I know I don't really post here much... But I read the site everyday, and felt like I wanted to contribute in some way. So I sat around and looked at stats for a long time, then started typing and typing. Then I looked at what I had typed, and though I deemed it awful and, really, just a collection of stats from Fangraph that I turned into paragraph form, I decided to post it anyways. Read on... IF YOU DARE!
They say that you can wipe the slate clean when the playoffs start. That regular season disappointments can turn into postseason heroes. David Eckstein can be the World Series MVP... But I'm a rational man. I believe in numbers and data, and while I'm not saying that anything is predetermined, I do think that certain trends will hold true. That we can look at a bunch of statistics and glean some knowledge from them. This is my attempt at that.
We'll start with the torture.
The Giants are full of slow people. They grounded into double plays like it was going out of style. They couldn't steal a base if you gave them all ski masks and a getaway van. They tied for the thirteenth most triples in the league, but AT&T is practically a triples factory and Andres Torres, one of the only regulars with any wheels at all, hit about a quarter of those. In fact, without Torres - the only Giant with more than eight steals - they would have been an unconscionable twenty six steals behind the club they ended tying for least amount of steals (the Cubs) and would have barely missed being caught stealing more times than they actual stole a bag. In short? They're slow. Real slow. But they hit dingers! The Giants tied for tenth in the league in home runs, and with only sixteen home runs separating them from fifth place on that list, you have to imagine that if they started the season with the club they have now, they would've moved on up to at least somewhere in the top ten. They were also really bad at taking walks. Twenty first in the league, in fact. And if you're not folding intentional walks into this total, it gets worse. The only three teams that drew less non intentional walks than the Giants? The Astros, Orioles and Mariners. The PIRATES, for God's sake, drew more non intentional walks. Though, when you start the season with Juan Uribe, Pablo Sandoval, Bengie Molina, et al, you're kind of doomed to begin with. In short, the Giants hit a good amount of home runs, ground into a lot of double plays and don't steal many bases.
The Braves pitching staff is good. Real good. And they're going to be real good against the Giants. Why? Because they gave up the least amount of home runs and the seventh least amount of walks in baseball. (not that the Giants hitters ever really draw walks anyways) Their starters don't tend to go all that deep into games (middle of the pack in IP) and don't strike out too many batters, but they induce ground balls like crazy. 49.9%, good for second in all of baseball. Their relievers are just as good, inducing a 49.7% GB percentage, but they also get their fair share of strikeouts. Second most strikeouts for a bullpen in the league, and only fourteen strikeouts behind the Padres and their host of 93mph slider throwing goofs. You have to imagine that if Aaron Rowand were in the NL East, the Braves would have run away in this particular category, but alas, the Padres were blessed with his presence in their division, and thus padded their strikeout total to a healthy fourteen K lead.
This all worries me. This worries me a great deal. I have visions of Derek Lowe smirking as Jose Guillen grounds into the fourth double play of the game, and 9001st of the series. I'm having nightmares about Aaron Rowand flailing away at breaking balls. Pat Burrell chasing Jason Heyward doubles in futility. There are riots in the streets. Barry Zito just walked in the winning run. The city's on fire. Pablo is swinging at Billy Wagner fastballs three feet over his head. The aliens have invaded and are raping our horses and riding off on our women. Pitiful San Franciscans, you have no chance to survive, make your time.
Ahh. *adjusts collar* Excuse me. I got carried away.
Anyways - our pitching and their offense. Yeah. That's where I was headed, before I, uh... Got off track. Their hitters. Let's talk about them.
Thankfully, the Braves hitters are also slow. And they hit about as many ground balls as we do. In fact, they're sixth in the league in grounding into double plays. They also steal next to no bases, coming in twenty seventh in that particular category. So we can expect a lot of GIDP on both sides. They also don't hit a lot of home runs, which plays into our strength, since our pitchers don't give up a lot of home runs. (third least home runs given up in all of baseball) They're kind of middle of the pack in strikeouts. Where they really shine is in two categories. They take a whole lot of walks, and they hit a whole lot of doubles. With Jose Guillen and Pat Burrell starting in the outfield, that's a problem. Doubles with people on base, rolling around in triples alley while clankmitt Guillen chases it about like it's the gopher from Caddyshack. Ugh.
But there's a reason starting pitching is so highly valued. It's because four great starting pitchers (and a lights out bullpen) can carry a very flawed team to the playoffs, which is exactly what happened with the Giants this year. Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and half a season of Bumgarner carried them to 92 wins. The bullpen helped. A little bit. But you can't deny that this was the year of the starting pitcher in San Francisco, and their success has a lot to do with the strikeout. How many times did we watch with glee as Sanchez wriggled out of a one out jam by blowing his fastball past a hitter? Or giggle as Mark Reynolds flailed at another Lincecum changeup? These Giants pitchers are tough to hit. Really tough. They gave up the least amount of hits in the league and, really, that's what matters for a pitching staff. If no one can hit you, no one's driving in runs against you. And that's our hope for this series.