5/25 to 5/27 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the second time in less than two weeks, the Yankees and Royals are hooking up for a three-game series, starting with a Memorial Day matinee. This time the scene shifts to Yankee Stadium. The Royals took two of three when these two clubs met in Kansas City last weekend. The Yankees are trying to snap a six-game losing streak.

What Have The Royals Done Lately?

Remember when Chase Headley hit that three-run home run to give the Yankees the lead against the Royals nine days ago, a game the Yankees eventually won? The Royals had not lost since that game until the Cardinals took them down yesterday. They’ve won five of six since the Headley homer game and currently have baseball’s best record (28-15) and run differential (+65).

Offense & Defense

Manager Ned Yost’s club is averaging 4.91 runs per game with a team 113 wRC+, making them one of the best offenses in the game. They never strike out — they have baseball’s lowest strikeout rate at 14.4% (Red Sox are next lowest at 17.0%) after having the lowest strikeout rate last year (16.3%), the second lowest the year before that (17.2%), and the lowest the year before that (16.8%). That’s their thing. The put the ball in play and run like hell.

Cain. (Presswire)
Cain. (Presswire)

The Royals are currently without OF Alex Rios (broken hand) and backup C Erik Kratz (foot inflammation), neither of whom is expected to return this week. The offense is led by former high draft picks 1B Eric Hosmer (156 wRC+) and 3B Mike Moustakas (149 wRC+), who are getting plenty of help from DH Kendrys Morales (137 wRC+) and OF Alex Gordon (134 wRC+). OF Lorenzo Cain (118 wRC+) and C Salvador Perez (114 wRC+) are also having fine years.

SS Alcides Escobar (93 wRC+) has been good for a shortstop, though 2B Omar Infante (69 wRC+) is not having a good year at all. OF Paulo Orlando (92 wRC+) has gotten most of the playing time with Rios out. OF Jarrod Dyson (30 wRC+) is mostly a pinch-runner/defensive specialist right now. IF Christian Colon (91 wRC+) and backup C Drew Butera (95 wRC+ in very limited playing time) are the remaining extras on the three-man bench.

The Yankees just played the Royals a week and a half ago, and since Kansas City’s roster hasn’t changed at all since then, I’m just going to quote myself for the defense:

Defensively, the Royals are second to none. Hands down the best defensive team in MLB. Gordon, Cain, Dyson, and Hosmer are elite defenders; Moustakas and Escobar are somewhere between above-average and elite; Perez and Orlando are above-average. Infante is the worst defensive regular on the team and even he isn’t all that bad. It gets no better than this group. Celebrate every time a ball drops in this weekend.

And there you have it.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. KC) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (Career vs. NYY)
The Yankees and Guthrie are certainly familiar with each other following all that time the 36-year-old spent with the Orioles. He has a 4.75 ERA (4.75 FIP!) in eight starts and 47.1 innings this season while getting no strikeouts (8.8%) and no ground outs (36.1%). Guthrie doesn’t walk anyone (6.4%), keeps the ball in the park (0.95 HR/9), and gets righties (.307 wOBA) out better than lefties (.394 wOBA). At this point of his career Guthrie works mostly with low-90s four-seamers and sinkers while mixing in a few upper-80s cutters. A mid-80s changeup is his go-to offspeed pitch, though he’ll also thrown a handful of mid-80s sliders and upper-70s curves per start.

Tuesday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (Career vs. NYY)
A week and a half ago the Yankees roughed up the 26-year-old Duffy, scoring four runs on four hits and four walks in five innings, forcing him to throw 113 pretty high stress pitches. Duffy hasn’t started since. He’s been dealing with shoulder stiffness and the Royals used some off-days — they had a similar schedule as the Yankees last week, off-days on Monday and Thursday — to skip his spot. Duffy has a 5.87 ERA (4.56 FIP) in eight starts and only 38.1 innings this season (so 4.2 innings per start), with below average strikeout (16.9%), walk (10.7%), and ground ball (37.1%) rates against an average homer rate (0.95 HR/9). He throws really hard, sitting in the mid-90s and bumping the upper-90s with his four-seamer, at least when his shoulder isn’t acting up. Duffy’s top secondary pitch is a low-80s curveball, though he’ll also throw some mid-80s changeups as well.

