As you surely are aware, the Royals are three games into a 20 game stretch against teams that find themselves over .500. It is an excellent opportunity for us to learn whether or not the Royals have the staying power to keep themselves in the AL Central race for the rest of the year. Let's take a look at the club that once ripped out the heart of Kansas Citians when they moved to the land of 32 murders per 1,000 people.
Friday - Tommy Milone 7-7, 4.17 ERA:
Milone heads into Friday night with numbers very similar to his rookie season a year ago. His strikeout rate continues to be slightly below average, despite ticking up to 6.9 batters per 9 innings. His walk rate is up to 2.21 per 9, while his home run rate is a very Guthrie-esque 1.62.
There are a a couple of reasons to be optimistic about the Royals chances tonight. First, Milone's home ERA is 3.20, but his road ERA stands at 5.07 in 55 innings of work. Second, Milone's numbers have been trending down over the last couple of months. Here's a quick look at his numbers by month:
- March/April: 26 K, 6 BB, .306 wOBA
- May: 32 K, 9 BB, .327 wOBA
- June: 23 K, 11 BB, .329 wOBA
Hopefully, these trends continue Friday night.
Saturday - Jarrod Parker 6-6, 4.11 ERA
After posting 3.5 fWAR as a rookie in 2012, Parker has only accumulated 0.3 so far in 2013. His strikeout and walk rates haven't taken the step forward that most predicted and his home run rate has jumped from 0.55 per 9 a year ago to 1.34. This is in large part due to his HR/FB% doubling to 12% in 2013 (league average is roughly 10.5%). In addition to that Parker's FB% has climbed from 30% in 2012 to 41% in 2013.
These all sound like positive signs for Kansas City on Saturday, but since Parker's April 30 start against the Los Angeles Angels the righty has been on fire. In 77.1 innings over his last 12 starts, Parker is limiting hitters to a .196/.263/.359 line with an ERA of 2.91.
Sunday - A.J. Griffin 6-6, 3.95 ERA
Just like Milone and Parker, Griffin is coming off a strong rookie campaign. Also, just like his peers Griffin has seen home run rate climb in 2013. In Griffin's last start, the Chicago Cubs plated seven runs against him before he exited in the fifth inning. Hopefully, the Royals catch this form of Griffin as opposed to the June edition which stifled hitters to a .190/.231/.330 line, good for a 2.60 ERA.
Not Who You'd Expect Quick who leads Athletics hitters in fWAR? I'm going to guess your answer wasn't Josh Donaldson, who currently sits at 3.8. Donaldson's mark slots him in at 9th among all players in baseball. The 27 year-old third baseman also ranks 10th in baseball in wRC+ at 151.
Still Walking Not so surprisingly, the Athletics lead baseball in BB% at 9.8%. Despite all the walks, the Athletics' OBP ranks 9th in the league at .326. The Royals are walking in 6.9% (24th) of their plate appearances and are getting on base at a .314 clip (17th). Leading the Athletics in BB% is their catching tandem of John Jaso and Derek Norris, both of which are walking in over 13% of their plate appearances.
Explain the BABIP Only one team in baseball has limited opposing hitters to a lower batting average on balls in play than the Oakland Athletics at .273. This is in part due to the fly ball nature of their staff. Oakland's staff is last in the league in ground ball percentage and since ground balls results in more hits than fly balls this plays a factor in the BABIP being so low. Another huge factor is Oakland's home park. At home, the batting average on balls in play of opponents is just .265, while that number rises to .282 on the road.
Propensity for the Long Ball As we've already seen in discussing the probables, the Athletic's pitching staff has experienced some problems with the long ball in 2013. They've allowed more home runs than 19 other Major League pitching staffs. One might think that ranking so high in home runs allowed would be in part due to a high HR/FB%. The Athletics though, playing to their ballpark beautifully are allowing just 8.8% of fly balls to leave the yard (2nd best in baseball). Even on the road, the Athletics are allowing just 9.7% of fly balls to result in home runs. Again, league average is 10.5% so the Athletics staff could be in for a small bit of regression moving forward.
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