Friday, October 10, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 NLCS: Position Matchups

The Giants and Cardinals have been circling each other for the past 4 seasons, if not longer.  If you go way back into the history of baseball, these two organizations are near the top of the list in terms of postseason appearances and World Series wins.  In the first half of this decade, they have emerged as the two dominant organizations in all of MLB, lack of recognition from the national media, notwithstanding.  They each have represented the the NL in the World Series twice in the last 4 seasons and have 3 of the 4 WS Championships.  This year will mark the 5'th consecutive season in which one of them will win the NL Pennant.  The big question is which team will break the tie and go 3 out of 5 seasons?

As we have seen, the best team on paper does not always win in the postseason, but these two teams are remarkably evenly matched on paper.  I usually do not like doing the position-by-position matchup thing as it generally does not mean much when the teams hit the field, but in this case, I think it helps illustrate just how similar these two teams are.  Neither of these teams can match the firepower a team like the Dodgers or Tigers brings at the top of their roster, but there is also a reason why these two teams keep showing up deep in the postseason preferring to win with depth and savvy.

So, let's take a look at a position-by-position breakdown of the position players for the Giants and Cardinals(Baserunning, offensive and defensive metrics are taken from Fangraphs rankings):

Catcher:

Yadier Molina(Cards)- .282/.333/.386, 7 HR, -0.9 BsR, 0.1 OFF, 14.4, Def, 3.1 WAR, 445 PA.
Buster Posey(Giants)-   .311/.364/.490, 22 HR, -3.0 BsR, 26.8 OFF, 7.0 Def, 5.7 WAR, 605 PA.

Molina has a slight edge on D, but Buster blows him out of the water at the plate.

First Base:

Matt Adams(Cards)- .288/.321/.457, 15 HR, -1.3 BsR, 8.6 OFF, -7.5 Def, 1.9 WAR, 563 PA.
Brandon Belt(Giants)- .243/.306/.449, 12 HR, -2.4 BsR, 1.8 OFF, -1.9 Def, 0.7 WAR, 235 PA.

At first glance, Adams has a slight advantage until you realize that most of these numbers are counting stats and Belt has less than half Adams' PA's.  Belt projects to about 30 dingers in the same number of PA's.  I also have to believe Belt is a better defender than he's given credit for here.  Both players have dangerous left-handed power that could be difference makers in the series.  Adams certainly drove a stake through the heart of the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw, while Belt did the same to the Nationals in the 18 inning game.

Second Base:

Kolton Wong(Cards)- .249/.292/.388, 12 HR, 20 SB, 5.7 BsR, 0.9 OFF, 4.3 Def, 2.0 WAR, 433 PA.
Joe Panik(Giants)- .305/.343/.368, 1 HR, 2.2 BsR, 4.6 OFF, 1.9 Def, 1.6 WAR, 257 PA.

Wong brings some power and speed but Panik has a clearcut advantage in BA and OBP.  Very interesting matchup between two promising young 2B who are likely to be playing these positions for these two team for at least another 5 seasons.

Third Base:

Matt Carpenter(Cards)- .272/.375/.375, 8 HR, 5 SB, -1.4 BsR, 12.1 OFF, 3.8 Def, 3.8 WAR, 709 PA.
Pablo Sandoval(Giants)- .279/.324/.415, 16 HR, -4.7 BsR, 3.3 OFF, 5.3 Def, 3.0 WAR, 638 PA.

On paper it looks about even with Pabs supplying more power and Carpenter with the great OBP, but Carpenter is red hot, coming off almost singlehandedly destroying the Dodgers while Pabs is scuffling. It helps that all the Cardinals' starters are RHP's.  Gotta think the momentum is with Carpenter in this matchup, though.

Shortstop:

Jhonny Peralta(Cards)- .263/.336/.443, 21 HR, -2.2 BsR, 12.2 OFF, 18.8 Def, 5.4 WAR, 628 PA.
Brandon Crawford(Giants)- .246/.324/.389, 10 HR, 10 3B, -0.8 BsR, 0.4 OFF, 7.5 Def, 2.7 WAR, 667 PA.

On paper, this one is a clear advantage to the Cardinals, but Crawford has been hot in September and October so far, and I can't believe he isn't a better defender despite the UZR love that Peralta gets.  Is it just me, or does Peralta not pass the eye test on D?

Left Field:

Matt Holliday(Cards)- .272/.370/.441, 20 HR, -0.2 BsR, 23.7 OFF, -9.1 Def, 3.8 WAR, 667 PA.
Michael Morse?(Giants)- .279/.336/.475, 16 HR, -5.2 Bsr, 12.8 OFF, -18.0 Def, 1.0 WAR, 482 PA.

Is Morse going to start in LF for the Giants?  If so, this is not as close as it looks because Morse will be coming off an extended DL stint and may not have his timing.  On the other hand, lightning in a bottle! The thought of Morse defending LF, even in the early innings, makes me cringe.  I'd almost rather concede the offensive edge at the position and try to with the position battle on D with Perez, but Perez is such an automatic out.  Ishikawa is a compromise on both O and D, but I'm not sure he's good enough on D to sacrifice the chance that Morse's bat may have lightning in that bottle.  Tough decision for Bochy that could swing the series either way.

