggio before shutting Toronto down. Both teams had lead off hits in the ninth, only to leave runners stranded. The Rockies’ early onslaught was too much for the Blue Jays, as Colorado won 13 to 6. 

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Wall murals are all around Denver.

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Bernie insisted on eating at Santiago’s.

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The food at Santiago’s was fantastic.

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We have arrived at Coors Field, with Branch Rickey photobombing us.

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Our seats from the Rockpile.

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The in game entertainment’s suit jacket is a homage to Don Cherry.

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A beautiful night for baseball.

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Bernie, me, and my friends Sara and Gregg.

Game 2- Saturday

We always pick good seats for one game, usually the best pitching matchup. Saturday night was Marcus Stroman against Jon Gray. Both Righties, so we sat just beyond Third Base, 11 rows from the field. Stroman is a master at altering his delivery to fool batters. It is difficult for hitters to time Stroman when he is unpredictable. Gray is a solid pitcher for the Rockies, which has often been a difficult task at Coors Field.

After the drumming Toronto took Friday night, one might expect the Blue Jays to come out with some energy. Nope. The Blue Jays went down in order in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, Stroman allowed four consecutive hits, three singles and a double, giving Colorado a 3 to 0 lead. Toronto mustered only a single, weakly hit infield as they took the field in the bottom of the fifth. After Jon Gray struck out looking, Raimel Tapia stepped to the plate. Tapia lined a double to Centerfield on the first pitch, then circus music began to play. Centerfielder Jonathan Davis had trouble picking up the ball, allowing Tapia to reach third. On the relay throw, Second Baseman Cavan Biggio threw the ball out of play, awarding Tapia home. Yes Stroman allowed the hit, but his defense dug him an even deeper hole. The Rockies brought in Carlos Estevez in the ninth to close out the Blue Jays. He served up a lead off solo home run to Justin Smoak. Biggio reached on a Trevor Story throwing error and scored on a Danny Jansen double. Estevez eventually got the final out, securing the 4 to 2 Colorado victory.

Marcus Stroman is one of the most exciting young pitchers in baseball. However the young Toronto team has wasted his 2.84 ERA (post game), leaving him with a 3-7 record. Toronto is extremely young, hopefully Stroman gets help soon and does not become the American League Jacob deGrom.

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People exercising at Red Rocks Amphitheater while we focused on breathing.

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Hiking around Red Rocks.

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The geology tells the history of the area.

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Red Rocks was worth the drive.

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A quick break during our hike at Red Rocks.

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Looking west from the Colorado State House across Civic Center Park towards Denver City Hall.

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Standing in Civic Center Park looking west towards Denver City Hall.

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Standing in Civic Center Park looking east towards the Colorado State House.

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United States Mint, Denver.

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Our seats just beyond 3rd base.

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The green outfield grass under the lights is poetic.

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Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado taking grounders between innings.

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Bernie, Kevin, and Derek enjoying Game 2.

Game 3- Sunday

Day baseball is perfection. The sun shining on the green grass, the extra white baseballs, the game is more alive. The Rockies were looking to sweep the Blue Jays in the final game of our baseball road trip. Toronto finally showing some life as Eric Sogard and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit back to back singles off Colorado starter Antonio Senzatela to begin the game. Justin Smoak grounded into a Fielder’s Choice at first, scoring Sogard and giving the Blue Jays their first lead of the series. Again the offense could not sustain the momentum, scoring just one run despite sending seven batters to the plate. In the bottom of the first, Raimel Tapia lined out before Blue Jays’ starter Aaron Sanchez surrendered consecutive singles to David Dahl, Nolan Arenado, and Daniel Murphy to tie the game.

Toronto went down in order in the second, third, and fourth. Colorado scored a run in the second and third. Our seats for the finale at Coors Field were in the upper deck, first base side. Looking out, the Rocky Mountains rose beyond left field. Sadly thunderstorms rolled through Denver, forcing us to retreat. Despite the huge raindrops from the soaking downpour, the game was not delayed. The rain faded and Chris Iannetta launched a lead off home run in the sixth that may not have returned to earth yet. Nolan Arenado hit a solo home run in the seventh extending the lead to 5 to 1. Justin Smoak walked to lead off the Toronto eighth, but was stranded by two fly outs and a Brandon Drury strike out. Luke Maile’s single was Toronto’s last gasp as Bryan Shaw struck out the side to complete the Colorado sweep.

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A trip to Colorado would not be complete without at least a drive through the Rocky Mountains.

