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Oakland Athletics Series Preview: Lots of old friends are coming home

The A’s have five former Royals on their pitching staff, which seems like a bad strategy, but they’re still good anyway.

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics
Aug 16, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics second baseman Corban Joseph (56) scores a run and celebrates with third baseman Matt Chapman (26) for a walk off win against the Houston Astros during the thirteenth inning at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals return home for a long homestand and welcome in the team that used to call Kansas City home, the Oakland Athletics. The A’s are in a heated fight to get one of the Wild Card spots, currently sitting a half-game behind the Rays for the second spot and a game behind the Indians for the top spot. Given their history in Wild Card games, it’d be easy to dismiss them, but hey, the playoffs are the playoffs. Offensively, the A’s are fine with a few really good hitters and a few guys who aren’t great. If Khris Davis can figure things out and get his average up to .247 this year, they will be in great shape, but if he doesn’t, they’ll struggle a bit more. It’s not all dependent on him, but he’s a huge part of what they do offensively. The pitching staff has been rebuilt as the season has progressed with two new starters, including a former Royal in Homer Bailey. In the bullpen, their three highest leverage relievers are all former Royals, and there’s varying levels of success with them. In all, their pitching staff features five former Royals, which seems like a lot.

Meet the A’s

Royals vs. A’s Tale of the Tape

Category Royals A's
Category Royals A's
Winning % .351 .574
Team wRC+ 82 103
Team xFIP 4.92 4.86
Run Differential -127 98
Highest fWAR Hunter Dozier, 3.2 Marcus Semien, 5.1

A’s Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Marcus Semien SS 597 .272 .358 .482 11.7% 14.1% 124 5.1
Robbie Grossman LF 405 .251 .348 .369 12.8% 17.3% 96 1.1
Matt Chapman 3B 539 .258 .343 .522 10.2% 20.2% 127 5.0
Matt Olson 1B 406 .259 .342 .524 9.1% 24.9% 126 2.3
Mark Canha CF 362 .275 .390 .546 13.3% 22.9% 148 3.1
Khris Davis DH 429 .215 .284 .374 8.2% 27.0% 74 -1.1
Chad Pinder RF 295 .242 .288 .425 4.7% 22.7% 87 0.6
Corban Joseph 2B 30 .214 .233 .357 3.3% 13.3% 49 -0.1
Josh Phegley C 280 .249 .291 .428 3.9% 16.1% 88 0.5

A’s Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Chris Herrmann C 83 .203 .280 .284 9.6% 32.5% 55 -0.2
Jurickson Profar INF 409 .208 .279 .389 7.6% 15.4% 75 0.3
Nick Martini (AAA) OF/INF 325 .326 .431 .470 15.1% 15.7% 127 ---

A’s Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Liam Hendriks 59 68.0 4 1 35.9% 6.6% 1.46 3.54 3.0
Joakim Soria 60 58.1 1 4 26.7% 7.6% 4.94 4.03 0.6
Jake Diekman 62 51.0 1 7 30.0% 12.9% 4.59 4.011 0.8

Probable Pitching Matchups

Monday August 26th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Homer Bailey 25 128.0 11 8 20.9% 8.5% 5.06 4.56 1.9
Brad Keller 27 164.0 7 13 17.3% 9.6% 3.95 4.88 2.2

A familiar friend starts the series as Homer Bailey takes the mound in the green and gold to face his short-term but still former team. Bailey’s overall numbers are pretty rough with Oakland, but he’s been really good in five of his seven starts, struggling against the Astros and the cubs, but beating good offensive clubs like the Rangers, Brewers and Yankees as an A. He’s featured very good control, some swing and miss ability and maybe a little bad luck. Interestingly enough, the Royals are one of the two remaining teams Bailey has never faced, so he can cross that off his list. Bailey’s splits indicate he might have some trouble against the Royals as he’s allowed a .300/.363/.442 line to righties and, as you all know, the Royals best hitters are all right-handed. The key to getting to Bailey is to not let him get settled in. He’s given up a .287/.362/.489 line in the second and has been better but still not good in the third and fourth. And then he gets better. Basically if he can get past the tough start to a game, he can be really good and give a team trouble, so the Royals need to be ready to pounce.

Brad Keller opposes his former teammate and it appears he won’t be throwing more than 100 pitches in a game the rest of the season, which makes good sense given how little these games mean for the Royals. Keller hasn’t won a game in more than a month, but it’s not because he’s been bad. Over his last five, he’s 0-4 with a 3.94 ERA, which isn’t great, but he’s certainly been good enough to win in most of those starts. He’s walked nine and struck out 27 over his last 32 innings with five home runs allowed. Since the break, he’s been quite good with a 2.87 ERA over 53.1 innings and just six home runs allowed. He’s walked just 12 batters in that time too, which is great given his control issues from earlier in the year. He’ll be somewhat limited the rest of the year, but it’ll be fun to see if he can finish this season as strong as he did last.

Tuesday August 27th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Fiers 27 158.2 12 3 16.5% 7.2% 3.46 5.23 1.9
Mike Montgomery 27 61.1 3 6 17.9% 7.8% 4.99 4.37 -0.3

Mike Fiers continues to impress throughout most of his career. He’s been in the big leagues for parts of the last eight seasons now and has been solid to very good in five of them. He’s changed a bit from his Brewers days when he got a lot of strikeouts with high fastballs, but he’s allowed fewer home runs this year and has been generally very difficult to hit with just 7.5 hits allowed per nine innings. He does this while averaging about 90-91 on his fastball and still throwing it quite a bit. He gets above average spin on it, which helps, but he mixes his pitches extremely well too with great results on his curve specifically. Fiers takes advantage of his home park quite well with a 2.92 ERA at home and 4.15 on the road, but Kauffman should play to his strengths as well and the Royals offense is pretty lackluster. I never know for sure in this cursory looks at opposing pitchers, but his .764 OPS allowed with runners in scoring position compared with .681 with nobody on base and .646 with men on in general indicates he’s probably had some bad luck and his numbers could actually be better than they are. He’s faced the Royals seven times in his career and it hasn’t often been pretty with a 5.30 ERA allowed and 51 hits in 35.2 innings. It’d be nice to see them do that again to him.

