The KC Royals continue their tour of the AL Central against the Detroit Tigers. That declaration is the sort of hard-hitting analysis you can expect for the next 600 words or so.
Baseball has a certain element of luck to it, and thus far in 2017, the KC Royals have been profoundly unlucky.
On balls in play, the flukiest, most fluctuating stat in baseball, the KC Royals are hitting .262 this season. Not only is that the lowest mark in the majors, a full season of similarly horrendous luck would be unheard of this century—the last sub-.265 team-wide BABIP was provided by the 1991 Mets, who had a .264 BABIP.
The more curious part of this is that the Royals have good peripherals—a line-drive rate (20.5 percent) ranking 10th in baseball and a hard-hit rate of 30.6 percent that’s certainly not a total embarrassment. The biggest problem—an O-Swing Percentage of 33.8 percent—is mitigated somewhat by connecting on only 62 percent of those swings. The KC Royals just need to swing at fewer bad balls and they’d be okay, which seems reductionist but doesn’t seem to be something Dale Sveum is bringing up on the regular.
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(The pitching staff is also getting hit at a .301 clip on BABIP, 10th-worst mark in the league. But that’s not an historical anomaly, so it hardly bears mention here.)
I bring this up because the Tigers have been pretty unlucky on the mound side of things. They’ve given up a .303 clip on balls in play, which is sixth-worst in baseball. Something’s got to give this week at the K, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, here’s a preview.
Hammel has been blistered by the Tigers during his career (2-2, 7.98 ERA). Maybe that will stop (it won’t) or maybe the KC Royals will be forced to go deep into their bullpen in the opener. Bet on the latter.
Norris, the one-time idiosyncratic “Van Man” as a top prospect with the Blue Jays, had surgery in the 2015 offseason to remove a malignant cancerous growth on his thyroid. Kid has a great story and can absolutely sling it; here’s hoping he can coax more than 13 starts out of his body this season for the first time in his career.
Watch If: You like Norris’ distinctive style. You’re not going to talk me into suggesting people actively spend their Memorial Day watching Jason Hammel pitch unless it’s something they hate-watch, like “The Bachelor” or any NBA playoff game before Lebron James and Steph Curry are sharing the floor at the same time.
Game Two: TBA vs. Justin Verlander (4-3, 4.87 ERA); 7:15 p.m. (CT), Tuesday; FSKC
Nathan Karns won’t be eligible to come back from the DL until Wednesday at the earliest, so one would think this will be Miguel Almonte’s starting debut. He’ll face off against Verlander, who enjoyed a career revival last season but has been aggressively mediocre this season.
(UPDATE: NOPE. Almonte optioned down this afternoon. Eric Skoglund will make the start tomorrow. Jake Junis is scheduled to come up for Duffy/Karns until he’s ready. Honestly, this is bad and I’m sad.)
I’d feel worse for Verlander, but he wakes up next to Kate Upton every day. Must be a tough life.
Watch If: Almonte gets the ball or you’re hoping for gratuitous Kate Upton shots mixed in during the game.
Game Three: Ian Kennedy (0-4, 4.43 ERA) vs. Matthew Boyd (2-5, 5.40 ERA); 7:15 p.m. (CT), Wednesday; FSKC
Kennedy is trending up—his five-inning, three-hit, four-earned, four-strikeout game against Cleveland was his best in May, although that’s not a particularly high bar to clear. Boyd has not gone six innings since May 10.
Watch If: You want to see two teams beat the absolute crap out of two bad pitchers.
Predictions Sure to be Wrong
In Game One: I spend innings three-through-six looking for sad Jason Hammel GIFs.
Game Two: Verlander pulls a Tom Hiddleston and wears a t-shirt that’s just a photo of Kate Upton to the ballpark.
Game Three: Kennedy and Boyd toss dueling complete games.
(Jk, at least one won’t get out of the third inning.)