It's time to look at the most crucial matchups in the World Series. The New York Mets and Kansas City Royals square off in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
1. The Royals' lineup of contact hitters against the Mets' swing-and-miss staff
This will be a classic test of the theory that power pitching wins in October. The Royals put the ball in play better than any team in the majors — it's what they do best — and the Mets' supposed advantage in this series is the prowess of their four starting pitchers.
John Fisher of ESPN Stats & Information dug out these numbers:
A) The Royals led the majors in contact percentage against fastballs at least 94 mph during the regular season (85.6 percent), and their contact rate has been even higher in the postseason (86.2 percent). In 11 playoff games, the Royals have only 71 strikeouts; their 6.5 strikeouts per game are fewer than the Mets (10.4 K's per game), Cubs (9.4) and Blue Jays (8.3).
B) The Mets' pitchers have the highest swing-and-miss percentage in the postseason among teams that played more than one game, at 31.7 percent. The quartet of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matzhave combined for 55 1/3 innings and 71 strikeouts.
C) Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz greatly impressed the Dodgers and Cubs not only with their ability to consistently generate high velocity but also use their secondary pitches — breaking balls and changeups — early in the count or in counts when the hitters expected fastballs.
In the postseason, the Mets have not been just a fastball-throwing team. They've thrown 60.4 percent fastballs, almost identical to the Royals (60.0 percent) and actually less if you add in cut fastballs (the Royals have thrown 69.2 percent fastballs/cutters, while the Mets are at 60.5 percent). On the first pitch of plate appearances, Mets pitchers have thrown 60.7 percent fastballs/cutters, much less than Kansas City pitchers, who have thrown 77.4 percent fastballs/cutters on the first pitch.
Also, Mets starters have typically been working in the range of 5-6 innings and about 100 pitches. But keep in mind that the Royals' hitters average the third-fewest pitches per plate appearance, regular season and postseason combined, so unless K.C. is collecting hits, Mets starters might have a chance to work deeper into games.
2. The Royals versus the DH-less NL rules