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Royals series preview: Toronto Blue Jays

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MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight series, the Royals will play host to an American League East club. This time it will be their 2015 ALCS foe, the Toronto Blue Jays.

Much like the Royals, the Blue Jays got off to a surprisingly slow start. At one point, the Royals and Blue Jays were the worst two teams in the American League. After a hot May and June, both squads are now closing in on .500, and a strong showing in the series (a Toronto sweep or the Royals taking two of three) could put either team back at an even record.

The folks at numberFire shot the odds for the series over, and they are as follows:

In the first game of the series, we give the Royals a 43.96% chance to win tomorrow night.

In the second game, a 51.07% win probability.

And in the third game, a 54.19% win probability.

The game times and pitching matchups are as follows:

  • Friday, June 23, 7:15 PM CDT - J.A. Happ (L) versus Jake Junis
  • Saturday, June 24, 1:15 PM CDT - Marco Estrada versus Jason Vargas (L)
  • Sunday, June 25, 1:15 PM CDT - Francisco Liriano (L) versus Jason Hammel

Blue Jays vs. Royals pitching matchups

Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
Pitcher G IP K K% BB BB% ERA FIP xFIP SIERA fWAR rWAR
J.A. Happ (L) 7 38.0 44 27.0 7 4.3 4.26 4.11 3.13 3.30 0.5 0.8
Jake Junis 6 22.2 19 17.6 11 10.2 5.56 6.76 6.02 5.25 -0.3 -0.2
Marco Estrada 15 85.0 96 26.1 24 6.5 4.98 3.90 4.05 3.80 1.6 1.0
Jason Vargas (L) 14 87.1 68 19.4 20 5.7 2.27 3.23 4.69 4.50 2.3 3.6
Francisco Liriano (L) 11 50.0 52 22.4 30 12.9 5.76 4.80 4.82 4.92 0.4 0.0
Jason Hammel 14 78.1 59 16.9 24 6.9 4.83 4.44 5.34 5.34 0.9 0.7

The peripherals suggest that both Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano have pitched considerably better than their ERA shows. For Estrada, that means he’s pitched fairly well only to be undone by a .343 BABIP. For Liriano, that just means he hasn’t been as abysmal as his 5.76 ERA might imply. J.A. Happ’s 22.7 K-BB% certainly looks scarier than his ERA and FIP. This is probably the result of the 1.89 HR/9 and 21.6 HR/FB% he has allowed thus far, both marks lying well outside of his career norms.

Blue Jays position players

Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Player Pos PA HR R RBI SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
Justin Smoak (S) 1B 268 20 43 47 0 .303 .366 .598 .400 150 1.9 2.2
Josh Donaldson 3B 131 8 14 17 1 .286 .389 .554 .396 147 1.4 1.4
Russell Martin C/3B 183 7 26 15 0 .224 .377 .401 .347 114 1.0 0.8
Kevin Pillar CF 310 8 40 18 11 .253 .305 .407 .306 87 0.4 1.3
José Bautista RF 310 12 45 31 4 .223 .339 .404 .323 98 0.4 -0.1
Kendrys Morales (S) DH 281 15 36 43 0 .271 .317 .496 .341 110 0.2 0.5
Dwight Smith Jr. (L) OF 22 0 2 1 1 .350 .409 .400 .359 123 0.1 0.2
Steve Pearce 1B/LF 108 5 11 16 0 .260 .306 .460 .323 98 0.0 -0.1
Troy Tulowitzki SS 149 2 9 15 0 .228 .289 .324 .267 60 -0.3 -0.3
Ryan Goins (L) 2B 181 4 16 27 1 .216 .277 .352 .273 64 -0.3 -0.6
Darwin Barney Util 137 2 10 9 3 .225 .265 .302 .249 48 -0.4 -0.8
Luke Maile C 92 2 6 5 1 .126 .163 .207 .163 -11 -0.8 -0.1

Especially with Josh Donaldson having missed so much of the season (and possibly some of this series), Justin Smoak has unexpectedly been the driver of Toronto’s offense. Of course, that’s not saying much when the Jays’ position players have been so underwhelming. Worth just 3.8 fWAR (tying them for 27th in baseball with the Royals), their offense has slashed a measly .246/.315/.417, good for a .315 wOBA and 92 wRC+. Where their offense has been better than the Royals, they’ve more than made up for that with the second-worst defense in baseball in terms of fWAR calculation. Both DRS and UZR hate the Blue Jays, rating them as third worst by either measure.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against the Blue Jays?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Royals sweep
    (42 votes)
  • 68%
    Royals take two of three
    (136 votes)
  • 8%
    Blue Jays take two of three
    (16 votes)
  • 3%
    Blue Jays sweep
    (6 votes)
200 votes total Vote Now

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference through action on Thursday, June 22.

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