The Reds will be in SF for the first two games, so it will be deja vu for Dusty (who is manager of the Reds), who had the same disadvantage as the Giants skipper long ago against Miami. Ironic that he is facing the Giants now. The Giants don't have a history against the Reds in the playoffs or battling for anything really, so the Dusty vs. Giants angle is the best from the Giants fan viewpoint.
I'm still thankful for all the good years he put in as Giants skipper for us, but by the end, I was glad to see him go, and happier to welcome back Felipe Alou back into the fold. It was just time, from my viewpoint, there were many things about Dusty's management that I didn't care for and mistakes that boggled my mind (much like the things the Bochy-haters ascribe to him, but I disagree, Dusty actually does those things, like favoring vets and doing things detrimental to winning, like playing Lofton in CF and making Shinjo the DH. Or throwing Feliz in there as DH when he hadn't played in ages.)
Game 1: Cueto vs. Cain
Johnny Cueto: Cueto was one of the game's most dominant pitchers from start to finish this season, with the Reds winning each of his last three starts. Cueto lost to the Giants on June 28, giving up three runs (two earned) and walking four in six innings.
Matt Cain: It's been a charmed year for the 28-year-old right-hander. He posted a career-best 16-5 record. He pitched the only perfect game in Giants history on June 13 against Houston. And he received the decision as the NL's All-Star Game starter.Cueto has a great record in AT&T: 1.38 ERA in 2 starts, 13.0 IP, giving up 10 hits and 6 walks, striking out 11. That's actually not peripherals worthy of a 1.38 ERA, sure hits are low, but that's a lot of walks versus not that many K's (7.6 K/9), so he's been very lucky so far in AT&T overall. He had a DOM start last season ,7 IP, only 4 hits and 2 walks, with 8 K's, but then this season 6 IP, 6 hits and 4 walks, with only 3 K's.
Hard to say about hitters vs. pitchers in this series because it matters greatly whether those hits happened in Cincy or SF, due to their extremes where one is an extreme hitters park, and the other a pitchers park.
Still, the Giants don't have a lot of ABs against him since he's only had two starts lifetime, the only two came to the Giants, Theriot has a nice .302/.362/.419/.780 and Pence has a not so nice .276/.300/.345/.645, both with 30+ PA. The rest of the Giants all have roughly 2 games worth of stats: Nady 1.667 OPS, Pagan 1.524 OPS, Posey 1.583 OPS, Huff .929 OPS. Sandoval, Belt, Blanco, Scutaro, Crawford have not done much against him.
Cain, meanwhile, has done very well against the Reds both at home and on the road, but actually better in Cincy by ERA, though dominant at home by peripherals. In SF against the Reds, 5 starts, 34.2 IP, with 34 hits and 8 walks, striking out 34 for a good 8.8 K/9, plus 4.25 K/BB ratio, which is super excellent, yet his ERA is worse in SF, so it looks like he's had some bad luck here against them.
Ludwick and Bruce (1.263 in 27 PA, 1.204 in 17 BA) have worked Cain hard in the past, while he has controlled Phillips (.233/.233/.500/.733 in 30 PA), Votto (.304/.407/.391/.799), Rolen (.231/.231/.462/.692 in 13 PA), and Stubbs (.091/.167/.182/.348 in 13 PA). The rest have not done well in limited ABs. Look like Matt needs to contain the damage that Ludwick and Bruce can cause.
Both pitchers have done well in PQS, Cueto has a 58% DOM vs. Cain's 63% DOM, basically the same, just one DOM game apart. However, Cueto had a 12% DIS for the season, Cain 0%. Plus, Cueto had a poor month in September, compiling two of his rare DIS starts, though at least ending on a good note with two good DOM starts. Still that's a 33% DOM, 33% DIS for the month of September, so perhaps he's getting tired. Not that Cain wasn't also down, but he was still 50% DOM, 0% DIS for September, ending with 2 DOM starts and he probably could have gotten a third if his start wasn't pitch count limited.
That Cueto had a down month is probably the Giants silver lining for this start. Particularly since he has never thrown that many innings before in his career, he only had 156.0 IP in last season's injury marred season, and his high was the previous season at 185.2 IP in 2010, so he has 21.1 IP more than ever before. Krukow often noted that 25 IP is his limit for increasing a pitcher over his prior high in IP (but it must be noted that Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Sanchez all where pushed beyond that 25 IP with no apparent detriment to their following season results). His poor month started with him at 181.2 IP, and while he did do OK in that first start, it was downhill for a couple of starts until he corrected in his last three starts, ending with two DOM starts. And Dusty has not been known for knowing when to stop, both top starting pitchers for him at Chicago - Prior and Wood - went with injuries that shortened their careers as starters (Wood went on to be a good reliever/closer). Not that I wish injury to Cueto, but these are the facts and information about this situation.
