The Royals finish up their long homestand with a visit from the Chicago White Sox, and it’s a good thing they wear their name on the back of the uniform because they look different than the last time these two teams met. The White Sox, of course, have traded Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle over the last few days and might trade more before it’s all said and done. They have one of the game’s best farm systems, which is scary for the future, but now they’re left with not much at the big league level. They are starting to promote their high octane talent, but I think we all know that rookies are volatile, so hopefully the Royals can pick up some wins in this series.
White Sox Vitals
|Standings||5th Place, AL Central|
|Team SP DRA||5.73|
|Team RP DRA||4.36|
|Team WARP Leader||Avisail Garcia, 2.3|
|2017 Record vs. Royals||5-2|
White Sox vs. Royals
White Sox Projected Lineup
The decline of James Shields has been rapid and, honestly, a little difficult to watch given what he did for the Royals in his two seasons in Kansas City. His once very good control is gone. His ability to get the swing and miss and get strikeouts is gone. His ability to keep the ball in the ballpark is gone. It’s hard to imagine him pitching in the big leagues after this season.
The reason Shields isn’t good anymore is that his stuff has deteriorated. His four seam fastball now only averages around 90 MPH. He hardly throws his once great changeup, throwing it just 8 percent of the time. He uses his cutter and curve quite a bit, but given that Shields has allowed a .278/.394/.646 line against lefties, I think that Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Brandon Moss can all have huge games. Whit Merrifield’s .519 SLG on cutters shows that he might have a big game too. Basically if the Royals offense can’t break out here, it’s going to look awfully dark. What’s crazy is that Shields probably should have worse numbers than he does, although his 7.27 DRA tells that story. He’s allowed a .289/.391/.527 line with the bases empty, but with runners in scoring position, he’s allowed a .125/.243/.219 line. Something’s gotta give and I’m guessing it’ll be the RISP line.
Kennedy has bounced back really nicely from his rough patch after returning from his hamstring injury. It’s totally arbitrary, but he’s gone 37 innings in his last six starts with 33 strikeouts, nine walks, 26 hits allowed and a 2.68 ERA. He will always allow home runs, but his ability to keep runners off base helps to mean they hurt less. Kennedy was hit pretty hard by the White Sox earlier this year in the game he was injured. Hopefully he can handle their depleted lineup this time.
Weather: 97°, Wind SSW 5-10 MPH, Sunny/Clear, 0% Precipitation
The fact that Pelfrey is still in the big leagues is a mystery to me, and the fact that he’s performing relatively decently is a bigger mystery. It’s not that he’s good. He doesn’t get deep into games. He doesn’t strike batters out. He walks too many. But he isn’t as bad as I’d have expected him to be, which is…something.
Pelfrey relies heavily on a sinker, and he gets a decent number of ground balls, but probably not as many as you’d expect from a guy who throws that pitch more than half the time. He also features a splitter, slider and curve. Inexplicably, all his secondary pitches have actually been really effective this season. The sinker has been the big issue. Batter vs. pitcher numbers are hardly worth mentioning because of the tiny sample size, but I’m going to mention them anyway because that’s what I like to do. Moustakas, Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon have all had their way with Pelfrey with a 1.000 OPS or better against him. None of them have more than 24 plate appearances, but they’ve clearly seen him well. Most pitchers have third time through the order issues. Pelfrey has third time through the order nightmares, allowing a .425/.489/.850 line, albeit in just 47 plate appearances when facing hitters for a third time. So either the Royals get to Pelfrey then or he’s out of the game and they get a chance to face a bullpen without its two best relievers this season.
Vargas is coming off two of his worst starts of the season, which has led people to assume he’s injured for some reason that I can’t understand. Ned Yost said on MLB Network Radio that he believes he had a mechanical issue that they’ve fixed, but we’ll have to wait and see on that. The reality is that regression was inevitable, but I don’t think anyone expected it that fast. The big concern for me is that he’s only gotten 10 swinging strikes over his last two starts. If he can get his changeup back working, he’ll be just fine, but not if he can’t.
Weather: 98°, Wind Light and Variable, Partly Cloudy, 30% Precipitation
There was a point early this season when Holland looked like one of the best free agent signings of the season. It’s been going on even longer than this, but since the start of June, Holland has gone 1-5 with a 9.82 ERA in eight starts spanning just 36.2 innings. In that time, he’s allowed 56 hits, which is just 15 less than Kennedy has allowed in 93.2 innings. And oh yeah, he’s allowed 13 homers in that time.
Holland’s fastball and sinker haven’t actually been as bad as I expected. They haven’t been good, though. He’s allowed a .307 average on them with a .476 SLG, which is bad, but not horribad. On his changeup, he’s allowed a .283 average and .544 SLG. On the slider, it’s .246 and .600. On the curve, it’s .246 and .523. It’s almost worth it to let him get ahead in the count after getting a couple guys on to see the changeup, slider or curve to be able to hit for power and drive those runners home. He’s actually handled lefties pretty well, but right-handed bats have crushed Holland to the tune of a .292/.370/.551 line. It’s also worth noting that when he’s been on regular rest, he’s put up a 1.87 ERA in seven starts, but on five or six days rest, he’s posted a 7.83 ERA. He’ll make this start on six days rest.
This is very likely to be Wood’s last start, if he even makes it. I imagine the Royals will move on to either Jake Junis or a pitcher they acquire in a trade. He was pretty okay in his first start, but the Tigers lit him up in his start. It’s not that he looked that terrible, but the Tigers just crush bad lefties. The White Sox are bad and have a bad offense, but they hit lefties well, to the tune of a .282/.341/.438 line. Wood might struggle in this one too.
Weather: 90°, Wind W 3-6 MPH, Mostly Sunny, 10% Precipitation
The Royals have every opportunity to put a sweep together in this one, but they haven’t come out of the gate playing so great. Hopefully their offensive outburst last night will get them going. It worries me a little what might happen in this series, but I do think they take two of three and keep hope well alive.