5/3-5/6 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

Yankees to recall Jayson Nix
Robinson Cano's ground ball problem
(Tim Umphrey/Getty Images)

Man, talk about a trap series. The Royals remain winless at home this season, sporting an unsightly 0-10 record at Kauffman Stadium on May 3rd. It seems inevitable that they’ll win their first home game at some point during this four-game weekend set with the Yankees.

What Have They Done Lately?

As expected, the Royals are pretty bad. They wrapped up a 12-game losing streak about ten days ago and have won four of six games since. At 7-16 with a -24 run differential, Kansas City has the second worst record and run differential in the American League.

Offense

Ummm, Eric? (REUTERS/Dave Kaup)

One year after finishing in the top ten in runs scored and runs per game, the Royals are bottom five in the league in runs (89) and runs per game (3.87) this season. Their team 103 wRC+ is tenth in baseball though, and I would put more stock in that than simple runs scored. The Royals are middle of the pack in both team homers (20) and steals (16).

Mike Moustakas (146 wRC+) and the underrated Billy Butler (140 wRC+) have been the club’s two most productive hitters while Eric Hosmer (74 wRC+) and Jeff Francoeur (57 wRC+) haven’t provided much support. Alex Gordon’s follow-up to his breakout season has not gotten off to the start he would’ve liked (112 wRC+). Most of the players who are hitting — Alcides Escobar (111 wRC+), Mitch Maier (112 wRC+), Yuniesky Betancourt (109 wRC+), and Chris Getz (139 wRC+) — are not guys you’d expect to maintain that level of performance over a full season.

Center fielder Lorenzo Cain (-20 wRC+) is currently on the DL with a hip strain and catcher Salvador Perez has not played at all this season due to a knee injury. Jarrod Dyson (102 wRC+) has helped the depleted outfield while Brayan Pena (80 wRC+) and Humberto Quintero (103 wRC+) handle catching duties in Perez’s stead.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: RHP David Phelps vs. LHP Danny Duffy
Duffy is coming off a ten-day layoff after having his last start skipped due to some elbow tightness. He threw 113 pitches in just 4.2 IP in his previous start, so I guess give the Royals credit for being smart enough to give him the extra rest. The 23-year-old southpaw has struck out 20 batters in 17.1 IP but has also walked ten, getting a ground ball just 34.1% of the time. Duffy throws very hard, legitimately sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball. An upper-70s curveball is his primary secondary pitch and a mid-80s changeup is a third show-me offering more than anything. The Yankees crushed him the only time they saw him last year — eight runs in three innings — though that doesn’t mean much as far as I’m concerned. It’ll be interesting to see if the elbow gives him any trouble, specifically with his control.

Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Bruce Chen
Kansas City’s version of Freddy Garcia (the 2011 version, not 2012), Chen has revived his career as a low-strikeout (5.86 K/9 and 16.1 K%), low-walk (1.95 BB/9 and 5.4 BB%), low-ground ball (35.6%) finesse lefty. He’s a true five-pitch guy, sitting in the upper-80s with his four-seamer, the mid-80s with his sinker, the low-80s with his slider, the upper-70s with his changeup, and the low-70s with his curveball. It’s a much different look than the guy the Yankees will be running out there. Chen is going to force hitters to put the ball in play, so the Yankees have to punish his mistakes and avoid chasing his junk off the plate.

(Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Felipe Paulino
Paulino will be making his season debut after starting the year on the DL with a forearm strain. He was arguably the team’s most effective starter last season after being claimed off waivers from the Rockies, posting strong strikeout (8.59 K/9 and 22.4 K%) and ground ball (45.1%) numbers in addition to a mediocre walk rate (3.47 BB/9 and 9.0 BB%). Paulino throws pretty hard, sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball and backing it up with an upper-80s slider. His mid-80s changeup is a usable third pitch more than a true weapon. Paulino is the kind of guy the Yankees can make work hard and throw a lot of pitches, but a mid-90s fastball is a pretty good way to escape any potential jams.

Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Luke Hochevar
The former number one overall pick, Hochevar has developed into a sturdy mid-rotation type. That has value but isn’t the kind of return you’re expecting from the top pick in the country. His 7.36 ERA is the result of two four-inning disasters (seven runs against the Indians and nine runs against the Tigers) and three otherwise strong starts. He doesn’t miss bats (6.31 K/9 and 15.7 K%) and his walk rate is high (3.86 BB/9 and 9.6 BB%) compared to his career numbers (3.05 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%), but his shiny 2.94 FIP is buoyed by the zero homers he’s allowed. Anyway, Hochevar throws three different fastballs — low-90s four-seamer and sinker, upper-80s cutter — and three different offspeed pitches — mid-80s slider, upper-70s curveball, mid-80s changeup. The changeup and curveball are seldom-used, but they’re there if needed.

(Harry How/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
The Royals had a strong bullpen last season (3.75 ERA and 4.07 FIP) and reason to be optimistic for 2012, but their relief corps has suffered two massive injuries in the early going. Closer Joakim Soria went down with his second Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, then setup man extraordinaire Greg Holland (2.21 FIP in 2011) hit the DL with a rib cage problem after seven ineffective appearances (eight runs in 6.1 IP). The solid but unspectacular Blake Wood (3.69 FIP in 2011) hasn’t thrown a pitch this season due to an elbow problem.

As a result of all the injuries, former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton (3.06 FIP) now handles ninth inning duties for KC. He was one of the two or three best relievers in baseball from 2006 through the middle of 2010, when the Yankees broke him with a four-run, 48-pitch outing that June. Broxton hasn’t been the same since, and although his 2012 performance is encouraging, he’s no longer the dominant late-inning force he once was. He threw eleven pitches yesterday after not pitching since last Friday.

Anyway, two rain outs in the last five days has the Royals’ bullpen is relatively good shape. Setup man Aaron Crow (3.44 FIP) threw a dozen pitches yesterday afternoon, his first appearance since last Thursday. Right-hander Kelvin Herrera (5.94 FIP) and left-hander Tim Collins (2.73 FIP) have each appeared in the last two games and are probably the only question marks for tonight. Lefty Jose Mijares 2.67 FIP) threw nine pitches yesterday after a long layoff. Long men Nathan Adcock (3.50 FIP) and Luis Mendoza (5.55 FIP), side-arming righty Louis Coleman (7.23 FIP), and lefty specialist Tommy Hottovy (2.94 FIP) are all fresh. Someone from this group will get send down for Paulino at some point before Saturday’s game.

There are a number of great Royals’ blogs out there, including Royals Review and Royals Authority. As for the Yankees, check out our Bullpen Workload page to see who may or may not be available tonight.

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Yankees to recall Jayson Nix
Robinson Cano's ground ball problem
  • Clyde Barrow

    So we’ll do nothing vs the two lefties. In what should be a series that we take 3/4 will probably end up in a split because this offense looks old, it looks slow, and it looks like it’s just going through the motions. We might be able to win 2-1 or 3-2 ballgames in the games Kuroda and CC start but I don’t give us much hope of winning the series.

    • jjyank

      You are just a real Negative Nancy, aren’t you?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        and a Negative Bonnie….and a Negative Hester….and too many other screen names to even remember.

        • Jesse

          Don’t forget about Debbie Downer.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Probably not literary enough a screen name for this assclown.

            • jjyank

              Flippin’ Flapjack?

              • jjyank

                *attempts to resist urges to change his fantasy team’s name to the Flippin’ Flapjacks*

    • Betty Lizard

      Flapjack.
      Period.

      • jjyank

        Oh man I hope the “period” thing catches on.

    • sangreal

      Yeah, they look pretty bad right now but fortunately every team goes through similar stretches. Certainly the Yankees have a few every season. In 2009 the Yankees were a .500 team before they (barely) turned the season around against the Twins in the middle of May and won the World Series. In that Season the Yankees went 0-5 from May 2-7 sparking similar doom and gloom.