Late Update: Duffy was placed on the 15-day DL today because of his shoulder. Jason Vargas will be activated off the DL and start tomorrow in his place. Vargas had a 5.26 ERA (5.25 FIP) in five starts and 25.2 innings before his elbow starting barking.

Young. (Presswire)
Young. (Presswire)

Wednesday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. KC) vs. RHP Chris Young (Career vs. NYY)
Young, 35, befuddled the Yankees last week, holding them to one run in 5.1 innings. To be fair, he’s been doing that to everyone this season. Young has a 0.78 ERA (2.95 FIP) in four starts and six relief appearances — he moved into the rotation a few weeks ago when Jason Vargas hit the DL with an elbow issue — despite a below-average strikeout rate (17.7%) and an utter lack of ground balls (21.1%). He doesn’t walk anyone (6.9%) and does keep the ball in the park (0.26 HR/9), though that latter number is unsustainably low. No one is that good at suppressing homers. Young stands 6-foot-10 and he pitches up in the zone with a mid-80s fastball, generating a frickin’ ton of pop-ups, which he’s been doing it for a decade now. He’ll also mix in some low-80s sliders but not many.

Bullpen Status
The Royals have, hands down, the best bullpen in baseball. Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances may be the best left-right bullpen duo, but as far as an entire bullpen top to bottom, it’s Kansas City, easily. Yost’s bullpen has a 1.68 ERA (3.29 FIP) overall and yesterday he only used RHP Luke Hochevar (1.33 FIP) and RHP Joe Blanton (4.73 FIP) for one inning each. That’s it. Everyone else is fresh.

Starting from the ninth inning out, the Royals have RHP Greg Holland (3.73 FIP) as closer, RHP Wade Davis (1.76 FIP) in the eighth inning, RHP Kelvin Herrera (3.46 FIP) in the seventh inning, and Yost will often use RHP Ryan Madson (3.23 FIP) in the sixth inning. LHP Franklin Morales (3.36 FIP) is the only lefty but that doesn’t matter. All those other guys get lefties out too. RHP Jason Frasor (4.40 FIP) rounds out the eight-man bullpen. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then check out Royals Review for everything you need to know about the best team in baseball.

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Yankeemetrics: May 15-17 (Royals)

The large lefty officially has a winning streak. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
The large lefty officially has a winning streak. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Royal crush
The Yankees’ worst skid of the season continued with a 12-1 loss to the Royals on Friday night. Entering this series, they were the only AL team that hadn’t given up at least nine runs in a game this season. It was the first time the Yankees opened their season with a streak of at least 36 straight games allowing eight-or-fewer runs in each game since 1981 (38 games).

Michael Pineda‘s first start since his 16-strikeout game on Mothers Day couldn’t have been any more different than that historic one just a few days earlier.

He didn’t strike out his first batter until he got Lorenzo Cain swinging in the fifth inning, and that was the only guy that got rung up by Pineda in the game. Seems improbable, right? Almost. The last pitcher to get only one strikeout (or zero) in a game after whiffing at least 16 batters in his previous start was Mark Langston in 1988.

Although he struggled to put away batters, Pineda didn’t have any problems with his control, recording his fifth walk-free start of the season. Dating back to last September, Pineda hasn’t walked more than one guy in each of his last 10 games, pitching more than five innings in each of those starts. The only other Yankee in the last 100 years to fashion a streak like that was David Wells, who had also had a 10-game stretch in 1998 where he gave up one or fewer walks and pitched more than five innings in each outing.

Throwback Saturday
How do you snap your longest losing streak of the season? This formula usually works: a vintage performance from your former ace pitcher and a couple longballs from the middle of the order.

CC Sabathia scattered six hits and allowed one run over seven innings, earning his second straight win after going winless in his first six starts of the season. This was the fourth time Sabathia has started a game with the Yankees on a losing streak of at least four games – and he is now 4-0 in those four starts.

