Archive for Kansas City Royals
Via Buster Olney: The Royals and Omar Infante have agreed to a four-year contract worth $30M. The Yankees were after the free agent infielder pretty much all winter in case Robinson Cano signed elsewhere, which he obviously has done. Their offer to Infante topped out at three years and $24M, reportedly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kauffman Stadium hasn’t been very kind to the Yankees over the last 12 months or so. Mariano Rivera suffered his season-ending knee injury in Kansas City last May, then Robinson Cano was booed basically off the field during the Homerun Derby in July. New York is 6-5 at Kauffman Stadium over the last three years.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Royals made some significant moves this past winter, and so far they are paying some very real dividends. Kansas City is 18-13 with a +18 run differential, landing them right behind the Tigers in the AL Central standings. They won last night to halt a three-game losing streak, and they’re just 5-5 in their last ten games.
At 4.3 runs per game with a team 93 wRC+, the Royals are above-average in terms of runs per game but below average in terms of results at the plate. That means they’ve either been good or lucky (or both) with their timing and sequencing. Manager Ned Yost’s team is perfectly healthy, at least on the position player side.
LF Alex Gordon (134 wRC+) has batted leadoff every game this year except for one, yesterday’s win over the Orioles. He batted third in that game, and I don’t know if that will be a regular thing going forward. Either way, he is their best hitter and all-around player. DH Billy Butler (109 wRC+) provides plenty of support, as has the surprisingly productive CF Lorenzo Cain (125 wRC+). 1B Eric Hosmer (95 wRC+) and 3B Mike Moustakas (81 wRC+) continue to be various levels of disappointing.
C Salvador Perez (81 wRC+) is off to a slow start, ditto SS Alcides Escobar (80 wRC+) and RF Jeff Francoeur (61 wRC+). 2B Chris Getz (42 wRC+) gets most of the playing time at second, though IF Miguel Tejada (128 wRC+ in limited time) and IF Elliott Johnson (91 wRC+) will see time at the position as well. The backup catcher is C George Kottaras (153 wRC+ in limited time), the backup outfielder OF Jarrod Dyson (84 wRC+). The Royals have hit the second fewest homers (22) but stolen the sixth most bases (24) in baseball this year, so they’re a speed team.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Wade Davis
The Yankees are going to face three pitchers they are pretty familiar with this series. Davis, 27, spent the last four years with the division rival Rays, but he was sent to Kansas City in this winter’s blockbuster trade. They moved him back to the rotation, and he’s pitching almost exactly like he did as a starter from 2010-2011 (4.75 ERA and 4.43 FIP) rather than as a reliever last year. The peripheral stats — 7.42 K/9 (17.9 K%), 3.86 BB/9 (9.3 BB%), and 39.8% grounders — are solid but not spectacular. Davis is a different animal as a starter, sitting in the upper-80s/low-90s with his three fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter) rather than the mid-90s he averaged out of the bullpen. A mid-80s changeup and low-80s curveballs are his top offspeed offerings. The Yankees have seen Davis a few times over the years, and for the most part they’ve handled him well when he’s been in the rotation.
Saturday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Jamie Shields
After spending parts of seven years in Tampa Bay, the 31-year-old Shields took his workhorse act to the Royals in an offseason trade. He’s pitched very well so far (2.52 ERA and 2.62 FIP), with excellent strikeout (8.64 K/9 and 24.9 K%), walk (2.16 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%), and ground ball (47.3%) numbers. Shields remains a master at pitching backwards, using a low-80s curveball and upper-70s slider to set up three upper-80s/low-90s fastballs: two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter. His put away pitch is that all-world changeup, which sits in the mid-80s and both drops off the table and fades away from lefties. The Yankees and Shields have plenty of history, so there are no surprises here. It’ll be just like old times.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Ervin Santana
Santana, 30, went from leading the league in homers in 2012 to pitching like an ace in 2013. He owns a 2.36 ERA (3.06 FIP) with career-best walk (1.29 BB/9 and 3.6 BB%) and ground ball (44.8%) rates. His strikeout (7.50 K/9 and 20.8 K%) rate is his best in about five years as well. Santana hasn’t changed his pitch selection or added velocity, so he still sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer while relying on a low-80s slider much more than a mid-80s changeup. He has made some minor adjustments to his delivery though, which has supposedly boosted his command. We’ll get a look at it this weekend. Santana and the Yankees certainly know each other from those Yankees-Angels battles, so again, no surprise here.
