Yoenis Cespedes is in the World Series, and that is fantastic news for baseball. Oakland A's fans have known for years that, regardless of what his numbers look like in any given year, Cespedes is one of the most exciting players in the game. He is capable of physical feats that make your jaw drop, on both sides of the ball, and every time he enters the frame, whether holding a bat or a glove, it is must-watch TV. Furthermore, he has long been considered a player who rises to the occasion in the biggest moments under the brightest lights.
Well, we're now looking at Cespedes' best-case scenario. He finally turned his raw talents into legitimately great production, no matter what kind of stats you prefer: in traditional terms, he surpassed the classic 30/100/100 line (HR/RBI/R), and using the newer metrics he ranked 7th in fWAR and 11th in bWAR among all MLB position players. Furthermore, the moment doesn't get more glamorous than representing a New York club in the World Series. This is peak Cespedes on the biggest possible stage.
Of course, it's important to remember that he's still just one player. He had two chances to help the A's beat Detroit in October, and both times he was merely good, not great, with one home run in 10 total ALDS games (43 plate appearances). He didn't magically transform a tanking Red Sox team with his presence last summer, and there is nothing you can say to convince me that he would have made a difference in that 2014 Wild Card Game -- the A's could have scored 20 runs and I know that the Royals would have found a way to scratch across their 21st against Oakland's porous bullpen and defense. Cespedes, even at his best, couldn't save the 2015 Tigers, who struggled with health and consistency just like the A's have since August of '14. Heck, even in the crucial win-or-go-home NLDS Game 5 against the Dodgers, he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts while Daniel Murphy stepped up to carry the team to the next round.
I'd love to say that New York is here because they acquired La Potencia, but that wouldn't be fair to the rest of the team. He is obviously a large piece of the puzzle, but it's not like the rest of the lineup is chopped liver. Here are the OPS+ marks of tonight's starters:
1. Granderson (129)
2. Wright (128)
3. Murphy (113)
4. Cespedes (157 NL, 137 overall)
5. Duda (132)
6. d'Arnaud (128)
7. Conforto (132)
8. Flores (95)
9. Johnson (99 Mets, 108 overall)
Cespedes is the star of that group, but only barely. This is not a stars-and-scrubs lineup; it is stacked, with the "weakness" being a pair of middle infielders who combined to hit 30 homers this year. The next-worst batter after those two is Murphy, who happens to be the single hottest hitter in these playoffs (7 HR in nine games, 1.462 OPS). And this is a team whose real strength is its rotation, four-deep with young budding aces.
Furthermore, Yo's 17 home runs in 57 NL games seem legendary, but remember that over half of them came just against the embarrassing pitching staffs of the Rockies and Phillies, with most of those coming in the extreme bandboxes of Coors Field and Citizens Bank Park. (Again, I cannot stress how second-rate the NL was this year, especially in the final months when half of the league had completely given up. The AL-worst A's are picking 6th in the next draft.)
My point of this is not to rip on Cespedes, but rather to put him in the proper perspective. I've had to listen for the last year all about how the A's lost because Cespedes was gone, so I periodically get my turn to fire back. He was a good player and now he's a great one, but he didn't carry the Mets to the playoffs on his own and he sure as hell hasn't carried them to the World Series. Heck, when they needed him in NLDS Game 5, he disappeared just like stars always do in Oakland, and the team only succeeded in spite of him that day.
In New York he has simply been what he was in Oakland, one excellent player on a larger team, doing everything he can but relying on the other eight hitters and the starters and the relievers to do their parts as well. That's how baseball works, and it's different than basketball (or, to a lesser extent, football), where one player can truly take over the game by having a hand in virtually every play. His Mets teammates came through in ways his A's teammates never did, and that's the main difference.
But holy crap, I hope he wins this one, and I'll be cheering for him the whole way. He wasn't enough for Oakland in '12 or '13, and he wouldn't have been enough to save us in '14 or '15, but he has a chance to come through this week by taking the crown before the obnoxious Royals can claim it, no matter how much the team in Kansas City probably deserves to win.
Let's go Yo!
(Also, congrats to 42-year-old Bartolo Colon on making it to his first World Series!!)
|NEW YORK METS||KANSAS CITY ROYALS|
|Curtis Granderson - RF||Alcides Escobar - SS|
|David Wright - 3B||Ben Zobrist - 2B|
|Daniel Murphy - 2B||Lorenzo Cain - CF|
|Yoenis Cespedes - CF||Eric Hosmer - 1B|
|Lucas Duda - 1B||Kendrys Morales - DH|
|Travis d'Arnaud - C||Mike Moustakas - 3B|
|Michael Conforto - LF||Salvador Perez - C|
|Wilmer Flores - SS||Alex Gordon - LF|
|Kelly Johnson - DH||Alex Rios - RF|
|Matt Harvey - RHP||Edinson Volquez - RHP|