Author Archives: Ely Sussman

Numbers Show Cubs’ Dominance

Whether or not it culminates in a championship, this has been a spectacular season for the Chicago Cubs. They entered Saturday with an MLB-best 90-50 record, and even that understates the team’s dominance.

So in this week’s contribution to USA Today Sports Weekly, I took a look at all the ways that the Cubs have lapped the rest of the league and went searching for comparable clubs. Maintaining their current pace for the next few weeks would put them in impressive company.

Aside from the link above, you can find this column in the print version of the magazine.

More games starting with homers

Fans tuning into this season’s MLB games from the very first pitch have been treated to plenty of early offense. Leadoff hitters are launching home runs left and right (and center) at an especially high rate, and producing more first-inning offense than we’ve seen in decades.

Contributing to USA Today Sports Weekly, our own Aidan Jackson-Evans (@ajacksonevans on Twitter) tries to explain the phenomenon. Here is the link to his column.

Every week during the season, HHS submits analysis like this to the magazine. Check it out online, or consider picking up a print copy.

Extra innings a whole new game

On behalf of High Heat Stats, I contributed a piece to the May 11-17 issue of USA Today Sports Weekly. This one is all about extra innings: why they have become more common in recent years and how managerial decisions play such a major role in determining extra-inning winners.

Here is the link to the column. And remember that HHS appears in the magazine every week this season! Stay tuned for future links or consider picking up a print copy.

Plate discipline, some have it, some don’t

There’s more High Heat Stats analysis in the April 27-May 3 issue of USA Today Sports Weekly, this time from Aidan Jackson-Evans. He uses Baseball Info Solutions data to explain how a batter’s plate discipline can affect his overall production by complementing/conflicting with his skill set, selecting real-life examples from the Minnesota Twins lineup.

Here is the link to the column. High Heat Stats is contributing to the magazine every week this season, so stay tuned for future links or consider picking up a print copy.

Early-Season Oddities in 2016

For the April 20-26 issue of USA Today Sports Weekly, Andy analyzed league-wide stats after each team’s first 10 games of the 2016 season. He explains what has made this year unique and how playing style continues to evolve.

Here is the link to the column. High Heat Stats is contributing to the magazine every week this season, so stay tuned for future links or consider picking up a print copy.



Baseball Hall of Fame: Recreating Cooperstown with WAR Leaders

KGJThe 21st century is quickly bringing about a variety of changes that the baseball community desperately needed. We now have real consequences for performance-enhancing drug users, instant replay to ensure that “human error” doesn’t affect the most pivotal moments, and cooler stats than ever at our fingertips. Coming up next, MLB is trying to create a safer in-stadium experience and continuing to experiment with ways to improve the pace of play.

Unfortunately, there is no indication that innovation fever will carry over to the National Baseball Hall of Fame anytime soon. Frustrating inconsistencies continue to plague its induction process.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza will become Cooperstown’s newest additions this summer. Both of their careers featured extraordinary peaks and impressive longevity, with Griffey in particular passing every conceivable empirical and intangible test of excellence.

But for reasons that still haven’t been revealed, three participating BBWAA voters excluded him from their ballots. So continues the sport’s longest streak: 80 years of experienced scribes finding some fault in every player’s career (no unanimous inductees).

Of course, Griffey does not need your pity. He’s headed for enshrinement regardless. The true victims of the process?

  • Stars of previous generations who were under-appreciated in times of weaker analysis
  • Griffey contemporaries who, despite historic accomplishments, have been withheld from the Hall for perceived “character issues” (several based on pure speculation)
  • Borderline candidates who fell off/will soon fall off the ballot because of arbitrary limits on years of eligibility and total selections allowed per voter.


There’s never going to be a consensus on how to fix this, and that’s not what this column is about, anyway. Instead, I invite you to escape from reality for the next few minutes as we imagine a Hall of Fame that would actually celebrate baseball’s most impactful players.

For this exercise, we will toss aside the narratives, accolades and personalities. The focus is solely on in-game value, as measured by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement. What names would be affiliated with baseball immortality if crushing the competition of your era was all that mattered?

More precisely, let’s set the HoF threshold as three or more career seasons of ranking in the MLB top 10 in WAR (pitchers and position players ranked separately). This criterion prioritizes each generation’s peak performers while weeding out “compilers” and flash-in-the-pan successes. It also conveniently creates a community of similar size to the current Cooperstown population.

