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Royals vs. Athletics Series Preview: A trip to the bay to face the best in the West

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The A’s just keep on winning.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s just every year. The Oakland Athletics keep doing it every single year. There’s the occasional down year or years, but they always seem to bounce back up. Since the turn of the century, Oakland has consistently had one of the lowest payrolls in the game and has still finished above .500 13 times and they’re well above that number this season. They’ve made the playoffs in 11 of those seasons, but have only won the one series. The Royals and Athletics are quite the juxtaposition. One team is always competitive but just can’t break through while the other is almost never competitive, but when they are, they go all the way or almost all the way. It’s the real life example of the would you rather always be good but never win it all or almost never be good but win it all when you are? I guess it’s all in personal preference. Mine is that I’d prefer both.

The A’s do it with an offense that’s good enough. They walk a fair amount, hit a bunch of homers and are roughly middle of the pack in runs scored. Matt Olson is having a monster year. He’s seen his strikeout rate drop like crazy this season and he’s still consistently hitting the ball out of the park. Mark Canha continues to be a surprisingly very good player and they’re getting contributions from guys like Jed Lowrie and Sean Murphy as well. The surprise this year is that Matt Chapman just isn’t hitting. His third base defense remains spectacular, but the offense is really lagging.

The pitching as a whole is pretty average, maybe a bit above average, but the top of their pitching is very good. The Royals will see four of their five starters in this series, only missing their one-time prospect Sean Manaea, who has built a very good career with them and is having a very good season. But they will see their ace, Chris, along with the rest, who I’ll get into down below. In the bullpen, their led by a combination of former Royal Jake Diekman and Lou Trivino, but they’re getting a lot of great contributions, including one that’ll shock Royals fans in Burch Smith. The one reliever they’re having issues with is Sergio Romo, but the Royals always bring out the best in him. He’s never even allowed a run in 16 appearances against Kansas City.

Royals vs. Athletics Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Athletics
Category Royals Athletics
Winning % .483 .587
Team wRC+ 91 106
Team xFIP 4.30 4.30
Run Differential -23 13
Highest fWAR Danny Duffy, 1.6 Mark Canha, 2.2

Athletics Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Mark Canha CF 271 .259 .384 .478 12.5% 21.0% 147 2.2
Jed Lowrie 2B 232 .261 .341 .391 10.8% 20.3% 111 0.9
Matt Olson 1B 238 .276 .366 .571 11.3% 16.8% 158 1.9
Mitch Moreland DH 135 .238 .296 .393 7.4% 23.0% 96 -0.1
Sean Murphy C 192 .214 .307 .399 8.3% 26.6% 103 1.1
Seth Brown RF 140 .188 .257 .414 8.6% 27.1% 89 0.4
Matt Chapman 3B 249 .204 .313 .325 14.1% 32.1% 87 0.7
Tony Kemp LF 125 .270 .377 .430 14.4% 17.6% 131 0.4
Elvis Andrus SS 207 .209 .261 .267 6.8% 16.9% 52 -0.4

Athletics Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Aramis Garcia C 61 .196 .237 .321 1.6% 29.5% 60 -0.1
Chad Pinder INF/OF 79 .253 .291 .467 5.1% 30.4% 112 0.6
Skye Bolt OF 2 .000 .000 .000 0.0% 0.0% -100 0.0
Stephen Piscotty OF 132 .217 .288 .367 8.3% 23.5% 89 -0.2

Athletics Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Jake Diekman 27 26.1 2 1 31.3% 10.7% 3.08 3.75 0.3
Lou Trivino 27 28.2 2 2 21.0% 12.6% 2.51 4.59 0.1
Yusmeiro Petit 31 33.2 7 0 15.9% 3.8% 2.94 4.91 0.8

Probable Pitching Matchups

June 10 - Mike Minor vs. Frankie Montas, 8:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Mike Minor 12 67.0 4 3 26.1% 8.2% 4.84 4.09 0.9
Frankie Montas 12 63.2 6 5 22.9% 6.3% 4.52 4.21 0.6

This might be more about me than Montas, but if you had asked me how old he was, I’d have said 24 or 25. He is not. He’s 28 and this is the sixth big league season he’s pitched in, which is just crazy to me. He’s been part of some pretty big trades in his career, but has been a part of the A’s staff for the last five seasons. He throws a hard sinker at about 96 MPH, a four-seamer with similar velocity, a slider and a split-finger that gets a ton of swings and misses, but he doesn’t throw it a ton. Based on the numbers that seems like a bit of a mistake as it’s the only pitch that isn’t really handled by opponents, but maybe there’s a method to that and the little he shows it helps to keep it so effective. He has reverse splits with righties OPSing more than 100 points above what lefties are doing against him. He’s also really struggled at home. One thing that’s something to keep an eye on is that while a lot of pitchers have issues the third time through an order, Montas has struggled after one time. The Royals offense has actually been pretty good at making adjustments, so they might be able to get to him once the lineup turns over.

Mike Minor was in a really nice groove for the Royals before his last start, and it was kind of weird because he didn’t look bad for the most part, but gave up three home runs that ultimately cost the Royals the game. They were just the third, fourth and fifth home runs he’d allowed since May 1, so it was disappointing to see that creep back into his game that he’d done a nice job of eliminating. Even so, he’s now gone 31 innings in his last five starts with 36 strikeouts and just eight walks, so that’s a welcome sight. If he can keep the home runs in check, I think he can get the job done.