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The further from Denver we got the more snow we found.

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We saw people snow skiing, in June.

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Bernie and Kevin enjoying day baseball. Derek left to find food.

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View from the nose bleed seats, with the Rocky Mountains rising in the distance.

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The rains came and we retreated to drier seats.

The Rockies began the home stand 23-26, fourth in the NL West, 4.5 games behind the second Wild Card. They won eight of nine games on the home stand; winning two of three from the Orioles, before sweeping the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays. Colorado finished the home stand 31-27, second in the NL West, 0.5 games behind the second Wild Card; most likely saving their season.

Baseball is beautiful wherever it is played. A sandlot in Georgia, a high school field in Ohio, a Minor League park in Indiana, or a Major League park in Colorado. Since graduation we have scattered across the country, our annual baseball road trip allows us to get together, catch up, and enjoy the game we love. Our lives constantly change, yet baseball remains constant. Next year will be no different.

DJ

The Good and The Great

The difference between a good team and a great team is on display in the World Series. Both the Dodgers and Red Sox had talent laden Opening Day payrolls at or exceeding $200 million. Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, and Kenley Jansen are not overmatched by the talents of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale, and Craig Kimbrel. The difference is execution.

Manny Machado’s defensive skills are unquestionable, but he has checked out at the plate. He is hitting .222, 4 for 18, obviously a small sample size. However, it is how Machado has looked, not what he has done. He turned a double into a single, is blowing bubbles while running down the line on close plays, stepping on the first baseman’s foot again, and just looks like he wants the World Series to end so he can hit free agency. Players should show emotion when they get a big hit in the World Series. Yasiel Puig watching his home run while Eduardo Rodriguez slams his glove was amazing. Both players showed their emotions on the biggest stage in the game. Machado acted like he hit the ball 20 rows deep, yet it hit maybe halfway up the wall costing the Dodgers a base, maybe more. Machado’s behavior is likely costing him millions in free agency as teams lose interest, thus reducing competition to sign him. Puig launched the ball, he celebrated the moment knowing the ball was gone.

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Remember to celebrate a home run only if it clear the fence. (AP Photo/ Mark J. Terrill)

Nathan Eovaldi has done his best Madison Bumgarner impersonation. Heading into free agency his value has done nothing but rise. Eovaldi has pitched 8 innings with a 1.13 ERA and a 0.500 WHIP in the World Series. His 6 innings of relief in Boston’s Game 3 loss saved the Red Sox pitching staff for the entire series. Eovaldi’s effort prevented several members of Boston’s bullpen from working multiple innings. The Red Sox have a commanding series lead after winning Game 4 in part because their bullpen was not exhausted from Game 3.

Walker Buehler got the Jacob deGrom treatment. He pitched 7 outstanding innings, and the Dodger offense scored one run. Los Angeles wasted Buehler’s performance by allowing the Red Sox to hang around. A single bad pitch by Kenley Jansen to Jackie Bradley Jr. forced extra innings; obviously no one though the game would go 18 innings. The Dodgers wasted their chance to get back in the series without exhausting their pitching staff. They won Game 3, but at what cost?

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Nathan Eovaldi pitched 6 innings of relief in Game 3 before giving up Max Muncy’s walk off home run in the 18th inning. Despite the lose he may have saved the World Series for the Red Sox. (AP Photo/ David J. Phillip)

The tough luck award of the World Series goes to Ryan Madson. Technically he has allowed 1 earned run in 2 ⅓ innings. However, he has inherited 7 Red Sox runners and all 7 have scored. His pitching did not allow them on base, but his pitching has allowed them to score. Madson has pitched in the first four games, Game 3 was his only clean outing. He threw only two pitches. Madson inherited 14 runners in the regular season, only 4 scored. Terrible timing for a rough stretch.

It is much easier to lose a game than to win a game. Winning comes down to execution. The talent of the Dodgers and Red Sox is fairly even. Los Angeles has failed to execute in some key moments. Boston is one win away from winning the series and sending the Dodgers to their second consecutive World Series defeat. The opportunity to win the World Series is rare and the Dodgers’ window may be closing. The Texas Rangers lost the 2010 World Series and were one strike away from winning in 2011. They never got that strike. Is this as close as Los Angeles will get to lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time in 30 years.