Finally, we will simulate an induction schedule for these stars beginning in 1936, the same year the actual Hall of Fame began naming names. The following rules attempt to keep pace with the 20th century expansion of MLB teams/roster sizes and minimize the number of “empty years” (those with zero inductees):

  • Ten original members inducted in 1936
  • A maximum of two new members inducted annually for the rest of the Pre-Integration Era (1937-1946)
  • A maximum of three new members inducted annually throughout the Golden Era (1947-1972)
  • A maximum of four new members inducted annually throughout the Expansion Era (1973-Present)
  • Players become eligible for induction five years after their final MLB appearance
  • All qualified players are inducted in order of descending career WAR (higher WAR totals enter first)



TG_HoFEven the most dominant relievers in the sport’s history didn’t stand much of a chance of qualifying for a club that’s based on raw value. Cooperstown closers like Dennis Eckersley (inducted 2004), Rollie Fingers (1992) and Goose Gossage (2005) were undeniably making an impact with their high-leverage heroics, but their season-by-season WAR doesn’t reflect that due to a lack of innings.

Same goes for the most recent generation of saves leaders—Mariano Rivera (eligible in 2019), Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, etc. Rarely working outside of the ninth inning kept them all far below the threshold for passing this Hall of Fame’s test.

You will also notice the absence of several revered “winners” from this fraternity. Although consistently very good, Tom Glavine (inducted 2014) and Andy Pettitte (eligible in 2019) only twice posted seasons that cracked the top 10 in MLB pitcher WAR.

It’s certainly worth noting that Glavine and Pettitte were productive in the postseason, and that goes unacknowledged by our basic selection process. (I never said this would be perfect!)

Other real-life inductees who were snubbed include Chief Bender, Jack Chesbro, Jesse Haines, Waite Hoyt, Catfish Hunter, Addie Joss, Rube Marquard, Eppa Rixey, Edd Roush, Bruce Sutter, Don Sutton, and Hoyt Wilhelm.



edgar3What does it take to be among the league’s most valuable position players? Usually, some semblance of all-around skills—positive defense and/or base running contributions to complement damage inflicted with the bat.

Harmon Killebrew (inducted in 1984), Tony Perez (2000), Willie Stargell (1988), Edgar Martinez (currently eligible), Vladimir Guerrero (eligible in 2017) and Jim Thome (2018)—just to name a handful—fail to cross over into this Hall of Fame on the strength of their run production alone. Speedy singles specialist Lou Brock (eligible in 1985) fell short, too.

With few exceptions, catchers were heavily discriminated against. It boils down to how the physical demands of the job limit their total playing time (opportunities for WAR accumulation) relative to their peers. Missing from the list below: Yogi Berra (inducted in 1972), Roy Campanella (1969), Mickey Cochrane (1947), Bill Dickey (1954), Gabby Hartnett (1955) and Ivan Rodriguez (eligible in 2017).

Notable exclusions from the other positions include Luis Aparicio, Jake Beckley, Craig Biggio, Jim Bottomley, Roger Bresnahan, Max Carey, Orlando Cepeda, Fred Clarke, Earle Combs, Kiki Cuyler, Hugh Duffy, Buck Ewing, Rick Ferrell, Nellie Fox, Chick Hafey, Billy Herman, Harry Hooper, George Kell, George Kelly, Barry Larkin, Tony Lazzeri, Freddy Lindstrom, Heinie Manush, Rabbit Maranville, Bill Mazeroski, Tommy McCarthy, Eddie Murray, Kirby Puckett, Jim Rice, Phil Rizzuto, Ray Schalk, Red Shoendienst, Enos Slaughter, Joe Tinker, Pie Traynor, Lloyd Waner, Zack Wheat, Dave Winfield and Ross Youngs.


At last, we have arrived at baseball’s ultimate WAR-riors. There are 233 of them—105 pitchers, 128 position players.

Remember that the order of induction follows the rules stated earlier. And keep in mind, these players qualified based on their American League and/or National League production; the Hall of Fame recognizes earlier stars of the American Association/National Association/Union Association era as “Pioneer/Executive” inductees.

