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2024 Season | Series #20 | Royals @ Guardians | June 4-6, 2024

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Wham with the Right Hand

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After a day off to enjoy some home cooking the Guardians host the Royals for the first three of 13 games that might have a lot to say about who wins the division. The Guardians have a four game lead over the Royals, who are 14-15 on the road. The Guardians are 20-7 at home which is the second best home winning percentage behind Philadelphia.

The Royals have lost six of eight since their 8-game winning streak ended. They are 7-14 against teams at or over .500 while the Guardians are 14-7. They also lost starting pitcher Michael Wacha (4-5, 4.24) to a fractured foot. Wacha was scheduled to start Wednesday. Also, 2B Michael Massey is on the IL with a back sprain. He is hitting .294/.835. He can be activated on Tuesday but whether he will be ready to play is unknown.

The Royals have been much better at home with a record of 22-10 versus 14-15 away. Offensively they rank 3rd in runs per game at home and 19th on the road. Since there is such a large difference I will use their road statistics for offense. On the road they rank 27th in on-base percentage, wOBA, and wRC+. They are also 27th in walks; they are not a patient bunch. They rank 17th in home run percentage, 20th in isolated power, and 23rd in slugging. The only offensive category where they are above average on the road is strikeout percentage, where they rank 8th.

The Royals are hitting .275/.793 at home and .228/.649 on the road, so there is a huge difference of 144 points in their OPS. The Guardians need to win these games because the Royals are very good in their own ballpark.

The Royals have excelled with runners on base, hitting .303/.829. Their numbers with RISP are almost identical. With none on they’re hitting .218/.643 so the key is to not let them get on base.

The Royals have a good pitching staff, ranking 9th in ERA. Unlike their hitters, their pitchers are just as good on the road as at home, even better. Their road ERA is 3.47 versus 3.67 at home. Kauffman Stadium is the third most hitter friendly park in baseball so far this year which is partly responsible for the Royals hitting so much better at home.

The Royals’ staff excels at preventing home runs, ranking 2nd best in opponents’ home run percentage. They make you string hits together. They do a great job controlling the running game, leading the majors in opponents' stolen base percentage at just under 66%. They don’t strike out a lot of batters, ranking 27th in strikeout percentage, so the Guardians will be putting a lot of balls in play. Fangraphs ranks the Royals second in the majors in defense and fourth in ultimate zone rating. They cover a lot of ground.

That combination of allowing very few home runs and very few stolen bases means you have to string hits together to score and that’s difficult against the game’s second best defense that also has great range.

The Guardians have the bullpen advantage as the Royals' bullpen ranks 23rd in WAR and 24th in ERA while the Guardians' bullpen is 1st in both categories. If our starters can get to the 7th inning with the Guardians tied or ahead I like our chances.

The Royals have feasted on losing teams with a record of 29-11 against teams under .500 versus 7-14 against teams .500 or over. So they may have padded their stats against their weaker opponents. This series will be a good test of how good they actually are. They are 2-4 against Baltimore, 2-5 against Minnesota, 1-2 against the Yankees, 6-1 against the White Sox, and 5-1 against Toronto.

Bobby Witt Jr (.313/.906) and Salvador Perez (.315/.899) lead the offense. Perez, the 34-year-old catcher, is having a career season. His career line is .269/.765 so he is way, way above that. I’m thinking at his age he should regress to the mean, especially since catching wears on you as the season goes on.

His best season out of 12 so far was the pandemic shortened 2020 when he hit .333/.986 in 37 games; he never got the chance to wear down. This year Perez hit .368 in April, .284 in May, and .231 in the last seven days, so the regression may already be happening. I wonder what numbers he would put up if they just made him a DH and had him catch twice a week.

Triston McKenzie goes in the opener against Seth Lugo, a 34-year-old right-hander who spent eight years in the NL before coming over last off-season. Lugo is 49-32 with a 3.30 ERA and was a reliever until last season when the Padres converted him to a starter. Lugo is off to a phenomenal start at 9-1, 1.72 ERA. He probably would be the All-Star game starter if they made the selections now.

The Royals are 9-3 when Lugo starts. His road ERA is an amazing 0.86. Opponents are hitting .150 with runners on base and with RISP and two out they are 0-for-25. Yes, 0-for-25. With Monday being a day off he’ll be pitching with an extra day of rest.

Lugo’s FIP is 3.22 which is right on his career ERA average, so he’s been helped enormously by KC’s stellar defense.

McKenzie had a 3.06 ERA in six May starts so he has been very good but not spectacular recently. He has dominated the Royals. Current Royals players are hitting .128 off him. Perez is 3-for-18, Witt is 2-for-9, and the rest are 1-for-20. This could be a low scoring game.

Logan Allen starts Wednesday against Brady Singer, 4-2, 2.63. Singer has been sick but is expected to be ready to start Wednesday. He has not pitched since May 25. Allen is coming off a shellacking in Colorado but hopefully a return to sea level will help him get back on track. But his ERA at home is 7.33 so I’m not optimistic, especially since Witt and Perez hit right-handed.

