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Gamethread LIX Thread: Athletics at Royals

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Former teammates twice over will battle each other indirectly, today.

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers
Oakland’s starting pitcher, today, is a somewhat familiar face
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

There are parts of the last two seasons that even the bravest Royals fans want to forget but Oakland is going to rub our faces in one of the worst memories, today. Probably because of that whole 2014 Wild Card Game thing which has turned their team into a laughing stock ever since.

Last year at the deadline, as you no doubt recall, the Royals were in the thick of the AL Wild Card race and there really didn’t seem to be anyone who might challenge them overmuch. Sure, the Twins were close, but the Royals had made a living on beating them up for the last two years and we were all sure they’d continue to do so. But one thing the Royals desperately needed was some starting pitching depth. Nate Karns was out for the season, Ian Kennedy had been hurt for a huge chunk of the year and hadn’t exactly looked like himself. Eric Skoglund had fallen off a cliff after a terrific debut. So the Royals went out and got a starting pitcher who had been doing really well before he got hurt but was allegedly healthy, now, Trevor Cahill. The deal received a polite golf clap at the time, it seemed like a decent trade and might be enough to secure a third playoff appearance in the last four years.

Somehow, Trevor Cahill was worth -1 fWAR in only 23 innings for the Royals divided up among 3 starts and 7 relief appearances that were also separated by an additional DL stint. He lost his ability to strike batters out, to not hand out walks, and to avoid home runs. He had an 8.22 ERA but his 10.24 FIP says he might have actually been LUCKY to only give up as many runs as he did. Almost half the flyballs he allowed were converted into home runs. It was an abject disaster on a scale the Royals would not see again until Blaine Boyer was allowed to regularly pitch in relief, this year.

So you’d be forgiven for thinking that today’s matchup favored the Royals. The Royals, after all, are sending Jason Hammel to the mound and he has been revving up a streak of terrific baseball as detailed a bit in this morning’s Hok Talk. But the thing is, it’s not quite that clear. If you combined all the innings Cahill has pitched over the last season and a half and then subtracted the Royals innings you’d get a starter with 2.3 fWAR in only 18 starts who strikes out everyone and doesn’t allow many home runs. That’s a course for a 3-4 win season, which is pretty close to all-star worthy.

I don’t know what was wrong with Cahill, last season, plenty of people theorized he was actually too hurt to pitch when the Padres traded him and they knew it but the Royals haven’t said anything about it and even after they put him on the DL and brought him back he was still terrible. Maybe Dave Eiland and Cahill just couldn’t get on the same page for what pitching well looked like. In any case as bad as he was with the Royals, he’s been terrific for the Athletics.

Lineups

Oh, and just in case you were curious, not only were Hammel and Cahill teammates with the Royals last year but they also pitched side-by-side for the Cubs in 2016.