Chase Headley hit a tie-breaking three-run homer in the fifth inning and Alex Rodriguez added a solo shot in the ninth inning to provide the power in the Yankees’ 5-1 win. Three of Headley’s five homers this season have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead, and each of those three has come with two outs in the inning.

For A-Rod, it was his 10th homer of the season, and he joins Mark Teixeira as Yankees with double-digit homers in 2015. The only other seasons in the last 40 years when the Yankees had two players with at least 10 homers within the team’s first 38 games were 2005 (A-Rod and Tino Martinez) and 2009 (Teixeira and Johnny Damon).

A first for everything
As bad as the Yankees offense has been recently, they still had not been shut out in 2015 until Sunday’s 6-0 loss in the series finale. They were one of two MLB teams that had scored at least one run in every game this season, along with the Tigers and Blue Jays. It was the first time they had been blanked since September 15, 2014, snapping a streak of 51 straight games with scoring a run, which was the longest active streak among all major-league teams.

The loss was also the Yankees’ first one on a Sunday this year. Entering the game they were the only team undefeated (5-0) on Sundays in the majors this season.

Chris Capuano‘s first start of the season was “not what you want,” as he gave up four runs before he was pulled in the fourth inning. He’s the first Yankee to allow at least four runs in three innings pitched or fewer in Kansas City since David Wells on August 11, 2003. Sunday (May 17) also happened to be the anniversary of Wells’ perfect game against the Twins in 1998. So there’s that, at least.

5/15 to 5/17 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Getty)
(Getty)

Man, 2015 is weird. The Royals are the defending AL champs, the Yankees have missed the postseason the last two years, the Royals have one of the game’s top closers over the last few seasons, the Yankees are on their third closer in three years … what in the world is going on here? The Yankees and Royals begin a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium tonight.

What Have The Royals Done Lately?

The Royals had to settle for a split of their four-game series with the Rangers this week. They’ve won six of their last ten games and are 22-13 with a +42 run differential on the season. That’s the best record and run differential in the AL, both slightly ahead of the Yankees (21-15, +28).

Offense & Defense

After getting just enough offense en route to the AL pennant a year ago, the Royals are one of the best offensive teams in the league this year, averaging 4.94 runs per game with a team 115 wRC+. They still don’t hit for a ton of power (only 28 homers) but they once again have baseball’s lowest strikeout rate (14.6%) by several percentage points. They put the ball in play and run like hell.

Hosmer and Gordon. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Hosmer and Gordon. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

The Royals are without OF Alex Rios (127 wRC+) due to a broken hand, but the lineup still features breakout stars 1B Eric Hosmer (172 wRC+) and 3B Mike Moustakas (136 wRC+). They’re perfect examples of why you don’t give up on young hitters if they struggle early in their careers. Sometimes it takes time. Moustakas has reinvented himself as an opposite field hitter in an effort to beat the shift. Teams still shift on him — he was the ninth most shifted hitter last year and so far this year he’s 11th — but now he can beat it on occasion and isn’t totally helpless.

OF Alex Gordon (144 wRC+), OF Lorenzo Cain (129 wRC+) and DH Kendrys Morales (131 wRC+) are all providing high-end offensive support. SS Alcides Escobar (119 wRC+) too. C Salvador Perez (95 wRC+) has been basically average but 2B Omar Infante (52 wRC+) has been bad, ditto the OF Paulo Orlando (76 wRC+) and OF Jarrod Dyson (42 wRC+) platoon that has replaced Rios. IF Christian Colon and C Drew Butera are the last two bench pieces.

Defensively, the Royals are second to none. Hands down the best defensive team in MLB. Gordon, Cain, Dyson, and Hosmer are elite defenders; Moustakas and Escobar are somewhere between above-average and elite; Perez and Orlando are above-average. Infante is the worst defensive regular on the team and even he isn’t all that bad. It gets no better than this group. Celebrate every time a ball drops in this weekend.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Michael Pineda (Career vs. KC) vs. RHP Chris Young (Career vs. NYY)
The 35-year-old Young has a 0.78 ERA (2.71 FIP) with 23.2 K% and 6.1 BB% in 23 innings spread across two starts and six long relief appearances for Kansas City this year. He started the season in the bullpen but recently moved into the rotation when Jason Vargas went down with an elbow issue. Young is one of the most unique pitchers in baseball. He stands 6-foot-10 and he pitches up in the zone with a mid-80s fastball, generating a frickin’ ton of fly balls (26.8% grounders). Young uses his size and his deception to hide the ball and get pop-ups, and he’s been doing it for a decade now. He’ll also mix in some low-80s sliders but otherwise that’s the plan. Get them to hit the fastball straight up in the air.

