The Red Sox (11-16) get out of town, and none too soon, to play a three-game series against the lowly Kansas City Royals (9-18). The Royals have some talent but not enough to, you know, consistently win. The Royals will host the 2012 MLB All-Star Game to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of historic Kauffman… I’m sorry, could you repeat that? Oh. Never mind.
Jonathan Sanchez (up against Felix Doubront in the opener) can be summed up in one word: walks. For all the promise that Sanchez has shown in his career, giving free passes holds him back from being an elite pitcher. Since he became a starting pitcher with the Giants, Sanchez has struck out around 9.5 batters per nine innings on the verge of excellent, according to Fan Graphs) but has walked around 4.75 batters per nine innings, topping out at 5.86 per nine innings in 2011. Fan Graphs rates that as awful. So I guess it makes sense that the Royals would have wanted him. “Patience” should be the Word of the Day for the Red Sox.
Danny Duffy (versus Daniel Bard) is the hardest thrower in the American League, averaging 95.3 on his fastball, second only to Stephen Strasburg‘s 95.7 in all of baseball. Duffy is averaging 10.32 K/9 in 2012 but has walked a Sanchezian 4.76 batters per nine innings. The good news for Duffy is that he has been slightly unlucky, as his 5.64 ERA in 2011 was matched with a 4.82 FIP and a .329 BABIP. And sure enough, Duffy’s ERA and FIP have come down so far in 2012, to 3.57 and 3.40, respectively.
Bruce Chen (taking on Jon Lester in the finale), the favorite pitcher of Twitter’s @TrippingOlney, experienced a resurgence starting in 2010. In the three years previous to 2010 that Chen pitched (he missed all of 2008), Chen averaged around a .290 batting average against and a terrible 6.50 FIP. However, starting in 2010, Chen started missing bats again. The key for Chen was going to his slider more often. From 2006-2009 Chen threw his slider approximately 9% of the time. In 2010, Chen threw his slider 21.2% of the time, 28.7% in 2011 and up to 35.2% so far in 2012. Chen’s BABIP from 2010-2012 averages around .275, but when you do it for two years and change it’s probably not luck.
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
All success in Kansas City is relative, but Mike Moustakas (.305/.365/.537), Alex Gordon (.264/.355/.443) and Billy Butler (.296/.339/.519) are off to decent starts but Eric Hosmer (.185/.261/.370, but with 5 homers and 15 RBI), Jeff Francoeur (.248/.296/.337) and Humberto Quintero (.224..291/.388) are not.
In the bullpen, current closer Jonathan Broxton has 5 saves and a 1.86 ERA but somewhat more worrying is his 3.37 FIP and 4.21 xFIP. Tim Collins (2.30 ERA against a 2.51 FIP) and Jose Mijares (2.92 ERA/3.60 FIP/4.20 xFIP) are also pitching well.
RHP Joakim Soria (Tommy John surgery on April 3) is out for the season. C Salvador Perez (meniscus tear) is on the 60-day DL and may return in July. Players on the 15-day DL are SS Yuniesky Betancourt (right ankle sprain), CF Lorenzo Cain (strained left hip flexor), RHP Greg Holland (left rib stress reaction) and RHP Blake Wood (bone bruise in right elbow).
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
A 1-6 homestand. One and six. Sunday’s game seems to encapsulate the current plight of the Red Sox: bad starting pitching, a dearth of hitting with RISP, brave and effective relief pitching, yet still a loss because something stupid happens (in this case, the Orioles position player outpitching the Red Sox position player). After not being able to consistently find the strike zone, there are rumblings of sending Clay Buchholz to Pawtucket. I’m sure Darnell McDonald will work out well in the five spot.
Those in the know say that the Royals have many top-notch prospects, some of which have graduated to the majors. But until they are all in Kansas City, this franchise is the baseball equivalent of Sisyphus. The Royals push that boulder up the hill only to see it roll back down again, and they are fated to start the process over and over. One day that rock will stay on top of the mountain. One day.