Tanner Bibee goes in Thursday’s finale, which will be at 1:10 p.m. Michael Wacha was scheduled to pitch for the Royals but after having his foot fractured by a batted ball they will have to find someone else. The Royals' five starters have started every game but one this year so this is just the second time they will have to find a substitute starter.
 
This is the first big one of year. With plenty of games to play after the fact, it won't matter much.... Or will it?

It's go time. The Royals has been trying to get something going for awhile and they look pretty sharp. It's unfortunate for them that they are running into us...

Sweep city.
 
Royals have the SP advantage in the first two games, Guards have it on Thursday with Bibee.

Gotta keep it close early today and tomorrow and win one with the pen. So working their starter into high pitch counts is almost as important to get to their pen asap.
 
Royals have the SP advantage in the first two games, Guards have it on Thursday with Bibee.

Gotta keep it close early today and tomorrow and win one with the pen. So working their starter into high pitch counts is almost as important to get to their pen asap.
Wednesday's game is looking a little dodgy w/ weather.. There is a chance the Guards/Royals will have an "extra" guy for a twi-night double header on Thursday... FWIW...
 
KC starters have been very good at stranding runners. Their rotation ranks 3rd in LOB%. Ours ranks 6th. In that sense both rotations have been very fortunate. MLB average is 72.4.

Lugo's LOB% is 89.5. Singer's is 83.8.

Conversely, both teams have been very fortunate in hitting with RISP.

KC ranks first, we rank second...and both teams have done it with extremely high BABIP. KC ranks second at .338, we rank sixth at .321. MLB average is .295.

All those stats are fairly unsustainable. All those stats are gonna clash this week.
 
2B Michael Massey is on the IL with a back sprain. He is hitting .294/.835.

It sounds like Massey is out for the series.

Massey (back) visited a specialist Friday and received multiple injections, Anne Rogers of MLB.com reports.

Manager Matt Quatraro said the Royals will wait to see how Massey's back responds to the treatment before determining when he will head to the minors for a rehab assignment. For now, the 26-year-old infielder remains without a clear return timetable, and he isn't eligible for activation until Tuesday. - CBS Sports


This is significant because the Royals' top hitters this year in terms of OPS are:

Witt .906
Perez .899
Massey .835
Pasquantino .749

So the Royals' offense has mostly been carried by three players and now one of them is out. And Perez has 2 hits in his last 13 AB's and is 3-for-18 in his career against McKenzie. He's hitting .211 against the Guardians' pitchers including 1-for-5 against Allen and 0-for-2 against Bibee.

This will be a "show me" series for the Royals AFAIC. They are 14-15 away from Kaufmann stadium and they are below average offensively on the road, ranking 19th in runs per game. Their bullpen is 24th in WAR. They are 12-16 against teams that are .500 and above. Unlike the Guardians who lost Bieber after two starts and still haven't seen Gavin Williams, the Royals' five starters have been healthy (until now).

So now they are missing their #5 starter and their third best hitter. For the first time they're facing some injury problems, unlike the Guardians who lost Kwan for several weeks.

They still have excellent starters going the next two days in Lugo and Singer. Witt is an All-Star and their defense is outstanding. They also have two right-handed starters and possibly three this series and the Guardians have a wRC+ of 99 against righties versus 119 against lefties.

So the Royals have a lot going for them but they have been mediocre away from home and they are missing a couple of key players. They need Lugo and Singer to step up and pitch deep into these games and they need to find another starter for Thursday. And they probably need some offense from guys other than Witt and Perez.
 
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The nice news is we'll still have a lead even if we get swept. But I don't expect us to get swept.
 
The Lineup I'm hoping for

LF Kwan
2B Gimenez
3B Ramirez
1B Naylor
RF Fry
CF Brennan
DH Manzardo
C Naylor
SS Rocchio
 
How the fuck is Seth Lugo 9-1 with a 1.72 ERA?
As I said in the preview, his expected ERA is 3.66 which is in line with his career ERA of 3.30. The reason his actual ERA is 1.79 is probably a combination of some luck and the Royals having the second best defense in baseball. His BABIP is .251 against .285 for his career. Also, half his starts were against teams ranked 21-30 in runs per game.

He's 8-0 against teams .500 and below and 1-1 with two no decisions against teams over .500. But the guy has allowed 0-2 runs in 11 of 12 starts, the exception being the Orioles who got 4 runs in 5.1 innings off him.

His career HR/FB percentage is 12.0%. It's 6.6% this year. He's been much better at preventing home runs. When you keep the ball in the park and have a great defense behind you - you're going to have success.

He started twice against the White Sox (30th in scoring). He also pitched against Oakland (27th), Tampa (25th), Toronto (24th), the Angels (21st), Detroit (17th), Houston (13th), Minnesota twice (11th), Baltimore (3rd), and Milwaukee (2nd).
 

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