I was just checking out our own David Lesky’s series preview before I sat down to write this game preview/thread and I was struck by something. Let’s look again at that Tale of the Tape David put at the top of his article:
Phillies vs. Royals Tale of the Tape
|Highest fWAR||Hunter Dozier, 2.0||Rhys Hoskins, 1.5|
Skip that first row for a second. The Phillies and Royals are both roughly average across their lineups. The Phillies have a slightly better team xFIP than the Royals but it amounts to less than half a run better per game. The Royals have a pretty decisive edge in highest fWAR player given the fact that we’re only one-quarter of the way through the season - it would be a 2.0-fWAR lead if they kept those numbers up for the rest of the year.
So these teams seem pretty similar, right? But then when you go back to that first number...the Phillies have won more than 20% more of their games than the Royals have of theirs. That’s an insane difference. It’s the difference between leading a competitive division and being at the bottom of a noncompetitive division. Baseball is wild, sometimes.
And yeah, if you guessed that the Phillies had a decent bullpen compared to the dumpster fire that has been the Royals bullpen so far, this year, you’d be right. I don’t think that accounts for the entire difference, though. For one thing the while the xFIPs aren’t drastically different the Phillies edge the Royals in ERA by more than a run per game. Also, despite those wRC+ numbers up there the worst everyday batter in the Phillies lineup is Odubel Herrera with a 77 wRC+ (and a history that suggests he could be significantly better than that any day now) compared to the Royals with Chris Owings’ 23 wRC+, Billy Hamilton’s 57 wRC+, and Martín Maldonado’s 47 wRC+. The Royals might actually have a slightly better top three hitters but they have a significantly worse bottom three even if you forced the Phillies to use a pitcher versus the Royals DH.
Anyway, tonight is Homer Bailey versus Jake Arrieta. A matchup of two veteran pitchers who have had great success in the past but no longer seem capable of reaching those levels consistently. They’ve both even had their ups and downs, this year. The good news for Royals fans, though, is that Bailey has been on an upswing while Arrieta has been angling more for a downward trajectory.