World Series preview: Royals, Mets both have need for speed

Nine key storylines as the 111th World Series gets underway Tuesday in Kansas City.

1. Fastballs: The Mets love throwing them. The Royals love hitting them.

During the regular season, the Royals were second to only the Blue Jays among major-league teams in their ability to hit fastballs, according to FanGraphs.com.

2015 WORLD SERIES

The Mets, meanwhile, were the most effective staff in the majors when throwing fastballs, per the same metrics. (After a dominant National League Championship Series in which New York never trailed, the Chicago Cubs’ hitters can verify as much.)

So we’re about to find out which team is better at hardball. The Royals’ hitters should open the World Series with their timing in sync, thanks to the shorter layoff. Speaking of which …

2. The NLCS sweep is a bad sign for the Mets: In the postseason, at least, there is such a thing as winning too quickly.

This is the seventh time the World Series has paired one team that swept its LCS against another that played at least six games, according to STATS LLC. In the six prior instances, the team with the shorter layoff went 5-1.

Moreover, eight of the past nine World Series have been won by the team with the shorter break between series; the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies were the lone exception.

The Mets will have five open days between Game 4 of the NLCS and Game 1 of the World Series. Will Daniel Murphy extend his record-setting streak of six consecutive postseason games with a home run? It won’t be easy, particularly with Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland telling our Ken Rosenthal, “He’s very comfortable right now. I’ll leave it at that.”

3. The National League rules will be problematic for the Royals: You wouldn’t think that because the Royals’ athleticism recalls the traditional NL style, but they rely heavily on the production of designated hitter Kendrys Morales.

Morales led the Royals with 106 RBI during the regular season and was arguably their most consistent hitter during the AL playoffs, with a .872 OPS and four home runs over 45 plate appearances.

Morales is more important to the 2015 Royals than his predecessor, Billy Butler, was in 2014. And if the Royals’ performance in New York reflects that, they won’t be the first AL champion to experience a letdown in the NL ballpark: Since 2006, American League teams are only 8-17 while playing under NL rules during the World Series.

4. Is Yoenis Cespedes healthy? No matter what the Mets say publicly, we won’t know for sure until we see him take strong, healthy swings in Game 1. His left shoulder injury — of uncertain origin — was serious enough that he left the NL pennant clincher early and received a cortisone injection. That’s very worrisome given the strong disincentive to acknowledge any injury so close to his entering free agency.

5. Experience gap: Curtis Granderson (2006 Tigers) was the only Met on the NLCS roster who played in a prior World Series. The Royals, meanwhile, utilized 15 players with World Series experience during the ALCS, including three — Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales and Ben Zobrist — who joined the organization since last year’s Fall Classic. 

6. Speed on the bases: The Royals were positively plodding in the ALCS, at least by their standards, going only 3 for 5 in stolen-base attempts. They figure to run more often in the World Series. The Mets haven’t been as adept as the Blue Jays at controlling the running game, and the two (possibly three) games under NL rules should provide Royals manager Ned Yost with more opportunities to utilize speed off his bench. But it also should be noted that the Mets (7 for 8) ran often in the NLCS and could test Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez. 

AROUND THE HORN

7. Setup issues: Both teams have reasons to be concerned about their primary eighth-inning relievers. New York’s Tyler Clippard (.900 OPS against) and Kansas City’s Madson (1.275 OPS against) were hittable throughout their respective league playoffs. Madson, in particular, retired the side in order only once over the Division Series and League Championship Series. Yost has the option of moving Madson up to the seventh inning and the harder-throwing Kelvin Herrera back to the eighth. 

8. Closers’ workloads: Jeurys Familia and Wade Davis each have proven they can record more than three outs in postseason games. (Familia has done it three times for the Mets this postseason, Davis twice for the Royals.) The question is how often they can do so effectively in the World Series. Familia benefits from his devastating efficiency; he needed only 21 pitches to record the series-clinching, six-out save against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

9. Home and road trends: The Mets went 4-1 on the road in the NL playoffs and notably scored the first run in each of those games. But now they’re encountering the Royals, who are 5-1 at Kauffman Stadium in the postseason and had the AL’s third-best home record during the regular season (51-30).