June 11 - Brady Singer vs. Cole Irvin, 8:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brady Singer 12 59.0 3 5 23.2% 8.6% 4.88 4.13 1.2
Cole Irvin 12 69.1 4 7 17.1% 4.1% 3.89 4.56 1.1

The A’s literally purchased Cole Irvin from the Phillies back in January after the lefty had struggled in his parts of two seasons with Philadelphia. He threw 45.1 innings for the Phillies with a 6.75 ERA. His improvement this season is a little bit confusing, but he’s been much better. He uses his four-seamer nearly 40 percent of the time, but the velocity on it is down a fairly significant amount from last year. Maybe he’s better with less, but as we’ve talked about so many times with guys like Jakob Junis, it really limits your margin for error. His sinker and slider have both been hit hard this season, so those are the pitches to target for the Royals in this game. You might recall Irvin threw seen innings of one run ball against the Royals in 2019, so it’s reasonable for you to assume the worst in this one, especially with how they looked against Andrew Heaney on Tuesday night.

With the way Brady Singer has pitched recently, his starts have taken on some of the vibes of Brad Keller starts from earlier this year. I’m just very curious to see how he responds to some failure. In his last start, he was fine. He gave up two runs in 5.2 innings and struck out seven. He walked three and gave up eight hits, but if the Royals offense didn’t shut down, he’d have easily been in line for a win with that performance. I thought he looked better against the Twins, though still struggling to find the command. I don’t know why, but I have a hunch he has a good game here.

June 12 - Jackson Kowar vs. James Kaprielian, 3:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jackson Kowar 1 0.2 0 1 0.0% 28.6% 54.00 12.15 -0.1
James Kaprielian 5 26.1 2 1 25.0% 10.7% 3.08 4.93 0.3

It’s not unheard of, but it’s also not terribly common for teams to trade pitchers recovering from Tommy John Surgery, but that’s what the Yankees did when they sent James Kaprielian to the A’s as part of a deal to get Sonny Gray in 2017. It took nearly two years for him to make his A’s organizational debut, but he finally got to the big leagues last year and is back now with some nice numbers in his first five starts of the season. He’s lost a lot of velocity from last season with his four-seamer averaging 92.7 MPH compared to 94.9 MPH this year, but opponents haven’t done much with it. His slider, though, is the bread and butter, or at least it has been so far this year. Opponents are hitting .091 with one extra base hit in 24 plate appearances that ended on that pitch. His changeup has also been good, but that slider is nasty. Given how good the slider is, I’m a little surprised by this, but he’s struggled mightily with lefties, so maybe it breaks into their swing path a little too often. It’s been an impressive start to his 2021 season.

It was not an impressive start to Jackson Kowar’s 2021 big league season and career. As you know, he went just 0.2 innings with four runs allowed in Anaheim in his big league debut. He couldn’t throw strikes and when he did they were very hittable. There’s honestly nothing to break down here except for the fact that it likely won’t be worse this time around. One thing I noticed in the brief look on Monday night is that he was having trouble putting hitters away and allowed 10 foul balls in his 39 pitches. The foul territory in Oakland might be a benefit to him if he continues that.

June 13 - Kris Bubic vs. Chris Bassitt, 3:07pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 9 38.0 1 1 20.1% 11.3% 3.32 4.62 0.0
Chris Bassitt 13 81.0 6 2 26.2% 5.5% 3.44 3.65 1.8

Bassitt might be the best pitcher nobody ever talks about. He finished eighth in last year’s Cy Young vote and has just been so good this season as well. Since he came back from Tommy John in 2018, all he’s done is throw 335.2 innings with a 3.32 ERA, 323 strikeouts and 101 walks. He doesn’t give up many hits. He doesn’t give up many homers. He’s just a good pitcher. He leads with a sinker that comes in at 93-95 and also throws a four-seam fastball and a cutter and then mixes and matches a changeup, slider and curve to round out his repertoire. His cutter was a really effective pitch last year, but opponents seem to be hitting it better this year and he’s backed off it a bit. One thing I really appreciate about a pitcher like him is he takes care of the business he’s supposed to take care of. The seven through nine hitters are hitting a combined .159/.208/.273 against him.

Kris Bubic had a rough go of it against the Twins in the start before last, but he really stepped in it against the Angels his last time out. His changeup is his moneymaker and he just had a really tough time getting it to the swing and miss zone, giving up four home runs on his best pitch. My hope is it was just one of those nights because I’ve never seen him struggle with his changeup quite like that before. All in all, he’s still got good numbers to start his season, which is nice after a blowup like he had. He’ll get to pitch this game about 45 minutes from his high school in San Jose, so I would guess there’ll be a lot of Bubic family and friends in attendance for his first start in Oakland.

Prediction

With how inconsistent the Royals starting pitchers have been lately, it’s kind of hard to really get any feel for what they’ll do in this series. If Minor is on, the Royals probably have the edge in the first game. If Singer is on, the Royals probably have the edge in the second game. The last two are A’s all the way, but Kowar is obviously a wild card. I’m going to say that the Royals only win one game, but I could honestly see them taking up to three. They’re just so Jeckyll and Hyde that it’s hard to know.

Poll

Can the Royals quiet the A’s?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Quiet? They’ll silence them with a four-game sweep.
    (6 votes)
  • 7%
    Yes they can, they’ll take three of four.
    (6 votes)
  • 23%
    Maybe give them the shush sign and split the series.
    (20 votes)
  • 35%
    Is winning a game quieting them? Because that’s all they’ll do.
    (30 votes)
  • 27%
    Hahaha no. They’ll get swept.
    (23 votes)
85 votes total Vote Now