*Players who earn inductions during their first year of eligibility have been bolded

**Players who are not inducted in the actual Hall of Fame have been underlined


1936 Grover Cleveland Alexander, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Walter Johnson, Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson, Kid Nichols, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Cy Young

The BBWAA took awhile to adopt the “five years post-retirement” condition for eligibility and rushed Babe Ruth into the class of ’36. But we want uniformity and will make him wait.

These 10 all-timers still unite for a pretty stacked collection of talent.


1937 Tim Keefe, Eddie Plank

1938 John Clarkson, George Davis

1939 Cap Anson, Roger Connor

1940 Dan Brouthers, Pud Galvin

1941 Jim McCormick, Babe Ruth

Late 19th-century workhorse McCormick is the first Cooperstown outsider to make it in here. He STARTED 74 games for the Cleveland Blues back in 1880! Led the league in ERA+, WHIP and complete games at various times during his career.


1942 Sam Crawford, Bill Dahlen

1943 Rogers Hornsby, Charles Radbourn

1944 Frankie Frisch, Harry Heilmann

1945 Lou Gehrig, Bobby Wallace

1946 Ed Delahanty, Amos Rusie

1947 Red Faber, Goose Goslin, Lefty Grove

Induction class size expands post-integration and features Grove—by any measure, one of the best southpaws ever.


1948 Stan Coveleski, Charlie Gehringer, Vic Willis

1949 Carl Hubbell, Billy Hamilton, Mickey Welch

1950 Jesse Burkett, Al Simmons, Ed Walsh

1951 Joe Cronin, Jimmie Foxx, Paul Waner

1952 Home Run Baker, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ted Lyons

Shoeless Joe would’ve been a shoo-in for the HoF if not for the Black Sox Scandal. His early-career contributions for the Cleveland Naps—averaged 8.8 WAR from 1911 to 1913—were most impressive.


1953 Jack Glasscock, Mel Ott, Dazzy Vance

1954 Joe McGinnity, Arky Vaughan, Rube Waddell

1955 Eddie Cicotte, Hank Greenberg, Clark Griffith

1956 Luke Appling, Joe Gordon, Jack Powell

1957 Joe DiMaggio, Joe Medwick, Red Ruffing

1958 Lou Boudreau, Mordecai Brown, George Sisler

1959 Willie Keeler, Johnny Mize, Bill Terry

1960 Jimmy Collins, Elmer Flick, Joe Sewell

1961 Tommy Bond, Stan Hack, Hal Newhouser

1962 Bob Feller, Bobo Newsom, Jackie Robinson

1963 Bobby Doerr, Silver King, Dutch Leonard

1964 Larry Doby, Joe Kelley, Pee Wee Reese

1965 Dave Bancroft, Burleigh Grimes, Ralph Kiner

1966 Earl Averill, Heinie Groh, Ted Williams

1967 Johnny Evers, Art Fletcher, Dizzy Trout

1968 Richie Ashburn, Noodles Hahn, Bob Shawkey

1969 John McGraw, Stan Musial, Early Wynn

1970 Frank Chance, Billy Pierce, Duke Snider

1971 King Kelly, Jim O’Rourke, Sam Thompson

1972 Chuck Klein, Al Orth, Herb Pennock

1973 Charlie Keller, Claude PasseauRobin Roberts, Warren Spahn

Induction class size expands again to keep pace with league expansion.


1974 Rocky Colavito, Larry Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews

1975 Ken Boyer, Dizzy Dean, Don Drysdale, Hughie Jennings

1976 Frank Dwyer, George Gore, Paul Hines, Bill Nicholson

An example of how this selection process could be awkward…Three of these four inductees died too soon to attend their ceremony, pushed back decades by their lack of career WAR.


1977 Ernie Banks, Jim Bunning, Eddie Stanky, Roy Thomas

1978 Johnny CallisonRoberto Clemente, Camilo Pascual, Hack Wilson

1979 Fred Dunlap, Bob Lemon, Willie MaysPreacher Roe

1980 Dean ChanceAl Kaline, Ron Santo, Deacon White

1981 Bob Gibson, Jim Maloney Juan Marichal, Vada Pinson

1982 Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, John Ward, Billy Williams

1983 Dick Allen, Brooks Robinson, Al RosenChris Short

1984 Larry CorcoranTex Hughson, Frank SullivanWilbur Wood

1985 Dick Radatz

Finally, the backlog of qualified candidates loosens enough so that one player gets the stage to himself.