Saturday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (Career vs. NYY)
Duffy, 26, was a big part of the Royals’ rotation last year, but he barely pitched in the postseason (4.2 innings) due to a late season shoulder issue, and so far this season he has a 5.67 ERA (4.22 FIP) in seven starts and 33.1 innings. His strikeout rate is down slightly from last year (17.7% vs. 18.7%) and his walk rate (9.8% vs. 8.8%), ground ball rate (39.6% vs. 35.8%), and home run rate (0.81 HR/9 vs. 0.72 HR/9) are all up slightly. Righties (.391 wOBA) have hit him substantially harder than lefties (.315 wOBA), which has been true his entire career. Duffy throws really hard, especially for a lefty, sitting in the mid-90s and occasionally touching the upper-90s with his four-seam fastball. His top secondary pitch is a low-80s curveball, though he’ll also throw some mid-80s changeups as well. Duffy’s last two starts have been disasters — four runs in one inning and six runs in 3.2 innings — so I’m sure his confidence is a little low.

Volquez. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Volquez. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. KC) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (Career vs. NYY)
Replacing James Shields with Volquez has gone … surprisingly not terribly so far. The 31-year-old Volquez has a 3.19 ERA (3.47 FIP) in seven starts and 42.1 innings this season, with league average-ish strikeout (18.9%), walk (9.7%), and ground ball (48.8%) rates. His homer rate (0.43 HR/9) is less than half his career mark (0.92 HR/9). Volquez has a small platoon split (.270 vs. .252 wOBA in favor of righties) and after walking five batters in his first 28.1 innings of the season, he’s walked 12 batters in his last 14 innings. He does still throw hard though, sitting in the mid-90s with his four-seamer and sinker. Volquez also throws a mid-80s changeup and an upper-70s curveball, and on his very best days, both are put-away pitches. His stuff is really nasty when he locates, which is far too infrequently.

Bullpen Status
Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances are awesome, but the Royals have a better bullpen than the Yankees based on depth. The good news is manager Ned Yost used all his key relievers yesterday. That includes closer Greg Holland (3.14 FIP), setup men RHP Wade Davis (1.68 ERA) and RHP Kelvin Herrera (3.44 FIP), and middle relievers RHP Ryan Madson (3.26 FIP) and RHP Luke Hochevar (1.64 FIP). Herrera has pitched the last two days, everyone else just yesterday.

All five of those guys are power relievers — they all throw hard and have a put-away secondary pitch. Madson is finally back from Tommy John surgery too. He didn’t pitch at all from 2012-14 due to elbow reconstruction and numerous rehab setbacks. Pretty cool to see him pitch so well despite the long layoff. LHP Franklin Morales (3.21 FIP), RHP Jason Frasor (4.56 FIP), and RHP Aaron Brooks round out the eight-man bullpen. (Brooks has yet to appear in a game this season.) Check out the status of the Yankees’ bullpen with our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Royals Review for the latest and greatest on the defending AL champs.

A Haiku for the Rest of MLB [2015 Season Preview]

Does Donnie like Haikus? Of course. (Presswire)
Does Donnie like haikus? Of course. (Presswire)

Opening Day is now only three days away. We’ve spent the last four weeks previewing the Yankees and the upcoming season, and yesterday we broke down the rest of the AL East. Today we’re going to wrap up our 2015 Season Preview series with a quick preview of the other 25 teams in baseball. After all, the Yankees are going to have to try to beat those teams this season too.

If you’ve come here looking for a serious preview post, you’re not going to get it. It’s Friday afternoon, Opening Day is right around the corner, and this year’s preview series is over. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and preview those other 25 teams in Haiku form. I encourage you to tell me how much my haikus suck and to make some of your own — pro tip: use the Haiku Counter to make sure you have the right number of syllables — and leave ’em in the comments. Enjoy.