Looking at the Reds top hitters is very interesting. Votto has been tamed by AT&T, he only has a .284/.341/.420/.761 batting line with only 2 HR in 81 AB/88 PA, and that's with a .350 BABIP. And he's actually hit better on the road than at his hitter friendly home, so I'll quote his career batting line: .316/.415/.553/.968, with 133 HR in 2599 AB (that's 19.5 AB/HR career vs. 40.5 AB/HR in SF) and .359 BABIP. This lefty has been tamed by AT&T previously.
Votto has done much better against RHP though: .322/.425/.575/1.001 vs. .304/.394/.504/.898. Lefty relievers are thus very important in matchups. Might lead to Zito starting over Vogelsong in this series too: Zito, .167/.286/.167/.452 (21 PA), though Vogelsong, .167/.444/.167/.611 (9 PA). He's been good against Cain (.799 OPS) and Lincecum (1.111 OPS), plus Bumgarner (.818 OPS in 11 PA). So while AT&T tames, he has had success. Though he did most of that to Bumgarner in his first encounter in 2010, Madison has done well in 2011 and 2012.
Ludwick is a righty, and has done relatively well in AT&T, batting .277/.367/.468/.835 with 5 HR in 94 AB (18.8 AB/HR), .328 BABIP. Career: .263/.334/.466/.799 with 143 HR in 3063 AB (21.4 AB/HR) and .304 BABIP. He has also hit RHP better than LHP, .273/.339/.471/.811 (22.5 AB/HR) vs. .240/.322/.452/.774 (19.3 AB/HR), an oddity since he is a righty. Bay City Ball noted that he's banged up right now (also Votto, zero homers, 8 doubles in 105 plate appearances since returning from DL, but still .316/.505/.421/.926 is pretty good).
He has hurt Cain, .364/.444/.818/1.263 in 27 PA, so that is bad. He has also hurt Vogelsong 4 singles and a walk in 6 PA. He has mostly been controlled by Zito but sneaks his power and patience in there: .231/.355/.423/.778. Bumgarner and Lincecum have owned him: .243 and .361 OPS, respectively, in roughly 20 PA. If a reliever comes in, you want Romo (0 for 6 with 4 K's), but nobody else, historically, oh, Mota is great against him too (0 for 8, but only 2 K's)
Wow, Bruce is a lefty, so the top three hitters hit LHP worse, have to think Zito starts at some point and the Giants might be tempted to carry Runzler over Mota for this series. Bruce has been tamed by SF as well, making this series quite an advantage for the Giants getting the first two games here: .278/.381/.333/.714 with 0 HR in 36 AB, but .417 BABIP. He's also a home park creation, hitting only .231/.306/.413/.719 (23.3 AB/HR) on the road (.270 BABIP) vs. .280/.354/.554/.908 (14.6 AB/HR) at home (.311 BABIP). And as noted, LHP stifles him: .231/.310/.436/.747 (19.0 AB/HR) vs. .266/.339/.504/.843 (17.6 AB/HR).
He has beaten up Cain (1.204 OPS in 17 PA), Zito (.976 OPS in 15 PA), Vogelsong (.917 OPS in 12 PA), and is 1 for 2 against Lincecum. Bumgarner crushes him, .222 OPS in 9 PA. So does Lopez, Mota, Affeldt, Romo. Casilla has a bad record but only in 3 PA (hit and walk).
They have a lot of good hitters so I'll continue. Todd Frasier, righty, has hit well in SF, .333/.455/.667/1.211 with .400 BABIP. All this year. He has hit Vogelsong and Zito well, not so well against Bumgarner and relievers.
Phillips, who is a righty, has hit well in AT&T: .278/.327/.515/.842 (.276 BABIP). But in general, he does not hit well away from home: .267/.313/.403/.716 (.290 BABIP). He does much better against LHP than RHP: .293/.341/.491/.832 vs. LHP; .265/.314/.412/.726 vs. RHP.