Not much of a treat for the fans, though. Radatz was dead last among our 233 members with only 16.1 WAR. Excluding his first three seasons in the majors, the right-handed reliever was worse than replacement level!


1986 Willie McCovey

1987 none

1988 Luis Tiant

1989 Johnny Bench, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Carl Yastrzemski

1990 Jim Kaat, Jon Matlack, Joe Morgan, Jim Palmer

1991 Rod Carew

1992 Cesar Cedeno, Bobby Grich, Pete Rose, Tom Seaver

1993 Vida Blue, Reggie Jackson, Phil Niekro

1994 Steve Carlton, Ron Guidry

1995 Tommy John, Mike Schmidt

1996 none

1997 Rick Reuschel

1998 Bert Blyleven, Gary Carter

1999 George Brett, Carlton Fisk, Nolan Ryan, Robin Yount

2000 Teddy Higuera, Frank Tanana

2001 none

2002 Andre Dawson, Ozzie Smith, Alan Trammell, Frank Viola

Trammell just fell off the BBWAA ballot after 15 years of middling support, but he would have been granted immortality immediately by these rules.


2003 Ryne Sandberg, Fernando Valenzuela

2004 Jimmy Key, Dennis Martinez, Dave Stieb

2005 Wade Boggs, Tom Candiotti, Mark Langston

2006 Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser

2007 Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken Jr., Brett Saberhagen

2008 Chuck Finley, Chuck Knoblauch, Tim Raines, Jose Rijo

Raines is still waiting his turn in real life, which is absurd. We are running out of patience.


2009 David Cone, Rickey Henderson

2010 Roberto Alomar, Kevin Appier

2011 Jeff Bagwell, Kevin Brown, Larry Walker

2012 Brad Radke

2013 Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Kenny Lofton, Curt Schilling

Love ’em or hate ’em on a personal level, this kind of mega class if WAY more interesting than The Brad Radke Experience.


2014 Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas

2015 Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Kenny Rogers, John Smoltz

2016 Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Ken Griffey Jr., Brandon Webb


And looking forward, this is how the next few induction classes would shake out…


2017 none

2018 Andruw JonesChipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Carlos Zambrano

2019 Roy HalladayTodd Helton, Roy Oswalt


Aggregated from, this spreadsheet of annual WAR leaders is fun for reflecting on some of the outlier seasons that this crazy sport produces: Year-by-Year bWAR Leaders

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments, or address them directly to me on Twitter @MrElyminator.

2015 World Series Preview: Game 5

A patented Kansas City Royals comeback—the kind where they keep fouling off tough pitches and putting the mistakes in play until you implode—has them one victory away from a World Series championship.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Major League Baseball couldn’t dream of juicer storylines leading in to Game 5. Even if the season comes to an end on Sunday night, here are some stats to help you savor it.


Historically Speaking…

  • With one more victory, Kansas City would avenge the gut-wrenching loss it suffered to the San Francisco Giants under these same bright lights the previous year. In doing so, this would be the first team since the 1988-89 Oakland Athletics to get a ring the year after losing in the World Series.
  • Alcides Escobar owned the month of October, setting a franchise record with the longest hitting streak a Royals player has ever had in the postseason. And now, he’s within reach of matching Pablo Sandoval (Giants, 2014) for most total postseason hits compiled in one year. Escobar is four hits away from tying Sandoval at 26. As the lead-off man on the visiting team, he’s virtually assured of getting enough plate appearances to attempt that in Game 5.
  • Although without a start in this postseason, Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando has made his presence felt as a late-inning defensive replacement. Assuming that Sunday is another close contest requiring his services, Orlando could become the first player since John Lackey (Anaheim Angels, 2002) to record a hit on his birthday during a World Series.
  • If the New York Mets can’t deliver a title for their fans, the least they could do is give them more Bartolo Colon. The round right-hander continues to defy the laws of physics by holding his own against world-class athletes at age 42. Colon has appeared twice thus far against the Royals. The only player to pitch more games in a World Series at an older age is Jim Kaat (St. Louis Cardinals, 1982).


What to Watch for

  • The Royals have dominated late inning pressure situations in this matchup and throughout the postseason, putting immense pressure on the Mets to jump out to an early lead against Edinson Volquez. But it’s going to be difficult to make solid contact. Volquez’s sinker came out of his hand with fiery velocity in October, and with nastier movement on its journey to home plate than he showed during the regular season. The Mets can win the battle by subscribing to a patient approach against the pitcher with the worst career walk rate among active starters (min. 1,000 career innings).


