This series has the makings to be one for the ages.
For the first time in these two teams’ history that they have matched up against each other with anything at stake (at least stakes this high) and they each bring their big guns to the mound.
With starting pitching being the main players in each of their NLDS match-ups, they will both be slinging gems in this NLCS. I think it’s fair to say, in this series the batting will make all the difference.
As easy as a pick this may seem, it’s not, actually, that simple.
The San Francisco Giants will have come into this playoff series actually fairing better against, H2O, than the high-powered Phillies’ offense has against the Giants offense.
In the six meetings that the two teams have had this year, this is how the statistics panned out:
2010 Record:: Giants 3-3, Phillies 3-3
Batting average: Giants .290 | Phillies .226
Home runs: Giants 8 | Phillies 3
RBIs: Giants 26 | Phillies 25
ERA: Giants 4.00 | Phillies 4.50
Strikeouts: Giants 47 | Phillies 49
Walks: Giants 20 | Phillies 10
The Giants have managed to handle the big three of the Phillies, muscling out better numbers.
In four starts against San Francisco, H20 went 1-2 with a 6.12 ERA, allowing 32 hits over 25 innings with 27 strikeouts. But the Giants’ trio was much more effective against the Phillies’ offense, going 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA over four starts, allowing only 15 hits over 27 1/3 innings while striking out 28.
I’ve brought in Giants’ Columnist, Theo Fightmaster, to help us better understand this opponent the Phillies will be facing, starting this weekend. Theo is a sportswriter for the Marin Independent Journal, a daily paper in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s also done some ESPN work, and has worked along side those in the likes of Cincinnati Reds’ Manager, Dusty Baker.
Today, he’s here to bring us the very inside info on the team we will be facing, along with his prediction for the 2010 NLCS and baseball season.
Take it away Theo:
It took a historic run of dominant pitching and the entirety of 162 regular season games for the San Francisco Giants to take the National League West crown. But had the starting staff not taken a dramatic step from outstanding to superlative in the National League Division Series, the Giants may not have fared so well against the Atlanta Braves.
That pitching will need to be as good or even better than it was during a 3-games-to-1 series win over the Braves if the Giants have designs on dispatching the two-time NL champion Phillies.
Here’s the lineup that will be charged with the task of taking on the “Double Roy Bow” of Halladay and Oswalt and Cole Hamels:
1. Andres Torres, CF
2. Freddy Sanchez, 2B
3. Aubrey Huff, 1B
4. Buster Posey, C
5. Pat Burrell, LF
6. Juan Uribe, SS
7. Mike Fontenot, 3B
8. Cody Ross, RF
The Giants starting lineup includes just two players whose name were written on the Opening Day lineup; Huff – who was hitting third and playing first, and Uribe, who started at second base for an injured Freddy Sanchez.
The three highest paid hitters – Aaron Rowand ($13.6 million), Edgar Renteria ($10 million) and Jose Guillen (the Giants agreed to pick up the remaining $1.8 million he was owed by the Royals) – may each find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes time to cast the 25-man roster. Also, Pablo Sandoval, just a year removed from taking the league by storm, has struggled so mightily that he’s been relegated to the bench in favor of Fontenot.
One through eight, the Giants are a collection of aggressive, outhouse-or-castle hitters who tend to make the opposing pitchers job easier. They lack any speed outside of Torres, and only Posey – the probable NL Rookie of the Year – consistently turns in professional at bats.
Three hitters to watch:
Pat Burrell – Left on the scrap heap by the Tampa Bay Rays, Burrell was hired by his childhood team and went on to bash 18 homers and seemingly all of them were in clutch situations. Now he has a chance to take on his former mates.
Juan Uribe – After getting only one hit in the NLDS, the Giants will need Uribe to be the player he was for much of the regular season. His 23 homers and 85 RBIs set new career highs and were second on the team (Huff, 26 HR, 86 RBIs).
Buster Posey – One of the games best pure, young hitters wore down during the stretch drive, but was 6 for 16 with a .444 OBP and scored three runs during the NLDS. No doubt he will be the focus of Phillies pitchers scouting reports.
The pitching staff set a modern-day record with 18 consecutive games allowing three are fewer runs. All told the Giants allowed more than three runs just three times in the final 26 games. The staff allowed a total of nine runs to the Braves in four playoff games, five of which came in Atlanta’s lone win in Game 2.
Here’s the Giants likely starting rotation:
Game 1: Tim Lincecum
Game 2: Matt Cain
Game 3: Jonathan Sanchez
Game 4: Madison Bumgarner
Game 1 should be epic. The past three Cy Young winners from the NL (presuming Halladay is indeed the 2010 winner) square off in the most anticipated matchup in recent playoff history. Each hurler began their maiden voyage into October baseball with outstanding performances; Halladay no-hit the Reds in Game 1, and Lincecum allowed just two hits and struck out 14 Braves in a complete game shut out in his Game 1 start. There is an outside chance that we see this matchup three times if the series goes seven games.
As great as Lincecum was, the rest of the starting staff was nearly just as good. During the LDS the staff as a whole had an ERA of 1.66, a WHIP of 0.82, struck out 46 hitters, walked just seven and allowed only 24 hits in 38 innings pitched.
However, the Giants bullpen wasn’t as sharp as it will need to be if they’re going to take down the Phillies. Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo each blew saves, and Wilson put on the tying and winning runs in the ninth inning of Game 4 before getting the save.
