I thought I’d break this into at least 2 parts. The first part will focus on the pitching, particularly the Mets pitching. We’re all familiar enough with the Cubs pitching. In short, the Mets starting pitching is good.
The first game is going to be started by Matt Harvey, but he’s their 3rd starter. And Matt Harvey is good at baseball. The Mets have not announced their full rotation in the series (neither have the Cubs), but the probable starters are Matt Harvey (announced as the Game 1 starter), Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz.
It’s kind of funny. We look at these games as an individual matchup between both pitchers, but that’s not the reality. I’m going to stick with comparing pitchers in this post because it’s easier, but really, Jon Lester isn’t pitching against Matt Harvey. Lester is pitching against the Mets offense. Anyway…
Game 1: Jon Lester vs. Matt Harvey
Matt Harvey started and appeared in 29 games for the Mets. The 26-year old right-handed Harvey made his debut in 2012 and then had a fantastic 2013 season (2.27 ERA, 2.00 FIP, 6.5 fWAR). His 2015 season was not quite as good*, but was still very good. He had a 2.71 ERA, 3.05 FIP and was worth 4.4 fWAR. His strikeouts dropped from 27.7% in 2013 to 24.9% in 2015. His HR/FB rate was also twice as high.
* Harvey has Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2014 season so this isn’t that surprising.
He throws his fastball 50.4% of the time this season and throws it an average velocity of 95.2 mph. All of these Mets starters can bring the heat. Harvey throws a slider 15.2% of the time and the curve at 11.7%. He also throws a change-up (7.6%). Harvey has thrown a lot more 2-seam fastballs this year than in years past (14.9%). It was a decision made by him and the Mets to get quicker outs.
Lefties have hit .225/.288/.388 (.295 wOBA) against him this season. Righties have hit only .213/.242/.302 (.237). LaStella and/or Coghlan will surely be in the lineup in Game 1.
Since Harvey is returning from surgery, it’s probably important to point out that in the 2nd half of the season, he was much tougher to hit. He allowed a .227/.281/.381 (.287 wOBA) batting line in the 1st half and in the 2nd it was only .208/.243/.292 (.236). His walk rate was improved and he gave up fewer home runs. His FIP was almost a run and a half better in the 2nd half.
He gives up a few more ground balls than fly balls. His GB/FB ratio was 1.27. His line drive rate was 17.9% and his GB rate was 46%. 36.1% of the balls hit against him were fly balls and 9.8% were infield flies.
Jon Lester didn't't’t get off to the start he’d have liked to, and he didn't’t end the season with the win-loss record he wanted, but by the end of the season, his advanced stats looked fairly similar to what they were a year ago. His FIP in 2014 was 2.80. It was 2.92 this year. His xFIP was 3.1 last year and it was 3.06 this year. He produced 5.5 fWAR a year ago and 5.0 this year. His K-BB% was 19.4% in 2014 (the best in his career and the best by far since 2009). It was 19.3% this year.
Lester had issues throwing to first throughout his career, but seemed more comfortable with that at the end of the season. The Mets don’t have much speed, but Curtis Granderson is likely to test him.
Game 2: Jake Arrieta vs. Noah Syndergaard
Syndergaard is a big righty and he made his MLB debut at Wrigley Field. He was 22 and turned 23 at the end of August. He also throws a million miles per hour. In 150 innings during his rookie season, he allowed 126 hits. He walked only 31 and struckout 166. His ERA was an 3.24 and his FIP was 3.25. He was worth 3.1 fWAR.
Syndergaard throws his fastball 39.2% of the time. I used pitch f/x data from Fangraphs for Harvey and will stick with that. His fastball velocity averages 96.5 and regularly hits 100 mph. He throws a sinker 233.4% of the time at 97.0 mph. He throws the curve 23.3% of the time at 81.8 mph. He also mixes in a change-up (11.6%, 88.1 mph). His change-up is faster than Dan Haren’s fastball. He also throws the occasional slider.
Lefties have hit .236/.284/.406 (.296 wOBA) against him and righties have hit .208/.251/.350 (.262). We’ll see a lot of LaStella and Coghlan in this series.
You might expect a rookie to improve a bit after being in the league awhile, and especially since the Mets took off the final couple months. That’s not the case with Syndergaard. He allowed a .275 wOBA in the first half and a .282 wOBA in the 2nd half. He gave up 14 home runs in 83.1 2nd half innings while only allowing 5 in 66.2 1st half innings.
However, September was one of his best months (July was the best). In September/October, he allowed only a .225 wOBA. Batters hit just .162/.188/.337. He may have tired some in the middle of the 2nd half, but he turned it on in September.
His batted ball rates aren’t too different from Harvey’s. His GB/FB rate is 1.38 and he keeps the ball on the ground 46.5% of the time. 33.6% of the balls hit against him are fly balls and 10.5% are infield flies.
I can’t say anything about Jake Arrieta that hasn’t already been said or written better than I could. Even in what was a rough start for Arrieta against the Cardinals, he struckout 9 and walked 2 in 5.2 innings. And the Cubs won the game.
Game 3: Jacob deGrom vs. Kyle Hendricks (probable starters)
Even though Jake Arrieta is pitching in this series, I think deGrom might be nearly as interesting. Arrieta always had the talent. It was a matter of getting him to reach his potential. deGrom was a 9th round pick in 2010 (272nd player overall). deGrom is 27 year old this year and it’s only his 2nd season. Most elite starting pitchers debut before their age 26 season. I’m not sure the Mets knew what they had. Let’s go back to 2013.
deGrom had been in the organization for a few years and missed the entire 2011 season because of injury. He made 10 starts AA in 2013. His strikeout rate was only 16.9% and his walk rate was 7.7%. This was his age 25 season and it was mediocre in AA. He was promoted to AAA and in 14 starts his strikeout rate was 19% and his walk rate was 7.3%. He had a high 3 FIP at both levels.
