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Front Page: Series Preview: One More Time


Matt Braun
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Twins Daily Contributor

Welcome to the final regular-season series of the year! It’s been a fun ride that started with tracking spring training performances and story lines that will soon end with a division title and a dance with another team in the ALDS. At this point, the only thing that the Twins could possibly gain by winning games is potential home-field advantage in the World Series against the Atlanta Braves. But, we are all baseball addicts at heart, so we shall follow each game like normal but without the agony that comes from the potential division implications a loss holds. Also of note; this is the final series in the managing career of Ned Yost who announced recently that he would be retiring after this season. I’m sure Ned will have a hard time buying his own drinks in public as he brought KC their first championship since 1985 when the Royals won it all in 2015.Brief Overview:

 

As one of the 100-loss teams in MLB, the Royals have quite nearly been as bad as the Twins have been good. Having four teams with 100 losses certainly can’t be healthy for the league, but until tanking loses its incentives, this will most certainly continue. Do not get it twisted at all, this is a tanking team who would probably appreciate it if the Twins helped their cause by moving them up draft boards by beating them once or twice or thrice this weekend.

 

What They Do Well:

 

Ah, yes, I again reach the point where I have to dig up something random that a bad team is good at, what fun. “Well” is certainly subjective here, but the Royals’ offense strikes out at the 14th lowest rate in baseball. Yes, this is where I must go for content. Anyway, their 23.0% K rate is actually somewhat impressive given their offensive woes, leading me to believe that their issue is more what they are doing with those balls in play than it is just putting the ball in play. For reference, Kris Bryant is striking out at a 22.9% rate in 2019 but he also has about .120 points of slugging on the Royals which helps him be more valuable as a hitter. Do not expect the Royals to be an impressive hitting squad but be ready for an offense that won’t strike out quite as much as the Tigers.

 

Was that not trivial enough for you? Well get a load of the Royals’ pitching staff and their 44.0% ground ball rate which is the eighth highest in MLB. Looking at the other teams around them, there doesn’t seem to be a great amount of correlation between GB % and the quality of the pitching staff. There are some great individual pitchers who hold a similar rate of ground balls, but again, there are other factors at play when deciding the quality of a pitcher or the pitching staff as a whole. Anyway, do not be surprised if the Twins hit a few more ground balls this series than usual even given the Twins’ massive fly ball tendencies.

 

What They Do Not Do Well:

 

Unfortunately, Tom would get mad at me if I just put “everything” here and left, so I’ll actually drop some knowledge here. The Royals’ pitching staff holds the third lowest K/9 in baseball as their 7.80 K/9 is much like Weezer, a better fit in the late 90’s. Their lack of ability to miss bats has probably been the leading reason for their poor pitching as a whole and they remain one of the few teams under a 8.00 K/9, and the teams around them are mostly teams you do not want to be associated with as far as pitching quality.

 

But it’s OK, they make up for not being able to strike batters out by walking too many batters. Their team BB/9 of 3.72 is the fourth highest in baseball and much like the other number, you don’t want to be among the other teams that surround the Royals for their walk rate. Expect a hefty number of base runners and balls put in play against the Royals in this series.

 

Individuals Of Note:

 

I’m almost tempted to say that no one is notable as I have already covered everyone that is and this team is just SO BORING, at least make being bad somewhat fun.

 

You guys already know about Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, and all of those guys, so I feel like focusing on some of the lesser known players on this team.

 

RHP Kyle Zimmer is a pretty notable player as he was a former first-round pick by the Royals who has had quite the career so far. Zimmer struggled with injuries to start his professional career before eventually being DFA’d by the Royals in March of 2018. He would rejoin, leave, then re-rejoin the Royals that year and in early 2019. Zimmer was one of the many pitchers who has trained at the Driveline baseball program in Kent, Washington and with help from them, Zimmer made it the majors in 2019 and is averaging 96.5 MPH on his fastball.

