Brian Dozier

Series Preview: Royals vs. Minnesota Twins, September 27-29

The Royals final homestand of the season begins by hosting the worst team in baseball, the Minnesota Twins. It wasn’t supposed to be this way for the Twins, coming off an 83-79 season and finishing in second place in the AL Central, but here we are. The Twins are already on the clock for the first overall pick in the 2017 draft and their season is dragging to a close. They’re just 16-36 since the start of August after a 15-11 July gave them hope of maybe being merely bad. In the eulogy of the Royals season, their time against the Twins won’t be brought up as the Royals are 13-3 against Minnesota, including 5-1 at home against them.

Twins Offense

You ever heard of Brian Dozier? Well he’s pretty good. The Twins actually do have some offense at times, as we’ve discussed in this very place many times. They don’t hit for much of an average but they can have big games. They just haven’t done much of it lately. Dozier along with Miguel Sano and Max Kepler can take pitchers deep. They also almost always seem to really work the Royals pitching staff and tax them, so that’s something to look forward to I guess.

Twins Offense the Last Month

James Beresford 7 16 .214 .267 .286 0 0 0 0
Byron Buxton 23 87 .288 .337 .625 7 16 16 1
Juan Centeno 11 38 .212 .278 .303 1 2 2 0
Brian Dozier 28 130 .305 .369 .661 12 23 21 6
Eduardo Escobar 20 70 .094 .159 .109 0 4 3 0
Robbie Grossman 18 54 .327 .389 .510 2 5 4 0
Max Kepler 24 99 .172 .222 .269 2 5 8 0
Joe Mauer 17 77 .167 .286 .288 1 4 6 0
John Ryan Murphy 11 30 .222 .267 .333 1 3 3 0
Jorge Polanco 25 107 .263 .336 .411 2 9 7 1
Miguel Sano 18 76 .246 .316 .507 4 11 9 0
Logan Schafer 21 53 .217 .321 .304 0 1 5 0
Kurt Suzuki 19 61 .143 .197 .286 2 8 3 0
Kennys Vargas 16 52 .217 .308 .370 2 4 6 0

Twins Pitching

You ever heard of Ervin Santana? Well he’s pretty good. But that’s about it for Twins starters. They’ve had 11 pitchers make starts this season and Santana is the only one with an ERA below 5.00 for them. It doesn’t matter who they try, nobody has worked. Some have worked worse than others. Jose Berrios, for example, has an ERA of 8.88. They’ve traded for pieces like Hector Santiago, who has an ERA of 6.22 with the Twins. Let’s just say the Twins find themselves giving up a lot of runs early.

Twins Starters the Last Month

Andrew Albers 2 6.2 0 0 9.45 8 4
Jose Berrios 3 11.2 0 3 7.71 11 8
Pat Dean 2 9.1 0 1 6.75 5 4
Tyler Duffey 3 15.2 1 1 5.74 14 2
Kyle Gibson 6 35.0 1 3 4.89 21 15
Ervin Santana 6 35.2 1 1 3.53 37 18
Hector Santiago 6 36.0 2 2 3.75 19 16

The bullpen is better than the rotation, but better is relative. Brandon Kintzler has been fine as closer, but has faltered badly down the stretch with a 9.00 ERA and two blown saves in September. Michael Tonkin has the second most innings of any Twins reliever and has a 5.17 ERA. Ryan Pressly and Taylor Rogers have been okay, but the rest is a merry-go-round of blown leads.

Twins Relievers the Last Month

Andrew Albers 2 2.0 0 0 0 0.00 2 1
Buddy Boshers 10 8.2 0 0 0 1.04 11 3
J.T. Chargois 13 11.1 1 0 0 11.1 12 6
Pat Dean 4 5.2 0 1 0 6.35 4 2
Brandon Knitzler 9 9.2 0 2 3 8.38 6 4
Pat Light 11 10.0 0 1 0 10.80 10 12
Tommy Milone 3 3.2 0 0 0 4.91 6 0
Ryan O’Rourke 10 8.1 0 1 0 5.40 7 1
Ryan Pressly 11 10.1 0 2 0 5.23 9 3
Taylor Rogers 12 13.0 0 0 0 5.54 19 2
Michael Tonkin 7 6.0 0 0 0 7.50 6 3
Alex Wimmers 12 14.0 1 3 0 5.14 10 11

Forecasts provided by Sensible Weather. For daily MLB weather forecasts, visit and follow along on Twitter (@SensibleWeather).

