Welcome to another edition of ‘Marty's Musings', my weekly column of numbers summarizing the past week in Major League Baseball. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the prior week and the upcoming matchups to watch, identifying numbers that are generally not found in a standard box score.
It's the 2015 League Championship Series, or as we all expected, the Daniel Murphy Show. The Royals and Mets are two games away from facing one another in an improbable championship matchup. With the Cubs down 0-2, and having already burned through Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, Chicago's backs are to the wall. Meanwhile in the American League, the Jays only managed three runs in the first two games of the series. Toronto's offense is high-powered enough to propel them to some victories at home, but they have their work cut out for them.
It's this week's Musings.
Numbers - LCS Moments
5 - Postseason home runs for Mets' second baseman Daniel Murphy. My colleague Jose Vasile chronicled the rise of Murph's power, which has been a power source for a significant portion of New York's offense. He tied Mike Piazza for the most home runs in a single Mets postseason, he's the fifth player in history to homer in four straight playoff games and the first since Evan Longoria did it for the Rays in 2008. As a reminder, Murphy hit 14 home runs during the regular season, and in 26 trips to the plate this postseason, he has five. Oh, and let's not forget the opposing pitchers who gave up the longballs: Clayton Kershaw (2), Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and Jake Arrieta. Not too shabby, Murph. Not too shabby at all.
60 - Percentage of pitches 95 miles per hour or greater, thrown by Noah Syndergaard during the regular season. Syndergaard did his part in the Mets' Game 2 victory striking out nine batters through 5 ⅔ innings and only allowing one run. Game 2 was a nice reprise of his first ever bullpen appearance, which was in a decisive Game 5 against the Dodgers.
6 - Home runs hit by the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cardinals. The longball is the Cubbies' forte, as three homers cleared the yard in the clincher last Tuesday night. Six home runs in one playoff game is an MLB record, and the Cubs (somewhat) reliance on the long-ball has stalled against the Mets strong pitching.
18 - Wins by the Blue Jays when trailing after the first inning -- the most of any MLB team. The Jays are chasing the Royals in their series but are bringing it back to raucous Toronto where, in a decisive Game 5, things got a little crazy both on the field (ahem, Russell Martin's error) and off the field (we don't need to revisit the ugliness of fans throwing things on the field).
3 - Royals starters who have at least eight strikeouts this postseason: Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, and Yordano Ventura. Cueto seems to be in more of a groove since Sal Perez lowered his receiving line for him, and pitched a dominant Game 5 to take the Royals on another magical postseason ride.
Royals and Mets on the Brink of a World Series Matchup
The Cubs are not in a formidable state at the moment, as their season hinges on Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel. Tuesday night, Jacob deGrom takes the hill for the first time since his up-and-down Game 5 start against the Dodgers. deGrom's performance in the deciding game against LA demonstrated that he can live without his best stuff, as his control was iffy all evening. He gutted through the game and goes up against Hendricks ... who Cubs fans do not want to see in such a pivotal game.
The Mets have the clear advantage going into Game 3, and can really put Chicago on the ropes if deGrom returns to his dominant self. deGrom is over the 200-inning mark for the first time in his professional career, but having thrown 191 innings last year, should be able to get through another handful of starts. Hendricks is making his first start since allowing three solo home runs to the Cardinals through 4 ⅔ innings of a 6-3 Cubs win.
In Game 4 on Wednesday, Steven Matz goes up against Jason Hammel. Hammel was an average pitcher in 2015, posting a FIP- of 94 and an ERA- of 96. Matz fought the injury bug for a bit during the season, something that has happened a lot in his young career. He only threw 35 regular-season innings, and in one LDS start, took the loss after giving up three runs over five innings.
Game 3 in Toronto features Johnny Cueto. He brushed aside all ghosts of his recent KC past with a dominant performance in Game 5 against the Astros. Cueto went eight strong innings, giving up only two earned runs and two hits. He struck out eight batters and issued no walks. He goes up against Marcus Stroman who tossed six innings of two-run ball against Texas in a decisive ALDS Game 5.
In Game 4, Edinson Volquez takes the hill against Marco Estrada ... because this is how baseball goes! Estrada has a propensity to give up quite a few home runs -- this season he gave up 24 long balls, ninth in the AL. Volquez was an adequate pitcher for the Royals, posting an 87 ERA- and a 96 FIP-. With the way baseball works, this may end being a 2-1 pitchers' duel!
Enjoy the games ... next time we meet will be to digest the LCS and prepare for the World Series.