Atlanta Braves
Traded their best bats
For a whole bunch of pitchers
They know scoring’s down?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Is Nuno their ace?
The answer just might be yes
Payback for ’01!

Chicago Cubs
Bleachers aren’t ready?
No prob, Bryant won’t notice
He’s in Iowa

Chicago White Sox
D-Rob and Melky
Back together in ChiTown
Growing ugly beards

Cincinnati Reds
Good enough to win?
Nah, not in that division
Can we have Cueto?

Cleveland Indians
Brantley is awesome
Kluber is really great
World Series pick? Eh

Colorado Rockies
Troy’s still a Rockie
Kyle Kendrick, OD SP?
Wait for ski season

Detroit Tigers
Miggy, Price, V-Mart
Lots of stars and real big names
Bullpen still a mess

Houston Astros
I don’t understand
You won “process World Series?”
That doesn’t exist

Kansas City Royals
Pennant last season
Volquez is replacing Shields?
For real? Yeah, for real

Los Angeles Angels
They have that Trout guy
I wish the Yankees had him
It’s Teixeira’s fault!

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw is the best
Donnie Baseball gets his ring?
If not, just blame Puig

Miami Marlins
Paid Giancarlo
They’re going for it again
When’s next fire sale?

Milwaukee Brewers
They all hate Ryan Braun
But not as much as A-Rod
This team is boring

Minnesota Twins
Phil’s still homer prone
Nunez’s helmet still falls off
Just like the old days

New York Mets
Take back New York, huh?
Orange and blue like the Knicks
But with fewer fans

Oakland Athletics
Ballpark is ugly
Beane traded everyone again
What’s a Stephen Vogt?

Philadelphia Phillies
Rebuild? Finally!
Cole will be traded real soon
Then skip to next year

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli pumps fist
McCutchen cut his dreads
A World Series team?

St. Louis Cardinals
Contender again
Such a boringly good team
Gets boring haiku

San Diego Padres
Kemp, Upton, Myers, Shields
But what about Yangervis?
Solarte Partay!

San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs
But it’s an odd number year
So no repeat then

Seattle Mariners
You can have Robbie
You are still stuck with Jack Z.
Yankees win the trade

Texas Rangers
Could this be the year
That Elvis Andrus will hit?
Hah, made myself laugh

Washington Nationals
Awesome rotation!
Future Yankee Bryce Harper
Has nice ring to it

Sherman: Beltran spurned larger offer from Royals to sign with Yanks

Via Joel Sherman: The Royals offered Carlos Beltran a larger contract than the three-year, $45M deal he took from the Yankees last offseason. The exact details of Kansas City’s offer are unknown, but Sherman says it did include an option for a fourth year. The Diamondbacks reportedly offered Beltran a three-year contract worth $48M last winter, so he turned down at least two larger offers to come to New York.

Beltran, 37, spent parts of seven seasons with the Royals and was named the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year while with the club. Kansas City is expected to decline Billy Butler’s option after the season and they’ll also need to replace Norichika Aoki in right, so hey, maybe they’ll be interested in trading for Beltran this winter, especially if they lose the World Series and feel they need another veteran bat. I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.

9/5-9/7 Series Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Believe it or not, this is the last series the Yankees will play against a non-AL East team this season. Well, at least until they make that huge September push to win the division and face the Angels in the ALDS. Anyway, the Royals are in town for a three-game set starting tonight. The two teams have split their first four games of the season, three back in June and one last week in the makeup game of a rainout.

What Have They Done Lately?
Prior to yesterday’s off-day, the Royals swept a three-game series from the lowly Rangers. They dropped five of seven before that. Kansas City sits atop the AL Central at 77-61 with a +27 run differential, though their one-game lead over the Tigers is hardly commanding even this late in the season.

Offense
Manager Ned Yost’s team averages 4.07 runs per game with a team 93 wRC+, so the Royals are a bit below-average offensively. It’s worth noting they have the lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 15.7%, nearly two full percentage points lower than any other team. They just don’t strike out. Their only injured position player is IF Christian Colon, who just broke a finger and is done for the season.

