Will long layoff hurt Mets? Tough to say
Of 15 teams in LCS era with at least five days off before World Series, eight won title
The National League Championship Series seemed like it was over as quickly as it began. In their four-game sweep of the Cubs, the Mets became just the sixth team in history to win a best-of-seven series without ever trailing.
And while no Mets fan would complain about securing a spot in the Fall Classic for the first time in 15 years, the Mets so thoroughly dispatched the Cubs that they're set up for a five-day layoff before the World Series begins against the Royals on Tuesday night on FOX.
Actually, history tells us that if the Mets end up falling flat in the Fall Classic, it probably won't be a result of the long layoff. Fifteen teams have been forced to sit for five days or more after winning the LCS, and eight of those clubs went on to win the World Series.
Former Braves manager Bobby Cox also had this take on long layoffs:
"I think for the Mets, as good as they're going, it won't have much of an effect. They have all of the young arms that they're supposed to be watching. This will give [the pitchers] a chance to perk back up a little bit.
"I remember when [Greg] Maddux was going to have more than a week off heading into the first game of the 1995 World Series. I asked him if he wanted to throw somewhere or play an intra-squad game. He said, 'Bobby, do you really think I 'm going to forget how to pitch?' So, I don't think it's much of a concern to the pitchers.
"For the hitters, it might take them a day or two to get back to being ready to face real tough pitching. The hitters would likely like to keep playing. But it's just mind over matter. If it bothers you, it matters. If it doesn't, then it doesn't matter.
"What I can tell you is that these long layoffs leading up to the World Series can be some of the most enjoyable days you will ever experience. Everybody is just so loose and relaxed. It really is a lot of fun."
Royals manager Ned Yost, whose team had a five-day layoff before losing the 2014 World Series in seven games, had this to say:
"The pros [of the long layoff] are you can sit back and dig yourself for a couple of days, and that's always fun to know, right? And the cons are you just get anxious to go. You've got to throw maybe some simulated games in batting practice to keep guys sharp.
"I don't see where there's too many cons. They're going to the World Series. They're excited. Their workouts are going to be fun and spirited. But once the game starts, again, the postseason is so much different than the regular season [and] they'll be ready to go."
Here's a breakdown of some key figures regarding New York's upcoming break from game action:
• Although the numbers are generally positive, recent trends don't exactly favor the Mets. Among the last six teams to endure a layoff of five days or more following the LCS, only the 2008 Phillies went on to win the World Series. The last three such teams (the '09 Phillies, '12 Tigers and '14 Royals) all lost.
• Since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, the Mets are the eighth team to sweep its way into the World Series. Of the previous seven, only the Atlanta Braves in 1995 went on to win the title. In fact, three of the previous seven -- the 1990 A's, the 2007 Rockies and the '12 Tigers -- got swept in the Fall Classic.
• Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the layoff is how the Mets should structure their starting rotation. When manager Terry Collins set his rotation at the beginning of the playoffs, he opted to start Jacob deGrom in Game 1 of the NL Division Series. He'll probably do that again for the World Series, but in doing so, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey would both be pitching after at least 10 days off. Even if Collins opts to start Harvey in Game 1, all three pitchers would enter the biggest starts of their lives following a whopping nine days of rest.
• Simply put, the numbers aren't pretty when pitchers are given a break of at least nine days before a World Series start. Not one of the last 10 pitchers to make a Fall Classic start with nine-plus days of rest even completed the sixth inning. In the Wild Card era, pitchers starting on nine-plus days of rest in the World Series have gone a combined 14-23 with a 4.36 ERA.
• The last team to sweep the NLCS -- the 2007 Rockies -- was promptly swept by the Red Sox in the World Series. A handful of baseball people inevitably point to that series as proof that layoffs can be a hindrance. But the '07 Rockies really aren't such a good example here. Those Rockies were forced to sit for eight days -- the longest between-series layoff in baseball history. Since then, baseball has eliminated an off-day before the World Series and an off-day between Games 4 and 5 of the LCS.
• What about Game 1? That's when the layoff should really affect the colder team, right? Well, it's hard to say. Teams beginning the World Series following five-plus days of rest are a combined 7-8 in Game 1. There's not a whole lot of evidence that the long layoff leads to sloppy play, either. The Tigers committed three errors after their six-day break in 2006. But that appears to be more of the exception than the rule, as the other 14 teams combined for just eight errors in Game 1.
Here's a breakdown of all 15 teams with at least five days off before the World Series and how they fared:
1988 A's (5 days off): Lost to Dodgers, 4-1
1989 A's (5 days off): Defeated Giants, 4-0
1990 A's (5 days off): Lost to Reds, 4-0
1991 Twins (5 days off): Defeated Braves, 4-3
1995 Braves (6 days off): Defeated Indians, 4-2
1996 Yankees (6 days off): Defeated Braves, 4-2
2001 D-backs (5 days off): Defeated Yankees, 4-3
2002 Angels (5 days off): Defeated Giants, 4-3
2005 White Sox (5 days off): Defeated Astros, 4-0
2006 Tigers (6 days off): Lost to Cardinals, 4-1
2007 Rockies (8 days off): Lost to Red Sox, 4-0
2008 Phillies (6 days off): Beat Rays, 4-1
2009 Phillies (6 days off): Lost to Yankees, 4-2
2012 Tigers (5 days off): Lost to Giants, 4-0
2014 Royals (5 days off: Lost to Giants, 4-3