Center Field:

John Jay(Cards)- .303/.372/.378, 3 HR, -2.2 BsR, 5.9 OFF, 3.2 Def, 2.5, WAR, 468 PA.
Gregor Blanco(Giants)- .260/.333/.374, 5 HR, 16 SB, 0.1 BsR, 3.6 OFF, 1.7 Def, 2.0 WAR, 444 PA.

Maybe a slight edge to Jay here, but if Blanco can get on base a little, this could be advantage Giants.  Blanco is better on D than the metrics give him credit for and he's more of a threat to steal a base than Jay.  We'll call it even.

Right Field:

Randall Grichuk(Cards)- .245/.278/.400, 3 HR, -0.8 BsR, -2.1 OFF, 4.5 Def, 0.6 WAR, 116 PA.
Hunter Pence(Giants)- .277/.332/.445, 20 HR, 13 SB, 7.0 BsR, 25.4 OFF, -3.4 Def, 4.7 WAR, 708 PA.

Huge advantage for the Giants here if Pence can get himself under control at the plate.  Pence is one of the few guys who can win a game for you on the basepaths too as he does way more there than steal a few bases.

Bench(Cards)- Peter Bourjos, Oscar Taveras, Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso, Cruz, AJ Pierzynski?

Bench(Giants)- Juan Perez, Travis Ishikawa, Joaquin Arias, Matt Duffy, Andrew Susac.

I just feel like someone off the Giants bench is going to get a big hit this series.

I don't know about you, but those look like two evenly matched teams.  Given their recent history, it promises to be a hard fought, maybe even bitterly fought series that could swing all the way from a 4 game sweep for either team or a 7 game nail biter depending on how the breaks fall.

26 comments:

  1. There is a lot of talk about Wainwright's "cranky" elbow. Mattheny said Lance Lynn was ready to start game 5 if it acted up. If the story is real and Wainwright cannot pitch 2 games this series I think that the Giants have a huge advantage. i still want the team to think they are underdogs though because they seem to play better when they are not favored.

    Roger

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    1. I was looking at velocities in Game 1 of the LA-Cards series. Waino's FB was just going 87-89 MPH. I knew he didn't quite have the gas like he used to, but that seemed way too slow, even for him. I would not be surprised if his elbow is about to blow.

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  2. Three ways of looking at team's position players for me:

    1. Who's hot going into the series? The Cards position players won the NLDS series against the Bums. The double beatdowns they laid on Kershaw were very impressive. Hell, Matt Carpenter out produced the whole Giants team.
    Advantage: Cards.

    2. Who could step up and be the game breaker? Posey stands out. Carpenter is second.
    Giants: Posey, Panik, Pence, Pablo, Belt, Crawford, (MadBum)
    Cards: Carpenter, Adams, Holiday, Wong, Molina, Jay
    Neither bench is worth mentioning.
    Advantage: Giants

    3. Who provides better defense?
    Advantage Cards: C
    Push: SS, 2B
    Advantage Giants: 1B, 3B, LF, CF, RF(especially at ATT), Bench, Pitchers

    It will be the Cardinals "hotness" against the Giants ability to step it up and play superior defense. I believe the Giants pitching can cool off the Cards hitters allowing the Giants hitters to step up and their D to be a real difference maker over 6 or 7 games. Also like that MadBum and Peavy are set to pitch the road games in St Louis.

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    1. Personally I would prefer Peavy pitch Game 1 to give Bummy an extra day of rest for Game 2.

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  3. here is another "brilliant" idea by a man who seemingly knows nothing about the game on how to better market the post season so that the tv rating will go up

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-schoenfeld/baseballs-world-series-ne_b_5960732.html?utm_hp_ref=sports&ir=Sports

    someone needs to explain to mr schoenfeld that unlike in other sports, giving a ball club too much time off does not improve its chances of winning in the playoffs. nor does spending in the fa market

    seems mr schoenfeld hasnt taken notice that the teams with the most consistent winning records are those that have built from within and created their own stars

    the mlb does a terrible job at marketing its players. it also does a terrible job at drawing the best athletes into choosing baseball over the other sports

    there are many ways to fix the above....what schoenfeld suggests is not the way to go about it

    bacci

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    1. Do we want the T V ratings to go up? Isn't there enough money in baseball to pay the players gigantic amounts of money, which is where the extra TV revenue would go?

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    2. Bacci,

      I was just talking with a buddy about this today. The MLB does an awful job of promoting its game and players. About the only place you ever see an MLB commercial is on MLB Network. Nowhere else. And now the postseason games are being shown on 4 different channels, at TERRIBLE times (West Coast midweek day games??). They need to step it up.

      We were also talking about the Giants being the gold standard when it comes to individual teams marketing. There's a reason the team and fan base seem so connected, and in my opinion a lot of that has to do with the franchise's PR people. There are many other organizations that could take a page out of the Giants book if they want to improve support and attendance.