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
Butler. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Kansas City’s lineup revolves around OF Alex Gordon (129 wRC+), who is getting a bunch of MVP love thanks to some recent clutch homers and his UZR-inflated 6.2 WAR. Both 1B Eric Hosmer (90 wRC+) and DH Billy Butler (97 wRC+) are having down years, but both C Salvador Perez (101 wRC+) and OF Lorenzo Cain (106 wRC+) have been strong supporting players for Gordon. OF Josh Willingham (117 wRC+) plays based on matchups.

The rest of Yost’s regular lineup includes OF Norichika Aoki (90 wRC+), 2B Omar Infante (79 wRC+), SS Alcides Escobar (89 wRC+), and 3B Mike Moustakas (78 wRC+). Ex-Yankees OF Raul Ibanez (60 wRC+) and IF Jayson Nix (-1 wRC+ in limited) are on the bench alongside backup C Erik Kratz (78 wRC+) and the speedy OF Jarrod Dyson (96 wRC+). C Francisco Pena, IF Johnny Giavotella, OF Lane Adams, OF Terrance Gore, and OF Carlos Peguero are the September call-ups on the roster. Francisco is Yankees bench coach Tony Pena’s son.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
The Yankees and Royals will technically play only two series this season, but New York is going to wind up facing Shields three times because of that stupid rainout. Just their luck, huh? Shields, 32, has a 3.38 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 29 starts and 192 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.03 K/9 and 18.7 K%) is the lowest it’s been in five years. His walk (1.88 BB/9 and 5.0 BB%), homer (0.98 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (45.3%) rates are right where they usually are. Both his home/road and platoon splits are small. A mid-80s changeup remains Shields’ go-to pitch, though he has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters instead. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees have faced ex-Rays righty twice this year, first scoring one unearned run in six innings, then scoring six runs in 6.2 innings.

Saturday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (vs. NYY)
Duffy, 25, has a 2.42 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 141.1 innings across 22 starts and six relief appearances in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. His peripherals aren’t all that impressive outside of his homer rate (0.64 HR/9 and 5.4 HR/FB%) though: 6.88 K/9 (19.0 K%), 3.18 BB/9 (8.8 BB%), and 35.6% grounders. Duffy doesn’t have a home/road split but he is far better against lefties (.170 wOBA) than righties (.292 wOBA). He throws his mid-90s fastball more than two-thirds of the time, even as a starter, and he backs it up with an upper-70s curveball and a handful of mid-80 changeups per start. Duffy allowed three runs to the Yankees in 5.2 innings back in June.

Ventura. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Duckface Ventura. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Sunday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. KC) vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (vs. NYY)
The Yankees did not see the 23-year-old Ventura when these two clubs met in June because he was nursing an elbow injury. The hard-throwing rookie has a 3.38 ERA (3.67 FIP) in 25 starts (and one relief appearance) and 152 innings in 2014 with very good homerun (0.77 HR/9 and 9.4 HR/FB%) and ground ball (48.0%) rates. His strikeout (7.82 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and walk (3.38 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) numbers aren’t as strong, plus he has uncannily similar home/road (.295/.314 wOBA) and left/right (.295/.316 wOBA) splits. Freaky. Ventura is one of the hardest throwers in baseball, sitting in the upper-90s with both his two and four-seamer — his average four-seam fastball velocity (96.1 mph) is the second highest among qualified starters, behind only the injured Garrett Richards (96.4) — while also offering mid-80s changeups and low-80s curveballs. Like I said, the Yankees did not see Ventura the last time(s) these clubs met.

Bullpen Status
Yost has the best seventh/eighth/ninth inning trio in baseball in his bullpen. RHP Kelvin Herrera (2.69 FIP) is the seventh inning guy, RHP Wade Davis (1.38 FIP) is the eighth inning guy, and RHP Greg Holland (1.94 FIP) is the ninth inning guy. They’re all dominant and effectively make it a six-inning game. It is worth noting Holland has shown some signs of fatigue recently and been less effective the last week or so.

