Behind Enemy Lines: Royals vs. Nats 6/21/10

In an effort to turn the page, I have decided to make an effort to get to know the KC Royals a bit better and see what we are up against over the next 3 days. Many of these AL teams are a bit unfamiliar to me, and I'd like to get a better sense of what strengths and weaknesses they bring to the table. Of course, most of us know the Royals as some kind of national joke or sad lesson in the tragedies of income inequalities in present day baseball. They can't be *all* bad, though, and I'm sure that they possess some weapons that could actually beat us as a reeling team. I'm sure they're coming in here expecting to give us a tough time.

Some thoughts from my research after the jump:

1) Starting Pitching: We're going against 3 starters who have all struggled to varying degrees.

Monday (edit) : Bruce Chen (3-1) 4.15 ERA; Chen is a journeyman pitcher to put it mildly. He's been with 11 organizations in his career and should be a name that rings familiar with us all with stops for Atlanta, the New York Mets, and a 4 year stretch in Baltimore that was probably the best of his career. He even had a stretch with the Expos in 2002 where his middling ways translated into a 6.99 ERA in 5 starts and 10 relief appearances. A replacement level pitcher basically who is pitching above his head during a small sample size at the beginning of the year. Which means he will be Cy Chen against us.

Tuesday (edit): Anthony Lerew (0-0) 3.00 ERA; Lerew is a Braves reject who was released in 2009 and picked off the scrap heap by the Royals. Luke Hochevar is injured and so they called up Lerew for a spot start against the Astros, where he pitched well and tied a career high with 7Ks. This guy can't be but so scary from a stuff perspective if our hitters will rediscover their patience. Even in the minors this year, Lerew had just 41 Ks and 27 walks in 73IP. Not likely to strike too many guys out unless we get foolish.

Wednesday (edit): Brian Bannister (6-5) 5.70 ERA; Brian Bannister was once Mets property, and I can remember hoping that he would become something for the Mets in my pre2005 Mets fandom days. He's a smart guy who embraces all the new school stats and has tried to shift his approach to being a ground ball guy with a cutter. He's been shelled in his last two starts and admittedly is struggling with confidence. Before that he was 6-3 with a 4.50 ERA.

Bottom line: if we struggle against these starters who are struggling to go deep in games and are a combination of replacement pitchers and a 4th starter at best in Brian Bannister, our offensive woes go deeper than the "we just ran into good pitching" that Riggleman has been waving at the media with as of late. Real change will be needed either in lineup makeup (Morse, Kennedy?) or position (move Guzman and Morgan down). This will be a good test of how bad the offensive slump actually is.

2) Key offensive players:

Billy Butler 1B: Butler had a breakout season last year with a rare 50+doubles/20+HR season at a young age. He's only continued to rake this year .331/.385/.491. Real solid player and nice to see that the Royals have some young pieces to inspire hope.

Jose Guillen RF/DH: Guillen deserves a fanpost all to himself. He deserves a book to himself. The infamous sitting by the Angels for the playoff run by Scoscia that paved the way for his trade to the Nats in 2005. The solid season (great by Nats 2005 standards) he had in 2005 that made Bowden look like a genius temporarily followed by Tommy John surgery in 2006, followed by free agent signing to the Mariners. Royals picked him up for 3 years 36Million and that kind of move is what makes you a national joke. He was named in the Mitchell Report as well. Guillen was a subreplacement player from 2008-2009 and missed half of last year. Royals are hoping he can build on his current decent start 13HR, 43RBI, .269/.337/.473 enough to earn a trade of some kind. Good luck.

David DeJesus: Dejesus is one of the longest tenured Royals and was drafted by them in 2000. Hitting the Royals message boards, he's somebody that Royals fans love, a homegrown player who is affordable and productive. He frequently comes up on as someone for teams looking for a RF. Until Bernadina's recent productivity, I was hoping the Nats would make a play on him as a bridge to Harper in RF. Currently off to a smoking start and will get some consideration for all-star status with his .328/.400/.492 start.

After those guys, we get into some lesser lights. They picked up Yuniesky Betancourt at SS from the Mariners last year in exchange for pitching prospect Dan Cortes. He's a subreplacement guy who's not a great defender but is playing a little bit better this year at a .271/.298/.411. Wait a sec. That sounds like Guzman with a little bit more pop.

Jason Kendall is an iron man catcher but not that productive offensively. The Royals signed him to a two year 6Mil contract over the offseason from the Brewers. Let's hope Pudge doesn't regress to Kendall like ways.

3) Other Position Players: Scott "The Podfather" Podsednik was signed as a free agent from the White Sox and is currently sporting a .687OPS. He's a plus defender in left. Mitch Maier's a slightly better than replacement CFwho can't be so great if Rick Ankiel was originally expected to be a superior free agent replacement. Ankiel's on the DL at the moment. Chris Getz is a "scrappy" former White Sox at 2B with a putrid .513OPS and -.4WAR who was traded with old "prospect" Josh Fields to the Royals for Mark Teahen (who we missed in the White Sox series due to injury).

4) Bullpen: Joakim Soria is a stud closer. He's affordable and under team control through 2014. Problem is the horrid save stat. They don't have but so much else great in their bullpen so they should be using him for higher leverage situations and closing by committee. Scary indeed when guys like Kyle Farnsworth are counted on for big innings, although Farnsworth has a lower WHIP at 1.186 and ERA (2.51) than in past years. Robinson Tejeda is kind of meh in the bullpen with a 4.18 ERA and 1.454 WHIP.

Bottom Line: On paper, the Nats have clear advantages in starting pitching, solely because we get Strasburg for the 3rd start of this series. You hope that Livo will be able to solve this lineup better than he did far more fearsome Detroit but we don't know what we're getting with him. Offensively, I'm glad I did some research because I didn't realize just how strong DeJesus and Butler are and you've got to feel that Guillen will be motivated for some payback. Might be a draw here. Bullpenwise, I'm really led to believe that's where we're a more credible organization than the O's and Royals we'll be facing the next two series.

I'm predicting a Royals sweep because, um, yeah it makes sense and my avatars and predictions haven't been working too well lately.

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