In 2014 he returned briefly to AAA and made 7 starts. He struckout 18% and walked 6.2%. Now it’s his age 26 season and he’s posting a good ERA (2.58), but only a 3.73 FIP and he’s not striking that many guys out.
Then he gets promoted to MLB and makes 22 starts. He strikes out 25.5% of the batters. His FIP last year was 2.67. He struckout even more in 2015 (27.3%). He also walked less in 2015 (5.1%).
deGrom throws the fastball 46.8% of the time at 94.9 mph. he throws the 2-seamer 15.5% of the time at 94.6. His slider is the 2nd most used pitch at 15.7%. He also throws a change-up (12%) and a curve (9.7%).
Lefties hit .243/.283/.380 (.289 wOBA) and righties hit .174/.225/.251 (.209). The Mets are good at pitching.
In the 1st half, deGrom allowed a .233 wOBA and in the 2nd it was .276. His ERA was a run higher. Batters hit for a lot more power against deGrom in the 2nd half. After an Arrieta-esque June and July, deGrom didn't’t exactly struggle the rest of the way, but he wasn’t all that great either.
He gives up more grounders than fly balls too. His GB/FB rate is 1.28. 44.4% of the balls hit against him are grounders and 34.7% are fly balls. 8.9% are infield flies.
Kyle Hendricks has the unfortunate luck of starting against one of the game’s best in this one, but he’s had a pretty good season himself. His ERA is a little bloated at 3.95, but his FIP was 3.36 and his xFIP was 3.25. He was worth 3.4 fWAR.
Hendricks struckout a lot more batters than I was expecting, especially late in the season. Overall, he struckout 22.6% of the batters and walked 5.8%. Lefties have him him pretty hard this year (.343 wOBA), but he’s held righties in check (.258 wOBA).
He slumped a bit there in August, but his September was pretty good. In September/October, batters only hit .174/.221/.313 (.235) against him. His 1st and 2nd half wOBA allowed is identical to one another at .296. He’s been on a real good stretch lately.
Game 4: Steven Matz vs. Jason Hammel (probable starters)
After making 2 rehab starts at each of High A and AA, Matz was promoted to AAA and made 14 starts. He had a 2.19 ERA and a 3.44 FIP. The 24-year old lefty struckout 26.2% of the batters at AAA and walked 8.6%. He made 6 starts for the Mets performed almost as good. he had a 2.27 ERA and a 3.61 FIP. He struckout 22.8% and walked 6.7%.
Matz is the weakest starter the Cubs face in this series and he’s pretty good.
I could copy all of the others batted ball rates for the Mets starts above if I wanted to. He’s about the same. 1.35 GB/FB rate, 45.5% grounders and 33.7% fly balls. 8.8% infield flies.
He throws the sinker 56.6% of the time at an average velocity of 94.2 mph. He also throws a curve and a change. It’s only 6 starts so these percentages could change some.
I’m sure we’ll hear about reverse splits with Matz even though we’re talking a very small sample. Lefties have a .314 wOBA against him, but it’s only 40 plate appearances. Righties have hit .278 against him.
Jason Hammel has not been too good since the first half of the season. Up until July 8th against the Cardinals when Hammel injured his left hamstring, he’d thrown 103.2 very good innings. He’d allowed just 80 hits, struckout 105 and walked 18. He had a 2.86 ERA and batters hit just .211/.251/.361 against him.
Since the injury (not including the playoff game), he made 14 starts and threw just 67 innings. He allowed 78 hits and posted a 5.10 ERA. Batters hit .285/.341/.515.
I don’t normally pay a whole lot of attention to the quality of the bullpens in a postseason series. Bullpens are unpredictable, but both teams have a really good closer.
You’re familiar with Hector Rondon so I’ll talk mostly about Familia. Familia had 43 saves this season and appeared in 76 games. He threw 78 innings and allowed 59 hits. His ERA was 1.85 and his FIP was 2.74. He did give up 6 home runs.
He keeps the ball on the ground. 58.3% of the balls hit against him are ground balls and he had a 2.7 GB/FB ratio. He struckout 27.9% of the batters and walked 6.2%.
He’s a groundball pitcher because he throws his sinker 64.5% of the time. Most of the other pitches are sliders. His fastball averages 96.4% and his sinker averages 97 mph.
Lefties have hit him better (.273 wOBA) than righties (.234). His ERA was more than a run higher in the 2nd half of the season, but we’re talking small samples here. His FIP was better, and so was his strikeouts by quite a lot.
Rondon doesn't’t strikeout as many as Familia, but he still strikes out his fair share. He also had excellent control and also keeps the ball on the ground.
Rondon throws a 4-seamer, 2-seamer and a cut fastball (32.8%, 29.2% and 6.1% respectively). The cutter averages 88.3, but the 2-seamer and 4-seamer average about 96 mph (96.1 for the 4-seamer and 95.9 for the 2-seamer). He throws a slider 30.3% of the time and the occasional change-up.
The Mets probably have the advantage in this series with their pitching. Game 2 is really the only game I see the Cubs having much of an advantage in. Maybe they do in the first game, but Matt Harvey is awfully good.
Despite the possible pitching advantages the Mets have, I'm taking the Cubs in 5 games. I'll try to post a position player preview tonight. If not, tomorrow morning sometime.