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Los Angeles Angels Series Preview: Tommy La Stella’s boys welcome in the Royals

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For a team with a lot of different location names, they’ve sure stayed in one place for a long time.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Minnesota Twins
May 15, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Los Angeles Angels third baseman Tommy La Stella (9) celebrates scoring a run with outfielder Mike Trout (27) in the third inning against Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals head west to take on the Los Angeles Angels in a battle of former AL West foes. This is not in any way scientific, but the Royals have alternated doing well in Los Angeles with doing poorly year after year, and last season they were swept in three games, so that bodes well for them. The Angels offense is actually pretty good. You can see below that they don’t have a single wRC+ below 100 in their projected lineup. And they obviously have the best player in the game, so that doesn’t hurt either. This is a lineup that just doesn’t strike out, which might remind you of the 2015 Royals, but this club has more power than that one. The issue is starting pitching, plain and simple. If they can start to get something out of their rotation, they might be able to make some noise in the race for the second wild card.

Meet the Angels

Angels vs. Royals Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Angels
Category Royals Angels
Winning % .341 .465
Team wRC+ 96 108
Team xFIP 4.67 4.70
2019 Head to Head Wins 1 2
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 1.9 Mike Trout, 2.6

Angels Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Tommy La Stella 2B 133 .301 .388 .611 9.8% 6.0% 169 1.6
Mike Trout CF 178 .286 .455 .549 21.3% 15.7% 168 2.6
Shohei Ohtani DH 39 .294 .385 .382 10.3% 20.5% 118 0.1
Andrelton Simmons SS 179 .306 .330 .428 3.4% 6.7% 107 1.3
Albert Pujols 1B 155 .232 .297 .449 7.7% 13.5% 100 0.1
Kole Calhoun RF 168 .238 .323 .490 11.3% 22.0% 116 0.6
Jonathan Lucroy C 130 .269 .331 .454 7.7% 10.8% 114 0.5
Brian Goodwin LF 144 .315 .378 .496 9.0% 25.0% 136 0.7
David Fletcher 3B 146 .299 .342 .438 6.2% 5.5% 112 0.9

Angels Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Kevan Smith C 67 .293 .388 .431 10.4% 10.4% 129 0.3
Jared Walsh (AAA) 1B/OF 166 .302 .398 .604 11.4% 25.3% 141 ---
Zack Cozart INF 90 .136 .189 .160 4.4% 15.6% -3 -0.5

Angels Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Ty Buttrey 19 21.0 2 1 30.6% 3.5% 0.86 3.03 1.0
Hansel Robles 21 19.0 1 0 29.0% 6.6% 3.79 4.13 0.4
Cam Bedrosian 19 20.1 1 2 26.4% 12.6% 3.10 4.5 0.3

Probable Pitching Matchups

Friday May 17th - 9:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 9 52.1 2 4 16.9% 13.9% 4.47 5.09 0.5
Matt Harvey 8 40.1 1 3 15.7% 9.0% 6.69 4.84 0.0

It’s not been a good run for Matt Harvey in his first few starts with the Angels. He’s given up a ton of runs, a ton of home runs and while striking out too few and walking too many. That’s not a great combination. Knowing all that, let’s not forget that he gave up one run and two hits over seven innings against the Royals at the end of April in his only victory of the season. This Royals offense has sort of become a boom or bust type, so we never know what we’re going to see, but Harvey has been mauled by lefties to the tune of a .275/.383/.565 line, which bodes well for Adalberto Mondesi, Alex Gordon, Ryan O’Hearn and Nicky Lopez. He’s been okay against righties, but not so great that I’d say the right-handed bats will struggle for sure. He’s also been really bad early, with a .284/.333/.582 line allowed the first time through, so the Royals need to get him early or risk not getting him.

It’s been pretty ugly for Brad Keller since the Tim Anderson incident. He’s 0-3 in four starts with a 7.06 ERA that includes 15 walks and 13 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. He simply has essentially zero command. Earlier in the season, he struggled with control some, but he was very difficult to hit. That’s not even the case anymore. Add in his 24 hits allowed and two hit batsmen and that’s 41 base runners in those 21.2 innings. I don’t know what the answer is, but if things don’t get better, we’re not too many starts away from his total season walks exceeding strikeouts and that’s not what you’d call “good.”

