No jet lag on this flight! Which is good, because I’d probably feel awful coming out of Houston having to work my backside off for two wins against the American League’s worst team. Be gentle, Central Time Zone. Please.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS – 58-53, 3rd place in the AL Central (8.5 GB)
It’s hard to know what to make of this team. The Royals were railed by analysts for not selling come the trade deadline, yet they’ve only lost four time since the All-Star break. Dayton Moore is still inept, but somehow his team is “in it” even though they’re quite a distance away from the Wild Card leaders. It’s a strange difference between perception and reality here. So I’m here to give you the reality, as all we’ve had up until this point is perception.
1 – Lorenzo Cain – CF – .258/.322/.358
- By fWAR, Cain is the most valuable player on the Royals’ roster. And he can barely muster a .301 wOBA. Fantastic start to the lineup!
- Nothing really fluky or bad about his current slash line, but there’s been a lot less power shown by Cain compared to last year (.419 SLG, .153 ISO).
- There’s been some improvements in the discipline department: he’s walking more while striking out slightly less since last season.
2 – Eric Hosmer – 1B – .297/.342/.443
- The 2013 version of Hosmer might just be a better, more complete version than the one we’ve seen up until now. Much better at both hitting & fielding.
- Here’s his wRC numbers for his seasons so far: ’11 – 114, ’12 – 80, ’13 – 114. If he gets an 80 next season, he’ll be consistently inconsistent!
- His power stroke has finally returned after disappearing last season, and it’s brought with it improved on-base skills.
3 – Billy Butler – DH – .278/.374/.403
- Butler was the first baseman before Hosmer happened, so the Royals thankfully made sure he wasn’t going to use his glove again when Hosmer was called up.
- He’s walking at a career-high rate of 13.1%, a mark nearly four percentage points higher than his career rate.
- After hitting 29 homers last year, his power has evaporated. His .403 SLG & .125 ISO are both the second-worst respective rates in Butler’s career.
4 – Alex Gordon – LF – .265/.333/.405
- Late-blooming prospect who went bonkers in 2011 when everything he did saw a massive improvement – batting, fielding, baserunning, you name it.
- Gordon’s not hitting an ridiculous amount of line drives to support a .350 BABIP again, so his AVG is down from last year.
- Gordon’s not taking nearly as many walks as used to. His 8.4 BB% is the lowest it’s been since his rookie year’s 6.8% rate.
5 – Justin Maxwell – RF – .253/.323/.411 (in 161 PA)
- Maxwell was recently acquired from the Houston Astros as a right-handed LHP masher to complement the lefty-heavy Royals outfield.
- Not exactly known across the major leagues for his patience. He strikes out three times more than he walks.
- His power is what makes up most of his value. Maxwell owns a career .199 ISO and has the speed to rack up triples if he hits it in the power alleys.
6 – Mike Moustakas – 3B – .229/.288/.368
- Another highly-praised Royals prospect that hasn’t really panned out yet. Plagued by low BABIP and a relatively high strikeout rate.
- His walk rate has show small but steady improvement the more seasons he has under his belt. Never really walked a lot in the minors, however.
- It’s really hard to gauge Moustakas. His strikeout rate & his power numbers go up and down over his three seasons in the bigs.
7 – Miguel Tejada – 2B – .297/.327/.392 (in 159 PA)
- Miguel Tejada is still playing in the majors? What? And he has a starting job on that team? I…I don’t know anymore, guys. This is weird.
- Well, he doesn’t really walk a lot anymore and his strikeout rate is trending upwards. He’s got no power left either.
- Anything he’s doing at the plate now can be attributed to a .339 BABIP, 44 points above his career mark.
8 – George Kottaras – C – .167/.368/.431 (in 95 PA)
- No matter where he goes, Kottaras always seems to hit with surprising power in limited playing time. His ISO usually sits around .200.
- He’s not too shabby as a backup catcher, but UZR doesn’t seem to like him. He’s gotten negative marks in most of his seasons.
- A concussion suffered by Salvador Perez has allowed Kottaras to start this season, but he’ll be relegated to backup duty when Perez eventually returns.
9 – Alcides Escobar – SS – .238/.265/.307
- Speedy shortstop with a hit tool that can be accurately described as “meh”. Doesn’t walk a lot, but thankfully doesn’t strikeout a bunch either.
- He’s a full-time starter at short with a wRC of 53 because he’s got a decent glove and can steal bases. Also, the Royals have no other alternative.
- Offers practically nothing in terms of power. .086 career ISO, and in 2013, Escobar has a .069. That’s pretty anemic.
Who’s hot? – Last 14 games
- Eric Hosmer: 9 runs, 9 RBI, .362 AVG
- Mike Moustakas: 3 HR, 9 RBI, .489 SLG
Who’s not? – Last 14 games
- Alcides Escobar: .182 AVG, 0 SB, -3 wRC
- Alex Gordon: .206 AVG, 1.6 BB%, .274 wOBA
Jon Lester vs. Bruce Chen
After a woeful start against the Diamondbacks, Lester will try to bounce back against the swing-happy Royals. He’ll face Bruce Chen, who’s racking up strikeouts at a rate not seen from him since 2002, and allowing a career-low 0.94 HR/9. However, his .247 BABIP and 88.5 LOB% scream regression, and the Red Sox will look to cash in on that.
Peavy Day returns to grace us once more, as he’ll face a familiar AL Central foe in the Royals once again. Opposing him is the strangely wondrous Santana, who has managed to keep his strikeout rate the same while seeing massive improvements in both his BB/9 & HR/9 compared to his career norms. While his ERA is a cool 2.97, an xFIP of 3.51 suggests that Santana has been pitching at a level a bit over his head.
Felix Doubront vs. Jeremy Guthrie
Guthrie, as best as I can describe it, is Bartolo Colon minus the PEDs & magical 2013 season. Doesn’t strikeout very many people, walks quite a few, and gives up homers with increasing frequency. Get as many Red Sox into your fantasy team’s starting lineup on Saturday, because it’s gonna be a hit parade.
Shields has more or less been a very solid all-around pitcher. Strikes out a fair few, limits his walks, and doesn’t give up homers like crazy. John “Ankle Breaker” Lackey says his swollen joint will have gone down by Sunday, so he’ll be ready to take the mound when the time comes.
- Matt Thornton: 15-day DL (August 5th, sore right oblique)
- Felix Doubront: Probable for Friday’s scheduled start (August 5th, tightness in right oblique)
- Kansas City
- Salvador Perez: 7-day DL (August 4th, concussion)
- Wade Davis: On the bereavement list (August 4th, personal)
It’s a Red vs. Blue showdown in Kansas City and the Red Sox will have the unenviable job of cooling down the red-hot Royals. Sure, they can do it, but actually pulling it off is a different story entirely.