Series Preview: Twins Look to Clean Up in KC
Image courtesy of © Peter G. AikenThe Royals current record is 25-48, albeit with a pythag W/L of 31-42 that suggests some bad luck, but they still find themselves in the basement of a poor AL Central.
What They Do Well
The Royals have stolen the most bases in baseball and it isn’t even really particularly close (70 swipes, second place is 61). The main culprit has been Adalberto Mondesi whose 27 swipes is more than the entirety of 10 teams so far. After that, both Billy Hamilton and Whit Merrifield clock in with more than 10 steals. None of the three catchers who the Twins have employed rank notably well in pop time or arm strength according to Statcast so the Royals will certainly look to cause some havoc on the base paths against them.
Defensively, the Royals rank as the fifth-best defensive team in baseball according to Fangraphs thanks in large part to their excellent range that FanGraphs has as the fourth best in MLB. Their defense is cemented by two great defensive catchers in Cam Gallagher and Martin Maldonado, great up-the-middle defense thanks to shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and second baseman Nicky Lopez, and the speedster Billy Hamilton in center who can make Twins fans understand what other fans feel whenever Byron Buxton robs someone of a hit. A great defense can be frustrating to play against both as a fan watching and as a team playing against said defense so I assume the Royals figured they might as well be annoying if they aren’t going to be good.
What They Do Not Do Well
Generally, when you compliment a team and the only two things you can come up with are speed and defense, that's a sign that you aren’t talking about a good team. The Royals have the eighth-worst wRC+ at 87 (as well as Danny Valencia hit with the Twins), their team FIP is the 12th worst in baseball at 4.56 (Grant Balfour’s Twins FIP was 4.54), their offense walks at a 7.7% clip (Denny Hocking or Matthew LeCroy, take your pick), and their pitchers strike out eight guys per nine (Matt Belisle’s Twins run has them beat at 8.04). To put it simply, this team is below average to bad in most offensive and pitching categories.
Individuals Of Note
Not to be incredibly down, the Royals do have a few interesting players of note. Hunter Dozier has accumulated 2.3 fWAR over 216 plate appearances this year (but he is currently on the IL and his status for the weekend makes it seem like he is unlikely to play), Adalberto Mondesi has continued to do well with his interesting combo of power (.172 ISO, 11th best among qualified SS) and speed (the aforementioned 27 steals), and Whit Merrifield is still the quality player at the bat and in the field that Twins fans have come to expect.
On the pitching side of things, Homer Bailey is enjoying a strange renaissance as he sits at a 4.09 FIP on the year, a good .73 points below his ERA, and Ian Kennedy has had a resurgence as a reliever and he currently holds a 2.06 FIP thanks in part to a 30.4 K%.
The last time these two teams played was … last series! The Twins took two of three at home with all three games being decided by two runs or fewer. The last time the Twins played Kansas City in Kansas City was the quick two-game series all the way back on April 2 and 3. The Twins took both games thanks to late heroics in both matches but would probably like to avoid needing that this time around.
The Royals are tanking, yes, but divisional games on the road are never a given no matter the talent difference and a split series (in my opinion) would not be all too surprising. But as long as the Twins play like the Twins we know and love, they should be able to win some games against a Royals team that has no desire, nor much ability, to win this year.
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