Game 1, Tuesday: Ian Kennedy vs. Jose Berrios

It hasn’t been what you’d call a successful rookie season for the Twins prized prospect. He was ranked in the top 20 by both and Baseball Prospectus and at #28 by Baseball America among all prospects in baseball prior to the season, but this year has been a disaster in the big leagues. It’s worth noting that he is striking out big league hitters, so at least he has that going for him, but he’s allowed an incredible 66 hits in 48.2 innings and 12 home runs, which is not quite Chris Young territory, but it’s a lot closer than you want to be. He’s only 22 and you can see the stuff he has, but it’s just not enough at this point for him to be successful. I think he’ll be good eventually, so the Royals better beat up on him while they can. He’s faced the Royals twice and has gone nine innings and given up nine runs on 14 hits, but with just one home run allowed. So there’s that.

Three things to watch for against Berrios:

  1. He throws his fastball a lot. It comes in more than half the time at better than 94 MPH. He also has a curve, changeup and a sinker. The curve is the pitch that I think will give hitters fits once he really figures it out because it’s already been good at times for him. The changeup, though, that needs work. Opponents are slugging .815 against it. His sinker has been effective too, so I wonder if maybe he doesn’t start using that more.
  2. Berrios doesn’t have that much trouble putting hitters away. If he gets to two strikes at some point in the at bat, he’s allowed a .599 OPS. The problem is that if he doesn’t get there, he gets crushed. When the batter is ahead in the count, he’s allowed a .375/.571/.736 line. That’s where the changeup can be a big weapon for him in pitching backwards, but it just isn’t there yet.
  3. Nobody is struggling against him, but he has been better against lefties. Of course, they’re hitting .317/.418/.500, so struggling is relative. Righties are hitting a robust .330/.422/.640 against Berrios. Kendrys Morales has the Royals only homer against him, but Alcides Escobar and Savlador Perez have doubles and Jarrod Dyson also has multiple hits against him. Nobody’s seen him more than six times, but the swings are mostly good.

Kennedy will make his penultimate start of the season against the team he made his Royals debut against. It’s hard to argue with the results on the whole. He has a 3.64 ERA and a nearly 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio this season. The homers were an issue for awhile, but he’s gotten that under control of late. He wasn’t at his best in his last start, but he limited damage pretty well and now sports a 5-3 record with a 3.24 ERA in 14 starts since the break. He’s 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA in six starts in his career against the Twins, which includes a 3-0 record with a 2.31 ERA in four starts against them this year. This may surprise you, but Kennedy has allowed two homers to Dozier in his career, both this year. He’s also allowed a home run to Mauer and Schafer. He’s mostly held the Twins down in fairly limited plate appearances.

The Forecast

First Pitch Temperature: 71° F
Wind: W at 4-8 mph
Cloud Cover: Sunny/Clear
Precipitation: 0%

Game 2, Wednesday: Jason Vargas vs. Ervin Santana

Santana has revived his career this season with a very good year. After missing half of last season due to suspension, he’s put up a 3.37 ERA, a 3.84 DRA and 3.1 WARP. It’s been a quality year for him. He’s continued to strike out enough hitters while keeping his walks low enough to be successful, and in a year when homers have skyrocketed around baseball, he’s found a way to keep his down to where they’d been in most of his good seasons throughout his career. It’s hard to say how much longer this kind of pitching can last for Santana given his age, but it’s been a really good year for him. He’s 5-9 with a 4.65 ERA in 20 career starts against the Royals, and that includes going 0-2 with a 4.76 ERA in four starts against them this season.

Three things to watch for against Santana:

  1. Since leaving the Royals, Santana had backed off his slider a bit and really backed off it last year, but now he’s back to throwing it about 12-13 percent of the time at about 93 MPH. He throws his four-seamer just under 40 percent of the time at 93-94 MPH and his slider more than 36 percent of the time as his main pitches. He also mixes in a changeup from time to time. The slider has been great, but that changeup has been where hitters have done some damage with a .342 average against it.
  2. Santana can be beaten early. He’s allowed 26 runs out of 63 total when facing a lineup for the first time. On his first 25 pitches, he gets hit to the tune of a .271/.315/.470 line with eight home runs allowed. That’s not to say he can’t be gotten to later. He’s allowed a .287/.353/.416 line the third time through the order. But still, early is better. It’s always good to get the Twins on their heels early.
  3. He’s been better against lefties than righties, allowing a .658 OPS to the left side compared with .709 to righties. Eric Hosmer has had his way with Santana with two homers and a 1.196 OPS. Perez, Morales and Alex Gordon have also homered against him, but of those, only Morales has a better than .800 OPS against him in his career.

