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Athletics series preview: Three games in the Coliseum

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The Royals travel to Oakland to face a struggling A's offense.

The World Champion Kansas City Royals travel to the west coast for a three-game set against the Moneyball 4.0 Oakland Athletics. While the standings are inevitably bunched together after just a week-and-a-half of games, the Royals and Chicago White Sox find themselves half a game up on the Detroit Tigers in a three-way two-loss jumble atop the Central. The A's are in the middle of the American League West, trailing the first-place Angels and Rangers by 1.5 games with just a game separating them from the last-place Houston Astros.

All stats to come courtesy of FanGraphs.

The Pitching Match-ups

Game One

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Edinson Volquez 2 11.2 15 3 1.54 1.41 2.18 2.49
Rich Hill 2 8.2 13 2 3.12 3.79 3.32 2.31

Brian Bannister reclamation success story Rich Hill takes to the hill. After being mostly not particularly good for the greater part of the last decade, Hill revamped his approach, and he was basically Clayton Kershaw for his only four starts of the season last year, worth 1.1 fWAR over 29.0 IP.

Though early, the K/BB looks really good for both pitchers. Volquez has seized the momentum he built last postseason. Hill had a rough start and a dominant start in his two previous outings. Which Hill shows up is anyone's guess, but Billy Beane bet on the dominant one when he signed the southpaw to a one-year, $6MM deal after showing the first signs of life since 2007.

Game Two

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Chris Young 2 9.2 8 5 7.45 5.80 5.26 4.98
Chris Bassitt 2 12.1 8 7 2.92 4.67 5.06 5.29

While ERA may not show it for Bassitt, neither starter has pitched particularly well thus far. Young's ERA is largely the product of a brutal start in Minute Maid Park, a ballpark that's never been kind to him. His start against the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium was significantly better, with just one mistake to Neil Walker sticking out.

Bassitt lives off of his sinker, which he throws roughly 40% of the time, and chucks his four-seamer up there another 22.2% of the time. Thus far, he's increased his curve-ball usage to 19.6% and cut his slider usage by 10% to 11.3%. Of course, at this juncture, usage rates for his pitches should be taken with a grain of salt with just two starts under Bassitt's belt.

Game Three

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA
Kris Medlen 1 5.0 7 4 3.60 2.81 3.41 4.05
Sonny Gray 2 13.1 11 7 2.70 4.11 4.14 4.47

Medlen's one start as the Royals' fifth starter was an encouraging one, even if the walks were a little worrisome.

Oakland's ace (and strongest bet to end up on another roster by the trade deadline) has issued more free passes than one would typically associate with the steady right-hander. Facing the free-swinging Royals, it's hard to imagine that BB-rate not coming back to regular levels.

Oakland's Bats

Given that the Royals will be trotting out righties for the series, the A's starting lineup could resemble this (2015 stats):

Name Pos PA R HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Billy Burns (S) CF 555 70 5 42 26 .294 .334 .392 .317 102
Coco Crisp (S) LF 139 11 0 6 2 .175 .252 .222 .220 35
Josh Reddick (L) RF 582 67 20 77 10 .272 .333 .449 .338 117
Stephen Vogt (L) C 511 58 18 71 0 .261 .341 .443 .335 115
Danny Valencia 3B 205 33 11 37 0 .284 .356 .530 .375 142
Chris Coghlan (L) 2B/OF 503 64 16 41 11 .283 .352 .452 .353 125
Billy Butler DH 601 63 15 65 0 .251 .323 .390 .311 99
Yonder Alonso (L) 1B 402 50 5 31 2 .282 .361 .381 .327 111
Marcus Semien SS 601 65 15 45 11 .257 .310 .405 .311 98
Bench Pos PA R HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Josh Phegley C 243 27 9 34 0 .249 .300 .449 .323 107
Mark Canha 1B/OF 485 61 16 70 7 .254 .315 .426 .323 106
Jed Lowrie (S) 2B/SS 263 35 9 30 1 .222 .312 .400 .305 91
Khris Davis LF 440 54 27 66 6 .247 .323 .505 .353 121

From all reports, old friend Coco Crisp looks to have left his neck problems in the rearview as he's running and hitting without the limitations he struggled through last season. Old friend Danny Valencia looks like he might get the chance to prove whether or not he should just be a right-handed half of a platoon with Brett Lawrie gone, though he may begin to lose that playing time to a combination of Chris Coghlan and Jed Lowrie. As long as Lowrie, Davis, Alonso, Butler, and Coghlan continue to struggle, his recent success at the plate should keep him in the lineup.

That five A's have a worse wRC+ than Billy Butler's 37 wRC+ is disturbing, though the extent of the damage is obviously limited to ten games' worth of action. Marcus Semien is tearing the cover off the ball, already registering 4 HR to bolster his .444 wOBA and 204 wRC+. The only other regulars hitting well thus far are Josh Reddick (.332 wOBA, 122 wRC+) and Valencia (.334 wOBA, 123 wRC+).

As a team the A's are slashing .215/.262/.332 with a .262 wOBA and 71 wRC+. Given the ballpark and the A's offensive woes, it is entirely possible that the success the Royals' rotation has enjoyed thus far will continue at least through the weekend before the Royals head home to face the Detroit Tigers.

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