After salvaging the finale against the Rangers, the Royals welcome in the Detroit Tigers for a four-game set as they get back to AL Central play. They haven’t fared especially well in the division or against the Tigers, which kind of doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Tigers can hit a little and sometimes a lot, but the pitching has been less than with really only Michael Fulmer giving them much in the rotation. The bullpen has stabilized a bit, but there are still weak points just like basically every bullpen. The Royals should be able to beat this team, but you know how that goes.
|Standings||4th Place, AL Central|
|Team SP DRA||4.68|
|Team RP DRA||5.07|
|Team WARP Leader||Michael Fulmer, 3.8|
|Record vs. Royals||4-2|
Royals vs. Tigers
Tigers Projected Lineup
That Zimmermann contract looks more and more like a disaster every day. After starting off so strong last year, he’s just been an absolute mess. He’s given up 114 hits in those 95 innings and isn’t striking out enough batters while he’s walking more than in any full season in his career. And to think there were some who preferred that contract to the Ian Kennedy deal.
His fastball velocity took a dip in his free agent year and then fell even farther last season. This year, it’s rebounded a bit, but his four-seam fastball is averaging 93 MPH now after being up more than 94 MPH previously. He still throws a very good slider, but his curve has been hit pretty hard with a .340 average against it and a .623 SLG. Lefties have been even better against it, so just a hunch, but I think Mike Moustakas catches a mistake and gets back on the Balboni chase. In general, lefties have hit him well. Okay, everyone has hit him well, but lefties have a robust .324/.365/.562 line against him with 11 home runs in 201 plate appearances. If you wanted to predict that Brandon Moss might find a good game, it wouldn’t be the craziest thought. It’s hard to pick out one split that stands out the most when looking for ways to get to Zimmermann, but the .463 average and .778 SLG on the first pitch is one that’s pretty telling.
Vargas gets his first start after the break and his first start since getting roughed up by the Mariners. I think the odds are pretty good that Vargas regresses some in the second half from his Cy Young placement pace, but I’m also not dumb enough to completely bet against him. He hasn’t faced the Tigers yet, but they’ve hit .268/.331/.477 against lefties, so that’s kind of scary.
Weather: 91°, Wind SSE 3-6 MPH, Sunny/Clear, 0% Precipitation
I really thought this would be the year that Boyd put it all together. Turns out, not so much. His strikeout rate that jumped up last year has dropped. His walk rate that was more than reasonable last year is up into dangerous territory. And, oh yeah, he’s given up 74 hits in 55.1 innings. If you believe in FIP, he’s the same pitcher as he was last year, but I think that’s another notch on the belt of reasons that FIP is probably the fifth or sixth best predictive pitching stat.
Boyd throws a four-seamer and a two-seamer with the four-seamer coming in at a bit more than 92 and the other a bit less than that. His curve has been his money pitch with opponents hitting .143 with no extra base hits against it. Of course, it’s only in 14 plate appearances, but the facts are the facts. His changeup has been the problem. It’s not that it’s been terrible, but it hasn’t been good enough to help make his fastball effective and those have been knocked around pretty good. Jorge Bonifacio and Lorenzo Cain should theoretically have a field day in this one. What might be most amazing to me about Boyd is that he’s allowed an .867 OPS when behind in the count, .923 OPS when even and an .817 OPS when he’s ahead. The moral of this story? You don’t need a plan against him. Basically anything has worked this year.
This could be a game where runs are not at a premium with Wood opposing Boyd. He looked good in his first start of the year against the Twins before wearing down, which was understandable. I mentioned this in Friday Notes a few weeks ago, but since using his two-seam fastball more, he’s allowed just those two runs in the fifth inning of his start since June 6 with nine strikeouts and only two walks. I’m not confident in him in this start for any number of reasons, but I do think the turnaround is real once he gets back to the bullpen.
Weather: 94°, Wind SSW 4-8 MPH, Sunny/Clear, 0% Precipitation
The story of Verlander’s season has been base runners. He has a WHIP of 1.5 on the dot. He’s allowing more than a hit per inning for just the second time since his rookie season with more walks than ever. Add in that his strikeout rate has dropped again and it’s easy to see why he’s posted a 4.66 ERA. The 3.98 DRA tells a slightly different story, but not enough to make him worth his deal. Not this season at least.
I mentioned this during the last Royals/Tigers series, but the fastball velocity is back. Well, not back back, but back to closer to his top form. He’s averaging 95.6 MPH with it and throwing it more than half the time. It’s a slider and a curve to round out the repertoire and that’s it. The fastball control has been the real problem with 38 walks allowed in 247 plate appearances. More than anything, though, he’s been killed on pitches he uses sparingly, his two-seam fastball and changeup. Verlander has been weird this year. The first time through the order, opponents struggle with a .669 OPS. Then the second time through, he’s allowed an OPS of .855. Then it’s like he makes another adjustment if he gets to a third time through and has allowed a .706 OPS. Basically get him in the 3rd through the 5th or so and you’ll be fine. If not, not so much. By law, I’m required to tell you that Salvador Perez has hit .414/.410/.655 against Verlander in 61 career plate appearances.
Hammel was cruising in his last start…sort of, before losing his no-hitter and then the lead in a matter of three batters. So it goes for Hammel. He’s definitely not a workhorse, but I think if used correctly, he’s a more than serviceable number four starter. He isn’t a guy you’re going to get seven shutout innings from, but since the start of June, he’s gone 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA in 49.1 innings over eight starts. You definitely take that from your four.
Weather: 96°, Wind SSW 4-8 MPH, Sunny/Clear, 0% Precipitation
Fulmer is really good. His strikeout rate is down, but so is his walk rate and he’s been even better at limiting home runs than he was in his rookie season. I find year to year numbers fascinating sometimes, and the fact that he ended last year with a 3.06 ERA and has that same ERA this year is pretty amazing to me. He’s been the subject of a few trade rumors over the last couple weeks, and, as a Royals fan, I’d like very much if they dealt him to the National League.
He has a four-seamer and a two-seamer and he throws both very hard, 96 MPH plus for each. Mix that with a slider that can be especially nasty and a changeup that keeps getting better and it looks like he’s going to be good for a very long time. In a bit more than a year in the big leagues, Fulmer has stymied most Royals, but Whit Merrifield’s 3 for 6 stands out a bit, I guess. The sample is small, but it’s important to cling to something. There is very little encouraging for Royals fans in the stats for Fulmer, so I’ll give you this. He’s allowed a .193/.248/.270 line with nobody on, but .289/.321/.405 with runners on and .306/.351/.388 with runners in scoring position, so I guess figure out how to get someone on and then hope and pray.
Duffy is coming off a fantastic outing that would be seen very differently if the Royals could have gotten anything going offensively. He only had nine swinging strikes, but it looked like his game plan was getting some weak contact from the Rangers. Obviously you want swings and misses, but I think there’s something to that, and he still had nine in 91 pitches. Since coming back from the DL, he’s just 1-2, but he’s gone 21 innings and posted a 3.43 ERA with 17 strikeouts and two walks. That’ll play.
Weather: 97°, Wind SSW 4-8 MPH, Sunny/Clear, 0% Precipitation
I really don’t like the way the Royals played during that series with the Rangers. A lot of things we saw in April crept back up and that makes me nervous for a repeat. I really want to say that they’ll take three of four, but I just can’t do it. I think they split, but it would be nice if the June offense would find their way back to the stadium.