Giants or Giant Killers?

Phillies_giants_baseball_AP(Source: AP)

Listening to talk radio (and thanks to a 6-day break between games there has been a nauseating degree of over-analysis) and fans around town the last few days, I feel many people have underestimated the Giants. Far too many people are looking ahead to a World Series match-up vs the Yankees or Cliff Lee and the Rangers already. For two years now the Giants have been the one NL team I did not want to see in a playoff series. And apparently I am not the only one. John Miller of Philly Sports Daily has a column up now giving respect to the Giants as well.

Their lineup strikes fear into nobody. People assume H2O will just shut them out or nearly shut them out, and the Phils can scratch out a few runs and, voila, easy series win in 4 or 5 games. I think part of that is because the Phillies have more big name players and the respect that is earned with their postseason success of the last few years.

Statistically, however, the Phils and Giants offenses have been very similar this year though. And in their previous series, both teams ended up needing questionable calls by umpires and defensive mishaps to plate most of their runs. During the regular season both clubs went stretches without scoring much and had to rely on pitching to win. The Phils did out-hit (.260 to .257) and out-homer the Giants (166 to 162) this season, but not by much. Considering the Giants play in a cavernous home ballpark compared to CBP, their HR output is even more impressive and surprising (of course, include caveat right about now about all of the Phillies' injuries).

The Phils did manage to score 75 more runs than the Giants did, which is probably due to a combination of drawing about 80 more walks and other intangibles that help put runners in scoring position. But since the Giants acquired Pat Burrell in mid-season, their overall offense has improved, giving them that power bat they were missing in the middle of the lineup.

Those stats don't mean a whole lot though now. It comes down to individual batter-pitcher match-ups. And objectively, the Giants actually have the edge in those match-ups. We don't have a whole lot to go in only using the six head-to-head games as a sample, but here is what we know:

– Tim Lincecum dominated the Phillies. His only start vs the Phillies was on April 28, a wild comeback win for the Phils. But Lincecum went 8.1 IP and allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 11 and walking just 1. Ryan Howard hit a solo opposite field HR off of him. He left the game with a 4-1 lead with 1 out and 1 on in the top of the 9th. And their closer Brian Wilson proceeded to blow the lead thanks to a bloop 3-run double down the RF line by Jayson Werth with 2 outs.

– Jonathan Sanchez has been good against the Phillies twice, going 2-0 with 13 IP allowing 2 runs on just 5 hits, but did walk 7 while striking out 13. That means Lincecum and Sanchez have combined for 21 IP and 4 runs allowed this year vs the Phils.

– In his only start vs the Giants, Roy Halladay had one of his 4 or 5 worst lines all year in  a loss – 7 IP, 5 R, 10 H.

– In 2 starts vs the Giants, Cole Hamels had disappointing results, going 0-1 with a no decision and a combined totals of 12 IP, 9 R, 16 H.  

– Roy Oswalt pitched well in his only start as a Phillie vs the Giants, going 7 innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 7 and walking none.

– Matt Cain got hit around a little bit in his only start vs the Phillies, surrendering 5 runs (2 earned) and 7 hits in 6 innings.

– Both bullpens have been pretty good against the other this year except for the wild Lincecum-Hamels duel that went extra innings.

– The Phils catch a break in that four guys who hit them pretty good this year probably won't be playing much, if at all, in this series – Mark DeRosa, Edgar Renteria, Jose Guillen, and Pablo Sandoval. DeRosa and Renteria won't even be on NLCS roster. And I believe the same with Guillen who has a neck muscle injury, and Sandoval seems to be a part time player at this point.

– Victorino (8 for 25), Rollins (5 for 14), and Howard (4 for 11) were the only 3 regulars who hit better than .250 vs the Giants this year. Victorino was 3 for 5 vs Sanchez, accounting for 3 of their 5 total hits off him in 2 starts.

– Another factor is, top to bottom, the Giants' pitching staff strikes out a lot of batters, which makes it hard to play small ball against them since you can't advance runners on outs. Combine that with their big stadium, and you can see why they have been one of the best pitching staffs in baseball the last few years.

I really don't want to experience the feeling of impending doom (and ensuing 20-hour city-wide freak-out) if Lincecum out-duels Halladay in Game 1 and then the Giants have Sanchez on the hill in Game 2, poised to put them up 2-0 in the series.

I still believe the Phillies have that certain intangible "it factor" that all winning teams have. And when everything else looks close to even, that will be the difference in the series. So I see the Phils winning it in probably 6 or 7 games, but it won't be easy. I think Halladay and Lincecum will split their 2 meetings, as will Sanchez and Oswalt, and the Phils will win the other games. If Sanchez beats them twice, then you have Hamels vs Cain in Game 7. Get the popcorn ready.

Purist, old-school baseball fans will have a lot to like about this series. Prepare yourself for several close, gut-wrenching, low-scoring games. You gotta love October.


11 Responses

  1. Clearly Halladay is trash, I mean look at those stats. ONE GAME? In APRIL? Lincecum pitches ONE GAME in APRIL and suddenly he’s gonna shut us down??
    Apparently this blog is now big enough to make wild guesses based on scant stats like ESPN does. Welcome to the big boys.