Follow along for ongoing coverage of the World Series!

And in case this is the cruel end to baseball season, remember that HHS has football goodies for you, too!

2015 World Series Preview: Game 4

Those of us rooting for a long World Series got their wish on Friday night. The New York Mets rode a David Wright break-out at the plate and dominant pitching in the middle and late innings to a 9-3 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 3.

We witnessed hysteria and an MLB milestone.


At the very least, Halloween will bring us crazy crowd shots of a festive fanbase. But here are the other treats to look forward to.


Historically Speaking…

  • Considering the depth of their bullpen and resiliency of their lineup, the Royals don’t often suffer a loss as lopsided as Friday night’s. Even throughout nine postseason bids in the franchise’s history, blow-outs like that have been few and far between. The Mets would need to outscore them by seven runs in a game to equal the pain K.C. suffered in the 1984 ALCS and 2014 World Series.
  • There’s still time for Daniel Murphy to rediscover his power stroke, but for now, the arc of his postseason is closer to 2008 Melvin Upton Jr. than 2011 David Freese. Murphy is seeking to join Freese, Alex Rodriguez (2009) and Benito Santiago (2002) as the only players to drive in at least five runs in three consecutive series within the same postseason.
  • Steven Matz gets the Game 4 starting assignment for the Mets. Citi Field is just a few miles away from where he was raised on Long Island, and the expectation is that a few (hundred) of his friends and family members will be in attendance. Jamie Moyer understands what that feels like—prior to the Matz, he was the most recent example of a pitcher starting a World Series game in his native state as a member of the home team (Philadelphia Phillies, 2008). Here’s a fun contrast between the two: Moyer was more than 24 years into his pro career when he got that opportunity; Matz is only 24 years into his life.
  • In terms of both result and margin victory/defeat, the past three games have been an exact reenactment of the Mets’ experience in the 1986 World Series. Wouldn’t it be fitting if the “spookiness” continued through Halloween? To keep that going, the Mets would need to beat the Royals by four runs in Game 4 en route to tying the series.


What to Watch for

  • A key to New York’s great offensive performance in Game 3, as ESPN’s Buster Olney points out, was the damage done against Yordano Ventura’s mid-90s fastball. All of their extra-base hits came off that pitch and that pitcher. But the Mets will get a much different look on Saturday with soft-tossing Chris Young, whose stuff rarely even touches 90 mph (and that’s usually out of the bullpen). Although Young surrenders plenty of fly balls, he’s difficult to square up. Postseason and regular season combined, there have been only six extra-base hits in the past 40 innings against him (a .292 slugging percentage).
  • Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

    Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

    Manager Terry Collins made the somewhat surprising decision to use closer Jeurys Familia for the 9th inning, despite a sizable six-run lead. The rationale is more obvious, however, when considering Familia’s career splits. There has been no drop in quality when he pitches on back-to-back days (.188/.267/.286 against, 1.79 ERA). Meanwhile, his most memorable gaffes—the July 30 blown save to the San Diego Padres, the game-tying home run allowed to Alex Gordon in Game 1 of this series—came with Familia rested for at least three days. Collins understandably doesn’t want the right-hander rusty for possible high-leverage situations in Games 4 or 5.

2015 World Series Preview: Game 3

The 2015 World Series resumes with Game 3 on Friday night, as for the first time in its history, Citi Field will host the Fall Classic.

The previous matchups between the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets have given us awesome viewing experiences. Let’s hope the latest installment in this series won’t be any different.


Historically Speaking…

  • Johnny Cueto’s masterpiece caught many of us by surprise, given his uneven performances of the past several months. A complete-game effort by Game 3’s Yordano Ventura would be even more shocking. The most recent example of World Series teammates pitching back to back and going the distance dates back to the 1977 New York Yankees (Mike Torrez and Ron Guidry).
  • Major League Baseball is in the midst of a youth movement, with New York’s Noah Syndergaard considered one of the brightest shining stars. So far this millennium, only two other pitchers—Madison Bumgarner and Michael Wacha—have started in the World Series at a younger age (Syndergaard is 23 years and 62 days).
  • It’s been a few frustrating years for Mets fans, but Citi Field’s 7th season is already being rewarded with a World Series. That now leaves nine other active ballparks on the “gee, we still don’t know what that feels like” list. The oldest among them is Orioles Park at Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles have played since 1992.
  • This year’s MLB schedule is pushing the postseason deeper into autumn than we typically see. The result of the harsher weather conditions should be lower scores. The only game played October 30 or later that ever featured double-digit run-scoring by either team was Game 6 of the 2001 World Series, when the Arizona Diamondbacks erupted for 15. Of course, that exception to the rule was played in the climate-controlled confines of Chase Field.