DJ

Lonely Night in Gotham

It seems like only yesterday the Mets were poised to have a scary starting rotation for years to come. A rotation rivaling the Braves’ rotation in the 1990’s which had three Hall of Fame pitchers coming at you night after night. The future of the Amazings had Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Jacob deGrom. This rotation would dominate the division and baseball for years to come. Yeah…about that. The Dark Knight was banished from Gotham and is now pitching for the Cincinnati Reds, and even the Reds are beginning to discuss trading high on Matt Harvey before he crashes again. Noah Syndergaard has not pitched since before Memorial Day due to injury. Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are having forgettable seasons and rumors are swirling about one or both leaving Queens. Neither would yield a huge return, but the Mets may be more concerned about getting something before their trade value becomes nothing. This leaves only Jacob deGrom on the mound for the Mets.

Even as Jacob deGrom is producing a career year, the Mets are wasting the work of their best pitcher. The Mets are terrible this year, may be time for a rebuild in Queens, even when deGrom is lights out. deGrom is leading all of baseball in ERA, FIP, and ERA+. Regardless what you think about FIP and ERA+, leading MLB in ERA, with a 1.79 ERA is no small feat. In 18 starts this season, deGrom has pitched 115 ⅓ innings, allowing 23 Earned Runs, with 142 strikeouts against only 29 walks. He also has a 0.988 WHIP. He has gone at least seven innings in 11 starts. Yet despite his brilliance, deGrom has a 5-4 record and the Mets are 7-11 when deGrom starts. No team is successful when they struggle to win with their best pitcher on the mound.

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Jacob deGrom has had to grin and bear it this year as he watches his great starts wasted by the Mets. (Michael Reaves/ Getty Images)

The Mets have scored 69 runs, 3.83 per game, in games deGrom starts. However, they have given up 70 runs, 3.88 per game. The bullpen is letting the team down, having allowed 46 runs in deGrom starts. Any close game deGrom leaves the bullpen is struggling to hold the lead or keep the game close for the offense. deGrom is 2-2 at Citi Field and 3-2 on the road. The Mets are currently 35-51 and in 4th place in the National League East, ahead of only the disaster in Miami in the standings. Not a great return for the pitching deGrom is delivering every fifth day.

The Amazings cannot expect deGrom to continue putting up these numbers with nothing to show for it. The Mets need to rebuild around deGrom or find a trade while he is hot. A pitcher like deGrom should bring back a slew of prospects that could turn the franchise around. deGrom does not reach free agency until 2021, he would be more than a trade deadline rental. Regardless what the team does, the Mets should not waste deGrom’s brilliance. The Mets are ridiculed for their decision-making, such as Bobby Bonilla and the Wilpons, but at some point the team needs to either act like a small market team that happens to play in New York or responsibility act like a big market team. Stop giving big contracts players at the back-end of their prime like Jason Bay, 4 years $66 million, and Yoenis Cespedes, 4 years $110 million. Spread the money around, spend money on the bullpen, spend money on developing a retaining guys like you did with David Wright, and hope they can avoid injury. Yes, Jacob deGrom is having an amazing season wasted by the Mets, but this is the latest symptom of the Mets inability to capitalize on the talent they draft and develop. The team needs to focus on putting a winning team on the field. Winning baseball will attract the fans and media attention and make New York a two team town.

DJ

2016 New Year’s Resolution for the NL East

At the beginning of the 2015 season, it looked like the Washington Nationals put together a true World Series contender, if not overall favorite to win it all. The rest of the NL East did not seem like they would even be in the running for a Wild Card spot. Instead, the favorite has a late season collapse and a young rotation tears it up to make a World Series contender out of a dark horse. The NL East doesn’t lack talent but during this offseason many teams gave up a lot of talent, acting like wildebeest carcasses on the Serengeti getting picked apart by vultures.

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Don Mattingly should have a longer leash in Miami than he did in Los Angeles. (www.yougabsports.com)

The Moves

The Marlins resigning Giancarlo Stanton didn’t happen in the offseason but picking up new coaching in Don Mattingly and Barry Bonds did. Frankly, it’s a big thing. Mattingly had a good thing going in LA but the Dodgers’ ownership got impatient (You know what I think about impatience for the jackpot while creating excellence. If not, go here – BL). Say what you will about Bonds but he knows how to hit with the sort of patience that got him on base…a lot. Stanton’s contract gave him options in case the Marlins ownership decide to wrench hearts of the fanbase again. However, this move might be a signal for good things to come. If they win another championship, let’s hope the third time’s the charm that things keep going instead of seeing another fire sale. Otherwise that’s strike three and Marlins fans should try to get a high speed train built to Tampa to see baseball.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates
Neil Walker should give the Mets a boost on defense up the middle of the diamond. (Charles LeClaire- US PRESSWIRE)

The Mets had some interior defense and consistent hitting problems during the playoffs. This was still an issue even when they had Ruben Tejada. So picking up Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera brings some depth to the roster so they won’t be caught flat-footed in the future. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard all seemed to get blown up through the heart of the infield by the Royals. Walker and Cabrera also bring some steady batting to the lineup. This move addressed the Mets’ biggest weaknesses from the playoffs. It just didn’t do it in particularly spectacular fashion.

