It’s March 2015. Hypothetical you is standing on the casino floor of the Bellagio or the Mirage or the Taj or some other fancy casino with an ahj-sound. You like baseball. You also like money. “I’m going to place a baseball bet,” you think to yourself. Good idea, hypothetical you. Gambling is always a good idea. You like the Nationals. How could you not? They are a super team. Not even. They are the super team. They are SuperTeam™. They’re going to roll over the NL East and win 100 games, easy. You could place a bet on them to win the division, but why stop there? They’re obviously going to win the pennant. Who could possibly stand in their way? The Dodgers? Maybe. They have more money than Richie Rich and a better pitching staff than that little twerp could ever dream of. But the Nationals have an even better staff than that. Plus hitting! Sure, Bryce Harper will probably never figure it out. But who needs him when you have dependable stars like Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond? The Dodgers are no threat. The Nats are a lock.
Wait! The Cardinals. You forgot about the damn Cardinals. They’re always in the way, screwing up the fun playoff match-ups the rest of the world wants to see. But no! Not this time. The Nationals aren’t just loaded on the field, no. They have a true leader in the dugout. They have Matt Williams. Reigning National League Manager of the Year Matt Williams. The Nats have the brains to match their brawn! Plus the Cardinals are just due for some terrible luck. You can feel it. Not even #CardinalsDevilMagic can stop the Nats this year. They’re a team of destiny.
As you’re about to place your bet, a dark figure in a hat and trench coat reaches out to stop you.
Hypothetical You: Whoa! What the hell, man! What are you doing?!
Trench Coat Guy: Don’t make that bet! You have to trust me.
Hypothetical You: And why is that? Who do you think you are?!
Trench Coat Guy: I am you…FROM THE FUTURE.
Trench Coat Guy lifts his hat to reveal a face identical to yours, aged approximately six months.
Hypothetical You: *GASP*
Trench Coat Guy: I came back from the future to warn you not to place that bet. The Nationals do not win the pennant this year.
Hypothetical You: Oh God. You mean I’m wrong about the Cardinals finally having terrible luck?
Trench Coat Guy: Well, actually Adam Wainwright ruptures his Achilles tendon in April while batting and misses pretty much the whole season. Oh, and Matt Holliday misses half the season with a quad strain. Matt Adams too. And then on top of that, Yadier Molina tears a ligament in his thumb in September.
Hypothetical You: Oh wow! So they finally have a horrible season then?
Trench Coat Guy: They win 100 games.
Hypothetical You: SON OF A-
Trench Coat Guy: But they don’t win the pennant! They lose in the first round of the playoffs. The Mets are the team you need to worry about…
Hypothetical You: *blank stare*
Hypothetical You: So you’re telling me that the METS are the ones who beat the mighty Nationals in the playoffs?
Trench Coat Guy: Actually the Nationals don’t even make the playoffs. They barely finish over .500. The Mets win the division by seven games and beat the Dodgers and Cubs to win the pennant.
Hypothetical you laughs in this slightly older fool’s face. This is obviously some sort of ruse. This isn’t future you at all. This is some sad street performer, hired by the casino to dissuade people from betting on the surefire Nationals and putting them out of business. You decide to double-no, TRIPLE down on your hunch. You ignore Trench Coat Guy’s pleads and bet the house on the Nationals.
It’s now October 2015. You’re homeless and broke. It’s all gone wrong. So very wrong. You were so sure of the Nats, and it’s blown up in your face. You ignored Trench Coat Guy. Look at you now. Never ignore Trench Coat Guy. Stupid hypothetical you.
The Mets and Royals are in the World Series. Say it with me. The Mets and Royals are in the World Series. Good.
We are surprised. We shouldn’t be surprised. I warned you in March that this would happen. Every spring we think we have this stupid game figured out, and every fall this stupid game slaps us in the head and gives us a swirly. Never try to predict baseball.
Here is my World Series prediction.
There shouldn’t be much debate here. The Mets’ rotation is their bread and butter. They will have the starting pitching advantage in every game of the series. The Mets used to be a punchline when it came to developing homegrown power pitching. Now they’re about to run out Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz in consecutive games. They’re like one of those old-timey conveyer belt assembly lines, except instead of spitting out troll dolls and hubcaps, they churn out firebreathing pitchers.
The big question leading up to this series is how the Royals high-contact offense will respond to those New York power arms. Some smart people have written that the Royals may have an inherent advantage that wouldn’t exist for a power-hitting team like, say, the Blue Jays. We’ve watched furious comebacks by Kansas City over the last two postseasons, and a big reason for that is that they just always put the ball in play. Never striking out, as it turns out, has its advantages. I give the Royals the nod offensively, while totally acknowledging the possibility that Daniel Murphy hits 43 homers and the Mets sweep.
The Mets hitters ranked fifth in baseball in flyball percentage this year. That plays right into the teeth of the Royals, whose pitchers posted the third-highest FB% in the big leagues and who boast one of the better outfield defenses in recent history. If the Mets want their flies to land, they’re better off putting them on the other side of the wall. Kansas City also has the decided advantage on the basepaths, with more than twice as many steals as New York.
Jeurys Familia is one of the best bullpen arms in the game right now, but the answer still has to be Kansas City. Wade Davis is the closest thing to Mariano Rivera that we have right now in the game. August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs posted his top ten nastiest pitches of the guys who will be pitching in the World Series. This Wade Davis cutter was on his list.
I almost choked on my sandwich when I saw that. That pitch is black magic.
Advantage: Kansas City
No one is going to confuse Terry Collins for Earl Weaver, but if you have to choose the manager that is least likely to actively sabotage his team, he wins. Ned Yost should have cost the Royals Game 6 of the ALCS last Friday with a laundry list of bungled bullpen decisions but was bailed out by Lorenzo Cain scoring from first on a single and revealing to the world that he is literally the superhero The Flash. Then again, Yost seems to get bailed out by outrageous plays routinely. Joe Sheehan picked the Royals to win the World Series earlier today because, he claimed, Yost is a witch. It’s hard to disagree. Still…
No matter what happens in this series, none of us should be surprised. After all, the Mets and Royals are in the World Series.
It’s really hard to pick against the Mets pitching, but the Royals bats are relentless. Just ask the Astros. They thought they had put them out of reach. They ran and ran and ran. They jumped the fence, climbed to the highest story and barricaded themselves in. They were free! Except they weren’t. The Royals found them. They ripped through the door and devoured Houston’s playoff hopes. The Royals are zombies, Ned Yost is a witch and it’s Halloween.
Royals in six.