7/8-7/11 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

Sanchez and DePaula crack Baseball America's midseason top 50 prospects list
Cotillo: Cubs looking to move Dioner Navarro
Gordon, Yost, and Perez. (Jamie Squire/Getty)
Gordon, Yost, and Perez. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

The schedule could not be any more favorable leading up to the All-Star break. The ten-game homestand continues this week with four against the Royals, who are improved but continue to spin their wheels in the middle of the AL Central. The Yankees swept a three-game series in Kansas City back in May, as you surely remember.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Royals lost yesterday and lost two of three to the Athletics at home over the weekend. They’ve dropped ten of their last 17 games overall. At 41-44 with a +4 run differential, Kansas City is mediocrity defined in the middle of the division, not good enough to contend and not bad enough to sell.

Believe it or not, manager Ned Yost’s team has scored fewer runs (345) than the Yankees (348) this year. Of course, they’ve also played three fewer games, so don’t get too excited. Kansas City averages 3.92 runs per game with a team 88 wRC+, so they’re comfortably below average. They don’t have any position players on the DL but OF Alex Gordon (118 wRC+) is dealing with a substantial butt bruise (not joking) and might need a day or two to heal up.

Hosmer. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)
Hosmer. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

The top four … well, three of the top four spots of Yost’s regular lineup are really good. Gordon typically leads off and DH Billy Butler (111 wRC+) cleans up, and these days 1B Eric Hosmer (107 wRC+) bats third. He’s got a 156 wRC+ with eight homers over the last 30 days, so it looks like he’s starting to live up to all that promise. SS Alcides Escobar (63 wRC+) bats second and is Yost’s way of sabotaging things. C Salvador Perez (104 wRC+) and OF David Lough (100 wRC+) have had nice years. Lough essentially led to Jeff Francoeur being released.

3B Mike Moustakas (65 wRC+) has been awful, as has IF Chris Getz (49 wRC+). 2B Johnny Giavotella (41 wRC+ in limited time) was just called up and plays everyday. OF Lorenzo Cain (91 wRC+) and OF Jarrod Dyson (118 wRC+ in limited) work the revolving outfield door with Lough. IF Elliot Johnson (42 wRC+) kinda stinks, but otherwise the Royals have a solid bench with IF Miguel Tejada (94 wRC+) and backup C George Kottaras (121 wRC+ in limited time). Kansas City has hit the fewest homers (55) in the league by a lot — the Twins have hit the second fewest at 78 — and have compensated by stealing the fourth most bases in the game (66).

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie
The Royals have loaded up on former AL East pitchers over the last 12 months or so, and that crop of pitchers includes the 34-year-old Guthrie. He’s posted a 4.29 ERA (5.76 FIP) in 17 starts with very bad peripherals: 4.37 K/9 (11.3 K%), 3.28 BB/9 (8.5 BB%), 1.68 HR/9 (14.7% HR/FB), and 42.6% grounders. He was always a guy who outperformed his peripherals, but not to this extent. Guthrie still runs his four-seamer and sinker in the 92-94 mph range, and he backs them up mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and mid-70s curves. Despite that deep repertoire, lefties have tattooed him this year (.380 wOBA) and he’s got a huge platoon split (.309 wOBA vs. RHB). Although the Yankees saw Guthrie plenty during his time with the Orioles, they haven’t faced him since July 2011. Been a while.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jamie Shields
Shields, 31, is in the middle of yet another marvelous season (3.23 ERA and 3.55 FIP) but is somehow getting even less recognition after moving from Tampa to Kansas City. His strikeout (7.85 K/9 and 21.3 K%) and walk (2.57 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%) numbers are both pretty damn good and his worst rates in several years. The same goes for his ground ball rate (43.0%), though he is giving up fewer homers (0.88 HR/9 and 10.1% HR/FB) than he has in recent years. Shields remains a master at pitching backwards, especially with his world-class mid-80s changeup. His two- and four-seamer sit in the low-90s while his cutter is a touch below that in the upper-80s. An upper-70s curveball and an infrequently used upper-80s slider round out his repertoire. Shields held to the Yankees to three runs in eight innings earlier this year, and of course they saw him plenty during his time with the Rays.

Wednesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Wade Davis
Unsurprisingly, the 27-year-old Davis has reverted back to his 2009-2011 performance after spending 2012 in the bullpen. He was nasty last season, with a 2.43 ERA (2.78 FIP), but this year he’s sitting on a 5.42 ERA (4.20 FIP) with okay peripherals: 8.13 K/9 (19.6 K%), 3.81 BB/9 (9.2 BB%), 1.10 HR/9 (12.4% HR/FB), and 38.8% grounders. As a starter, Davis sits in the upper-80s/low-90s with his three fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) while using a low-80s slider as his primary offspeed pitch. A mid-80s changeup is his fifth offering. The Yankees pummeled Davis for seven runs in five innings back in May and saw him more than a few times during his years with Tampa.

Thursday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Ervin Santana
A year ago, the 30-year-old Santana was one of the very worst starters in baseball. This year, he has a 2.90 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 17 starts. His strikeout (7.17 K/9 and 20.0 K%), walk (1.83 BB/9 and 5.1 BB%), homer (1.22 HR/9 and 13.6% HR/FB), and ground ball rate (47.6%) have all improved, substantially in some cases. Santana is basically a two-pitch pitcher, sitting in the low-90s with his four-seam fastball and the low-to-mid-80s with his slider. He throws that slider almost 40% of the time. A mid-80s changeup is his rarely used third offering. The Yankees scored four runs off Santana in 6.1 innings earlier this season, and they have faced him plenty of times over the years, mostly hitting him very hard. No real surprises here.

(Joe Robbins/Getty)
Holland. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The bullpen is the strongest and deepest part of the Royals roster. Closer RHP Greg Holland (1.47 FIP) is the best reliever no one talks about, and these days he’s being setup by RHP Aaron Crow (3.69 FIP) and RHP Luke Hochevar (3.43 FIP). Hochevar seems to have found a niche in relief. LHP Tim Collins (3.80 FIP) is the matchup guy while LHP Bruce Chen (4.14 FIP) and LHP Will Smith (3.99 FIP in limited time) are multi-inning guys. RHP J.C. Gutierrez (3.66 FIP) rounds out the pen. Chen and Smith each had to throw 3+ innings and 50+ pitches yesterday because Luis Mendoza got clobbered, so their either going to make a roster move today or Yost will be short two arms for at least one day and probably more like two or three days.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have a pretty big bullpen mess on their hands. At least in the late innings. Both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have pitched in two straight and five of the last seven games, meaning both are likely to be unavailable tonight. I’m guessing Joe Girardi would love to get then both two days off if possible. The various middle relievers are in good shape and long man Adam Warren is probably nice and rusty after throwing a total of five pitches in the last 18 days. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for reliever usage and Royals Review for the latest on this week’s opponent.

Sanchez and DePaula crack Baseball America's midseason top 50 prospects list
Cotillo: Cubs looking to move Dioner Navarro
  • Robinson Tilapia

    CC’s nice and all, but I feel robbed of a BGDP versus BGJS matchup.

    Fuck the Royals. They’re like the Orioles without the crazy-ass-how-the-hell-did-you-get-good luck and without ocean access.

    • trr

      I’m angry over yesterday’s loss, not angry at Mo or the team (well, they could’ve scored more than one run!) just pissed because I was guilty of counting that as a win before we actually nailed it. Now I wanna takeit out on someone, who better than the chumps from KC. I want to see a 4 game sweep!

  • mitch

    Only a small sample as a backup catcher but Kottaras has either walked, struck out or homered in 66% of his PAs. You don’t even need to play the field when he’s up.

  • pat

    I was not aware that Miguel Tejada was still in the league.

  • DERP

    I wonder if Guthrie will plunk a few Yankees for old times sake.

  • Frank

    The Royals recent record being what it is, I suspect these 4 games won’t be a walk in the park.

  • Kramerica Industries

    Quarter Pounders.



    All this bitching about “the People want Puig” that the MSM seems to continually bring up, isn’t it interesting that he isn’t winning the fan vote for the Write-In player?

    The media (ESPN in particular) are making a federal case that Puig not being in the All-Star game is a travesty, based on Papelbon’s reasonable (if not particularly correct) point of view. But “the people” aren’t picking him, so is baseball really wrong for him not being there?

    • vicki

      bj’s and braves are in cahoots. i know why papelbon is so sour about an exciting young player; what’s your deal?

    • Jim Is Bored

      It’s not an apples to apples comparison though. It’s distinctly possible that more people wanted to see Puig than any number of the starters or reserves. He wasn’t on the ballot, and he did have a record number of write in votes.

      Personally I’d much rather watch Puig hit than Hunter Pence.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Plus, who gives a rats ass about Steve Delabar? He’s winning the AL vote right now. It’s not even a popularity contest anymore, it’s all politics.

      • FEED.ME.MORE!

