2015 World Series preview: Giddiness and joy is guaranteed

Here's why this Fall Classic is going to be extra fun

Mets pitcher Jacob Degrom
(Image credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

The World Series is going to be great.

The postseason might be cruel to the best teams throughout a 162-game season, but it is very good at selecting for the best teams of the moment. The Mets and Royals are exactly that.

The Mets: The Amazins have a pitching rotation that throws the ball harder than any assemblage of pitchers ever has before. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard have collectively thrown 38 percent of their pitches at 95 mph or faster. No one else is even close. Meanwhile, the once-moribund Mets offense is alive again. It's led by Daniel Murphy, a journeyman and sometimes ditzy second baseman who is on a Barry Bonds-like tear (.421 with a 1.462 OPS, and seven home runs), and followed by Curtis Granderson (.300 avg with 7 RBI). If Lucas Duda, Travis d'Arnaud, or Yoenis Cespedes gets hot as well, watch out.

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The Royals: This is not the same Royals team as last year. There are 12 new players on it. But they do have some of the same qualities you may remember. Just like last year, the team is a horror-movie character that never dies. It has an as-yet-unquantifiable way of rattling opponents. Its hitters make contact, and put the ball in play. They take extra bases on hits and start running early to prevent double plays. And so they came roaring back against the Astros even though they were down 7-2 late in an elimination game. Also, they sport a collective .284 batting average against fastballs 95 mph or above. These teams are very well-matched.

Call it the curse of small postseason sample sizes, call it "clutch ability" if you like. There are underdog players on each team who are defying everything we thought we knew about baseball.

Alcides Escobar. The Royal's leadoff hitter batted .478 during the ALCS against the Blue Jays, going 11-for-23. Escobar had a .293 on-base percentage for the season. In the ALCS he got a leadoff hit in the first four games of the series, a postseason record. He is playing out of his mind right now, and Kansas City fans are really buying into it. Search for the #EskyMagic tag on Twitter.

Daniel Murphy. Has he discovered a more powerful approach to hitting? Murphy's 2015 postseason run is already legendary. He has set a record for consecutive postseason games with a home run: six. He's hit seven altogether in just 39 postseason plate appearances. He's one short of the record for most homers in a single postseason (eight), shared by Barry Bonds, Carlos Beltran, and Nelson Cruz.

Here's how either team could win:

The Royals lineup will get to Jacob deGrom: The Cubs almost never got a leadoff man on against the Mets across 36 innings of baseball, which allowed Jacob deGrom to knuckle through a game where he did not have his best stuff. The Royals will not let him get away so easy. They won't swing at pitches below the strike zone the way the Cubs did. If the Royals can force the Mets to make bad decisions, like bringing Bartolo Colon into an inning with a runner on third base and Eric Hosmer at the plate, or bringing in any reliever not named Jeurys Familia, they have a good shot of winning this series in six games.

The Mets' coaches and managers will out-homework Ned Yost: While Royals Manager Ned Yost prefers to keep his players in more tightly defined roles, Mets Manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen have been more experimental. Sensing a weakness in the Cubs, Collins had his team looking to take extra bases, or steal them when possible. The Mets innovate from the mound too. While Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard relied very heavily on high-velocity fastballs against an older Dodgers lineup, they switched to more off-speed pitches against the young Cubs. Can Collins and Warthen come up with a strategy that beats the strengths of the Royals: contact-hitting, rampaging the bases, and great defense?

Of course, the postseason is surprising. Murphy could lose his power stroke, the Royals' aggressiveness could cost them, and that #EskyMagic could run dry. Here's the only thing we really know:

Giddy and delirious joy is guaranteed: Thirty years ago today, Kansas City Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen pitched a five-hit shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series. The Royals wouldn't return to the Fall Classic until last year, where they lost it in Game 7, with the tying run on third base. They were thrilled, but KC's appetite for glory only increased. You can see it in the way the Royals swaggered around other teams at the beginning of the 2015 season, and in the way Kansas City fans bring a sense of urgent dread to this run. No one expected the Royals to get here again so soon, except the Royals.

Twenty nine-years ago today, the New York Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox in an epic World Series. Post-financial crisis, the Mets' story has been one of catastrophe and collapse on the field and in their finances. The Mets are at least one year ahead of their rebuilding schedule. Their pitching staff was not supposed to come together this quickly. Now they look like a deeper, harder-throwing version of the 1995 Braves. But, as the 90's Braves proved, sometime a dynasty built on pitching only gets you one great shot at the title.


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Michael Brendan Dougherty

Michael Brendan Dougherty is senior correspondent at TheWeek.com. He is the founder and editor of The Slurve, a newsletter about baseball. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Slate and The American Conservative.