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  4. Very interesting matchup at second base. Kolten Wong was taken about 4 picks ahead of Joe Panik in the 2011 draft. He's been on a power surge of late as well.

    First base is another interesting match up for a similar reason. Matt Adams was a 2009 draftee like Brandon Belt. He was taken about 18 rounds later though.

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    1. Adams has a physique that belongs in a softball bear league … Belt is superior athlete / ballplayer.

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    2. As Billy Beane would say, "we're not selling jeans here."

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  5. Also, I think the matchup to look at is the throw-down between Matt Holliday and Hunter Pence.

    There are some similarities on their baseball cards. Whoever comes through in bigger situations could swing the series.

    It would also seem prudent to have a throw-down between the Cards right fielders and the Giants left fielders. Whatever happened to uber hitting prospect Oscar Taveras? Who knew Joe Panik would have more impact on his team in 2014?

    Grichuk is a fun anecdote. The player the Angels drafted before Mike Trout.

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    1. Yeah, little Joe Panik who everybody snickered at in the draft and in prospect evaluations, is outperforming and having a bigger impact than a whole bunch of prospects who were ranked way higher.

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    2. not everyone

      we can go back to your archives to see most here liked the pick...he signed right away and hit the ground running

      i think the only concern was if the he would refuse to move from ss to 2nd....he didnt

      bacci

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    3. Surprise! Some of the sages at MCC are predicting, even now, that Keith Law will be proved right in his scoffing at Panik: no power, low walk rate, empty BA inflated by unsustainable BABIP. The guys on the team think he has been one of the central figures in saving the season, but what do they know?!

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    4. If those same skeptics has the sense to read this site, they might learn that a low walk rate may indicate a high degree of plate discipline without passivity. That is, a player with a low walk rate may have a correspondingly low K-rate and a high contact rate, which in turn may produce a quite sustainable high BABIP and a very respectable OBP. A case in point: Joe Panik.

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    5. Who says Joe has a low walk rate? 9.6, 9.7, 8.3 in his last 3 years in minors. Sure, it's down at the Bigs, but they command the zone better. Ol' Scutaro managed a BB% around 8.5 most of the time. Joe could pick it up a tick or two next year.

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    6. Yeah, I got into it with someone over on Fangraphs over Panik's BABIP. Sure, I don't expect him to sustain a BABIP of .345, but I also expect him to positively regress his walk rates closer to the 9.5% he maintained in the minors and I expect his power to tick up a bit with time too. In the end, the line he put up in San Jose with a BABIP of .317 seems very sustainable with a wRC+ better than he is putting up now.

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    7. A player like Panik, who can shoot the ball to all fields with relative ease SHOULD have a higher BABIP than a pure pull hitter. How many times have you seen Panik drop the ball to the opposite field right where a hole was created? That ain't luck, folks. That is insane bat-control.

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    8. Panik is tied for second among all NL second basemen in OBP and is fourth, just a bit better than Chase Utley, in wRC+. His "low" walk rate is better than those of Dee Gordon, Scooter Gennett, Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips, and Kolten Wong. Sarris noted a month ago on Fangraphs that inexperienced Panik was among the top ten players in contact rate on pitches in the zone, and one can only suppose that with more experience and more development of that "insane bat control," he will get still better at this. He also this year has been generating fWAR at a rate comparable to any second baseman in the league, savvy vets and sometime All-Stars included.

      The logically valid reservations about him depend on these stats being SSS (under 300 PAs) and his lofty BABIP. But for the reasons you fellow posters have just cited, I'm betting on him.

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  6. I was bored so I did Pence and Holliday versus probable first 2 starters. Wow, Pence has done some damage against Wainwright. Power numbers. Holliday has some good numbers versus Peavy but is owned by Bumgarner.

    Pence:
    Wainwright
    54PA 15 H,4 2B,3 HR,12 K .278 AVG

    Lynn
    13PA 4 H,3 K .308 AVG

    Holliday:
    Bumgarner
    20PA 3 H,2 BB,5 K .167 AVG

    Peavy
    40PA 9 H,1 HR,10 BB,7 K .300 AVG

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  7. Cards are leaving LHP Sam Freeman off the NLCS roster to make room for AJ Pierzynski. That one could come back to haunt them. Lefty relievers are very tough on the Giants current lineup.

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    1. aj will be coming off the bench and im sure mike is looking for him to rile up the crowd...right before he hits into an inning ending dp

      what the heck is he thinking?

      bacci

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    2. WOW!

      Is this another case of the opposing manager getting intimidated by the Noggin and making bone-headed mistakes?

      Or does this show some lack of confidence in Yadi's health???

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    3. The word is that Matheny just wants another usable LH bat off the bench so will carry 3 catchers instead of the extra LHP. Nothing to do with Yadi's health.

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  8. Boch is saying Morse will be available off the bench in Game 1, so that obviously means Travis will be starting in LF again against the RHP starter.

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  9. I like the idea of Ishi starting in left with Morse pinch hitting for him if runners are on base or if we are down by a run. Then you just put Perez out there to finish the game as a defensive replacement. I think that covers LF pretty nicely. It does burn two players so the bench could get a little short but desperate times call for crazy measures.

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