The home run ball bit Montgomery pretty badly in his last start against Baltimore, allowing three of them in five innings in probably his second worst start since the trade. He only had eight swings and misses in 91 pitches and walked three batters, which was just two fewer than he’d walked in his first six Royals starts entirely. The big difference in his last start was that his cutter and curve were both not very effective. They’ve both been very good when he’s been on, so that’s a big key for him. The A’s are pretty patient too, so he better have better control than he showed in Baltimore because if not, he could find himself in big trouble again.

Wednesday August 28th - 7:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Tanner Roark 25 134.1 8 8 22.5% 7.4% 3.95 4.49 2.5
Jakob Junis 27 154.2 8 12 21.6% 7.5% 4.89 4.58 1.5

The A’s acquired Tanner Roark from the Reds on July 31 and he’s been excellent in his four starts, going 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA with fewer hits than innings pitched and almost a strikeout per inning to go along with the best walk rate he’s shown since his first full season. He throws a sinker more than any other pitch, but still doesn’t get many ground balls. I’m honestly not sure why he doesn’t go to his four-seamer more. He’s given up just a .186 average and .324 SLG on the four-seam fastball, which is awesome and way better than the .293/.463 he’s allowed on the sinker. He also has a much better whiff percentage on that pitch than the sinker. Roark has pretty traditional platoon splits and has been especially bad against lefties, allowing a .302/.389/.498 line compared to .241/.285/.365 against righties. That’s not great for the Royals. Roark has been solid this year, but you have to wonder if focus is an issue at times. He’s allowed a .221/.325/.359 line against the top two in the order and then .292/.353/.483 against the 3-6 and .317/.364/.467 against the 7-9. The bottom of the Royals order is the perfect opportunity to test that.

Jakob Junis has still been solid since the break with a 3.91 ERA and a strikeout per inning, but he had a rough outing in Cleveland his last time out, allowing four runs in four innings. The encouraging thing about his performance this month is he’s allowed just two home runs in 22.1 innings. His swinging strike rate has been down, though, so it’s fair to wonder how much longer this is going to last with him. Strangely enough, Junis has been terrible at home with a 3-7 record and 5.53 ERA compared to a 4.17 ERA on the road in a similar number of starts. Some of that is bad luck as he’s actually allowed a lesser line to opponents at home than on the road, but the runs are still crossing the plate and that’s not ideal.

Thursday August 29th - 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Chris Bassitt 22 125.1 9 5 22.2% 8.2% 3.59 4.73 1.8
Glenn Sparkman 25 109.1 3 9 13.6% 6.9% 5.52 5.63 -0.3

While it seems like a bit of a surprise that Chris Bassitt has been a solid starter for the A’s, he was pretty good last year in 47.2 innings and it’s not like he didn’t have some success in 2014 and 2015 with the White Sox. But on the other hand, he has average velocity and doesn’t get much spin and has been hit pretty darn hard this season, so maybe he’s living on borrowed time. He throws his sinker more than anything and it’s been really good with a .233 average allowed and .367 SLG allowed, but the expected numbers are significantly higher, which in some ways is a credit to Oakland’s excellent infield defense, but at least might mean regression is coming for him. He also doesn’t get a ton of ground balls for someone who relies so heavily on his sinker, so that puts me more in the camp that regression must be coming soon enough. He averages about 16.8 pitches per inning and hardly ever gets to 100 pitches having crossed that threshold in just five of his 22 starts, so if the Royals can be patient, they can get him out of the game, but if he’s on with this team he’s facing, I can envision a good number of early count outs that can get him deep into the game.

Glenn Sparkman struggled again against the Indians on Saturday, giving up four runs on six hits in 4.1 innings with three walks and just five swinging strikes in 100 pitches. Allow me to meander in my thought here, but if the broadcast drones on about how Cal Eldred is uniquely qualified to work with Sparkman because of how similar they are and Sparkman has been this bad, what does that say about Cal? Just some food for thought. As for Sparkman, he will get the benefit of pitching at home, which has generally been very good for him outside of one start against the Indians. He has a 3.00 ERA at home and only 12 walks in 63 innings compared with an 8.94 ERA on the road with 21 walks in 46.1 innings. What is it about Kauffman that’s so good for him? I’d guess the large outfield, but whatever it is, the Royals are hoping he can keep it up in this one.


The A’s lost two against the Giants over the weekend, but before that, they swept the Yankees and took three of four from the Astros, so they’re certainly no slouches. This is a really good team and the Royals are a really bad team. I’m going to say the Royals scratch out one win, but it’s just another series loss in the end. What do you think?


How bad will this series be for the Royals?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Not bad, they’ll sweep!
    (4 votes)
  • 20%
    Pretty darn bad, they’ll get swept!
    (25 votes)
  • 2%
    Not perfect, but they’ll win three of four.
    (3 votes)
  • 47%
    Could be worse, but pretty bad, they’ll lose three of four.
    (57 votes)
  • 25%
    Extremely meh. It’ll be a split.
    (31 votes)
120 votes total Vote Now