Here’s the proposed bullpen:
RHP, Brian Wilson: Led all of baseball with 48 saves, and had an ERA of 1.81 and a 1.18 WHIP.
RHP, Santiago Casilla: The mid-season acquisition has electric stuff and pitched 1 2/3 exemplary innings in Game 4.
RHP, Sergio Romo: Led the team with 21 holds, but is in a crisis of confidence after struggling big time in the LDS. Erik Hinske’s 2-run homer nearly put a dagger in the Giants playoff hopes.
RHP: Ramon Ramirez: The former Red Sox reliever was amazing for the Giants down the stretch, but he did surrender the game winning homer to Rick Ankiel in the Giants only loss to the Braves.
LHP, Jeremy Affeldt: The senior lefty in the Giants pen had a poor regular season and didn’t throw a pitch in the LDS. Still, with he should be called upon in tough situations against the Phillies dangerous left-handed bats.
LHP, Javier Lopez: Acquired from the Pirates at the trade deadline, Lopez became manager Bruce Bochy’s top lefty out of the pen. Lefties hit just .162 agains the side winder in 2010, and he allowed just six hits (two to left-handed batters) since September 1.
The Giants carried 11 pitchers in the firs round, and Bochy is from the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of managing. But, the team may opt for 12 pitchers in the seven game series.
The final spot (if they go with 11 pitchers) will go to either Guillermo Mota, Barry Zito.
Mota, a right hander, was outstanding during the first part of the regular season, but struggled with stuff and injuries down the stretch. His three innings of brilliant relief against the Padres in the final series of the regular season earned him a spot on the playoff roster. But he pitched exactly zero innings in the LDS, perhaps an indication of the lack of confidence Bochy has in him.
The biggest impact Zito has made on the Giants is in the accounting department. But, he has playoff experience, and the need of a long man may be a greater concern in a long series. Still, his general ineffectiveness makes him a long shot to make the team, especially if it is in lieu of a hard-throwing reliever, or even an athletic position player who would provide some speed or athleticism off the bench.
Lefty Dan Runzler and righty Chris Ray may both garner some consideration too if the team elects to got with 12 pitchers.
The Giants key to winning is simple: Pitching.
The organization has been stockpiling young arms for most of GM Brian Sabean’s tenure, and it’s finally paying dividends. If the Giants can minimize the Phillies juggernaut offense, they stand a serious chance. But the offense will have to do it’s part. Their magic number is 4, as in runs. The Giants are 69-13 (0-1 in the postseason) (.841 winning percentage) when the score four runs or more.
The Giants absolutely have to take at least one game in Philadelphia, but that may be easier said that done. Still, the Giants were 5-1 against Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels this season. Of course, they beat Halladay in April, Oswalt three times when he was with the Astros – and likely slightly disinterested. The biggest coop would be taking out Halladay and cementing an early 1-0 lead. It’s crazy talk the way the big right hander has pitched this season, but lifetime he’s 0-2 with a 7.23 ERA against the Giants.
As they’ve proven throughout the year, the hitters can leave the pitchers in the lurch. Twice during the regular season the Giants lost games in which they allowed opponents just one hit. One hit! Perhaps their biggest offensive weapon in the first round was Cody Ross who was one of the outfielders Sabean piled on his plate while in line at the waiver wire buffet this summer. And Ross was only acquired, in part at least, to block him from the Padres.
Phillies in six. The Giants are a team of rag-tag parts, the most expensive of which will be on the bench for the majority of the NLCS. The Giant pitching has done the job all year, but to down the Phillies American League-style lineup four times in seven tries is asking too much. Still, don’t expect there to be many lopsided victories. It should be a close series and a nail-biter for both teams.
Well, Philadelphia, you’ve gotten a good look at the Giants, you know what to expect of the Phillies.
Their lineup will look like this, more likely than not:
Shane Victorino: .259, 18 HR, 69 RBIs
Placido Polanco: .298, 6 HR, 52 RBIs
Chase Utley: .275, 16 HR, 65 RBIs
Ryan Howard: .278, 31 HR, 106 RBIs
Jayson Werth: .296, 27 HR, 85 RBIs
Jimmy Rollins: .243, 8 HR, 41 RBIs
Raul Ibanez: .275, 16 HR, 83 RBIs
Carlos Ruiz: .302, 8 HR, 52 RBIs
This line-up clearly goes to the Philadelphia Phillies, as from 1-8 they are an elite batting team. Due to injuries and the like, their numbers have fallen off considerably, but the pitching and timely hitting has proven to be enough, even more, at times the Phils needed it.
Their starting pitching rotation will be:
Roy Halladay: 21-10, 2.44 ERA, 250.2 IP
Cole Hamels: 12-11, 3.09 ERA, 206.2 IP
Roy Oswalt: 13-13, 2.73 ERA, 211.2 IP
Joe Blanton: 9-6, 4.82 ERA, 175.2 IP
Kyle Kendrick: 11-10, 4.73 ERA, 180.2 IP
Although Blanton and Kendrick are listed here, likely, only Blanton could see a start in this series depending on how everything goes.
If all is going well, the Phils will probably give Blanton the green light, in effort to let the other starters stay on normal rest.
If things get crucial, however, Halladay could be back on short rest.
My prediction for this series is that this will only go six games, at the most. My gut tells me five, or maybe even another sweep. I see the bats of old waking up for this series, because they know the kind of pitching they are up against. Likely that is their point of focus.