Jason Vargas will make his third start of the 2016 season, and things look okay for him so far. He’s gotten through three innings and four innings respectively in his two starts, and while he’s struggled early in both games, he’s gotten out of it looking relatively good in the end. I would imagine this next start will be a test for him as he’ll probably be asked to throw about 75 pitches, which should hopefully allow him to get through five and maybe even earn a victory before this season is out. The Royals had mentioned that they were really only looking for 10-15 innings out of him, so maybe he doesn’t go the full five, but it’s just good to see him on the mound and pitching relatively well. Given his potential for more innings in this one, it’s not a foregone conclusion that he’ll be backed up by Dillon Gee, so there may be a different look to this start for the Royals. In his career against the Twins, Vargas is 6-4 with a 3.96 ERA in 16 games (15 starts). He’s allowed a .479 OPS to Suzuki in 41 career plate appearances and hasn’t allowed a single homer to Dozier, so that’s something.

The Forecast

First Pitch Temperature: 64° F
Wind: N at 4-8 mph
Cloud Cover: Sunny/Clear
Precipitation: 0%

Game 3, Thursday: Danny Duffy vs. Kyle Gibson

It sure looked like Gibson was taking a step forward in 2015 when he posted a 3.84 ERA and solid peripherals, but injuries and ineffectiveness have made him take a big step back this season. He’s not giving the innings that were expected of him this year and he hasn’t given the performance expected of him. His ground ball rate remains solid, which has helped keep his home run rate somewhat in check, but nothing is going well for him this year. He’s walking too many batters and not striking out enough, which is sort of what we saw from him during his rookie year back in 2013. He allows a lot of contact, so hits are going to happen, but he’s just allowed too much this year. As you know, he’s been very good against the Royals in his career, going 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 10 starts. He hasn’t been quite as successful this year, with a 7.36 ERA in two starts.

Three things to watch for against Gibson:

  1. Gibson relies on a sinker to get grounders, and he’s gotten a good amount this year with a rate around 50 percent. He throws it about 43 percent of the time at about 91-92 MPH. He also has a slider, a fastball at 92 and a changeup to go along with a very, very occasional curve. The fastball has gotten massacred with a .520 average against it and .940 slugging percentage. Everything else has really been manageable, so there’s his issue right there.
  2. Nothing especially stands out when looking at what Gibson has done this year as being THE problem (other than that fastball). He gets crushed early in games (.846 OPS allowed the first plate appearance) and late in games (.836 OPS allowed the third time through). He gets hit with the bases empty and with runners in scoring position. He’s bad at home and on the road. One thing that, I guess, sort of stands out is that he’s been awful with four days of rest and awful with six or more days of rest, but with five days rest, he’s 2-1 with a 3.23 ERA in six starts. He’ll be making this start on five days of rest.
  3. He hasn’t exactly shut righties down with a .750 OPS against him, but lefties have hit .331/.394/.498 against him this season. That’s pretty darn bad. Gordon, Morales and Drew Butera have all homered against him, and among Royals with at least 20 plate appearances against him, Gordon has the best OPS against Gibson at 1.027. Not surprisingly, individual Royals haven’t hit him all that well in their careers.

Duffy has a chance to rebound against a team that provides a good matchup for him. He just couldn’t find his command early and then got hit around once he was able to get it into the strike zone. This will be the last start of the year for Duffy, which means that unless he strikes out 15 (not impossible), he won’t reach the 200 plateau, but he can end the season on a high note. If he can go seven innings and strike out at least six batters, he’ll have the Royals record for most per nine. And if he strikes out those six while walking just one, he’ll set the Royals record for best strikeout to walk ratio. There’s nothing on the line but Royals history in this one. He’s 5-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 15 games (11 starts) in his career against the Twins, which includes a 1-0 record and a 1.93 ERA in three games (two starts) this year. Among current Twins, only Grossman has homered against him, and he’s crushed Duffy in nine plate appearances. Duffy’s done a nice job against basically everyone else.

The Forecast

First Pitch Temperature: 65° F
Wind: NNE at 4-8 mph
Cloud Cover: Sunny/Clear
Precipitation: 0%

The Prediction

The Twins are bad. Like really bad. A Royals sweep wouldn’t be all that surprising here, considering it’s the last hurrah in front of the home crowd this week. I’m going to say they win two of three, but I really wanted to say a sweep here.

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