The Advice

Washington Nationals

BL – From preseason favorite to dysfunctional mess, the Washington Nationals made the right move in dropping manager Matt Williams who may have gotten a swollen head from being awarded 2014 NL Manager of the Year. This is team oozing talent but unable to tie it together. I don’t think a manager who is taciturn and uncommunicative with the media is a bad thing. The players getting similar treatment and being unable to fathom Williams’s grand strategy is terrible though. Not sure Dusty Baker is the right fit for a city full of political analysts (armchair and professional) either. What we’re probably going to see next season from the Nats is the baseball equivalent of Britney Spears’s recovery from a mental breakdown – lots of WTF moments and hope that things will be put back together again.

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Drew Storen was pushed aside by the Nationals in favor of Jonathan Papelbon, which was part of Washington’s self destruction in 2015. (www.washingtonpost.com)

DJ – Bryce Harper has finally arrived. All the hype and fanfare finally was finally shown to be worth it. The Nationals have the talent but their biggest obstacles to success was team unity. The fracas between Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon is just the most public visual example of the breakdown inside the locker room. The acquisition of Papelbon from the Phillies solidified a position the Nationals already had set with Drew Storen. The arrival of Papelbon was to shorten the game with Storen in the 8th inning and Papelbon in the 9th inning. However, the trade did little other than anger Storen and cause issues in the bullpen. Making unnecessary trades hurt the Nationals in 2015. Storen has been traded to the Blue Jays for Ben Revere, which ends the closer debate and helps to solidify the outfield with the departure of Denard Span. The Nationals need to focus on making trades that make sense toward enabling a stronger sense of the team, not showcase individual talents. I thought we all learned this in little league, I guess not.

Atlanta Braves

BL – No more Shelby Miller. Goodbye to Andrelton Simmons. The Atlanta Braves are cleaning house. This might be the best time for them to do this. The NL East will probably have a rocky 2016 season as the Marlins and Nationals get adjusted to new management and the Mets try not to Mets their season. The Braves need some hitting and I hope they get it.

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Shelby Miller pitched great in 2015 but got little run support from the Braves offense. (www.abcnews.go.com)

DJ – Shelby Miller was great for the Braves last season, however he rarely got any run support to backup his great pitching. The only major offensive statistic Atlanta was better than their opponents was they struck out fewer times. Atlanta is fully rebuilding. They have traded Adrelton Simmons and Shelby Miller among others in exchange for lots of minor league pitching prospects. Atlanta is trying to regain the magic of their run in the 1990’s and early 2000’s as a factory for producing homegrown pitching. New General Manager John Coppolella has signed players like Kelly Johnson and Jim Johnson to one year contracts, which come the trade deadline they could potentially be used to trade for even more prospects. Atlanta cannot afford to spend big on free agents, they tried this before and it led them to having to completely rebuild. Stockpiling prospects and draft picks is their ticket back to the playoffs.

Philadelphia Phillies

BL – Honestly, the Phillies didn’t need Ken Giles because there’s no point in having a standout closer when you can keep yourself in games to warrant one. Odubel Herrera seems to have some intangible quality that could be dangerous if he could make it more consistent. Ryan Howard doesn’t seem to have much left and I have doubts about Cliff Lee coming back strong from injury. If Lee stays, it would be nice if he and Howard leave a better legacy by helping the younger guys develop into major league caliber players. Surprisingly, there’s a good balance of youth and experience on this team but the pieces aren’t fitting together well. I think it’s an indication of bad locker room leadership but can that really be the only thing they need?

