Cooper and Berger: Underdogs take over the World Series

Sam Berger:

It’s remarkable just how quickly the New York Mets have gone from the laughing stock of the league to—presumably—the team to beat. They weren’t supposed to be this good, they weren’t supposed to be able to compete and they certainly weren’t supposed to win in what was expected to be a strong National League East. But the New York Mets won’t listen to the outside noise—they just continue to blow away expectations.

Following a season in which they won 90 games—the highest total since 2006—the Mets are showing no signs of slowing down. In a season in which pitching was king across the league, the Mets proved to be a notch above the rest.

Sporting the fourth best earned run average in the baseball only tells half of the story. The midseason acquisition of center fielder Yoenis Cespedes, the return of third baseman David Wright and the timely hitting of second baseman Daniel Murphy have provided just enough of a spark for this offense. With one of the best pitching staffs in recent memory, the Mets have not only been able to compete, but also to outduel some of the biggest arms in baseball. Already in the postseason, the Mets have been able to edge past pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, all of whom are Cy Young candidates this season.

Perhaps the biggest reason the Mets are where they are this season has been the clutch hitting of Murphy, who has not only become the Mets all time postseason home run leader, but also a folk hero in the process. With their elite pitching, highlight reel defense and an offensive hero, the Mets have all the characteristics to win it all.

Though this team is locked and loaded, it cannot be forgotten that this is the Mets and a little bit of luck is always needed. There may not be any balls going between Bill Buckner’s legs this year—as when the Red Sox first baseman let the ball roll through his legs in a World Series loss to the Mets—but these Mets surely have all the signs of a championship team this season.

Sam Cooper:

The Kansas City Royals did not enter the Major League Baseball postseason with as great a record as other teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates or Chicago Cubs, nor did they experience a tremendous second half surge like the Toronto Blue Jays. The Royals, however, are now on the verge of making a second consecutive World Series appearance and can—for the first time—be reasonably labeled as the favorites to win it all.

There are some elements of the Royals that are concerning, however, such as the team's starting pitching. Midseason acquisition pitcher Johnny Cueto has hardly been the dominant ace that he was intended to be throughout the regular season and postseason. Although other quality starters such as pitchers Edinson Volquez, Chris Young and Yordano Ventura have picked up the slack, the Kansas City's starting rotation cannot compete with that of the New York Mets.

Even so, Kansas City has proven formidable in every other facet of the game. Though they do not boast the same power as Toronto's offense, the Royals’ lineup is filled with consistent, above-average power hitters such as catcher Salvador Perez, first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, centerfielder Lorenzo Cain and first baseman Kendrys Morales. The Royals finished the 2015 season sixth in the AL in runs scored—a significant improvement over their offensive production in previous years. Their offense is not usually overpowering but can be occasionally, as evident by their 14-2 rout of the Blue Jays on Tuesday Oct. 20.

Additionally, the Royals have a tremendous defense that can save potential runs from scoring. Both outfielders Gordon and Cain—as well as infielders Escobar and Moustakas—are considered potential Gold Glove winners and the Royals saved an AL-leading 56 runs from scoring throughout the 2015 regular season.

Finally, the Royals are dangerous because they can easily close out games. Even though closer Greg Holland is out, Wade Davis has taken his place and is quickly establishing himself as the best relief pitcher of the modern era. Davis is now the only pitcher in MLB history to post an ERA of one or fewer over the course of two seasons. Only Craig Kimbrel and Dennis Eckersley have even come close to achieving that feat. The team's bullpen also features a lot of depth due to pitchers like Ryan Madson and Kelvin Herrera.

If an opponent doesn't have a lead over the Royals by the 7th inning, they are almost always doomed.