The bullpen was expected to be the strength of Yost’s club, and sure enough they rank fifth in the game with a 3.33 reliever ERA (3.68 FIP). Closer RHP Greg Holland (1.57 FIP) has been awesome despite one or two rather spectacular meltdowns. Setup man RHP Kelvin Herrera (6.31 FIP) is killing my fantasy team by giving up homers left and right, so RHP Luke Hochevar (2.66 FIP) has been seeing some eight inning time.
Kansas City has two southpaws in specialist LHP Tim Collins (2.08 FIP) and multi-inning guy LHP Bruce Chen (1.61 FIP). Given how much the Yankees struggle against southpaws, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chen comes in and dominates for three or four innings at some point this series. RHP Aaron Crow (3.84 FIP) and RHP J.C. Gutierrez (4.48 FIP) fill the final two bullpen spots. The common theme here is power — outside of Chen, all of these guys live in the mid-to-high-90s with their fastballs. They all should be fresh for today, they haven’t work much recently.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are in a bit of a bullpen bind. Joe Girardi acknowledged yesterday that Mariano Rivera and David Robertson and both unlikely to be available today after throwing back-to-back days, and I assume the same is true for Preston Claiborne. That leaves Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan for the late innings tonight. Yikes. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage details. As for a Royals blog worth your time, check out Royals Review.
11:30pm: It’s Shields, Davis, and either a player to be named later or cash for Myers, right-hander Jake Odorizzi, left-hander Mike Montgomery, and infielder Pat Leonard. That one has “Royals GM Dayton Moore is trying to save his job” written all over it.
11:09pm: The exact details are still trickling in, but the Rays and Royals have agreed to a trade that will send both James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City for top prospects Wil Myers and others. Shields will be next to impossible to replace as a proven above-average AL East workhorse, but if anyone can do it, it’s Tampa Bay. Myers is one of the five best prospects in baseball and gives them a big bat to pair with Evan Longoria for the next six years. The 2013 Rays likely got worse, but the 2014+ versions got a lot better.
Expectations were high for the Royals coming into the season, or at least higher than they had been in the past. Instead, injuries and ineffectiveness have them anchored to the bottom of the AL yet again.
What Have They Done Lately?
Since these two teams met in Kansas City two weeks ago, the Royals have won seven of 12 games. They just lost two of three to the Diamondbacks and four of five overall, however. KC is 16-24 overall with a -22 run differential, both representing the second worst marks in the AL. They should send the Twins a gift basket.
Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas (138 wRC+ for both) have been carrying a lineup with a number of under-performers. Eric Hosmer (48 wRC+) was benched late last week in an effort to clear his head, but he’ll be back tonight (he played yesterday). Both Alex Gordon (87 wRC+) and Jeff Francoeur (74 wRC+) are playing like past versions of themselves, not the guys they were last season. That’s three players who were supposed to be key pieces of the offense who haven’t done much so far. Sound familiar?
Chris Getz (99 wRC+) and Jarrod Dyson (81 wRC+) haven’t been great but Alcides Escobar (113 wRC+) has, and all three are doing more than expected. The catcher platoon of Brayan Pena (70 wRC+) and Humberto Quintero (82 wRC+) has been unproductive, though Quintero’s always been a defense-first guy. Role players like Johnny Giavotella (44 wRC+), Mitch Maier (75 wRC+), and Irving Falu (177 wRC+) have been hit or miss in limited playing time. Overall, the Royals average 4.0 runs per game with a 93 wRC+, both middle of the pack.
Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Felipe Paulino
Paulino came off the DL to throw six shutout innings against the Yankees a few weeks ago and he’s since gone on to have an okay start against the White Sox (four runs in 5.2 IP) and a great one against the Orioles (seven scoreless). The 28-year-old right-hander has a 1.93 ERA (2.22 FIP) with great peripherals: 10.13 K/9 (28.0 K%), 2.41 BB/9 (6.7 BB%), and 43.8% grounders. Paulino uses both a four-seamer and two-seamer in the mid-90s with a mid-80s slider and a high-80s changeup. The slider is his top secondary offering in both effectiveness and usage.
Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Luke Hochevar
The Yankees pounded Hochevar two weeks ago — seven runs in 2.1 IP — and are part of the reason why he owns a 7.02 ERA despite a 3.68 FIP. His strikeout (6.37 K/9 and 16.3 K%), walk (3.07 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%), and ground ball (42.7%) rates are generally underwhelming. The 28-year-old legitimately throws six pitches: low-90s four-seamer, low-90s sinker, high-80s cutter, mid-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, and upper-70s curveball. That’s too many pitches and Hochevar often gets beat on his fourth, fifth, and sixth best offering.
Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Luis Mendoza
Mendoza came out of the bullpen two weeks ago to hold the Yankees to two runs in 4.2 IP following Hochevar’s disaster. The 28-year-old swingman is back in the rotation after a stint in relief because Danny Duffy will miss the season due to Tommy John surgery. His 5.03 ERA and 4.59 FIP probably undersell how ineffective he’s been, specifically posting more walks (21) than strikeouts (17) in 34 IP. Mendoza relies heavily on a low-90s two-seamer, mixing in the occasional low-90s slider and changeup. The right-hander is a classic Quad-A pitcher, has been his entire career.
Technically, this spot is actually listed as TBA by Kansas City, but all signs point to Mendoza getting the ball. A minor league call-up is always possible, however.
Injuries have done a number on the Royals’ pitching staff this year. Duffy and Joakim Soria are both out with elbow surgery, Jonathan Sanchez is on the DL with a biceps problem, and Everett Teaford is out with an abdominal injury. Long reliever Nathan Adcock (4.85 FIP) has taken Sanchez’s spot in the rotation, though taking his bullpen spot is uber-setup man Greg Holland (1.81 FIP). He was on the DL with a ribcage issue the last time these two clubs met.
Closer Jonathan Broxton (3.86 FIP) did not pitch yesterday but Holland has appeared in two straight. Aaron Crow (3.33 FIP) is more than qualified for eighth inning work in Holland’s stead and like Broxton, he did not pitch on Sunday. Hard-throwing right-hander Kelvin Herrera (4.32 FIP) threw two innings and 28 pitches yesterday, so we might not see him tonight. Lefties Jose Mijares (3.78 FIP) and Tim Collins (2.82 FIP) both had yesterday off and are good to go today. Right-hander Louis Coleman (4.73 FIP) pitched yesterday and in three of the last four games. Overall, the Royals’ bullpen owns a 3.90 FIP, which is actually a bottom ten mark in baseball. They’re better than that, or at least they have the potential to be.
Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is fresh, with no one who’s appeared in two straight games or threw more than 18 pitches on Sunday. David Phelps did throw 40 pitches on Saturday, so he might be off limits tonight. Otherwise, check out our Bullpen Workload page for an update on everyone’s workload. For the latest and great on the Royals, we recommend Royals Review and Royals Authority.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last week we took a nice long look at the teams who figure to be the Yankees’ primary competition this season, meaning the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels, and Rangers. There are eight other clubs in the American League though, and the Yankees are going to play those eight teams quite a bit more than the five other contenders. Most of those eight teams aren’t very good, but every game counts the same.
Rather than doing a boring old offense/defense/pitching preview for each of those eight non-contenders, I decided to have a little fun with this one and put together some haikus. I encourage you to leave your own in the comments.
No pitching, few bats.
Buck is all talk and no bite.
Don’t dare dis Flanny!