Saturday May 17th - 9:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jakob Junis 9 48.1 3 4 18.8% 8.7% 5.77 4.63 0.2
Griffin Canning 3 14.1 1 1 30.7% 9.7% 5.65 4.05 0.0

Griffin Canning entered this season ranked in the top 65 of all three major prospect lists, and earned his big league promotion by being way too good for the PCL in three starts to start the season plus the Angels needing some additional arms. In the big leagues, he’s flashed the big strikeout numbers, but has been bit by the home run all quite a bit in his three starts. He hasn’t been hit hard, but he’s probably learned that big leaguers hit mistakes pretty easily. Canning doesn’t blow you away, averaging just around 93 MPH on his fastball but he gets a ton of swings and misses on it. With a very good slider and curve as well, it’s easy to see why he’s getting so many strikeouts early in his career. This is a very narrow search, but when facing pitchers with similar fastball velocity and spin rates to Canning, Ryan O’Hearn, Jorge Soler, Martin Maldonado and Whit Merrifield have all fared well. If you were wondering, no, Nicky Lopez didn’t face him in AAA.

The last start for Jakob Junis was maybe the worst of the year. At the very least, it was the most discouraging because he walked five batters and struck out four. For someone who hadn’t walked more than three all season, it was a big of a surprising one. He also only got six swings and misses on 96 pitches, so basically nothing was working for him. The Phillies have a deep lineup that can be very good, so maybe it’s not worth getting worked up over, but given the way this season has gone and how basically every young pitcher is regressing (*cough* Eldred has to go *cough), it’s still worrisome. Junis has faced the Angels twice and has given up five home runs in 10 innings, so yeah, there’s that.

Sunday May 19th - 3:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Danny Duffy 4 22.2 2 1 19.0% 8.4% 3.97 4.52 0.4
Tyler Skaggs 7 35.2 4 3 21.4% 8.4% 5.05 4.68 0.4

Tyler Skaggs is starting this game, which isn’t good for the Royals. In spite of being a very average big league pitcher, Skaggs is 2-1 with a 0.35 ERA in four starts against the Royals. That’s one run allowed in 26 innings. It’s not just the big league team. He went seven innings and gave up one hit while striking out 14 against Omaha in 2016. He threw seven shutout innings against Omaha in 2012 as well. I can tell you that he’s been absolutely destroyed the third time through the order with a .360/.429/.680 line allowed. I can tell you that he’s allowed a .259/.323/.500 line with men on base. I can even tell you that he’s allowed a .569 SLG on his fastball. But none of it matters when he faces the Royals.

Danny Duffy struggled with a huge lead against the Rangers in his last start after having to sit through a very long inning in which his offense scored six runs for him. Nobody should ever complain about the offense going to town, but I feel like Duffy is the worst pitcher to have a long time between innings. It showed in his command and his velocity. All that said, he ended up giving up four runs in five innings and only walking one batter. And two of the runs scored because the best left fielder in baseball could not find a lazy fly ball in the sky. So it could have been worse. Still, the Angels offense is pretty good and I think he’s going to have a tough time against them if he pitches in this one like he did against Texas. Six swinging strikes in 107 pitches isn’t going to cut it.

Prediction

So they’re obviously not going to beat Skaggs because that’s like dreaming the impossible dream. But I think they have a shot to do well against Harvey and Canning and take the series. I’m really only predicting this because of the every other year thing, so maybe don’t take it as gospel. What do you think happens?

Poll

Can the Royals take down Tomma La Stella?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Yes, Royals Sweep
    (7 votes)
  • 13%
    No, Angels Sweep
    (10 votes)
  • 19%
    Mostly, Royals Win Two of Three
    (14 votes)
  • 56%
    Not Really, Angels Win Two of Three
    (41 votes)
72 votes total Vote Now