He has hit poorly against Cain, .233/.233/.500/.733 in 30 PA (though his only 2 HR against Giants pitching is against Cain), but has hit Bumgarner very very well, .429/.500/.429/.929 in 8 PA. Kills Zito and Vogelsong, Romo and Casilla too. Good against Lincecum with .333/.333/.444/.778 in 9 PA. Affeldt, Mota, Hensley, Lopez, Kontos have done OK against him.
Giants Playoff Roster
As reported (Baggarly, Schulman), the roster has been set. It was as I had rosterbated earlier about:
- Starting Pitchers: Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Vogelsong, Zito
- Relievers: Affeldt, Casilla, Kontos, Lopez, Mijares, Mota, Romo
- Catchers: Posey; Sanchez
- Infielders: Belt, Scutaro, Sandoval, Crawford; Arias, Huff, Theriot
- Outfielders: Blanco, Pagan, Pence; Nady
Cueto is a RHP - in fact, they are all RHP except for their top two relievers, Chapman and Marshall - and the Giants have not done that well against RHP, though improved greatly it seems in September, as they were around .500 previously but now at 54-49, 5 games above, so they ended up well. That's probably because Belt, Hanchez, Sandoval, and Crawford started hitting together after August ended (respectively, OPS of .881, .857, .812, .760), which makes for a potent lineup against RHP. Even Blanco was OK, .291/.339/.382/.721 (lineups just announced and he is batting 7th in LF; else rest is the same as usual: Pagan, Scutaro, Sandoval, Posey, Pence, Belt, Blanco, Crawford, Cain.). Remember, these are just September numbers, but given they were playing a lot, and when not playing, missing LHP, that means that most of the good hitting should have been against RHP.
People like to quote seasonal stats but Scutaro and Pence wasn't here most of the season, so I prefer to look at stats since the day after Melky was suspended. In those 44 games, the team went 30-14, 16 games above .500, they were 64-54, 10 games above, at the time. They averaged 4.93 runs scored in those games, batting .284/.337/.425/.762 with 28 HR in 1506 AB (53.8 AB/HR) vs. before, when they averaged 4.25 runs scored per game, batting .264/.324/.387/.711 with 75 HR in 4017 AB (53.6 AB/HR). Clearly they kicked things up a big notch once they got their lineup together.
It is even a bigger gap if you look at the period only to clinching. In the 34 games (25-9), they averaged 5.24 runs scored per game, hitting .291/.340/.434/.774, as the regulars sat more and bench players played more. And the Giants ended up tied for the best record in the NL in the last 30 games, 20-10 (tied with Braves), Brewers were third with 19-11, Nats tied with Phillies at 18-12 for fourth.
I would also note that the Giants were 48-33 at home, though the Reds were 47-34 on the road themselves. Rock, meet hard place. Both also excelled in one-run games, both at 10 games over .500. As I've discussed here, Bochy is the only NL manager statistically above .500 in one-run games, but Dusty was the only other manager who was consistently above .500 too, but at around half Bochy's rate. So the two teams are roughly equal, given the managers, difference in Pythagoran, and seasonal records. But the Giants, as I noted, was burning the afterjets to reach the playoffs, 25-9, so I would give the lean to them despite not being the home team. But in a five game series, basically each game's result causes huge swings in the direction of the winner, so all it takes is a fluke to really put the screws on one team.
Once you get into the playoffs, as the saying goes, everything before is thrown out. Because you don't really know how people will react with the extra pressure. Especially key for us will be how Belt and Crawford reacts to the pressure. Will they be like they were in September, or will they seize up from the pressure and not hit or field well? If they are hitting, that provides good offensive pressure coming from the bottom of the lineup, plus gives Scutaro a chance to drive in some runs. Also, you got to question both Sandoval and Pence, though their veteran-ness hopefully gives them the experience to get over that they are in the playoffs. Sandoval and Pence did not do so well in their first playoffs, so hopefully they can do better this time.
I think Cainer will have a great game, he has come through for us so many times before because of his great ability to focus on the situation and perform well in spite of how things might be, so it should be a tight game at worse. How will Cueto handle the pressure? Maybe not so good, he was not that good his first two full seasons, got good in his third, and has been Cy Young-ish the past two seasons. Also, his IP total is at a warning level, but not all pitchers crack magically at 25 IP over prior highs. But he did have a poorer last month, before recovering, and his IP has to be a concern for even healthy pitchers, let alone one which had injury issues last season. So that is something that might rear its ugly head in this start. It should be an interesting game.