Should We Fear Kershaw or Greinke?
For starters, I think both of the Dodger pitchers are "ace material" or bona fide "#1 starters". This article is not being written in an effort to minimize what each pitcher brings to the table. The Mets will have their hands full in this series, plain and simple.
Consider the following "so called facts";
1. This will be the Mets first playoff series since 2006!
2. Outside of David Wright, none of the other members of the Mets were with the team at that time.
3. A majority of our players have not played in the playoffs, period.
4. The first round is a short series (five games) and we do not have home field advantage.
5. We closed the regular season with a 1-5 mark, looking pathetic on offense (again).
6. The mainstream media stated that we only won 90 games due to the collapse of the Nationals and the poor form of the Marlins, Braves and Phillies.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. Outside of our fan base, most folks view the Mets as significant underdogs in this series, which is fair I suppose. After all, the current Mets squad has not accomplished anything of significance to date.
Some negative types would already have our obituary written, but I think we will embrace the underdog role and actually thrive as a result. As the road team in any series (other then the fluky Wild Card match up), you will play the first two games in the other team's ballpark. That is a huge disadvantage on the surface, especially in our case as we have to face Clayton Kershaw in Game One and Zack Greinke in Game Two.
But, as the road team, all you really need to do is split the first two games. With a split, the Mets would return home with a chance to close out the series with Matt Harvey and Steven Matz on the mound for Games Three and Four, without ever reaching a Game Five in Los Angeles.
In reality, the early pressure is on the home team in a short playoff series. The home team is expected to win both games as the "favorite". If the home team loses either game, they put themselves behind the "proverbial eight ball" and they also surrender the home field advantage. I actually like opening on the road, where the Mets have played really well as a team since the trade deadline. The expectations will be lower and the pressure will be squarely on the Dodgers, in my opinion.
OK, so let's say that I made some sense in the paragraphs above and you are on starting to get on board with my optimism. Which of the two games in LA do we have a better chance of winning? In other words, "should we fear Kershaw or Greinke"?
I think we can steal Game One from the Dodgers and beat Clayton Kershaw in the process (no, I do not have a head injury in case you were wondering). If you look at Clayton Kershaw's statistics, you will see that his "ace" label is well earned. Regardless of the metric that you use, his overall performance is impressive.
Consider the following regular season statistics;
1,611 Innings Pitched
1.033 WHIP (walks and hits allowed per IP)
3.75 K/BB Ratio
However, something odd happens once he enters a "playoff" game;
11 Appearances (8 Starts)
51 Innings Pitched
3.22 K/BB Ratio
Yes, I am aware that 51 innings is not a huge sample and that his regular season statistics dwarf his playoff statistics in sheer numbers. But, it cannot be completely dismissed. If I noticed the difference as a fan, you know that Clayton Kershaw is aware of the difference (he was one of the scapegoats for the team's failures last year).
I don't think we will see a complete meltdown, but he does appear more vulnerable in a playoff start. Perhaps the Mets can load the lineup with patient, right handed bats and scratch out a few runs early in the ballgame. I think a few early runs would continue to add to the "playoff stigma" that Clayton Kershaw appears to have. That, coupled with a solid start from Jacob DeGrom could put the Mets up 1-0 going into Game Two.
If we lose Game One, I do not like our chances nearly as much in Game Two. Zack Greinke is pitching at a Cy Young level this year and we would counter with Noah Syndergaard. Noah is talented, but he has not been as effective on the road and he would be making his first playoff appearance.
So, as weird as it sounds, I prefer to face Kershaw in a playoff game.
Posted by Mack Ade at 10:00 AM