    • pat

      2012 MLB average vs LHP .246/.312/.385/.697
      2012 Yankees average vs LHP .273/.341/.405/.746.
      8th best in MLB

    • Ted Nelson

      How many offenses look good when they score 3 Rs in 3 Gs? The 3 games before that they scored 18 Rs, 3 before that it was 10, 3 before that it was 28. The last 3 Gs tell you very little about the next 3 in most cases.

  • Billion$Bullpen

    These are the easy ones we have to win. Dropping 2 out of 3 to the O’s, having all of these injury issues compounded by the horrible use of the roster and the fact that quite a few guys are just sucking right now makes this series a potential disaster.

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling. I hope we turn this around starting today.

    • OldYanksFan

      JUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • jsbrendog

        +1 just do it already. we’re all tired of hearingyou say youre gonna kill yourself!!! either jump or come down!!!

  • vinny-b

    my favorite stadium. Next to Wrigley Field

    _

  • chmch

    Bill James put these guys at the top of his Team Most Likely To Surprise list. Not winning a single game at home is certainly a surprise.

    • Ted Nelson

      I was really surprised with all the pre-season love the Royals got. I saw them picked behind the Tigers in the Central an awful lot.

      • jsbrendog

        with how awful cle and min are i still seethem ending there barring catastrophe/

      • Robinson Tilapia

        They always have shiny prospects you fall in love with, and then those prospects don’t become the nucleus of anything. No wonder I confused them with the Orioles when I said “sweep.”

  • jjyank

    Ned Yost: Alright boys, the Yanks are coming to town!

    Jonathan Broxton: Hey, uh, skip? I think I’m gonna be sick for the next four days.

    • jsbrendog

      he still has nightmares about joe torre signaling to the pen in LA. he goes to support groups with proctor, sturtz and quantrill but they just won’t stop. and the green tea MY GOD THE GREEN TEA!!

      • JoeyA

        Tanyon Sturtze!!!

        A name i thought I’d never hear again. I wonder if anyone has a Tanyon Sturtze jersey.

        • Owen Two

          His game-used pants are available on eBay.

          And people are bidding on them.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I wonder if anyone has a program from the year he was the Rays Opening Day starter.

    • BillR

      http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com.....8;c_id=nyy

      I was at this game, AMAZING!

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Did I say “sweep Baltimore?” I had my map upside-down. I meant we’re going to SWEEP KC. Gimme a hell yeah!

    • jjyank

      HELL YEAH! Period.

      • jsbrendog

        oh hell yeah. ::cracks 2 beers, cheers them together, and pours them both into his mouth simultaneously while wagging head back and forth::

  • Brian S.

    So I’m guessing both Gardner and Swisher will not be playing this series?

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    as long as bryan bullington isn’t pitching, i think we have a shot

    • Jesse

      That game still pisses me off to this day.

  • JoeyA

    0-10 @ home for KCR almost guarantees them taking 3/4 from Yankees. Yankees have a tendency to let sleeping teams wake up against them.

  • Alkaline

    I am really looking forward to Phelp’s SP debut. I know he doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but I’ve always liked what I’ve seen outta him for the most part. My guess: 6 innings, 2 runs.

  • DM

    Chavez to the DL — spent the night in the hospital — whiplash and concussion confirmed.

    • jsbrendog

      at least he isnt crippled. but honestly, he has to retire atthis point….

      • DM

        Cashman was on the radio.

        No rushing Pettitte.
        Raving about Stewart.
        Joba is a superhuman in the recovery dept — ahead of schedule
        Defending the Yankees development pitchers — patience with Hughes
        Swisher seems fine — but they’re spooked by what happened in ST
        Gardner still a ways off.
        Betances and Banuelos in AAA all year.
        Phelps has legit chance to keep starting if he pitches well.

        • jsbrendog

          good
          meh regression to career norms eventually
          ehhhh, fatty trampolines
          sigh
          fair enough
          crap
          sounds reasonable
          good.

          • DM

            He was just raving about Stewart’s defensive prowess, work ethic, character and how the pitchers love him already.

          • Betty Lizard

            Fatty Trampolines is another tempting screen name.

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    Chris Stewart is the most exciting thing right now for the 2012 Yankees.

    Awesome.