Elsewhere in the bullpen, Yost has LHP Scott Downs (4.16 FIP), RHP Aaron Crow (5.36 FIP), RHP Jason Frasor (3.47 FIP), and LHP Francisley Bueno (3.85 FIP). The crop of September call-ups includes RHP Casey Coleman, RHP Louis Coleman, RHP Liam Hendriks, and LHP Brandon Finnegan. Finnegan was the 17th overall pick in June’s draft. He’s the first 2014 draftee to reach MLB. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the Royals.

8/25 Makeup Game Preview: Kansas City Royals

(Getty)
(Getty)

Today was supposed to be an off-day. Instead, the Yankees are in Kansas City for a quick little one-game series against the Royals. The two teams are making up their June 9th rainout game. The Royals took two of three during the rained-shortened four-game series back in June.

What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Ned Yost’s squad lost to the Rangers yesterday, but they won two of three games in the series and have won a ridiculous 24 of their last 31 games. That surge has them sitting atop the AL Central at 72-57 with a +35 run differential, the fourth best record and fifth best run differential in the American League.

Offense
The Royals average 4.15 runs per game with a team 94 wRC+, so they are a below-average offense overall. It’s worth noting they have baseball’s lowest strikeout rate at 15.7%, nearly two full percentage points lower than the next lowest team (Athletics at 17.5%). The Yankees have the sixth lowest at 18.5%. Anyway, 1B Eric Hosmer (91 wRC+) is out with a hand problem and is the team’s only injured position player.

Gordon. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Gordon. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Yost’s lineup is built around OF Alex Gordon (126 wRC+), who has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the game these last few years. He’s every bit as good as Brett Gardner in left field defensively. Probably better, really. DH Billy Butler (99 wRC+) is having a very poor year by his standards. C Salvador Perez (96 wRC+) is a budding star and the duo of OF Josh Willingham (121 wRC+) and OF Raul Ibanez (60 wRC+) give the all-important veteran presents.

OF Norichika Aoki (89 wRC+) and 2B Omar Infante (80 wRC+) set the table from the one-two spots in the lineup — good thing the Yankees didn’t give Infante four years, huh? — while OF Lorenzo Cain (108 wRC), SS Alcides Escobar (89 wRC+), and OF Jarrod Dyson (97 wRC+) provide speed. All three have stolen at least 20 bases. (The Royals lead the AL with 112 steals, 20 more than the second place Yankees.) 3B Mike Moustakas (80 wRC+), IF Christian Colon (182 wRC+ in very limited time), and C Erick Kratz (78 wRC+) fill out the rest of the position player crop.

Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
Figures. The Yankees are in town for one night only, and they still get stuck facing Kansas City’s best pitcher. The 32-year-old Shields has a 3.28 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 27 starts and 178.1 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.22 K/9 and 19.2 K%) is his lowest in five years. He still limits walks (1.82 BB/9 and 4.8 BB%) and does a decent job of keeping the ball in the park (0.96 HR/9 and 10.1 HR/FB%) and getting grounders (45.1%). Lefties (.327 wOBA) have a bit more success against Shields than righties (.311 wOBA). A mid-80s changeup remains his go-to pitch, but Shields has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees scored one unearned run in six innings against the ex-Rays righty back in June.

Davis. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Davis. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The reason David Robertson and Dellin Betances are only “arguably” the best closer/setup man tandem in baseball is because RHP Greg Holland (2.14 FIP) and RHP Wade Davis (1.30 FIP) exist. They’re both outstanding. Throw in the super-hard-throwing RHP Kelvin Herrera (2.87 FIP) and you’ve got the best late-game trio in the game. None of the three pitched yesterday either.

The rest of Yost’s bullpen includes LHP Bruce Chen (1.59 FIP), LHP Francisley Bueno (3.06 FIP), RHP Aaron Crow (5.45 FIP), and RHP Jason Frasor (3.52 FIP). Both Frasor and Crow threw an inning yesterday. Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, on the other hand, is a bit of a mess after this weekend’s series with the White Sox. Robertson has pitched in three straight games and surely won’t be available tonight. I guess that makes Betances the closer du jour. Check out out Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the Royals.