Series Preview: A Home Series in the Summertime
Image courtesy of © Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY SportsBrief Overview:
Again, I previewed this team before (funny how division rivals work) and not much has changed for this squad except that they have gotten slightly worse after selling Homer Bailey, Jake Diekman, and Martín Maldonado. This is a team that wants to lose just as much as the Twins want to win and at 70 losses already, they are doing a fine job at that. Maybe the Twins can help them in their endeavors.
What They Do Well:
This team is still very fast! Despite the baseball meta shifting toward power and away from speed, the Royals stand as one of the few teams who refuse to evolve. They have swiped 91 bases and have four players with double-digit steals, a major difference in philosophy compared to the Twins who prefer smacking home runs and staying put (the Twins of course lead the league in homers but also are dead last in steals).
Along with stealing, this team still plays excellent defense as their team defense rating on FanGraphs is the second highest in baseball and the highest in the AL. It shall be interesting to see if the Twins lose out on some scoring chances because of a nice diving catch or a well-played stop in the infield. Prepare to be annoyed.
What They Do Not Do Well:
How long do I have? Oh man… Well, this team is very poor in many ways. The first of which is that their starting pitching is the fifth lowest in MLB by fWAR. After trading Homer Bailey, only one of their starters has more than 1.0 fWAR (Brad Keller) and only two have tossed more than 100 innings so far this year. They have the fifth lowest starter K/9 in baseball but they make up for not being able to strike people out by walking them too much as their BB/9 is the seventh highest in baseball. They have decided to bring back the Mike-Montgomery-as-a-starter experiment and so far he has struck out just five in 11 1/3 innings. Amazing.
On the hitting side of things, their 86 team wRC+ isn’t just Kurt Suzuki’s Twins wRC+, but also the fifth worst in baseball. Not being able to hit or get quality starting pitching is like trying to build a Lego house on a beach as a tsunami comes screaming in at you while you blissfully stay focused on your soon-to-be meaningless task. I suppose that makes the Twins the tsunami in this scenario which is kind of mean but hopefully not fully inaccurate.
Individuals Of Note:
I’m being somewhat mean so I’ll let up here. Their positional core of Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, and Adalberto Mondesi is more than respectable as all have already reached the 2.0 fWAR mark this year. Although Mondesi has been on the IL since the middle of June and his status for the series is in question. Beyond them, they also have Jorge Soler who has put up a solid 116 wRC+ this year thanks in part to his 28 home runs. He represents their major power threat and will no doubt be in the middle of the lineup when he plays.
They have also called up Bubba Starling somewhat recently and he is a very interesting player. Starling was the fifth overall pick in 2011 but saw his prospect status crater after he hit a wall at AA in 2015-2016. He stayed in the farm for much longer than he and the team anticipated, but now he is finally in the majors after years of waiting. His numbers so far are uninspiring, but he still holds some very interesting tools and is one of the few players whose athleticism could be compared to Byron Buxton with any hint of seriousness.
On the pitching side of things, Brad Keller has been by far their best starting pitcher as he sits at the 1.7 fWAR mark. Despite striking out just 16.6% of batters, a number that even Pat Dean and his 16.7% Twins K rate scoffs at, Keller makes it work by getting an elite amount of ground balls as his 51.5% GB rate is the ninth highest among all qualified MLB starters.
Ian Kennedy remains one of the very best relievers in baseball this year as he is eighth among all relievers in fWAR. It is somewhat surprising that basically no trade rumors came about focused on him but his contract probably discouraged some teams and so he remains a dominant force in the back-end of the Royals pen.
The Twins have played three series against the Royals this year and are 6-3 against them on the year. The Twins swept a two-game series in KC in April, then took two of three at home in June, and then split a four-game series in KC the same month.
The Twins are 8-8 over their last five series while the Royals are also 8-8. The Royals over that stretch swept the White Sox in a four-game series, took two on the road against the Braves, and also got swept in three at home against the Blue Jays, I have no clue what to make of that.
Friday: Pérez vs Sparkman
Saturday: Gibson vs Duffy
Sunday: Odorizzi vs Keller
The Twins finally saw their schedule soften up a bit as they played the White Sox and the Marlins in back-to-back series and now they get another chance to pounce on a weak team. In my eyes, this team is on the verge of breaking out and getting back in the form we saw earlier in the year where they were taking care of teams with such a ruthless efficiency that hit-men around the globe nodded in approval. Now, before I predict what the series is, I must bring up the fact that I am a perfect 6-for-6 in my predictions so far, good thing I can use my clairvoyance for something as useful as this. The great news? I am feeling a sweep for the Twins as they take all three games against KC this weekend. You’re welcome.
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