Series Preview: Kansas City Royals at Baltimore Orioles, April 25-27

In many ways, the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles are similar. They are two franchises with a rich tradition. At various points of the 60′s, 70′s, and 80′s each franchise was considered the model. There was something about the “Oriole Way” with Earl Weaver infinitely ahead of his time running the team with many principles that form modern sabermetrics. The Orioles had Robinson, Palmer, and then Ripken. The Royals had their own way, a team that stole bases, pitched well, and became the standard for baseball being played the proper way. There was a type of dignity that Dick Howser exuded that was befitting of being called Royal. George Brett was, for a period, the best hitter in the sport. 

{Discuss Royals/Orioles on the BSL Boards}. 

Both clubs are still in similar places. After long periods of failure, both clubs are on the cusp of contending. Both teams are flawed and they may be built in a different way, but the Orioles and Royals are trying to finally establish a period of excellence. The two teams clash for a three game series in Baltimore as Major League Baseball closes out its last weekend of April. 

Neither team is over .500, but both have been floating right around that mark all season. The records are similar, but the process in achieving the records couldn’t be any more different. The Royals have been a top-five pitching team and one of the worst offenses in the league. Meanwhile, the Orioles are hitting well, but feature one of the worst pitching staffs in the league. The Orioles will hope some home cooking will get the pitchers going, while the Royals are hoping the fences of Camden Yards help spark some of their offense.

What You Need To Know…

Pitching Matchups

  1. Yordano Ventura vs. Ubaldo Jimenez
  2. Jeremy Guthrie vs. Wei-Yin Chen
  3. James Shields vs. Miguel Gonzalez

Game one features 23 year old phenom Yordano Ventura, who has put together three dominant starts that include 17 innings, 12 hits allowed, 7 walks, 19 strikeouts, and a 2.65 ERA. With a league average strikeout rate at 20 percent, the young Ventura is well above that with his 27 percent strikeout rate. More impressively, he has elicited swings and misses with pitches in the strike zone at a 13 percent rate. He’s opposed by the struggling Jimenez, who has allowed 27 hits and 13 walks in 21 innings of work. Jimenez has had difficulties with the strike zone as he has thrown far too many pitches within and at the top of the strike zone. Orioles fans are quite frustrated with their prized free agent acquisition, so he is in need of a quick start. 

Jeremy Guthrie returns to the place where he cut his teeth as a member of the Royals. Guthrie has made four starts and the numbers look exactly like his career levels. He doesn’t strikeout many batters as his 12.8 percent strikeout rate. With the exception of a better strikeout rate, Chen looks almost like a carbon copy of Guthrie this year. The difference is that Chen’s FIP is at 2.78 while Guthrie is at 5.78. 

Game three will have the Royals’ ace James Shields face Miguel Gonzalez. Shields has been stellar in the early season, posting a 1.54 ERA in five starts along with 38 strikeouts in 35 innings. Gonzalez’s statistics look ugly, but since his first start beating, he has pitched 17 innings and has allowed just 5 runs along with 16 strikeouts. 

Ventura For The First Time

Yordano Ventura makes his first start at Orioles Park at Camden Yards and against any member of the Orioles. While he is coming off of his worst outing as a professional, Ventura has been spectacular. His 2.65 ERA is validated by his 2.79 FIP. He is averaging 97 MPH with his fastball and also features an 82 MPH curveball, and an 87 MPH changeup. He is eliciting swings and misses with pitches in the strike zone at an incredible 22.6 percent rate. 

Ubaldo’s Success vs. Royals

Ubaldo Jimenez’s season could not have started worse. But, he does get a match up with a team that he has done well against. Riding a two game winning streak against the Royals, Jimenez has a 4-2 record with a 3.53 in 51 innings. The current Royals have just three career home runs against Jimenez, two coming from Eric Hosmer. With the exception of Hosmer and Billy Butler, no Royals batter has an OPS greater than .501 against Jimenez. The struggles of Jimenez have been well documented, but the Royals may be the team that allows Jimenez to get back on track as he has held the current Royals to just a .218/.297/.327. 

Markakis, Jones, and Davis vs. Big Game 

James Shields has been stellar as he enters the final year of his contract. For his career, Shields has made 24 starts against the Orioles, pitching 162.1 innings and striking out 124 batters along with a 3.55 ERA. But, he does have trouble against Nick Markakis, who has a .303/.387/.470 in 70 plate appearances against Shields. That includes 5 doubles and 2 home runs. Adam Jones is batting .333/.350/.590 with 5 doubles, 1 triple, and 1 home run in 40 plate appearances. Chris Davis has only faced Shields 12 times, but he does have 2 home runs against him. 

No Pop, But Contact

The Royals rank last in the American League with just 9 home runs. Mike Moustakas has 4 of those home runs. They also rank just 13th in on base percentage and slugging percentage. They are, however, the second toughest team to strike out as they have just 122 strikeouts on the season, 11 of them handed to them in their final game against the Indians by Corey Kluber. 

Patience Evidently Isn’t a Virtue

Neither team is willing to take a walk as the Orioles rank 14th in walks, while the Royals come in at 13th.

Outfield Arms in Baltimore

The Orioles outfielders are tied with the Major League lead in outfield assists with seven. The O’s have thrown out 5 runners at second and one each at third base and home plate. All of the outfielders have shared in this as David Lough, Nick Markakis, and Delmon Young each have two assists, while Adam Jones has caught one base runner.  

Close Games Favor Royals

With the Orioles having 12 of their first 21 games decided by one or two runs, they figure to be in some close games against the Royals. The Royals’ relievers rank second in the American League in terms of WAR and average 10.38 strikeouts per nine innings and the best home run rate in the league. Greg Holland has held Orioles hitters to a .182/.182/.273 batting line. 

Bullpen Issues

The Orioles’ bullpen, by contrast ranks 13th in the league according to WAR. They have the third lowest strikeout rate and a FIP of just 4.49. In addition, they have the fourth worst home run rate in the league. 

Davis’ History

Chris Davis hasn’t gone on his home run tear. While he has never faced Yordano Ventura, Davis has a history against Shields and Guthrie. As stated, Davis hits Shields well, but he is the exact opposite against Guthrie as the veteran right hander has held Davis to a .063/.118/.250 line in 17 appearances. The Orioles have to win with power. Davis needs to get started. 

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About the author

Gary Armida  

Gary Armida is a Father to the best little girl in the world. After that, he is a writer who has been covering Major League Baseball since 2007. During that time, Gary operated, one of the first independent online sites that gained Major League Baseball media credentials. Over the years, he has covered two Winter Meetings and has written feature articles for a variety of outlets while interviewing Major League personnel such as Rick Peterson, Jason Giambi, Zack Wheeler, Jeff Luhnow, Jack Zduriencik, Michael Bourn, and many others. In addition to his work at BSL, Gary contributes to USA Today Sports Weekly and maintains his personal site,, that serves as his portfolio as well as a place for additional content.

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