November 2, 2015
“The Mets are still starting Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy up the middle, which is not a double play combo that will be immortalized in poem like “Tinkers to Evers to Chance” (unless you consider angry invective scrawled on Port Authority bathroom stalls poetry). Cespedes has been fine in center field for the most part, but he will shift over for Juan Lagares in late innings. Conforto and Granderson are both above average in the corners. The hidden defensive issue might be how the Mets control the running game. The 2015 Royals are not quite as aggressive on the bases as the 2014 edition, but Travis d'Arnaud is only average at best throwing out runners, and both Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have had issues holding runners on.” Baseball Prospectus World Series Preview, 10/27/15
One assumes that at this point you don't need much convincing that the Mets infield defense was a liability in the World Series. If you called upon Mets fans to draw up a Series loss with as many “I told you so” moments as possible, ones that confirmed every neurotic fan's worst nightmare for how the World Series might go, it would look a lot like the last week of baseball games. Starters left in too long, feeble at-bats against merely 'good' starting pitching, and a series of defensive miscues each more inexplicable and calamitous than the last.
And then there was the 5-3-2.
You will be seeing this highlight for years. It will make Not Top 10s, baseball blunders shows, and the final reel of Mets fans' nightmares, right before they wake up in a cold sweat after falling down a set of stairs or something. It starts out fine. The infield is in with one out and the tying run at third. Familia gets a weak groundball, something he did for most of the series outside of one ill-conceived quick pitch to Alex Gordon. Wright moves to cut it off. This is probably not necessary with the infield in, but third baseman are always taught to get any ball in front of the shortstop that they can. If Wright hangs back does Hosmer stay a little closer to the bag? Maybe, but Wright makes the play by the book, stares down Hosmer, and throws to first. Hosmer breaks, everyone points toward home.
Advanced scouts saw that Duda throws sidearm and high (which is what you do to throw around a runner to start a 3-6-3 double play), and outcome-based analysis has already told you that this was a good decision by Hosmer. Fighting that reasoning will be an uphill battle, so I don't intend to try. I will say that this is an easier throw for a right-handed first baseman to make (as Mets fans no doubt heard Keith Hernandez's voice echoing through their brains after the fourth successive replay angle), and if Duda's throwing was expected to be an issue for the stated scouting reasons, you would have expected the ball to tail up and in toward the runner. It was just a bad throw. Of all the bad Mets defensive plays in the series, it was genuinely shocking.
Less shocking was how the Royals manufactured their go-ahead run.
The Mets pitchers have had issues holding runners on all series. Dyson gets a huge jump off Addison Reed here, just as Cain got a huge jump off Harvey in the ninth. Travis d'Arnaud has looked gassed behind the plate for much of the series, and although the arm strength is still there (most of his throws have been around 1.9), he hasn't been able to explode out of his crouch to get his timing right. He ends up trying to make it all up with his arm, and the throw tails high and toward the runner. Other times he buries it gloveside. When the Royals needed an extra base in the series, they got it.
Dyson would score a couple batters later, and the game was functionally over with Wade Davis looming, but there was time for one more defensive miscue that would open the floodgates.
The Mets under Sandy Alderson have long viewed second base as an offense-first position; before Murphy they tried to fit both Justin Turner and Brad Emaus' bat there, but Murph hit enough to stick and worked hard enough to be a well-below-average second baseman. He started a 4-6-3 double play on a similar ball that was a bit harder hit earlier in the game, but here he gets everything wrong. The book on Murphy has long been that he is capable of making outstanding, instinctual plays in the field, but that he lacks range to either side, and can cramp up if given too much time to think on a play. He's shown both the outstanding and the aggravating in the playoffs, but unfortunately the lingering memories of him will be the latter.
Baseball is just sequencing after all.