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2016 could be Ryan Howard’s last season in Philadelphia, his leadership on the field and in the clubhouse could cement his legacy as a Phillie. (www.thegoodphight.com)

DJ – The Phillies did not finish dead last in the standings for all of MLB in 2015 by accident. They did manage to avoid losing 100 games, finishing with a 63-99 record. This however was most likely due to their playing in the NL East, arguably the worst division in baseball. Improving the Phillies is fairly simple, they need to field the ball when it is put into play.  Phillies pitchers allowed the most hits (1,592) and finished second in MLB in both WHIP (1.448) and ERA (4.69). Allowing the opposition to continuously get on base is not a recipe for success. Not all the blame can be attributed to the pitching staff. Philadelphia defensively finished with the second worst fielding percentage in MLB (.981) and committed the fourth most errors (117). This led the Phillies to finishing second in average runs allowed per game (4.99). A team cannot expect to win many games when they are allowing nearly five runs per game. The Phillies are rebuilding, but an easy way to start the climb is simply catch the ball when it is put into play. Building on the fundamentals is always a smart choice.

BL & DJ

Royal Flush

The Kansas City Royals beat the New York Mets in five games to win the 2015 World Series.  Half of The Winning Run staff (Bernie and myself) were correct in our predictions for which team would win.  However, while we expected the Royals to win, we did not expect the Mets to lose so quickly.  The Mets seemed to run out of steam in the World Series.  Their bats went cold, the back half of the bullpen became wobbly Jell-O, and the team seemed to forget how to play fundamentally sound baseball.  This doomed the boys from Flushing.

The Mets and Royals both played like a team.  No single player led them to victory or defeat; rather the teams, as a whole, decided their fates.  The Mets held the lead in all five games; in four of the five games the Mets held the lead at least through the end of the 7th inning.  New York got quality pitching out of their starters.  The issues arose when the starters were left in for too long (Game 5, Matt Harvey) or when the bullpen had to hold a close lead late in the game.  Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia blew three saves.  Blaming an error here or a poor decision there for the Mets defeat would be easy.  However, the Royals victory was as much a team effort as the Mets defeat was a team effort and the numbers show it.

Terry Collins left Matt Harvey in Game 5 just a little too long and it cost the Mets. (www.knbr.com)

Terry Collins left Matt Harvey in Game 5 just a little too long and it cost the Mets. (www.knbr.com)

Hitting

The Royals had the advantage on offense.  Kansas City had 197 AB, 47 Hits, 10 Doubles, 1 Triple, 2 HR, 25 RBI, and 27 R in the World Series.  The Royals drew 17 BB against 37 SO.  Kansas City had a .239 BA, .295 OBP .330 SLG, .625 OPS, and were 7 for 7 in Stolen Bases.

The Mets had 181 AB, 35 Hits, 1 Double, 0 Triples, 6 HR, 18 RBI, and 19 R in the World Series.  New York drew 14 BB against 46 SO.  The Mets had a .193 BA, .254 OBP, .298 SLG, .552 OPS, and were 1 for 3 in Stolen Bases.

The Difference

The Royals and Mets both sent 16 different players to the plate during the World Series.  Kansas City had 16 more At Bats and collected 12 more hits.  The Mets displayed their power by hitting 4 more HR.  While the Royals did not hit many balls out of the park, they collected 9 more Doubles and the only Triple in the World Series.  Kansas City collected 7 more RBI with 3 more BB and 9 fewer SO.  Putting the ball in play more consistently resulted in the Royals having a .046 higher BA, a .041 higher OBP, a .032 higher SLG, and a .073 higher OPS.  Additionally, the Royals attempted 4 more Stolen Bases than the Mets and collected 6 more Stolen Bases.  The Royals were constantly pressuring the Mets.

The Royals knew they would not win trying to engage in a slugging contest with the Mets, thus Kansas City relied on their speed and ability to get on base.  Putting pressure on the New York defense paid off, as the Mets committed six errors in the four World Series games they lost.  These errors, from Daniel Murphy missing a ground ball to New York’s inability to turn a double play, gave Kansas City more opportunities to score.  The boys from Flushing seemingly forgot how to play fundamentally sound baseball when it counted the most.

Eric Hosmer's dash home in the 9th inning of Game 5. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Eric Hosmer’s dash home in the 9th inning of Game 5. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