What to Watch for

  • Yordano Ventura, 2015Yordano Ventura’s season was interrupted by a midsummer demotion to the minor leagues. He rediscovered success upon returning to the rotation, thanks to a lowered arm slot and greater emphasis on throwing his curveball, per Brooks Baseball. Conveniently for him, the curve happens to be the pitch that caused the Mets the most trouble in the second half. It could be another rough night for their offense if Ventura commands it in Game 3.



  • Alterations to the outfield dimensions at Citi Field have led to more long balls, while also shrinking the real estate that outfielders need to cover. Whereas Kauffman Stadium’s vast grass makes it a contact hitter’s paradise (6th in MLB for batting average this season, 5th for doubles, 5th for triples), this venue doesn’t reward that approach (29th, 21st, 24th, respectively). That puts pressure on both lineups to make the most out of mistake pitches by sending them to the bleachers.Citi Field Outfield Dimensions, 2009-2015

2015 World Series Preview: Game 2

Baseball fans wake up for Game 2 of the 2015 World Series with the same feeling the rest of America has after Thanksgiving dinner, because that’s what this series opener was—a long-awaited celebration that was satisfying on so many levels. It unfolded as expected in certain situations, but with enough surprises to create an epic experience, especially from a stats perspective.

Getty/Doug Pensinger

Getty/Doug Pensinger

Now, let’s look forward to doing it all over again on Wednesday night.


Historically Speaking…

  • The New York Mets will attempt to rebound in Game 2, knowing the slim chances they have of overcoming a 2-0 deficit. The 1986 World Series is the only example in franchise history of them losing consecutive games in a postseason series and going on to win it. Anything can happen under these bright lights, but it’s difficult to imagine the nasty Kansas City Royals relievers suffering through that kind of choke job.
  • Most of his management career has been mediocre, but Ned Yost is suddenly a dominant force in October. A Game 2 victory would bring his postseason record as a skipper to 20-8, matching how Casey Stengel started his legendary career. Only Joe McCarthy—20 wins in his first 27 postseason games—excelled more from the get-go.
  • If we extend into extra innings again, it would be the first time since Games 4 and 5 in 2001 that a World Series goes beyond regulation on back-to-back nights.
  • Let’s say Game 2 veers in the opposite direction, with one team routing the other…might we see a position player make World Series history by taking the mound? (h/t to Scott Lindholm for confirming that there’s no precedent) The circumstances are perfect for that kind of novelty, considering the depleted states of both bullpens and limited rest. The Royals have fire-baller Drew Butera at their disposal, while the Mets could lean on Michael Cuddyer’s experience.


What to Watch for

  • This season, fastball velocity has been a strong indicator of whether or not Johnny Cueto succeeds or flops in any given start. His highest Game Scores—a 93 on July 7 and a 87 on August 10—came in outings where his four-seamer and sinker both averaged at least 93 mph. The same was true of his ALDS Game 5 masterpiece (8.0 IP, 2 H, 8 K). But when the velocity drops, he’s had trouble generating swinging strikes,. That extends opposing plate appearances and inflates his pitch count in the early innings.
  • In Game 1, most of New York’s offense was generated with the put-the-ball-on-the-ground-and-pray-the-BABIP-gods-are-on-your-side strategy. That’s probably their best option in Game 2, as well. Leaning on Kauffman Stadium’s size and the defensive skills of their outfielders, the Royals only allowed a .558 OPS on fly balls during the season (league average was a .590 OPS).
  • Ned Yost has shown himself to be a big fan of the sacrifice bunt, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him turn to it again versus Jacob deGrom. Swinging for the fences to advance baserunners often ends in disappointment against deGrom, who minimizes solid contact. He ranked 11th-best in MLB this year in limiting the distance of batted balls (min. 300 ABs with batted ball data). There’s also a strong possibility that Terry Collins optimizes his run prevention by starting Juan Lagares in center field.