Tonight the Yankees play the first of three games in Kansas City – three games that present yet another opportunity for the Bombers to pad their record against a substandard team. Having won six in a row and eight of their last nine which has put them in first place in the AL East, the Yanks need to keep the momentum going against the 7-11 Royals (who, as you’ll see in a minute, will have you wondering how they’ve won seven).
If you haven’t been following the Royals closely (and why would you?) here’s your need to know:
The Royals are very good at putting the ball in play, as their batters have posted the third-lowest strikeout rate in MLB so far in 2022. They’re also a very good base-stealing team having swiped 13 bags in 15 attempts on the year, with the 13 being the fourth most in baseball. Additionally, they’re better than league average in productive outs, so they’ve moved runners along at a pretty good rate too.
Yet – and stop me if you’ve heard me say this before – contact and small ball are absolutely useless if you don’t get on base at a high rate and hit for power. Given that the Royals are 24th in MLB in runs per game, I’m sure you can figure out what’s coming next.
The Royals rank 23rd in MLB in OBP, 28th in SLG, and 28th in OPS+, with a Ronald Torreyes like 76. They haven’t been the victims of bad luck or randomness either as their xBA is the second-worst in MLB, while their xSLG and xwOBA are both fifth-worst.
The Royals have some familiar names but Andrew Benintendi is the only batter carrying his weight so far, posting an impressive .393/.433/.492 triple-slash line for a 174 OPS+. Meanwhile, two-time All-Star Whit Merrifield, who’s led MLB twice in hits and once each in doubles and triples, is off to a horrid start to the ’22 campaign. His .127/.160/.155 triple-slash line has led to an almost impossible to get -6 OPS+ on the young season. (Hopefully, this won’t be the weekend that matters start to turn around for him.)
When the Royals are in the field, there’s been good news and bad news. They’ve pitched pretty well overall as the staff’s FIP has been better than league average. There are two pieces of bad news, and the first is that the defense has been horrible, ranking 24th in defensive efficiency so far this season. The second bit of bad news for them is that their pitching staff has been top-heavy, carried by some good performers at the top.
This is a ham-handed segue into tonight’s starter Kris Bubic, who isn’t one of the pitchers who’s been doing the heavy lifting – he’s been batting practice. Bubic has made three starts in ‘22, and in seven innings combined over those three starts, he’s allowed 11 runs on 12 hits while walking nine batters. It hasn’t been bad luck either, as his percentile rankings league-wide are in the bottom ten percent in K%, BB%, xERA, xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, chase rate, and whiff rate. The 24-year-old lefty and three-year veteran has come at hitters with a four-seamer more than half the time with a change and a curve making up the rest of his arsenal. As you see, none of them are working particularly well.
The Yankees really need to win at least two of three this weekend, and frankly, anything other than a sweep might be considered a disappointment. They have a really good chance to start the weekend off right with Bubic going for KC, while the Yankees send nasty Nestor to the bump. Cortes has been the polar opposite of Bubic as he’s posted an anemic 1.28 FIP and 0.638 WHIP over 15.2 innings in three starts.
You can catch the game on Apple TV+, and listen to it on WFAN 101.9/660 and WADO 1280. If you want to exchange rants, you can follow me @mybaseballpage1 on Twitter and on the “My Baseball Page” on Facebook.
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