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Royals series preview: The Texas Rangers

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The fight for a playoff spot commences

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Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In stark contrast to last season at the break where they led the American League West by 5.5 games, the Texas Rangers trail the Houston Astros by 16.5 games. Of course the Astros are one of two teams who have passed the 60-win mark, so part of the deficit in the division is due to the fact that the Astros are the best team in the AL by a rather wide margin. Still the fact remains that the Rangers are two games under .500 coming out of the All-Star Break and sit three back in the Wild Card hunt, with four teams sitting between them and a spot.

The Rangers look to gain ground on the Royals in the hunt for a playoff spot and will send arguably their best three starting pitchers to the mound as they come to Kansas City looking to reverse their fortunes in the second half.

Alex McDonald over at numberFire sent me their odds for each tilt. They are as follows:

The Royals start a new series against Texas, and here are our game projections for those games.

In the first game of the series, we give the Royals a 48.08% chance to win.

In the second game, a 50.38% chance.

And in the third game, a 48.68% chance.

The game times and pitching matchups are as follows:

  • Friday, July 14, 7:15 PM CDT - Martin Perez (L) versus Jason Hammel
  • Saturday, July 15, 6:15 PM CDT - Cole Hamels (L) versus Danny Duffy (L)
  • Sunday, July 16, 1:15 PM CDT - Yu Darvish versus Ian Kennedy

Rangers 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
Martin Perez (L) 16 88.0 64 16.2 36 9.1 4.60 4.28 4.62 5.02 1.2 0.7
Jason Hammel 17 94.2 77 17.9 32 7.4 5.04 4.51 5.21 4.84 1.1 0.7
Cole Hamels (L) 8 51.1 28 13.8 17 8.4 3.51 4.61 4.98 5.13 0.6 1.0
Danny Duffy (L) 13 81.1 67 19.8 27 8.0 3.76 3.76 4.66 4.61 1.6 2.1
Yu Darvish 19 118.2 125 25.9 41 8.5 3.49 3.85 3.92 3.95 2.2 3.2
Ian Kennedy 16 87.0 76 21.2 36 10.1 4.45 5.22 5.10 4.77 0.3 1.1

Yu Darvish is inarguably the ace of this staff when healthy, and healthy he has been. His strikeout total ranks him third in the American League and 11th in baseball, and his K-BB% is the 7th-best mark in the AL and 16th overall. He should prove the toughest matchup for the Royals, though Martin Perez and Cole Hamels each present their own problems, namely their handedness.

Hamels has made three starts since hitting the disabled list in April with an oblique strain. His first was an unmitigated disaster. His second was solid. His third was sterling. Though he has made just eight starts, his strikeout rates are alarmingly low. His fastball velocity is down 0.8 MPH on average, which might mean it’s down even more than that, as the point at which velocity is measured shifted closer to the release point. What has to be most concerning for Rangers fans is that his O-Swing%, Swing%, and SwStr% are all down significantly. His .223 BABIP looks to be masking big time struggles getting swings and misses, and it’s not like his mix of pitches has changed considerably to where such a low BABIP might be sustainable. Martin Perez has suffered the opposite fate of Hamels so far. His BABIP is crazy high—only Kevin Gausman has suffered worse batted-ball luck than Perez’s .357 mark—but he’s also yielding a lot of line-drives (27.2% compared to a 21.4% career average) and hard contact (34.9% compared to 29.2% on his career). Both should probably expect to see their numbers regress to the mean from their respective high and low points.

Texas Rangers 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
Elvis Andrus SS 365 11 52 50 20 .300 .345 .471 .348 113 2.2 2.7
Joey Gallo (L) 3B/LF 291 21 47 41 5 .194 .313 .508 .345 111 1.7 1.8
Carlos Gómez CF 248 12 34 32 7 .248 .328 .477 .342 108 1.3 1.6
Delino DeShields LF/CF 226 2 39 13 19 .286 .344 .367 .312 88 1.3 1.9
Adrian Beltre 3B 151 7 19 27 1 .283 .384 .528 .381 135 1.2 1.2
Shin-Soo Choo (L) DH/RF 345 12 49 42 7 .250 .363 .410 .339 107 1.1 0.7
Nomar Mazara (L) RF 334 12 37 56 2 .258 .332 .450 .330 101 1.0 0.7
Robinson Chirinos C 135 12 25 25 1 .218 .311 .546 .358 119 1.0 1.2
Jonathan Lucroy C 261 4 24 25 0 .256 .303 .364 .290 73 0.5 -0.2
Rougned Odor (L) 2B 366 17 47 40 9 .220 .260 .413 .284 69 0.2 0.3
Drew Robinson (L) SS/CF 14 2 2 3 0 .273 .429 .909 .519 229 0.2 0.1
Pete Kozma IF 40 1 4 2 0 .114 .205 .200 .191 6 -0.5 -0.6
Mike Napoli 1B 283 18 33 39 0 .194 .273 .437 .297 78 -0.6 -0.2

As a unit, the Rangers’ position players cumulative fWAR of 10.3 ranks them 16th in baseball. Thanks in large part to their collective baserunning—they are second in BaseRuns to the Diamondbacks—the Rangers offense is the 11th-most valuable in baseball in spite of its 93 wRC+ (20th) and .319 wOBA (17th). Their defense is ranked 21st per the fWAR defensive component, but they’re 12th in UZR and 6th in DRS, suggesting that they might be better defensively fWAR is giving them credit for, especially when taking into consideration the full-time presence of Adrian Beltre in their current lineup, who missed the first two months of the season.

Poll

How will the Royals fare against the Rangers?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Royals sweep
    (24 votes)
  • 59%
    Royals take two of three
    (87 votes)
  • 17%
    Rangers take two of three
    (26 votes)
  • 6%
    Rangers sweep
    (9 votes)
146 votes total Vote Now

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference through action on Sunday, July 9.

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