By: Brian P. Mangan
This column will be short and sweet.
Forget the storylines, forget the narratives, forget all the stuff ESPN is jamming down our throats to make everyone think this is going to be a tight series. The Mets are better than the Royals.
The Mets have better pitching than the Royals. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are all better than any starting pitcher the Royals can throw out there. Johnny Cueto is clearly ahead of Steven Matz based on his pedigree, but there is a lot of reason to believe that Matz is not far behind, and that his placement ahead of guys like Ventura is for real. You can sort this by just about any metric you like — ERA, FIP, K/BB, fastball velocity — and you will get the same Top Three:
The Mets also have better hitting than the Royals. Here are the Mets wRC+ figures for each player in their basic starting lineup for the second half of the season:
- Lucas Duda – 160
- Yoenis Cespedes – 157
- Curtis Granderson – 152
- David Wright – 135
- Michael Conforto – 134
- Travis d’Arnaud – 128
- Daniel Murphy – 117
- Wilmer Flores – 104
- AVERAGE: 135.87
They also have Michael Cuddyer (128), Juan Uribe (104), Kelly Johnson (100) and Juan Lagares (96) available for platoons, pinch-hits, etc. Contrast that with the Royals wRC+ figures for the second half of the season:
- Kendrys Morales – 148
- Eric Hosmer – 136
- Mike Moustakas – 134
- Ben Zobrist – 124
- Lorenzo Cain – 120
- Alex Gordon – 89
- Alex Rios – 89
- Salvador Perez – 80
- Alcides Escobar – 40
- AVERAGE: 92.89
Their bench will consist of guys like Paulo Orlando (89), Christian Colon and newly added Raul Mondesi, Jr. who has never played a major league game. They will also lose Morales’s bat when playing in the National League. The Mets hit .257/.328/.443 with 102 HR as a team in the second half for a wRC+ of 114, while the Royals hit .262/.320/.416 with 72 HR for a wRC+ of 100 despite the DH advantage.
Sure, the Royals have an advantage defensively and may have one as well in the bullpen, but neither of those advantages amount to much. The Fangraphs Depth Chart also agrees, with the Mets roster projecting to 47.1 WAR over a full season while the Royals project to only 41.6.
For what it’s worth, I am not sure the Royals are even better in the bullpen, either. Yes, Wade Davis is indisputably the best reliever on either team, but the fall-off in the Royals bullpen is very fast after Kelvin Herrera and depends a lot on Ryan Madson, who is… Ryan Madson, after all. Madson has allowed 5 runs in only 5.1 innings this postseason.
Listen: anything can happen in baseball, and anything can happen in a short series. But don’t kid yourselves — on paper, this is not a dead-even series.
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Edit (10/27): The first version of this article said Steven Matz was just a notch below Johnny Cueto. That’s an overstatement.
Edit 2 (10/27): The Royals do have home field advantage, which makes a difference if the series goes seven games. Also, the AL is superior to the NL, it would seem. But these two facts don’t completely make up the gap.
Edit 3 (10/29): Help, the Royals are kicking our asses. They don’t swing and miss. They are machines. That’s baseball, Suzyn.