If you like disappointing teams like the Royals, then you’ll love their next opponent, the San Francisco Giants. With World Series aspirations after falling in the NLDS last year to the Cubs, they’ve gotten off to a 26-39 start and have the Padres to think for not being in last place. If you want to know what’s gone wrong, the answer is a lot. Surprisingly, the bullpen has been pretty decent with strong performances from overgrown man child Hunter Strickland, Corey Gearrin and others have stabilized a unit that struggled last year. The rotation has a lot of great names, but with Madison Bumgarner injured and Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija pitching decently at best, it’s been an uphill battle.
|Standings||4th Place, NL West|
|Team SP DRA||5.18|
|Team RP DRA||4.40|
|WARP Leader||Buster Posey, 3.1|
|2017 vs. Royals||1-1|
Giants vs. Royals
Giants Projected Lineup
Ty Blach was pitching out of the bullpen and not especially well when Bumgarner went down. All he’s done in nine starts is give the Giants 58.2 innings of 3.53 ERA pitching, including a shutout of the Phillies his start before last. There are things not to like, such as the fact that he’s only struck out 24 in those 58.2 innings, but he also isn’t walking anyone and he’s giving up a relatively low number of hits. He’s coming off a rough start against Milwaukee where he gave up five runs in six innings.
I mentioned the control aspect, and he fills the zone up pretty well, which can go well or poorly for Royals hitters. It can be a Josh Tomlin situation where they know they’re getting a strike so they swing at everything and make terrible contact or the way they’re hitting right now, they could tee off on him. He’s basically a two-pitch guy with a fastball that isn’t anything to write home about and a changeup that he uses more for righties. Lefties will get a dose of his slider and curve as well. He’s exactly the type of pitcher the Royals struggle against, with a .235/.289/.386 season line against finesse pitchers. When you add in that they’ve hit .229/.284/.355 against lefty starters, this looks like a tough game for them, but they’re swinging the bats well right now, so maybe they can buck those trends.
The Vargy train keeps on rolling. He navigated a difficult Astros lineup for five innings in his last start that followed his shutout of the Indians. He’s made 12 starts and in 11 of them, he’s allowed three earned runs or fewer. In nine of them, he’s allowed two or fewer. The swinging strikes he was getting early in the season have kind of gone away, but he’s still eliciting some really weak contact. That’s a bit concerning because if he doesn’t have his changeup working, batters will hit him, but he’s in the midst of a truly great season, so I guess he should get the benefit of the doubt.
Weather: 62°, Wind W 6-12 MPH, Sunny/Clear, 0% Precipitation
The numbers for Cueto look somewhat similar to what he did for the Royals in his 13 starts at the end of 2015, though he had a better DRA (3.35) in his time with the Royals than he’s put up this season. For a star pitcher with the numbers he’s put up, he’s been very consistent, allowing between two and four runs in 10 of his 13 starts. Once he’s allowed one run and twice he’s allowed more than four. He’s been an incredibly effective number four starter this year. Of course, the problem is that he needs to be an ace while Bumgarner is out and he hasn’t been.
It’s worth mentioning that his velocity is on a downward spiral with his fastball and sinker averaging just under 92 MPH after averaging around 93 MPH as recently as 2015. Hitters haven’t done any great damage on the sinker, hitting .309 with a .436 slugging percentage, but the fastball has been responsible for a .232 ISO allowed and 11 extra base hits in 108 at bats. That’s good news for Eric Hosmer (who you might recall has a homer off him in an All-Star game and has hit .365/.431/.577 against four seamers), Mike Moustakas (.303/.338/.605) and Whit Merrifield (.438/.486/.750 against sinkers). Maybe it’s age and all those innings catching up to him, but Cueto is the same old Cueto early, allowing a .245/.276/.355 line the first time through. That jumps a bit to .266/.292/.440 the second time and then skyrockets to .292/.382/.562 the third time through. Pay attention to that. It could be where the Royals get a chance to eat.
Hammel gets the chance to return to the National League where he’s thrived the past few years with the Cubs. He’s also thrived his last two starts, going a combined 13.2 innings with four runs allowed. He hasn’t walked anyone in those two starts, which is big news for him as command and control seemed to be the issue. He somehow worked his way through the Houston lineup with only four swings and misses, but he’s gotten double digit whiffs in four of his last seven starts. The Giants don’t strikeout much, but if Hammel has his curve working and is locating his fastball, this is a lineup he should be able to continue his good pitching against.
Weather: 64°, Wind W 5-15 MPH with gusts to 20 MPH, Sunny, 0% Precipitation
The Royals offense in the last two games against the Padres (okay fine, the last 11 innings) has me a little more optimistic here. I think they actually take both games in this series and head to Anaheim on a good note with a chance to make up some ground in the AL Central.