Royals-White Sox Preview
TOP TWO TEAMS IN THE AL CENTRAL WILL PLAY FOUR IN MOTOWN
Talk about a huge series! The compact American League Central division is starting to get some structure as we approach the 70-game mark of the 2014 Major League Baseball season. And, that structure now sees suddenly vulnerable Detroit sitting in first place, followed by young and hungry Kansas City in second. Those two teams play a massive four-game series in Detroit beginning Monday Night. The results of that series could go a long way toward shaping the rest of the race.
*If Kansas City can win at least three of four…they’re suddenly a legitimate threat that must be taken seriously as a top contender.
*If Detroit can win at least three of four…they’ll have re-established dominance in the division, suggesting first place is theirs, and everyone else will be fighting for a Wildcard.
As always, we’ll start our series preview with a look at the offenses…
Kansas City: 4.07 runs per game, .309 on-base, .366 slugging
Detroit: 4.50 runs per game, .326 on-base, .434 slugging
Kansas City basically has a National League offense while playing in the American League. They rank #14 out of 15 teams in both on-base percentage and slugging. They were hoping for so much better from this young lineup. The good news is that there’s virtually no place to go but up. They're already a temporary contender even with a pathetic offense. Detroit ranks #2 in slugging (no surprise), but a mediocore #7 in on-base (mediocre for a team eyeing the World Series). Big edge to the Tigers in this matchup.
Jason Vargas: 3.30 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 6.5 K-Rate
Justin Verlander: 4.61 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 6.6 K-Rate
Arguably the main reason Detroit is falling below early expectations rests on the shoulder of Justin Verlander. He’s having a horrible year by his past standards. Remember, this is a LOW scoring year in baseball. The K-Rate has collapsed from his norms. The WHIP is ridiculous for a rotation starter. If he’s “pacing” himself for the playoffs, he’s in danger of making the second half of the season way to interesting for Tigers fans. Good stuff from Vargas, who’s thrown four straight quality starts and five of six. But, that low K-Rate is a concern in terms of sustaining success…and he was hit hard by Detroit the last time he faced them (allowing 11 hits and 7 earned runs in 5 innings on May 5).
Yordano Ventura: 3.20 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8.1 K-Rate
Max Scherzer: 3.05 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 10.1 K-Rate
Ventura has thrown quality starts in five of his last seven. Scherzer is coming off a shutout of the Chicago White Sox, but had four ugly starts just prior (by his standards). Given the low scoring standards in MLB this year, Scherzer’s numbers reflect a slight disappointment. He still gets the clear nod over Ventura. The market will probably overprice the size of that nod though.
WEDNESDAY’S PITCHERS (Day Game)
Jeremy Guthrie: 4.04 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 4.9 K-Rate
Drew Smyly: 3.58 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 7.6 K-Rate
Things could get wild here, with mediocre pitchers facing hitters who had to deal with scarier arms in the first two days. Guthrie has little ability to force strikeouts, so he’s relying on guile and crossed fingers ina lot of games. Smyly’s throwing acceptably for a back-of-the-rotation guy. Tough to invest in guys like that with confidence though.
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THURSDAY’S PITCHERS (Day Game)
Danny Duffy: 2.83 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.0 K-Rate
Anibal Sanchez: 2.44 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 8.5 K-Rate
Duffy has been surprisingly effective, but is very unlikely to sustain those gaudy ERA and WHIP numbers through an extended say in the rotation. Sanchez has a better ERA and WHIP than Scherzer, making him the “ace” of the staff to this point in the season. Big edge to Sanchez in terms of best expectations. But, he has been dealing with pitch count issues in his last two appearances. An “ace” for 6.0 or 6.1 innings isn’t the same as an ace for eight!
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Big game and series previews continue through the week here in the NOTEBOOK. We’ll begin football coverage in very short order as well as everyone gears up for the college and pro seasons. Read us daily for handicapping tips. Then link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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