The World Series takes center stage this week. Like virtually every other sport, it’s a mistake to rely too much on what you saw most recently when forecasting what will occur next.
As you decide what your best option is for wagering on the series, props, and individual games, consider these facts, which tend to get lost as the media focuses almost exclusively on the last two weeks.
While both the Mets and Royals had good regular seasons, Kansas City had five more wins and now has home-field advantage. While both teams played well at home, New York was only 41-40 outside of Citi Field, a much larger sample size than their 4-1 road mark in the postseason.
Much has been made of the Mets’ dominant pitching. New York leads the playoffs with a 2.81 ERA. During the regular season New York also pitched well, posting a team ERA of 3.43, fourth in the bigs. However, it is much easier to have a low ERA in the National League, where there’s no designated hitter. (The top-five team ERAs all came from the NL.) Meanwhile, the Royals, who had a team ERA of 3.73, had the third-best mark in the American League. There is a pretty good argument to be made that the pitching is a toss up.
If this year’s games are closely contested (for what it’s worth, in the past three seasons, more than half of World Series games have been decided by two runs or fewer), then bullpens will play a big role. The Kansas City relievers are a league best 5-0 with a 2.85 ERA in the 2015 postseason, while the Mets’ pen is 1-0 with a 3.16 mark. In the regular season, though, New York had a 3.48 ERA while the Royals’ relievers (again, in the tougher AL) had a sparkling 2.72 ERA (second in the MLB). Kansas City should have a decided edge in that department.
Another area that could easily get overlooked is the running game. After swiping just 51 bases during the regular season, second to last in baseball, the Mets have run wild with a league-high nine thefts in the playoffs. The Royals, on the other hand, have been swiping bags all along, with 104 during the regular season (fifth in the majors) and another seven in the postseason. Not only did Kansas City steal over twice as many bases as New York during the regular season, but they did so at a much better rate: 75.4-percent vs. 67.1.
Add in the fact that Royals backstop Salvador Perez has thrown out 32-percent of would be base stealers during his career versus only 24-percent for New York’s Travis d’Arnaud, and KC should again have a distinct advantage in this area.
Strength of Schedule:
Finally, we don’t talk a lot about strength of schedule in baseball. However, teams play nearly half of their games against divisional opponents. The Mets played in the easiest of the six divisions, the NL East, dominating a group that included the Braves and Phillies, two of the three worst squads in the league. Outside of their division, the Mets were just 43-43. The Royals were 44-32 in the AL Central, a division whose last-placed team, the Detroit Tigers, had just the ninth-worst record in the majors. Kansas City went a solid 51-35 against the rest of the MLB.
While the World Series may not be a blowout, it is strange that the Mets are mild favorites. If you look beyond how well they have played in the playoffs, the numbers suggest the Royals are a little stronger.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].)