 

Sticking with relievers, the longtime starter, Ian Kennedy, transitioned to the bullpen in 2019 and has been phenomenal there as his 3.06 FIP is the 18th best among qualified relievers. Kennedy has been the de facto closer for the team but given that there may not be many save opportunities in the series, Kennedy could be used in different situations as needed. At any rate, the Royals do have a stud reliever to call upon if they find themselves needing outs late.

 

Recent History:

 

The Twins and Royals just played a four-game series at Target Field last weekend and the Twins took three of four from the Royals. Overall, the Twins are 12-4 against the Royals this season.

 

Recent Trajectories:

 

The Twins are 11-5 over their last five series while the Royals are 5-10 over their last five series.

 

Pitching Match-ups:

 

Friday: Berríos vs Skoglund

Saturday: TBD vs Sparkman

Sunday: Odorizzi* vs López

 

*MLB.com says Odorizzi but this could be subject to change

 

Ending Thoughts:

 

If there was ever a series the forces of the world couldn’t care about, it would be this one. The Royals have nothing to play for besides their own pride and the send-off for Ned Yost while the Twins can only improve themselves in one niche area with gaining possible home-field advantage over the Braves in the World Series. Considering what was on the line during some other recent series, this feels like nothing. I am interested in the starting pitching matchups as the Twins may shuffle some players around in order to figure out how to potentially run an ALDS rotation. Indifference aside, I’m feeling like the Twins take two of three as the Royals win the final game in order to properly send Ned Yost into retirement.

 

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What to play for? start with 100 wins. Then the HR title from the hated Yankees. Good tune  up appearances from pitchers who will be key in the ALDS. Not ending the year on a losing streak. (never fun, no matter what the circumstances) A chance for a record for road wins.

 

You just don't want to 'throw away' these games. They sure didn't yesterday and I don't expect them to this weekend.

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The Royales team I saw here last weekend was competitive, especially the top four or five hitters in that lineup.  Contrary to the general tone of your article, I recall that they played the Twins tough all year.  

 

As for playing for home field advantage, with our road record I'm not certain we want it.

 

 

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IMO, a pretty important start for Berrios...if for anything, his own self confidence.

 

And any update or word on Odorizzi?

 

Agreed on Berrios.  Right now, I think we have to go Odorizzi against the Yankees in Game 1 and then either Berrios or Dobnak in Game 2.  If we win Game 1, I would start Dobnak in Game 2 and save Berrios for Game 3.  This is a complete dreamland scenario, but imagine going 2-0 in New York and having Berrios to start Game 3 with Odorizzi ready for Game 4.  That is about as perfect a situation as the Twins could find in this upcoming ALDS.

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Berrios. 100 + wins. The MLB home run record. Swing for the fences with no pressure. Let all the angst out. Have fun. 

 

Pros should always try to win. The fans deserve to get what they pay for. Always.

 

I doubt that the Braves will be the team that represents the NL in the Series. But whatever, you play to win, even in this last series. I like not having home field advantage for the playoffs, especially considering how well this team does on the road, and how well it doesn't perform at home. If it is NY, Houston, and LA for a WCS run, without home field advantage all the way, I would love it. If we win...... it will only make it sweeter.

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I'd like to see Graterol start the Saturday game. 

 

Just because.

 

Yes!!!  I don't like how everyone's looking at him as this reliever.  He's still a starter, who's only way of contributing right now is to be in the pen.  I'm excited to see plans for him in the future, as long as their not involving the bullpen.

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Yes!!! I don't like how everyone's looking at him as this reliever. He's still a starter, who's only way of contributing right now is to be in the pen. I'm excited to see plans for him in the future, as long as their not involving the bullpen.

he’s been a starter, and will be one again.

 

He’s not stretched out right now. There’s not enough time to get him stretched out to 80-100 pitches, so if he’s a “starter” he’s an “opener”.

 

Now I would absolutely be in favor of him getting the first 6 outs or so and having Smeltzer or Thorpe take over.

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