Chicago White Sox
Rebuild or contend?
Kenny can’t seem to decide.
I wish we had Danks.
Some funny names,
Asdrubal and Ubaldo?
Not winning this year.
Kansas City Royals
Hosmer is the shizz.
Young pitching ain’t quite there yet.
Mauer and Morneau
Used to be really awesome.
Now they are broken.
Yoenis is here.
Trade all of the pitchers!
Where are the fans?
Felix is the man,
The rest of the team sucks.
I miss Montero.
Toronto Blue Jays
AA the best,
Until he gets Jeff Mathis.
New unis do rule.
Kauffman Stadium is one of the nicer parks in the league I hear, especially after they renovated the place a year or two ago. Ben will be there for all three games this week, but alas, I’ll be watching on the ol’ idiot box. These two clubs met in New York earlier this season, with the Royals taking two of three. They won the first game in extra innings thanks to Buddy Carlyle, and the other by pounding Ivan Nova.
What Have The Royals Done Lately?
Yesterday’s loss to the White Sox was their second straight loss and their sixth in their last seven days. They’ve also lost eight of their last ten. The Royals are 50-71 overall with a -55 run differential, occupying the bottom spot in the AL Central.
Royals On Offense
Kansas City has a pretty legit offense, though the lineup is top heavy. Alex Gordon (.298/.372/.480) is their best all around hitter (and player) and leadoff guy, and former Yankee Melky Cabrera (.311/.343/.478) has settled into the number two spot. Billy Butler (.284/.363/.445) bats third and rookie Eric Hosmer (.275/.328/.425) cleans up. Hosmer hit his first career homer in Yankee Stadium earlier in the season, and he’s hitting a stout .293/.354/.469 over the last six weeks or so. Jeff Francoeur soaks up the fifth spot with his .272/.323/.460 batting line. Those five are the only players on the team with double digit homeruns, and all of them except Hosmer have either 14 or 15 (Hosmer has ten).
The rest of the lineup is pretty iffy. Recent call-up Johnny Giavotella is guaran-damn-teed to be that pain in the butt player this series, and he’s hitting .289/.325/.474 in limited time. Third baseman Mike Moustakas is having trouble after making the jump from hot shot prospect to big leaguer (.184/.242/.232 in a small-ish sample), and another recent call-up (Salvador Perez) has taken over behind the plate (.264/.250/.333 in four games). Alcides Escobar is in the lineup for his glove (+8 UZR, +11 DRS), not his bat (.251/.288/.332).
That group of players up their represent their regular lineup, and like the Yankees, the Royals only have three players on the bench. That’s backup catcher Brayan Pena (.262/.302/.364), backup infielder Chris Getz (.256/.315/.285), and backup outfielder Mitch Maier (.253/.364/.360). Kansas City is one stolen base behind the Yankees for the AL lead, and they have five players with at least ten steals (Getz, Escobar, Gordon, Melky, and Frenchy). It’s a better offense than you may realize.
Royals On The Mound
Monday, RHP Felipe Paulino (vs. A.J. Burnett): Claimed off waivers from the Rockies earlier this season, Paulino (a former Astros) has quietly performed like a borderline ace for the Royals in a dozen starts. His strikeout (8.23 K/9) and walk (2.90 BB/9) rates are very good, and although 44.8% grounders isn’t great, it’ll get the job done with those walks and whiffs. Paulino brings the heat, legitimately sitting in the mid-90′s with his fastball and throwing his slider in the high-80′s. He’s also got a changeup and curveball, but they’re distant third and fourth offerings. Unsurprisingly, he does have some trouble with lefties. The Yankees have never faced Paulino, and he’s allowed more than three runs just four times as a Royal. He’s sneaky good.
