In fact, if the Giants hope to pitch both Vogelsong and Cain twice in the series, they would need to start Vogelsong with only 3 days rest, not his usual 4-5 days. Bochy had noted the poor results for starting pitchers who were given less days of rest as a reason not to push Vogelsong for game 5 (Cain too for a start as well). Vogelsong has never pitched on 3 days rest.
Well, that is all moot now, Bochy has named the playoff rotation: Zito in game 1, Bumgarner in game 2, Vogelsong in game 3, and Cain in game 4, with Lincecum out of the bullpen. If that holds, that means Zito in game 5, Bumgarner in game 6, and Vogelsong in game 7, presumably with Cain also available out of the pen in game 7, if necessary.
In any case, it's Verlander against Zito. Not really what Giants would want to see in Game 1. Or is it?
Game 1: Verlander vs. Zito
Justin Verlander: Six years ago, Verlander was a rookie starting in Game 1 of the World Series against the Cards. Then, he was a young pitcher running out of gas. Now, he comes into the Fall Classic opener known for being as strong in the ninth inning as the first.
Barry Zito: Many Giants pointed toward Zito's brilliant performance in Game 5 of the NLCS as the turning point of the series, giving San Francisco its second Fall Classic berth in three years. Zito allowed six hits and struck out six in 7 2/3 shutout innings.Verlander has one start in AT&T, but back in 2008. He had a nice start, 6.0 IP, giving up 5 hits and a walk, with 7 strikeouts, giving up 3 runs/2ER. That is his only career start against the Giants. He does have some experience against some Giants players, and he mostly dominated. Scutaro batted .200/.231/.320/.551 in 26 PA; Huff .399 OPS in 18 PA; Pagan 2 for 5, triple; Blanco 0 for 2, 2 K's; Pence 1 for 3, 1 K; Nady 1 for 2, 1 K.
Justin had an amazing season, 79% DOM and 3% DIS, plus three DOM starts in the playoffs. Surprisingly, Leyland used him for 121, 122, and 132 pitches in the post-season. During the season, when he was used for over 120 pitches, in those 7 starts, he had a 3.38 ERA, with more hits than IP, whereas he had a 2.64 ERA for the season. Of course, he has had 7 days of rest since that start, so perhaps that 132 won't hurt him as much as not pitching in a real game for that long.
He was equally great against RHB and LHB: .222/.278/.315/.593 vs. RHB, .213/.264/.344/.608 vs. LHB. We do have more LHB so that helps. Also, Verlander pitched much better at home, with a 1.65 ERA, than on the road, with a .3.57 ERA.
Zito has a career 2.91 ERA in his career against the Tigers, but the vast majority of them were when he was with the A's. He also had a bad start against them in 2008, when he still had not gotten over his contract, and not pitching normally (for the Giants) yet. He did have a start against them in 2011, going 6.0 IP, with 5 hits and 2 walks, only 1 strikeout, but 0 ER. He pitched that game on short rest, so that is there for context, but that was a 3 PQS start.
Based only on games over the last four seasons, when he was relatively the way he is now, only Fielder have a lot of PA, .181/.182/.455/.636 in 11 PA, 1 HR, 4 K's. Other hitters had minimal PA, no hits. Over his career, Fielder is .167/.211/.389/.599 in 19 PA, Infante .300 OPS in 20 PA, Peralta .214/.294/.429/.723 in 17 PA, Laird .583 OPS in 16 PA, Cabrera .650 OPS in 10 PA. Only Delmon had any success, 2 for 3. So Zito has had pretty good success against the Tigers in the past, for the most part.
Zito starting was a mild surprise but was pretty much expected, but Bumgarner starting game 2 was a shock, but a good shock. The Giants feel that they have fixed his mechanical flaw and, probably, felt that Lincecum would pitch better out of the pen. I guess it also helps that the Tigers were vulnerable to LHP during the season, with a 26-25 record against LHP, but 62-49 against RHP. So we got lefthanders going for the Giants in the first two games at home.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds that Verlander will outpitch Zito and gain a game 1 victory, the Giants seem to have a chance. The Tigers have done poorly against LHP. The Tigers were also only 38-43 on the road. Meanwhile, Verlander has both the 132 pitch game and the 11 days between starts to deal with, as well as his much poorer performance on the road than at home. Also, the Tigers lose Andy Dirks from their lineup, who, while he didn't do anything in the playoffs, hit very well in the regular season for them, as they will play Delmon in LF since there is no DH in the NL home games, of which games 1, 2, 6, and 7 are in SF.
Of course, Verlander has been aces in these playoffs, as well as during the season. Still, he was equally good during the 2011 season, and he had a DIS start in the 2011 playoffs, so there is the potential for that.
Just as there is potential for Zito to have a DIS start, given his up and down starts. But he had a nice start in his last start, is starting at home, where he has had a 3.73 ERA from 2009-2012. And he has had a great history against the Tiger's hitters. Still, he is what he is, so you never know.
