Oct 23, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
4. ROYALS CONTACT HITTERS WILL FRUSTRATE METS POWER-KID PITCHERS
Grantland’s Ben Lindberg performed an extensive study, published last week, that indicated that contact hitting teams hold an edge in the playoffs due to their ability to handle the velocity increase typical of the post-season. On the same day, Fangraphs.com’s Jeff Sullivan came to the same conclusion, using different methodology.
Ever since the game’s strikeout rates spiked in 2009, contact hitting teams have dominated in October. The team with the better contact hitting rate has gone 32-14 in playoff match-ups since 2009.
Climbing Tal's Hill
That trend bodes well for the Kansas City Royals, who had the best contact hitting rate in major-league baseball in 2015. Heck, there’s an argument that the 2015 KC Royals are the best contact hitting team of all time, relative to the league environment.
This ability might be the key to nullifying the dominance of Mets starters Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. The hard-throwing trio with swing-and-miss offspeed stuff all posted strong K/9 numbers during the season at 8.94 (Harvey), 9.66 (deGrom), and 9.66 (Syndergaard).
They’ve missed even more bats in the post-season. Harvey (11.37), deGrom (12.15), and Syndergaard (13.85) all feature K/9’s above 10 during the playoffs, with ERA’s under 3.00.
However, those young fireballers will discover that the Kansas City Royals aren’t the Los Angeles Dodgers (20.7% K rate) or the Chicago Cubs (MLB-worst 24.5% K rate). KC Royals hitters are conditioned to swing at hittable pitches early in the count to prevent opponents from deploying their nasty, two-strike “out” pitches.
When they do find themselves facing two strikes, KC hitters cut down their swings to make contact and foul off a lot of pitches to stay alive at the plate.
I believe this will frustrate the Mets power-arm trio, who are accustomed to hitters waving at their breaking pitches.
Not only will the Royals avoid strikeouts, their contact ability will help expose another weakness of the 2015 Mets that their swing-and-miss starters help cover up: team defense.
Next: DEFENSE, DEFENSE, DEFENSE