Tuesday, LHP Danny Duffy (vs. Nova): Another guy the Yankees have never faced before, Duffy was one of nine top 100 prospects the Royals boasted coming into the season. He’s been below-average in 15 starts since being called up, walking too many (4.41 BB/9), getting too few ground balls (39.4%), and throwing too many pitches (averaging 97 pitches and just 5.1 IP per start). Duffy’s a hard-throwing lefty, sitting in the 92-94 range with his four-seamer and a touch below that with his two-seamer. A big-breaking mid-70′s curveball is his bread and butter pitcher, and his low-80′s changeup is a decent offering as well. Duffy certainly has the ability to shut the Yankees down, but I’d like to think that they’ll punish a rookie pitcher with walk and fly ball issues.
Wednesday, LHP Bruce Chen (vs. Bartolo Colon): For some reason I thought Chen shut the Yankees down last year, but he made just two starts against them and neither was all that great: 6 IP, 5 R and 5 IP, 3 R. He’s having a similar season to last year but is just a bit worse across the board, with underwhelming strikeout (5.59 K/9), homerun (1.16 HR/9), and ground ball (37%) rates. His walk rate (3.28 BB/9) is fine though. Chen is a total soft-tosser, sitting 84-88 with a variety of fastballs (four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter). A low-80′s slider is his top secondary offering, and he’ll also mix in a high-70′s changeup and low-70′s curve. Chen’s been pretty good since coming off the DL in late June, allowing three or fewer runs in six of nine starts. He did cough up ten runs just three starts ago, though.
Bullpen: Three men on the bench means eight guys on the bullpen. Closer Joakim Soria has dug himself out of an early season rut, pitching to a 2.22 ERA with 27 strikeouts and just four walks in 28.1 IP since the calendar flipped to May. His primary setup man these days is righty Greg Holland (2.56 FIP), though Aaron Crow (3.85 FIP) will also get some late-inning work as well. Louis Coleman (3.69 FIP) is a side-arming righty without much of a platoon split, but that’s because he hasn’t been up all that long. Tim Collins has gaudy minor league numbers but also some major walk problems (6.66 BB/9 and 4.74 FIP). Blake Wood (4.13 FIP), Nathan Adcock (4.45 FIP), and Everett Teaford (7.13 FIP in a small sample) fill out the rest of the bullpen, doing everything from long relief to middle innings work. Collins and Teaford are the two lefties.
Recommended Royals Reading: Royals Review
After a recovery for the offense in Texas — Rangers Ballpark cures what ails your hitters — the Yankees will spend some time at home this week. The Kansas City Royals come into town, but don’t let them fool you. This isn’t the team that finished 67-95, last in the AL Central last year. They’re currently 18-16, second in the Central, and while that might not represent their actual talent level, it does indicate that they’re a tick better than before. At least they’re playing that way, which is all that matters as the two teams match up this week.
What Have the Royals Done Lately?
In late April it appeared as though they were quickly reverting to the same old Royals, as they lost six straight to Texas and Cleveland. But sometimes facing the worst team in the league can pick you back up. That’s what happened when the Royals faced Minnesota last week. They swept through that series and then took two of three from Baltimore. Dropping two of three to the A’s has left them 6-3 in their last nine, though the competition, at least on the offensive side of the ball, wasn’t best-in-league.
Royals on Offense
One of the reasons the Royals have played so well this season is by hitting the ball well. Their .338 wOBA ranks fourth in the majors, just a single point behind Texas. Last year they were known as a team that could string together some singles and make some runs, but this year they’re actually hitting with some power, ranking fourth in the league with a .155 ISO. Unlike last year, they post a threat to put up a crooked number this year.
The leader of the offense is, to everyone’s surprise, Jeff Francoeur. Through his first 142 PA he is hitting .302/.345/.581, including a team-leading eight home runs. We’ve seen Francoeur get off to hot starts before — last year he started off with a .378 wOBA in April before slipping later in the year — but something seems different about this year. It always does, until things come crashing down. You’ll pardon me for not buying into the Francoeur hype. The only thing that has changed for him is his swinging strike rate, and I don’t think cutting that down is enough to turn an undisciplined hitter, who still doesn’t draw walks, into a powerhouse. Better, maybe, but not bum-to-superstar.
