New York Mets pitchers throw hard, crazy hard. Can the Dodgers catch up to the team with the highest velocity fastballs in baseball?
That's one significant story line as the Mets and Dodgers open the division series Friday at Dodger Stadium. No team threw more pitches at 95 mph or faster this year than the Mets. The Dodgers rank below average at hitting those pitches.
The Dodgers are not cowering, not when they can start the series with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, who will occupy two of the top three spots in National League Cy Young award voting.
"I don't think you can argue with Kershaw and Greinke," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "We've obviously got good arms here, but the pedigree and dominance that Kershaw and Greinke have proven year in and year out is second to none."
Still, pedigree and dominance guarantee nothing in October. Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young winner, has started eight postseason games. He has won one.
The Mets' arms are fast and furious.
Noah Syndergaard, who starts Game 2 on Saturday, threw more pitches of at least 95 mph than any major leaguer besides Gerrit Cole of Pittsburgh, according to the Baseball Savant website.
Matt Harvey, who starts Game 3, ranked fourth in 95 mph pitches. Jacob deGrom, who starts Game 1, ranked 12th. For good measure, Mets closer Jeurys Familia ranked 19th.
Kershaw placed highest among Dodgers starters on that list, at No. 138.
The league average against pitches at least 95 mph: .242. The Kansas City Royals lead at .284, the Dodgers are at .238.
Of the eight players with at least 20 such at-bats, the only ones above .250 are second baseman Howie Kendrick, outfielder Andre Ethier and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
A.J. Ellis is expected to start Game 1 at catcher ahead of Yasmani Grandal, who is batting .226 in those situations. Rookie Corey Seager is expected to start at shortstop ahead of Jimmy Rollins, who is batting .163 in those situations.
Enrique Hernandez, an option to start in center field over rookie Joc Pederson, is batting .500 in 14 such at-bats.
"I know I'm a good fastball hitter. I like velo," he said. "They like challenging people, which is what they should do, because they throw really hard."
Mark McGwire, the Dodgers' hitting coach, would not say what adjustments the team's batters might make. He does not think the statistical history — particular in smaller sample sizes — is critical in a short postseason series.
"In these games, throw that out the door," McGwire said. "They're really good. We're really good as far as our staff too. It's going to be a battle.
"Pitchers are who they are. They tend to stay with their tendencies. It's all about execution. If we're really good at executing our game plan, we'll be fine."
Wright noted that the Mets' pitchers have varied arsenals, so the Dodgers cannot win simply by sitting on the fastball, and hitting it.
"I like that we have those young power pitchers with their own little thing that makes them different from the other ones," Wright said. "You've got to like your chances when you're throwing out those types of arms."
Mets Manager Terry Collins said he could not recall seeing such a collection of young and powerful arms on one team.
"Never," he said. "Clayton Kershaw is one of my favorite guys I've ever been around. But everybody was telling us, 'You've got to get home field, you don't want to face Kershaw and Greinke in the shadows.' I know that. My players know that.
"Do their players know who we're pitching? Noah Syndergaard, 98-99 with a power slider? deGrom at 95 to 97? We've got a little something for you too."
Comparing the average fastball speeds of the Dodgers' and Mets' projected starters:
Dodgers | MPH
Clayton Kershaw | 93.6
Zack Greinke | 91.8
Brett Anderson | 90.3
Alex Wood | 89.3
New York Mets | MPH
Jacob deGrom | 94.9
Noah Syndergaard | 96.5
Matt Harvey | 95.2
Steven Matz | 92.1