The 9th inning of Game 5 is the perfect example of the Mets not playing fundamentally sound baseball.  Eric Hosmer is on third after a double and moving to third due to a ground out to the right side of the infield.  Salvador Perez hits an easy chopper to David Wright at third.  Before throwing to first to put out Perez, Wright briefly looks Eric Hosmer back to third.  Instead of looking Hosmer back longer, Wright hurried his look back in order to throw out the slow running Perez.  As soon as Wright began his throw to first, Hosmer broke for home.  The Royals scouting report said Kansas City had a good chance to score a run with Wright throwing to Lucas Duda at first.  David Wright has had to alter his throwing motion to a more side arm throw due to a shoulder injury, and he no longer has a strong arm to throw across the infield.  Duda likewise does not have a good throwing arm, although not due to an arm injury.  Wright’s weakened throw to first, Duda having to stretch for the ball then quickly adjust into a throwing position to deliver a good throw to Travis d’Arnaud at home meant the Royals had a good chance to score.  Hosmer’s dash home would have been for nothing had Duda delivered a good throw.  However, his throw was well off the mark, missing d’Arnaud completely and allowing Hosmer to score the tying run that eventually sent the game into extra innings.  Putting pressure on the defense forcing them to make plays, or forcing pitchers to make more stressful pitches out of the stretch wears on a team.  The Royals put the ball in play and used their speed to put more and more pressure on the Mets, until New York faltered, enabling Kansas City to take advantage.

Pitching

The fight between the Royals and Mets pitchers favored the Royals.  In total, the Royals used 11 pitchers over 52 innings.  The starters pitched 31.1 innings and the bullpen pitched 20.2 innings for Kansas City.  Royals’ pitchers gave up 35 Hits, 19 R, 17 ER, and 14 BB, with 46 SO. As a team, Kansas City pitchers had a 2.94 ERA and a 0.942 WHIP.

The Mets used 11 different pitchers over 51.1 innings. New York’s starters pitched 30 innings and the bullpen pitched 21.1 innings.  Mets pitchers gave up 47 Hits, 27 R, 24 ER, and 17 BB, with 37 SO.  New York pitchers collectively had a 4.21 ERA and a 1.247 WHIP.

The Difference

The Mets and Royals used the same number of pitchers, 11, during the World Series.  Kansas City pitchers had to pitch 0.2 fewer innings due to more victories at home and leading going into the 9th inning.  The Royals starters pitched 1.1 more innings and the Kansas City bullpen pitched 0.2 fewer innings.  The Mets gave up 12 more hits, 8 more Earned Runs, 7 more Runs, had 9 fewer strikeouts, and issued 3 more walks than Kansas City.  The advantage of the Royals is most glaring in their 1.27 lower ERA less KC and 0.305 lower WHIP.

One of the critical turning points of the World Series came in Game 2 with Johnny Cueto’s complete game victory for the Royals.  Aside from putting Kansas City up 2-0 against the Mets in a best of seven series, Cueto’s effort allowed the Royals bullpen to recover from the 14 inning marathon in Game 1.  The Mets bullpen used five pitchers for 7 1/3 innings of relief in Game 1, while the Royals bullpen used six pitchers for 8 innings of relief.  In Game 2, the Mets had to use four pitchers over three innings when Jacob deGrom was pulled after going five innings.  Cueto’s complete game allowed the Royals to completely rest their bullpen in Game 2.  This extra day of rest before the travel day to New York gave Kansas City an advantage heading into the rest of the series.

Johnny Cueto saved the Royals bullpen with his Game 2 complete game. (www.kingsofkauffman.com)

Johnny Cueto saved the Royals bullpen with his Game 2 complete game. (www.kingsofkauffman.com)

Two full days of rest are invaluable when every pitch means so much.  Ned Yost was not faced with the same bullpen concerns as Terry Collins.  The Royals could afford to pull their starters, if necessary, in the following games unlike the Mets.  New York did win Game 3, but being forced into their bullpen after Yordano Ventura went 3 1/3 innings at worst pulled the Royals back even with the Mets.  Cueto’s complete game prevented the Royals from blowing out their bullpen in Game 3 enabling the bullpen to remain strong and keep the Mets from building large leads in Games 4 and 5.  Keeping the Mets close enough until the bats came alive in the late innings enabled the Royals to win the World Series after coming back from behind in all four of the games they won.

The Results

The Royals winning the World Series in just five games may give the illusion that the Mets were over matched.  However, the series was much closer than it might appear.  Kansas City capitalized on their opportunities by manufacturing runs and forcing New York to make mistakes under pressure.  The Mets were not defeated because of their inability to match up with the Royals; they lost because their fundamentals broke down at critical moments and were unable to build large leads or hold smaller leads in the late innings.

Kansas City Royals, 2015 World Series champions. (www.heraldvoice.com)

Kansas City Royals, 2015 World Series champions. (www.heraldvoice.com)

Both the Royals and the Mets played team baseball.  Neither team was too reliant upon a single player or a hand full of players.  The 2015 World Series was truly about who had the better 25-player roster.  Kansas City’s bullpen had to pitch slightly fewer innings but had a crucial extra day of rest.  The Kansas City offense was able to put the ball in play more to force the Mets defense to make a play.  Generally, New York made the plays they needed to, however the Mets did eventually make mistakes and, with the Royals constantly getting on base, these mistakes cost New York runs and games.  More than anything these slight differences between the Royals and Mets are why Kansas City is celebrating their first World Series championship in 30 years and why the Mets are left to wonder what they could have done differently.

