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Toronto Blue Jays series preview: Whoa, Canada

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ALCS rematch with no stakes for the Champs.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Usually when opponents from the previous year's League Championship Series face each other at this point in the season, the series means something. With the World Champion Kansas City Royals wallowing in the gutter, six games below .500, these games mean next to nothing for one of the two squads.

*All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference

Pitching match-ups

Game One - Friday, 7:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Francisco Liriano (L) 21 113.2 116 69 5.46 5.27 4.52 4.68 -0.3 -0.6
Dillon Gee 21 73.1 59 24 4.66 5.11 4.60 4.34 -0.2 0.1

When Dillon Gee is arguably the better pitcher in a match-up, that says something about how the competition has pitched. Acquired at the deadline along with Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez for Drew Hutchison, Liriano has been positively dreadful. When the notion of a six-man rotation is thrown out there, Francisco Liriano is the consequence. He's got 19 more walks than Yordano Ventura in 5.2 fewer innings. He leads the Majors in free passes by ten. He's allowing home runs at a much higher clip than any other full season in his career, a full 8.2% higher than his career mark of 11.4 HR/FB%. Or put simply, when you're making Dillon Gee look good, you're having an awful season.

Game Two - Saturday, 6:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Aaron Sanchez 21 139.1 118 41 2.71 3.34 3.47 3.70 3.2 3.6
Danny Duffy (L) 31 108.2 126 23 2.98 3.20 3.46 3.07 2.5 3.0

In the marquee match-up of the series (and arguably the only one that looks like it's worth watching on paper), the Royals' best starting pitcher faces off against the Jays' best starter. Sanchez just passed his previous career high in innings pitched, leading Toronto brass to adopt a six-man rotation in an attempt to try to manage his increased usage while not taking the alternate route of moving him to the pen for the rest of the season. Owning the second-highest ground-ball rate in the majors - trailing only teammate Marcus Stroman - Sanchez has used his batted-ball outcomes to his advantage, yielding the eighth-lowest HR/9 amongst qualified starters in this new dong-crazy world.

Game Three - Sunday, 1:15 PM CDT

Pitcher G IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Marcus Stroman 22 142.1 114 36 4.74 3.82 3.42 3.58 2.3 0.1
Yordano Ventura 21 119.1 88 50 4.83 4.87 4.72 4.81 0.7 0.6

Unlike his fellow worm-murdering Blue Jay hurler, Stroman has not been enjoying similar luck in the dong limitation department. He is also suffering through a poor LOB% and a slightly below-average BABIP. Where Sanchez has been relatively fortunate, Stroman has been baseball's Job. He doesn't walk anyone, induces more grounders than any other starting pitcher, strikes out enough to hold a 13.1 K-BB%, yet he's got an ERA near 5.00 almost a full run higher than his FIP.

The Batsmen

Name Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Jose Bautista DH 329 15 46 45 1 .222 .356 .456 .351 119 0.9 0.5
Josh Donaldson 3B 479 27 89 76 6 .299 .408 .587 .417 164 6.2 6.1
Edwin Encarnacion 1B 462 29 66 90 2 .265 .354 .545 .378 137 2.6 2.5
Michael Saunders (L) LF 410 19 57 46 1 .274 .359 .520 .372 133 2.1 2.4
Troy Tulowitzki SS 331 18 36 52 1 .243 .311 .463 .329 104 1.7 2.2
Russell Martin C 336 8 37 40 1 .238 .337 .360 .310 91 0.8 0.6
Melvin Upton Jr. RF 392 16 47 45 20 .251 .297 .425 .309 95 1.4 1.8
Kevin Pillar CF 436 7 43 45 8 .261 .292 .384 .292 78 2.5 2.5
Devon Travis 2B 223 7 31 26 3 .279 .323 .442 .329 104 1.6 2.0
Bench Pos PA HR R RBI SB BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Josh Thole (L) C 110 1 6 6 0 .158 .250 .211 .216 26 -0.3 -0.6
Darwin Barney IF 242 3 26 16 2 .266 .315 .360 .294 80 1.0 1.5
Justin Smoak (S) 1B 275 12 27 27 1 .227 .320 .413 .319 97 0.2 0.1

Stats through Wednesday, August 3

Headlined by reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson, this Toronto lineup is stacked from top to bottom with only Jose Bautista and Russell Martin on pace for sub-2.0 WAR season of their starters. This should come as no surprise to Royals fans as the squad is only slightly different from the murderer's row that they faced in last year's ALCS, only now they've got a resurgent Melvin Upton Jr. and a healthy Michael Saunders.

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