But the Tigers are very vulnerable against LHP. Their RHB hit .274/.322/.441/.763 vs. RHP (29 AB/HR) but only .256/.332/.410/.741 vs. LHP (38 AB/HR). Their LHB hit .275/.334/.427/.780 vs. RHP (34 AB/HR), but only .246/.323/.367/.690 vs. LHP (48 AB/HR). On top of that, AT&T Park is hard to hit in for any hitter, and especially so for LHB hitting homers there.
I would also note that ESPN pointed out that Gerry Davis (if I recall right) is the umpire for game 1, and that Zito has a 5.05 ERA in 6 starts with Davis behind the plate. They noted that he's a hitter's umpire. However, in his one start with Davis this season, Zito went 6.0 IP, giving up 5 hits and 2 walks, striking out 6, a 5 PQS DOM start. Also, they neglected that Verlander himself had a 6.57 ERA in 2 starts with Davis behind the plate, so it could be bad for Detroit too, maybe even worse, as he had a really bad start with Davis in 2011.
Given all that, I have to think that the Giants actually have a good chance against the Tigers in game 1. Not that they will necessarily win, but Zito look poised to have a good enough start, with Detroit's issues with LHP, while Verlander is vulnerable on the road, and is dealing with both getting used for 132 pitches, as well as resting for 11 days. And then there is the umpire factor, especially with Lincecum in the bullpen (he actually had a 2.84 ERA with Davis) ready to take over if necessary; who would the Tigers go to? That's a lot better considering what any reasonable person's initial thoughts should be once learning that it is Verlander vs. Zito.
Another plus is the Giants bullpen over the Tigers. Their closer right now is Coke, who had a 4.00 ERA during the regular season. He had a great 8.5 K/9 and 2.59 K/BB ratio, he gave up 71 hits in 54.0 IP. But he's never been that good during the season previously, and at age 29, he probably didn't learn anything new, and his career ERA is 4.05, and his K/BB was much lower. In addition, who knows how much they can get out of Valverde right now. And their bullpen only has one reliever with an ERA under 3.00, whereas the Giants only have one reliever over 3.00, Mota (assuming he makes the roster this time). Tiger's bullpen was 10 in the AL, showing how weak that they have been during the season. They have won during the 2012 playoffs because they have gotten 8 DOM starts in 9 games, and as good as their rotation is, they aren't that good.
And that brings me to the rest of the announced starters. I've covered how we have a chance to win with Verlander-Zito. Game 2 is Fister-Bumgarner, and Bumgarner had a much better PQS during the season, with 66% DOM and only 13% DIS, while Fister was 52% DOM and 20% DIS. However, of course, Bumgarner has not been his normal self during the playoffs, making that matchup iffy. However, he admitted in an interview that he was getting tired by the end of the season, and into the playoffs, and now he is both rested and has figured out his mechanics. But Fister wasn't that great during the end of the season himself. He ended up with 3 DIS starts out of his last 8 starts. He also does not strike out that many batters, making him prone to get BABIPed in starts. So despite all the negatives, given he's a lefty and the Giants seem confident that they have fixed his mechanics, but mostly, for me, it is that he last started a game on Oct. 14, which means 11 days rest for him, and as we saw in 2010's World Series, when he's healthy and rested enough, he can pitch miracles.
Game 3 has Sanchez-Vogelsong. We all know and love Vogelsong's performance so far in these playoffs. Sanchez is actually the Tigers second best starter by PQS with a 68% DOM and 13% DIS, very similar to Vogelsong's 65%/13%. However, he's also not a big strikeout pitcher, and Vogelsong is more of a strikeout pitcher, with 18 K's in 19.0 IP so far in the playoffs, 8.5 K/9, Anibal was at 6.7 K/9, similar to his seasonal 6.9 K/9. But when Vogelsong is on - like his has been during the playoffs, 1.42 ERA - he is very dominating, as evidenced by his league leading ERA throughout much of the season until he hit his bad stretch. And remember, K/9 is a key stat according to Baseball Prospectus's research.
Game 4 has Scherzer-Cain. We all know and love Cain, and he delivered in his last start. Scherzer has had a nice playoffs too. And his PQS was good too, 67% DOM and 13% DIS, and Cain had 63% and 0%. But Scherzer was having some sort of problems late in the season, two starts he was removed by the game for a DIS start but his numbers were not bad enough to warrant that, so he must have been having some sort of physical issues. This should be a tough game, but I'm fine with Cain handling this game. And the way Vogelsong has been pitching, he deserves to get to pitch games 3 and 7 for us.
So the matchups look good given the above, we'll see if they splits show the same. ESPN, however, noted that the team that had the most rest had lost the World Series in the last 3 series, and 5 of the past 6 World Series. It appears that rest has hurt teams more than it has helped them.
Let's see what happens in game 1. I also have been wondering if having two hitters who can hit pitches out of the strikezone well, like we do with Panda and Pence, helps against top pitchers like Verlander. Plus, Posey is usually good, no matter who is pitching, but appears to be tired, as he hasn't been hitting much, despite the poor pitching we have faced, the Giants have faced 8 DIS starts and only 3 DOM starts.