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Life With The Aces

Three losses to three of the best pitchers in the American League may not have been ideal, but it probably is not reason for panic, either.

James Shields has no winszzzz.
James Shields has no winszzzz.
Ed Zurga

Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Chris Sale:  they know how to throw baseballs.

The Royals, as one might expect, found themselves facing those three pitchers in their first five games.  They managed to tag Verlander for three runs, but saw the bullpen blow the game.  They got nothing off Scherzer and lost in extra innings.   Finally, yesterday against Chris Sale, another goose egg.   Grand total:  three runs in 22 innings against those three.   That is a tough way to try to win baseball games, just ask James Shields.

Sunday afternoon was nothing new for the Royals when facing Sale.  Last year, Kansas City posted just a .287 team on-base percentage against the left-hander as he posted a skinny (get it?) 1.84 ERA in four starts.  In 2012, Sale posted a 3.12 ERA in six starts against KC, although the Royals did manage a respectable 292/327/422 team triple slash against him.

The rest of the A.L. Central has had mixed success against Sale.  Both Cleveland (8.61 ERA, .391 OBP) and Minnesota (5.25 ERA, .393 OBP) battered Sale in 2013, but in the previous season they were helpless.  The 2012 Indians managed just a 2.18 ERA and .289 OBP and the 2012 Twins an even worse 0.90 ERA and .211 OBP.   The Detroit Tigers were on the opposite side, having worse luck than the Royals in 2013 (1.83 ERA, 2.68 OBP), but hammering the White Sox ace in 2012 with a 6.00 ERA thanks to a .544 team slugging percentage.

It doesn't take much (any) deep thought to know it will be tough sledding when a team faces another's ace or aces or number ones or really good starters.   We see it a lot with the Royals, do other teams - specifically those in Kansas City's division - suffer as well?

Here is how the A.L. Central fared against Justin Verlander in 2013:

Team Verlander ERA Team BA OBP SLG
KC 3.27 274 314 376
CHI 5.54 373 403 576
CLE 3.38 250 311 331
MIN 2.52 250 318 350

And how they have done over Verlander's career:

Team Verlander ERA Team BA OBP SLG
KC 2.85 237 293 329
CHI 4.03 244 302 412
CLE 4.38 233 312 375
MIN 3.12 251 307 352

Same two tables for Max Scherzer (2013 first):

Team Scherzer ERA Team BA OBP SLG
KC 3.33 208 252 323
CHI 3.13 204 266 327
CLE 2.70 171 205 238
MIN 1.77 155 250 239

Scherzer's career:

Team Scherzer ERA Team BA OBP SLG
KC 3.19 258 307 398
CHI 2.67 219 270 341
CLE 4.44 240 312 394
MIN 4.42 239 293 394

The Royals appear to have a bit more of a struggle against the three best pitchers in the Central than most of their divisional foes.  The differences are not all that great, particularly when you factor in that the Royals have a pretty ugly offensive history during the span of Verlander's career.

Is Kansas City in danger of losing ground when facing these 'aces'?  Or are these games ones you just shrug and move on from?  Both, I think, but it does hurt to have a lead on Verlander and lose it.  It hurts when Jason Vargas managed to match Scherzer pitch for pitch and the Royals lose, as it does when Shields does the same with Sale and the team loses as well.

Three games you cannot really fault a team for losing, but three games where the Royals had a chance to win against some of the best pitchers in the league and did not.  I am not sure exactly how many of those Kansas City can afford to have before they start haunting the team in August and September.