DJ

How Did We Get Here and What Is About To Happen?

Welcome to the Fall Classic.  The World Series has arrived after an exciting run through the playoffs.  The Kansas City Royals will face the New York Mets for the right to lift the Commissioner’s Trophy as the champion of Major League Baseball.  The Kansas City Royals last won the World Series in 1985.  The New York Mets last won the World Series in 1986.  The championship drought for one of these teams is about to end after many, often painful, years.

So what has led us to this World Series?  How have we navigated from the Wild Card games through the playoffs and finally to the World Series?  The field has gone from 10 teams down to just 2 teams.

The Commissioners' Trophy is awarded to the World Series winning team. (http://blog.gospikes.com/?p=162)

The Commissioners’ Trophy is awarded to the World Series winning team. (http://blog.gospikes.com/?p=162)

National League Wild Card

Chicago Cubs 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 0

The Pirates were once again a formidable team during the regular season, but they fell short in the Wild Card game.  Behind their young bats and Jake Arrieta’s complete game shutout, the Cubs showed they were the superior team, at least for one day when it mattered the most.

American League Wild Card

Houston Astros 3, New York Yankees 0

The New York Yankees coasted into the Wild Card game, and not in a good way.  They struggled down the stretch and benefitted from early season success to make it into the playoffs.  Unfortunately, they met the Houston Astros who were hungry and playing much better baseball.  Each passing inning, the energy inside Yankee Stadium seemed to wane just a little more until reality could no longer be denied.  Dallas Keuchel and the Astros bullpen shut down the Yankees line up and Houston rode the power of Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez into the ALDS.

The Houston Astros are back. The won the Wild Card game a year ahead of schedule. (www.wdsu.com)

The Houston Astros are back. The won the Wild Card game a year ahead of schedule. (www.wdsu.com)

National League Divisional Series

New York Mets 3 games, Los Angeles Dodgers 2 games

The Mets and Dodgers alternated wins throughout the series.  The turning point of the series was in Game 2 with the injury to Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.  The Mets ultimately lost Game 2, but Tejada’s injury rallied the team together.  Tejada’s injury from Chase Utley’s “slide” could have derailed the Mets.  Instead, behind their young pitching staff and Daniel Murphy the Mets would not quit.  The Mets faced Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in four of the five games and split those games.  The Dodgers were beaten with their best pitchers on the mound by a team who refused to quit.

Chicago Cubs 3 games, St. Louis Cardinals 1 game

Game 1 showed how dominant the St. Louis Cardinals could be, and it brought back the memories of the Curse of the Billy Goat for Cubs fans.  However, after Game 1, the Cubs took command of the series by winning the next three straight to eliminate the Cardinals.  The Cubs did not run away with the series, winning the final three games by seven runs total, but St. Louis was never able to answer the Cubs offense.  The Cardinals remained competitive but, after Game 1, it never felt like they had a chance.

The Chicago Cubs were overcoming the Curse of the Billy Goat. (www.deadspin.com)

The Chicago Cubs were overcoming the Curse of the Billy Goat. (www.deadspin.com)

American League Divisional Series

Toronto Blue Jays 3 games, Texas Rangers 2 games

The Texas Rangers jumped out to a two game lead, putting the Toronto Blue Jays on the brink of elimination.  The Blue Jays, the presumptive favorite heading into the series, would not go quietly.  Forcing a decisive Game 5 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the Blue Jays held a slim 3-2 lead heading into the 7th inning.  In a bizarre moment, Rougned Odor scampered home to score the tying run after Russell Martin’s return throw to Blue Jays’ pitcher Aaron Sanchez hit the bat of Rangers’ outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, while Choo was still in the box.  The Blue Jays responded in the bottom half of the 7th inning with a four run outburst, which included the now infamous Jose Bautista home run bat flip.  This completed the comeback and Toronto was on to the ALCS.

Kansas City Royals 3 games, Houston Astros 2 games

The Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros went back and forth in the first four games of their ALDS.  Neither team able to break the other team down and truly dominate a game.  All this changed in Game 5, when the Royals’ experience and the Astros inexperience showed through.  The Royals’ hitters finally broke down Houston’s pitching and were able to turn around a 2-0 deficit in the 2nd inning and turn it into a 7-2 victory.  Simply put, the Royals used some of the knowledge and nerves from their 2014 World Series run to finally put away those pesky, overachieving Astros.

