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St. Petersburg Devil Rays series preview: Take out those Russkies

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The Cold War heats back up as the World Champions travel to Russia.

Not Eva
Not Eva
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Hot off of a sweep of the patriot New York Yankees, the St. Petersburg Devil Rays are on a four-game roll and will play host to the World Champion Kansas City Royals. The champs have been abysmal - dropping ten of their last twelve - and it seems unlikely that a trip behind the Iron Curtain will be the salve to the Royals' wounds. The jet lag, the watching eyes of a hopeful nation, and the Russian military breathing down their necks at every turn will be sure to keep the Royals on edge, while the only saving grace might be that they get to meet Donald Trump in Russia when Putin greets the World Champions at the airport, the pair barechested atop an elephant.

To make matters worse, the Royals are scheduled to face the following four pitchers, but any one of the four if not every last one of them could be dealt by the time they are to face that pitcher. By all accounts, Vladimir Putin is incensed that the Devil Rays are dishonoring Mother Russia with their lackluster play on the field. Smart money is on at least one of the scheduled starters being traded Monday afternoon.

This was written late Sunday night, so if there are any trades that affect the match-ups, you won't see anything about them here. These pitching match-ups are trapped in amber.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Monday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Danny Duffy (L) 30 100.2 110 22 3.22 3.49 3.67 3.28 1.9 2.4
Chris Archer 22 130.1 155 51 4.42 4.05 3.50 3.63 1.7 0.6

Archer's season has been one marked by terrible luck with the long ball. His peripherals suggest that he's pitched markedly better than his ERA, but in this brave new dong-hanging world, Archer has taken a big hit, already passing his previous career-worst home run total from last year (21, compared to last year's 19) a full 80 innings shy of his season total last year.

Game Two - Tuesday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Yordano Ventura 20 114.1 86 46 4.88 4.88 4.62 4.71 0.6 0.5
Matt Moore (L) 21 130.0 109 40 4.08 4.50 4.67 4.41 1.2 1.4

The most likely guy to be freed from the shackles of indentured athletic servitude at the behest of the Republic, Moore is finally sort of putting it together now that he is a year removed from Tommy John surgery. He is posting his best K-BB% of his career (12.6%), but his fly-ball rates are up, and in this run environment, that equals home runs. Thanks to a .280 BABIP and a slightly high 76.1 LOB%, Moore has been able to outperform his peripherals, sporting a 4.08 ERA on the year.

Game Three - Wednesday, 6:10 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Edinson Volquez 22 130.1 99 49 4.70 4.26 4.36 4.45 1.4 0.6
Jake Odorizzi 22 125.1 115 35 3.88 4.01 4.20 4.04 1.8 2.1

Since getting dealt to the Russians, Odorizzi has gone from just throwing a four-seamer with a change, curve, and slider, to throwing a four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter, and splitter, along with a slider and curve. He relies pretty heavily upon the splitter, throwing it more than any pitch other than his four- and two-seamers. It's turned him into a better pitcher than many expected when he was coming up through the Royals' system.

Game Four - Thursday, 11:10 AM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Ian Kennedy 21 121.1 123 39 4.23 5.11 4.43 3.97 0.4 1.5
Drew Smyly (L) 20 117.1 118 31 5.29 4.41 4.21 3.90 1.4 -0.2

Few pitchers this season have been as snake-bitten as Smyly. He owns a 17.4 K-BB% on the season while striking out more than a batter per inning and not walking many and inducing a robust 14.5 IFFB%, but everything else has worked against him this year. Strand rate? A jarring 65.0%. BABIP? .313. HR/FB? 13.8%. If the fates could find new ways to screw over this southpaw, they would.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Logan Forsythe 2B 324 10 43 29 5 .272 .330 .450 .336 114 1.7 2.0
Brad Miller (L) SS 362 16 43 38 4 .253 .301 .479 .330 109 0.9 0.5
Evan Longoria 3B 432 23 53 58 0 .289 .338 .540 .366 134 4.2 3.2
Corey Dickerson (L) DH 329 15 32 41 0 .232 .277 .454 .305 92 0.4 0.3
Steve Pearce 1B 232 10 26 29 0 .309 .388 .520 .386 147 1.9 2.1
Kevin Kiermaier (L) CF 187 5 23 17 8 .215 .310 .393 .305 92 1.1 2.0
Steven Souza RF 306 10 33 33 5 .238 .291 .390 .295 85 0.4 0.1
Brandon Guyer LF 249 7 27 18 2 .241 .347 .406 .332 111 0.4 0.7
Curt Casali C 202 7 18 20 0 .169 .256 .326 .256 59 -0.1 0.5
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Luke Maile C 34 0 2 3 0 .194 .242 .258 .209 26 0.0 0.1
Tim Beckham IF 133 5 17 13 1 .238 .295 .459 .321 103 0.7 0.4
Nick Franklin (S) IF 53 1 3 13 4 .313 .377 .458 .363 132 0.2 -0.0

Stats through Saturday, July 30

The Devil Rays offensive unit has been middle of the road (15th in wRC+ and 20th in wOBA) but don't have a lot of runs scored to show for it. Ranking just 26th in runs scored, they have the ninth-most home runs in baseball but strike out more than every other team in baseball but for the Padres and Brewers. In addition to their problematic approach at the plate, they have the sixth-worst defensive unit in the game per the defensive component of their team fWAR.

Having played much of the first half of the season without their defensive wunderkind Kevin Kiermaier, the Rays have their defensive stud back. Evan Longoria is having his best season since 2013, on pace for a 6.0+ fWAR season. Steve Pearce has held his own, providing quite a bit of production while bouncing between first, second, and third base.

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