Welcome back to the Weekend Preview!
This time we’ll look at a team with no World Series hangover to speak of that has almost every starting player going to the All-Star Game. Great job with that voting thing, guys! For the first time on the Weekend Preview, here are the Kansas City Royals.
Kansas City Royals – Current Record: 38-25 – Projected Record: 83-79
The Royals have not let up since that improbable run to the World Series last October. Great defense, combined with a great bullpen and pitching that plays to the team’s strengths, have given the Royals a solid team going forward. They’re scoring a run more than their opponent on average, and that’s put them at the top of the AL Central. That bullpen is intimidating: their fans have a running gag before the 7th inning starts called HDH – (Kelvin) Herrera, (Wade) Davis, (Greg) Holland. Every single one of them is a superb reliever, and will absolutely shut down any team in the later innings. This team is a legitimate contender.
Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Yohan Pino, Friday, 8:10 p.m. EDT
Rodriguez has been one of the lone rays of sunshine on this team. So far, the E-Rod bandwagon has been a fun ride. Apart from one bad outing against the Blue Jays – and let’s be honest here, who doesn’t have bad outings against them now – he’s been great. There are some signs the honeymoon period might end soon, however. His BABIP against is a ridiculously low .212, and his FIP is 3.69. The former is far below any norm or league average, and the latter is at a level higher than his ERA. I like Eddie, I really do. Just be prepared for him to be a little worse than expected in his coming starts.
With Yordano Ventura hitting the DL due to inflammation in the ulnar nerve in his right hand, Yohan Pino will start in his place. Pino has been a reliever for the year, posting 14 innings with an impressive 0.64 ERA so far. However, starting a game is a completely different beast than relieving, and when Pino was starting for the Twins last year, he wasn’t a shining example of starting pitching. A 5.04 ERA was held up by a 1.19 HR/9 and a strand rate of 63%. Pino might be great over short distances, but he’s no marathon runner.
Rick Porcello vs. Edinson Volquez, May 9th, 7:10 p.m. EDT
We have good news and bad news about Rick Porcello. The good news is that over his last three starts, he’s not given up a home run! The bad news is that he’s given up 11 runs in those starts as well. Porcello’s done well at getting rid of undesirable outcomes: no homers given up over that span, and only one walk allowed. However, the hits keep falling, even with those improvements in his peripherals. He’s got a 4.11 FIP compared to a 5.29 ERA, so you know a bounce-back is coming. With those home run & walk numbers going down, one can only hope it’ll be soon.
I’m not terribly sure what Volquez has done since 2013, but he looks a lot less wild and a lot more effective ever since his stint on the Pirates. His HR/9 has dropped below 0.50 this year, he’s still getting grounders at a 46% rate, and he’s getting the most swings-and-misses he’s had since his first season with the Padres. It may be due to the addition of a knuckle-curve to his arsenal, which would complement his sinker-heavy repertoire. Nevertheless, a FIP of 3.45 makes Volquez an effective starting pitcher who can get weak contact and still has the stuff to strike a few batters out.
Wade Miley vs. Chris Young, May 10th, 2:10 p.m. EDT
Miley’s had two good starts sandwiched around a terrible one in Baltimore. He’s at least taken steps forward from his awful April: a lot less walks, a lot more strikeouts, a tad less homers and a few more grounders. Over his last 7 starts, Miley’s given up 4 home runs, which all came in two of those seven games. He’s getting there. Just a few more baby steps forward and Miley will be the Miley we expected him to be. I know you want him to be good too – the longer he goes into games, the shorter they are. His pace is frenetic and amazing.
Chris Young is an oddity. He doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, but gets them out using weak contact. He doesn’t get a lot of grounders, but gets a ton of pop-ups and fly balls that get caught by KC’s superb defense. Unlike most pitchers who aim to get weak contact, he lives at the top of the zone instead of the bottom to induce weak contact. Hitters have said that his fastball looks very hittable and yet they’re unable to make solid contact. It gives you the sense that his .199 BABIP and 1.98 ERA aren’t going to dramatically rise anytime soon. When magicians speak of magicians, they talk about Chris Young.
The Royals don’t strike out, and they’ve racked up the best team batting average in the bigs. They have a lot of hitters enjoying bounce-back or career years, and they all make really good contact.
Alcides Escobar – SS – R – .270/.300/.363, .243 TAv
Mike Moustakas – 3B – L – .323/.380/.461, .309 TAv
Lorenzo Cain – CF – R – .292/.343/.442, .265 TAv
Eric Hosmer – 1B – L – .297/.366/.462, .297 TAv
Kendrys Morales – DH – S – .283/.344/.452, .286 TAv
Alex Gordon – LF – L – .271/.381/.452, .311 TAv
Salvador Perez – C – R – .284/.296/.462, .273 TAv
Alex Rios – RF – R – .220/.244/.293, .206 TAv (86 PA)
Omar Infante – 2B – .228/.236/.311, .217 TAv
The 2-6 hitters can hit some frozen ropes into the outfield gaps, and if any one of the speedier guys at the top of the lineup reach base before then, it’ll cause chaos.
The Royals are a true contender in an AL that seems lacking in that department. Can the Red Sox overcome them? We’ll see. We can only hope they play baseball like they did yesterday, or else this may be a very ugly weekend.
Photo by Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports Images