Series Preview: Iowa Cubs of Chicago (30-44) vs Kansas City Royals (31-44)

For a while there it looked like the Royals might contend in the weak AL central. Much like the Cubs they got off to a decent enough start to the season and had a winning record as recently as May 14. Then they reeled off two five-game losing streaks in the span of two weeks and that was that. They come in to this series riding their fourth five-game losing streak of the season.

There is reason to hope for Royals fans though. Unlike the Cubs, who pretty much just have Starlin Castro, the Royals have promoted a number of their future stars to the club this year, including players like Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy. There’s a good chance we’ll see “short reliever” Tim Colllins, who the twittersphere is all over I guess. On the flip side, they also regularly play the likes of Melky Cabrera and saberist bete noire Jeff Francouer.

Team Overviews

Team stats with respective league ranking in parens:

Cubs Royals
wOBA .316 (7th) .322 (6th)
UBR -6.2 (16th) 4.2 (4th)
UZR -16 (15th) 1.9 (8th)
SP FIP 4.19 (14th) 4.74 (14th)
RP FIP 4.09 (14th) 4.34 (11th)

Hey, the Cubs bullpen isn’t last anymore! They’re on pace to move up two slots every series. By the end of the year the Cubs pen will be the -26th ranked pen in the majors!

Billy Butler and Alex Gordon have formed the main core of the Royals offense. Butler has put up a kind of strange line for a guy I seem to remember as a power hitter: .302/.404/.438. The Most Exciting Player in Baseball, Alcides Escobar, has been a black hole of suck in the lineup, batting .249/.285/.313 for a .270 wOBA over a run-killing 288 PAs. On the pitching side, only Felipe Paulino (remember him?) is the only starter to put up deent numbers, albeit over five starts. They’ve had nine pitchers start a game this season, which is just as many as the Cubs.

Pitching Matchups

Friday Friday: Ryan Dempster, RHP (5.46, 4.15, 3.38, 3.79) vs Bruce Chen, LHP (3.59, 4.95, 4.53, 4.68), 7:10 PM CT

Bruce Chen is still in baseball? What? If you look up “Replacement Level Swingman” in the dictionary you won’t find anything, but if you could then there would be a picture of Bruce Chen next to the entry. Of course, this means that you can chalk up a 7 IP, 6 K, 1 ER outing from Chen tonight.

Dempster had a hard time finding the plate in his last start, walking six batters in five and a third innings. Not having to face the patient Yankee lineup this time should give Dempster a break.

Saturday Saturday: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (4.50, 3.85, 4.10, 3.75) vs Danny Duffy, LHP (5.03, 5.11, 4.50, 4.54), 6:10 PM CT

The Royals picked up Duffy as a third round pick in the 2007 draft, and after strong years in A and A+ ball in 2008 and 2009 he blew through AA and AAA to make the big leagues. I’m guessing he was hurt in 2010, or fangraphs has something up with its minor leagues database, as he only pitched 75 innings or so across 5 different teams after pitching 126.2 innings in 2009. ZiPS seems to think he’s being a little too rushed to the bigs, but the projection systems sometimes have a hard time playing catchup to guys like Duffy. Of course, they’re down on him this season for a reason, as his current 2011 numbers show.

Z turned a rocky first inning into a strong start against the White Sox. He went eight innings for the fourth time this season, striking out five, walking two, and getting eleven grounders. This could be one of the last few starts where we’ll see Z in a Cubs uniform, so MB is lucky to see it in person.

Sunday Sunday Sunday: Randy Wells, RHP (5.70, 5.43, 4.66, 4.03) vs Luke Hochevar, RHP (4.97, 4.75, 4.18, 4.28), 1:10 PM CT

Wells struggled at times against the Yankees, but he looked much more like the RAndy Wells we expect to see in that game. He got eleven ground balls, but still continues to walk batters at a much higher pace than his career numbers suggest. It will probably still be a while until the rust gets knocked off.

Hochevar was the Royals opening day starter, and the best thing you can say about him is that he’s probably a league averageish pitcher. Like (good) Wells, he doesn’t issue too many walks and keeps the ball on the ground. However, this season he’s seen a huge drop in his strikeout rate. To his credit, he’s averaging over six innings per start. He was knocked around by the D-Backs in his last start.


These matchups work out pretty nicely for the Cubs, but they are on the road. I’ll still take the Cubs to win the series. But this Royals team has a much brighter future than the players that Cuey is going to trot out there this series.


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We're gonna make it.