Things are looking dire for the Royals. Riding their longest losing streak since they lost their first four following the Midsummer Classic, Kansas City's division lead over the second-place Tigers is a mere 1.5 games. The Mariners, who currently hold the keys to the second wild card spot, are just a game behind the Royals. There are children born in Kansas City since late Saturday night who have never seen the Royals win a game.
With divine intervention the only apparent means by which the Royals' long tailspin can be pulled out from before finishing their plummet back down to the craggy shores of non-playoff baseball teams, the Royals will hand the ball to Danny Duffy. Duffy has now given up three or more runs in his past three starts, though of his 12 runs allowed only seven have been earned. Having faced these opposing Twins three times since June 30th, Duffy has limited the damage done but has failed to make it out of the sixth inning, as the patient Twins have worked the count against the hard-throwing southpaw.
The fly-ball prone Duffy continues to outperform his peripherals thanks to likely unsustainably low HR-rates and BABIP. The BABIP Fairy has looked especially kindly upon Duffy, whose .231 BABIP is the lowest of any pitcher in baseball with at least 100 IP. Obviously the Royals outfield defense is outstanding, and Duffy has the fifth-highest FB rate amongst starters who have exceeded that 100 inning threshold. It is still hard to imagine a scenario in which his BABIP doesn't regress back towards the .290 range going forward. When combined with the eighth-lowest HR/FB rate amongst starters (with at least 100 IP), Duffy's 2.53 ERA is 1.26 points lower than his FIP and 1.95 points lower than his xFIP. It's not impossible that Duffy has some crazy dong-hanging suppression skill, but it's highly unlikely.
Let's hope that the very familiar Twins don't regress Duffy to the mean* in one fell swoop.
*Yes, I understand that's not actually how regression to the mean works.
The visiting cellar-dwelling Twins will send off-season acquisition/in-season disappointment Ricky Nolasco to the mound in the hopes of knocking the Royals from their perch atop the AL Central standings. Nolasco has been horrible. Honestly. While he has always underperformed his peripherals, his 5.96 ERA is the stuff of legend--only the legends that people tell when a pitcher loses the ability to get anyone out. Only Edwin Jackson sports a higher ERA of pitchers with 100 or more innings.
While the Twins have enjoyed a great 2014 from reclamation project Phil Hughes, Nolasco has been an unmitigated disaster. It's cool, though, because he is only due $37MM over the next three years. Sometimes the shit you throw at the wall is just shit.
This is a game the Royals should win. If they don't, panic.
Nuclear Seasons Lineup: Dyson 8, Escobar 6, Gordon 7, Butler 3, Perez 2, Willingham DH, Moustakas 5, Cain 9, Colon 4, Duffy 1. #royals— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughStar) August 26, 2014