Jose Bautista and the bat flip that put the Blue Jays in the ALCS. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Jose Bautista and the bat flip that put the Blue Jays in the ALCS. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

National League Championship Series

New York Mets 4 games, Chicago Cubs 0 games

The Chicago Cubs did not lose the NLCS as much as the New York Mets won it.  The Cubs never lead throughout the four game sweep.  Daniel Murphy and the trio of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom were magical, even when they did not have their best stuff.  Jeurys Familia and Bartolo Colon were there to pick up the slack when the young arms needed a little help reaching the finish line.  The Cubs simply lost to a better team, no Curse needed.

Daniel Murphy lead the Mets to a sweep of the Cubs one home run at a time. (www.fosports.com)

Daniel Murphy led the Mets to a sweep of the Cubs one home run at a time. (www.fosports.com)

American League Championship Series

Kansas City Royals 4 games, Toronto Blue Jays 2 games

Games 1 and 2 showed the Royals were the better team.  However, the Game 3 slugfest proved that the Blue Jays were not going to go down easy.  Kansas City had batting practice in Game 4, winning 14-2 in Toronto.  Toronto forced Game 6 with a 7-1 victory in Game 5.  Back in Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium, the Blue Jays and Royals proved they were an even match.  The margin of victory was Lorenzo Cain’s speed and Wade Davis’ tenacity.  Cain scored from first on a single by Eric Hosmer in the bottom of the 8th inning, in part due to Jose Bautista not throwing to his cutoff man.  The Royals took the lead and called on Wade Davis for a little more.  Davis got two outs on eight pitches to end the Blue Jays’ 8th inning, waited through a 45 minute rain delay, then pitched the inning of his life.  Davis got the final out with a fast runner on second and third by getting Josh Donaldson to ground out to third.

Lorenzo Cain's dash around the bases was critical in the Royals returning to the World Series. (www.cbssports.com)

Lorenzo Cain’s dash around the bases was critical in the Royals returning to the World Series. (www.cbssports.com)

World Series

New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals

The 2015 World Series has the New York Mets playing against the Kansas City Royals.  The National League champion New York Mets won the National League East division by 7 games, with a record of 90-72.  Once in the playoffs, the Mets beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS.  The American League champion Kansas City Royals won the American League Central division by 12 games, with a record of 95-67.  The Royals beat the Houston Astros in the ALDS and the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS.

World Series Predictions Sure to Go Wrong

Before the beginning of every season The Winning Run predicts how each team will finish, which teams will make the playoffs, and who will win the World Series.  Each year we are horribly wrong about almost everything.  It is with this understanding that we give our predictions about the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets.

*A note about our predictions for MVP, we did not allow Daniel Murphy to be selected because everyone would pick him.  Therefore, we each have our secondary MVP prediction listed and collectively we have predicted Daniel Murphy for MVP.

The Winning Run’s official 2015 World Series predictions:

John:

Champion: Mets in 6 games.

MVP: Jacob deGrom

Jesse:

Champion: Mets in 5 games.

MVP: Lucas Duda (actually Daniel Murphy in disguise)

The Mets have a proud history of disguising themselves as other people. Just as Bobby Valentine. (www.usatoday.com)

The Mets have a proud history of disguising themselves as other people. Just as Bobby Valentine. (www.usatoday.com)

Bernie:

Champion: Royals in 6 games

MVP: Alcides Escobar

Derek:

Champion: Royals in 7 games.

MVP: Eric Hosmer

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series in Kansas City last year. Who will win this year? (www.popsugar.com)

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series in Kansas City last year. Who will win this year? (www.popsugar.com)

Collectively, beyond Daniel Murphy for World Series MVP, we do not agree on much.  We are split on which team will win.  We believe the series will go six games.  We predict that a baseball player for either the Mets or the Royals will win the MVP (this is the only prediction we feel we definitely got right).  Our predictions are most likely wrong, as is our tradition, but we might get lucky this time.  The 2014 World Series was fantastic, and the Royals are back for another try with a fairly young but experienced team.  The Mets are playing beyond their years with a playoff pitching staff that has not been seen since the Atlanta Braves in the 1990’s.   Regardless, whether we are right or wrong, we hope the 2015 World Series will be just as exciting as the 2014 edition of the Fall Classic.

DJ