        I would rather watch Puig too. But the fans aren’t voting for him, the “people” who can’t live without Puig aren’t voting for him. They are voting for Freddie Freeman.

        Puig was not going to get the player/manager vote, because he hasn’t played enough. He wasn’t on the starter ballot because he just came to the MLB. So his only way to get in was the final ballot or Bud putting him in.

        My only point is, if the people aren’t voting for him, are “the people” really dying to watch Puig?

        Now, if we wanna change the system, I’m all for it.

        • vicki

          “The Blue Jays and Braves have teamed up to implore their fans to vote for their guys. Both of them. That has likely helped the cause of Toronto reliever Steve Delabar, who’s leading the American League in 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote balloting… and Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, who’s leading the National League.”


          this indicates organization of several, not preference of most.

          • FEED.ME.MORE!

            Interesting read.

            It seems like all these Fan Vote/Ballot Stuffing shenanigans that teams and apparently the league perpetrate are in bounds.

            The very idea that you can vote so many times cheapens the deal to me.


    Looking for 3 out of 4 in this series.

  • Hassey

    Bronx heat wave + Hughes/CC = Butler two HRs to RF

    • vicki

      two homeruns is 33% of billy’s total over 85 games.

  • Roy in Omaha

    James (not Jamie, as above) Shields home run rate is down because he is now pitching in an airport in Kansas City, as opposed to the Trop in St. Petersburg.

    Nobody named J. C. Ramirez has ever, or, now, plays for the Royals. You mean J.C. Gutierrez?

    Pretty glaring omission from this scouting report, too, that the Royals have been at or near the top of the AL in team ERA for the entire season. More “at” than “near”.

    • Jim Is Bored

      So team ERA is more important than the individuals’ era? I mean good lord, he went in depth about every starter we’ll be facing and their good relievers.

      But you’d have been happy with just a “Hey guys, they have a good team ERA!”

    • Kramerica Industries

      I dunno if your a Royals fan, but back when the Rays were a pretty sucky franchise, James Shields was definitely referred to more as “Jamie” than “James”. The Jamie thing stopped when the 2008 playoffs rolled around and suddenly he was “Big Game James”. I live in the TB area, so you’ll have to trust me on this.

      I get the feeling Mike still calls him Jamie partially because it’s how he’s always known him and he’s too lazy to change, and partially to be a dick. Kinda like how the Angels have been “LA” for almost a decade now, but I still invariably call them “Anaheim”.

    • OhioYanks

      I don’t know about HR rates or dimensions for each stadium, but the Trop is not exactly a hitters’ park. It’s one of the more pitcher friendly parks in baseball. Kauffman grades out as neutral on baseball-reference.

      • I’m One

        Funny the perceptions we get when we only see these places on TV. To me, The Trop seems like any fly ball could leave the park and Kaufman seems huge. Again, that’s simply my perception from seeing these stadiums on TV. I’ve never been to either, so I don’t doubt you’re correct.

        • CS Yankee

          I’ve been to both the crash spaceship at the Trop and the Crown scoreboard of MLB at the K, FWIW;

          Trop is a reversed sloped (roof narrows in the OF compared to HP) carpet bagging controled environment that is likely the worse place to play for a player. The carpet helps fielding and the AC helps depress the big-flys….whereas, at Kaufman, the heat and wind aids the long-ball.

          I would rate the stadiums as a solid A for KC, and a D- for TB.

    • CS Yankee

      Being that you live in the KC AAA farm city, how does most feel about the Myers/Shields trade, was it that bad of a trade?

      Also, why did the keep him down with Frenchy playing so bad last year, they rushed Moose-tacos but kept Myers down for trade value, maybe?

    • vicki

      lol @ unexamined stats. your team era is hugely bolstered by your bullpen era. but then you look at 36% inherited runners and twelve blown saves and you think, meh.


    The Royals should be a cautionary tale to the “BUT TEH REBUILDING SHOULD BE EEEEEZZZZZZZ!!!!!” contingent who wants a wild card team that’s 4 games back in the loss column to shut it down and start over.

    • CS Yankee

      I don’t want the rebuild, however those people would point to the quick redo of Boston.

      KC, Pittsburgh, etc have nothing to do with real teams with real financial mite. They are the wait to “the next generation” versus the “wait to next year” crowd.

      • FEED.ME.MORE

        The Sox didn’t rebuild, they basically got a Get Out of Jail Free Card from the Dodgers.

        Who else takes $200 million of payroll, and gives no top prospects?

        • vicki

          people who suddenly have $200 million and don’t see any free agents to spend it on.

  • dkidd

    how does ned yost have a job?