All Hail the Royals Monday Night vs. Rays on ESPN

Rainman M.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 2:15 PM UTC

Sunday, May. 13, 2018 2:15 PM UTC

Kansas City hosts Tampa Bay on Monday night at 7:05 ET on ESPN. Read on for this capper’s insight into two young starters who you might not know about and his explanation for a play on the Royals.

Tampa Bay Rays at Kansas City Royals

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Free MLB Pick: Kansas City F5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

By researching into both relatively unknown starters, it becomes clear that Kansas City enjoys the edge in pitching tonight.

Rookie Ryan Yarbrough (2-2, 4.30 ERA) makes his third attempt at transitioning out of the bullpen and into the starting role. He’s 0-2 as a starter, compared to 2-0 as a reliever and it’s evident that he needs more time to develop into a Major League starter. As a reliever, one is able to maximize the quality of one’s stuff. To become a starter, a pitcher has to have good enough stuff so that he can sacrifice some of its quality in order to last more innings. Yarbrough doesn’t have this quality to begin with. As a result, opponents don’t need much time to figure him out. Opponents’ slugging percentage is consequently .180 higher in his second time going through the lineup than the first.

Yarbrough has only two relatively successful pitches. Opponents are slugging under .300 against his change and cutter but over .500 against his slider and fastball. The problem with Yarbrough’s fastball struggles is that it’s his most important pitch. He throws it most frequently against both righties and lefties. Against righties he throws it 55% of the time as his first pitch and against lefties he throws it 49% of the time when the batter is ahead of the count. Yarbrough’s reliance on and struggle with the fastball makes him a bad match-up for the Royals, who have the eighth-highest BA against the fastball. The Royals will have hit him hard before five innings elapse.

Scouting reports indicate his ability to pitch well to both lefties and righties. The southpaw is actually struggling significantly against lefties, who are slugging .567 against him. In order to succeed against same-handed batters, pitchers need to drop their vertical release points in order to better disguise their pitches and to develop effective breaking pitches. Yarbrough does neither. So look out for left-handed hitter Mike Moustakas who has hit two doubles and two homers in the past seven days. His slugging percentage is .290 higher in night games than day.

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Southpaw Erik Skoglund (1-2, 6.34 ERA) counters for Kansas City. Contrary to Yarbrough, he has developed three reliable pitches. Opponents are slugging less than .300 against his slider, change, and curve. So while he shares Yarbrough’s difficulty with throwing an effective fastball, he doesn’t rely on it as much, especially against right-handed hitters. Skoglund’s ability to rely on other pitches is something that he has developed in his second year, whereas he had relied on his fastball twice as much as a rookie. Another way in which Skoglund has taken advantage of his additional (compared to Yarbrough) year in the majors is by killing the vertical movement of his slider, which makes it less easier for the opposing batter to track, who is whiffing much more frequently at it. Conversely, Yarbrough’s slider actually has more vertical movement in May than it did in April and opponents are slugging 1.000 against it in May.

According to the metric BA-xBA, which compares how a team is hitting with how it should be hitting, the Rays’ lineup is one of the most overachieving in baseball. They are overachieving tremendously overall, against lefties, against the fastball, you name it. They come into tonight’s match-up with tremendous downside and are statistically due to regress.

The Royals’ bullpen is possibly the worst, so I would need a few more shots of whiskey before backing them full game in our MLB Picks.

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