Complementing Francoeur in the middle of the order is Alex Gordon, who, after wearing the bust label, has resurged in the early portion of this season. It’s easier to buy Gordon’s turnaround than Francoeur’s, because there didn’t seem to be any reason why he couldn’t succeed previously. Injuries derailed him to a degree, and he never really got into a groove. This year he’s hitting .309/.367/.500 while playing, statistically at least, a solid left field. He could cause some issues at Yankee Stadium.
There’s always Billy Butler, too, who has again established himself as a solid hitter with gap power. The full home run package will probably never come, but he can still draw a walk and make solid contact. Maybe those skills will go for waste in the cavern that is left-center at Yankee Stadium, but it’s not as though he’s a straight pull hitter. With Butler, Francoeur, and Gordon in the middle of the lineup the Royals certainly pose a threat.
Of the eight Royals with 100 or more PA, six of them have a wRC+ above 100, and five of them are above 125. The latter group includes former Yankee Wilson Betemit, who has done nothing but hit since he signed on with Kansas City. In the last two seasons he has hit .300/.374/.497 in 422 PA, which is almost certainly the best 400-PA stretch of his career. It’s doubtful that he continues doing this for the next few years, but he certainly has become a threat at the moment. In the former group, but not the latter, is Melky Cabrera, who has shown great improvement since his disappointing 2010.
And I’ll close by mentioning Eric Hosmer, rookie and Baseball America’s No. 8 overall prospect. He’ll be taking the reps at first base.
Royals on the Mound
Tuesday, RHP Kyle Davies. By this point Davies is pretty well known as one of the worst regular starters in the majors. Last year he made 32 starts and allowed a 5.34 ERA against a 4.46 FIP. This year he has been especially prone to the longball, which plays right into the Yankees’ hands. Then again, we’ve seen matchups previously where the opponent plays to the team’s strengths, only to see them flail and falter. Still, it’s easy to conjure memories of the Yankees lighting up Davies in the past — A-Rod‘s 500th homer stands out most prominently. But whatever the case, he’s simply not a good pitcher, and probably shouldn’t have his job much longer. The Yanks should get their licks in while he’s still employed.
Wednesday, LHP Bruce Chen. He is, to quote an under-used meme, the premier leftballer of our time. Of course, in reality Chen isn’t the premier anything. He has, however, pitched very well this season, a 3.59 ERA in seven starts. They have been of the hit or mss variety, though, with the determining factor being home runs. In four of his starts he has allowed no longballs and has combined to allow four runs, three earned, during them. But he has allowed three homers in a game twice, and allowed one homer in a game once. The Yankees, it appears, should jump all over him. The only caveat is that all seven of his homers this year have come off righties. I think that is going to change on Wednesday evening.
Thursday, RHP Sean O’Sullivan. Last year O’Sullivan went from frustration to laughingstock in no time flat. The first time he pitched against the Yanks last year was the first of his career, and we all know how that story goes. The Yankees flailed and faltered, getting just two runs in six innings. Less than a month later the two met again, this time when O’Sullivan was on the Royals. They blasted him for four runs in 5.1 innings, including a pair of homers by Alex Rodriguez. So far this season he has done a good job keeping the ball in the park — his only homer came in his first start — but he has had some rough times otherwise. Even in his last start, when he allowed three runs in eight innings, he didn’t strike out anyone. His season K/BB sits at 14:14, and while he makes up for some of that with ground balls, it’s not enough to overcome the lack of swings and misses — and control.
Bullpen. We all know about Joakim Soria, who is one of the league’s premier closers. He has had a rough start to 2011, but there’s no reason to think he’s on the decline or anything like that. He is joined by a new cast of relievers who throw hard and, for the most part, throw strikes. Aaron Crow has been absolutely lights out, while Blake Wood hasn’t been too shabby himself. Lefty Tim Collins will generate plenty of comments for his shortness and his odd motion, though his results haven’t been all there. Nathan Adcock will get flak for his name, but the dude can pitch. The Yankees had better get in their shots against the starters, because this is no pushover bullpen.