  2. Who gives a shit about regular season stats. Nothing matters anymore. Not even Roy’s no-no.
    Come October, a team’s overall ability is boiled down and concentrated so much that the only thing left is whatever raw talent the team has in all aspects of the game.
    With those being the only known facts, which team do you give the heavy advantage to?
    I rest my case. Phillies in 5.

  3. You proved your first sentence right, you over-analyzed this series by going back to a series in April and regular season statistics. These were two different ball clubs at the time. The Phillies do have the so-called “it factor” or whatever you want to call it. I would call it experience, and that is what gives the Phils a huge advantage over the Giants. We can not forget about the Phils faithful. let’s be honest here, that team (minus Burrell) knows how it feels to have CBP unleash its fucking fury on them. As much as we all loved “Pat the Bat,” Its october, and hes wearing orange and gray. Oh, and they played at Turner field infront of arguably the worst fans in baseball, next to Tampa.
    Phils in 6

  4. I think when it comes down to it, whoever is more hungry but can harness that hunger without being over anxious and over excited will have the edge. When you consider they’re almost matched in pitching and hitting (well, Phillies should be completely dominant in the latter, but haven’t of late), the real deciding factor should be who can capitalize on opponent’s mistakes and on calls by the umpires. And that was something that the Phillies were great at in their sweep of the Reds.

  5. @CJ. I thought it was settled that Halladay is probably the best pitcher in baseball and didn’t need to be mentioned again here. Perhaps next time I will start every sentence critical of the Phillies (or in praise of some Giants) with “Halladay is the best, but…”
    @Mike. The experience argument cuts both ways though. Halladay was great in his first playoff start, as was Lincecum. Cliff Lee had no playoff experience before Game 1 of NLDS last year. Derek Lowe has oodles of playoff experience but that didn’t mean squat the last few years because the other guys on Phils and Giants were better.
    It reminds me of a football game between 2 great defenses and 1 great offense. The team with the great offense can still lose a tight low scoring game if they make 1 or 2 mistakes. And in a series that figures to have a lot of 2-1, 3-2 kind of grind it out games, 1 mistake can mean everything and little things like defense, baserunning, starting a runner on 3-2 count to stay out of double play could end up deciding games. I give the Phils the edge in those areas which is why I picked them to win.
    Baseball is funny that way. In 1988 for example Dodgers-Mets. Mets had better players at every position in starting 8 probably and had 4 starting pitchers that were better than every Dodger starter except Hershisher. But the Dodgers still won in 7. In close low scoring games anything can happen.

  6. I can achieve far extra than I’ve, and I’ll, for why really should the miracle which developed me finish with my start? Why can I not lengthen that miracle to my deeds of in the present day?

  7. Two words, postseason experience. If you look at the “tale of the tape” with the Reds then you would say that the phils would have been lucky to win in 5… B/C of that NL best offense, i mean how many times did we hear how the reds won the NL team triple crown for HR, RBI and AVG??? And where is the better regular season team(better on paper)???? they are home. SF has little to NO post season experience and will melt under the bright lights. No disrespect b/c I LOVE PAT THE BAT, but when he is far and away the locker room leader… idk how that can be good. And then you have guys like Zito and Rowand who wont even be playing…. Phils in 5

  8. @Adam. Pretty good point about the Reds. But I think the Reds lost more because their offense got shut down in 2 games and they didn’t have the pitching to return the favor. The Phils had huge advantages in every game starting pitcher vs starting pitcher. They might have slight edges in this series in most of the games, but the gaps aren’t as wide.
    I hate that I have to keep arguing the other side, but I just don’t think any of the usual arguments for why a team will win or lose really apply when the series figures to be like this. I hope I’m wrong and the Phils score 5 runs every game and the 8th and 9th innings of every game will be relaxing. But I doubt they will. I guess that was part of my original point that in a series with great pitching on both sides, whoever has the better offense is kind of irrelevant. On paper the Reds had the better offense and look where that got them. Not a lot of runs are going to be scored against starting pitching or backend of bullpen guys in this series. So the fact that the Phils starting 8 is better than Giants starting 8 at every position, except arguably catcher and SS, won’t mean much if the score is only going to be 2-1 or 3-2 anyway.
    So I stick with Phils in 6 or 7. I just think it’s going to be a great series to watch as a baseball fan as well as a Phillies fan.

  9. It’s gunna be a great series. You can sit here and talk stats all you want, but the truth is, all that may go out the window when it comes crunch time. Lincecum pitched extremely well in his first outing. Halladay was better. I think that it is going to come down to offense. I don’t see this series being a circus show of errors like the Reds series, so it will be which ever team can get the big hits in the right situations. I think back to the last two series against the Braves (I can’t remember if it was the home or away series) It was Hamels against Hanson (if memory serves) and the game is scoreless in the 8th. And Ibanez comes through (for the second straight game, actually) with a HUGE RBI double off of Venters,(a lights-out lefty specialist). Hits like that will determine the series. Pitching and defense will be there. It’ll just be a matter of who can get the bigger hits when needed. That being said; Phillies in 6.

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