World Series Game 3 Preview: Throwing Flames

Tonight's matchup pits two of the hardest-throwers in the game against one another.

It's not very often you have a god on your side to save your season.

But the New York Mets do.

Noah Syndergaard, nicknamed "Thor" because of his huge size and long, flowing locks that remind many of the Avengers character played by Chris Hemsworth, will be on the mound at Citi Field for Game 3 tonight, looking to prevent his team from falling in an unrecoverable 0-3 hole in the World Series. He'll be opposed by the Royals' third straight Dominican starter, Yordano Ventura, looking to match his Fall Classic dominance of last year when he went 1-0 in two starts with a 1.46 ERA. 

Oh, there will be other players in the game as well, most of them hitters who will look to do damage against these two young flame-throwers. But it is those very flames that make this particular matchup special.

Here are three keys to tonight's Game 3 of the World Series at Citi Field in New York.

Fastball Velocity

Have I mentioned that Syndergaard and Ventura both throw hard? Here is a list of the players with the fastest fastball velocities in the Majors this season, with a minimum of 150 innings pitched.

Name Team IP vFA
Nathan Eovaldi Yankees 154.1 96.6
Noah Syndergaard Mets 150 96.5
Garrett Richards Angels 207.1 95.7
Yordano Ventura Royals 163.1 95.6
Gerrit Cole Pirates 208 95.5

According to Fangraphs' Pitchf/x data
, Syndergaard had the second-highest average speed on his four seam fastball this year at 96.5 miles per hour. Ventura was fourth, at 95.6 . Since detailed record-keeping hasn't been kept since the first World Series was played in 1903, we can only assume that this is matchup pits the two hardest throwers against one another in Fall Classic history.

And in the playoffs, Syndergaard has stepped it up even more. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he threw 1,553 fastballs in the regular season, and 15 of them reached 100 on the radar gun. In the playoffs, he's hit triple digits 22 times. And there was also this.

And according to his heat map, it really doesn't matter if he's facing left-handers (which Kansas City boasts a lot of) or righties.

Of the two, Syndergaard is the better strikeout pitcher. In the regular season he struck out 9.96 batters per nine innings, sixth-best in all of baseball among pitchers with at least 150 innings. Ventura's was 8.60, still a good number, 27th in MLB among starters with 150 innings pitched. And If Syndergaard notches at least nine punchouts in Game 3, he'll join Bob Gibson as the only pitchers in MLB history with at least nine K's in each of their first three postseason starts.

As for Ventura, he's the one with World Series experience. He started Game 2 for Kansas City last year and went 5 1/3 innings and gave up 2 earned runs on 8 hits with 2 strikeouts and no walks in a 7-2 win over the Giants.

And he kept their season alive in Game 6 when he went seven innings and gave up no earned runs on three hits with four strikeouts and five walks.

And while Syndergaard has struck out at nine batters in two of this three starts (Game 2 of the NLDS and Game 2 of the NLCS), Ventura has done a decent job piling up the strikeouts himself, with two, eight, six and five in his four postseason starts this year. However, his heat maps shows he is a little more vulnerable than Syndergaard.

And Kansas City pitchers (starters and relievers) haven't been quite as good on the road in the playoffs as they have been at home.


So signs may be pointing to New York having the pitching matchup to their advantage in this one.

Mets' Offensive Struggles

One of the concerns about the Mets' offense heading into the World Series was that the team had benefited, and perhaps been overly reliant on, the ridiculous first two rounds from their second baseman Daniel Murphy. Through the NLDS, NLCS and first two games of the World Series, Murphy has scored 13 of the team's 48 runs (27.1%), drove in 11 of the team's 46 RBI (23.9%), hit seven of the team's 15 homers (46.7%) and had 18 of the team's 81 hits (22.2%).

Through Games 1 and 2, the Mets as a team are hitting .165/.230/.203 for an anemic OPS of .432. They have only 1 extra base hit (a Curtis Granderson homer) with 19 strikeouts and 6 walks. Meanwhile, the vaunted Royals lineup is batting .253/.323/.398 for a .721 OPS with 2 homers, 4 doubles and a triple, striking out just 10 times while walking 10.

The story gets even worse with runners in scoring position, where the Mets are batting .143/.188/.143 (2-for-14) with 4 strikeouts and 1 walk. They went 1-for-10 in Game 1 with runners in scoring position, and only had 4 opportunities in Game 2, notching just 1 hit in those chances. Conversely, Kansas City is doing almost all their damage with runners on base, batting .304/.387/.435 for an OPS of .882. In all three rounds of the playoffs, they're hitting .330 with runners on base.

If New York is going to get back in the series, they're going to have to do more at the plate with runners on base, and pitch better out of the stretch. 

What to Wear?

This may sound dumb, and it probably is. But numbers are numbers and it's hard to argue with numbers.

Mets manager Terry Collins allows each game's starting pitcher to decide which uniform they're going to wear for that day's game. According to the Associated Press, when the Mets wore their traditional home white pinstriped jerseys in the regular season this year, they went 37-24. When they wore their alternate blue jerseys they went 9-8. They also went 3-0 when they wore special camouflage tops on Military Mondays. 

However, those trends have changed here in the postseason. The Mets are undefeated, 3-0, when wearing the alternate blue home jerseys in the playoffs, and lost the only game in which they wore their white duds. However, Syndergaard has decided to go with the traditional white tops in Game 3 tonight.

Score one for the larger sample size, kids.