Friday, October 7, 2016

2016 NLDS Preview: Giants vs Cubs

There really isn't any point in doing a player-by-player analysis here, or even a team stats by team stats analysis.  I'll save myself a whole lot of writing and you a whole lot of reading and just stipulate that on paper, the Cubs have a better team than the Giants.  But the Giants have been here before.  Anyone still remember 2010 and the Phillies?  The postseason is a different animal.  Fangraphs posted an analysis of likely playoff rosters and while the Cubs are still on top and the Giants still middling, it's already closer than the regular season stats would make it appear.

Which brings me to what I think gives the Giants close to an even chance of winning this SOB, Starting Pitching, or more specifically hot starting pitching.  Yes, I know the Cubs have really good SP's too, but I don't really care about them.  I knew Noah Syndergaard was a darn good SP too, but I thought that game was winnable because the Giants had a pretty good SP of their own.  Go back and read my Preview of the 2010 series against the Phillies.  I could pretty much cut and paste it here, cross out Phillies and replace it with Cubs and get away with it.  The key to the Giants winning this series is having 4 hot SP's who can lock down the Cubs in low scoring games where a mistake, a key hit, a hot  bat by an average player like Cody Ross oor Conor Gillaspie or a stray HR by a player like Travis Ishikawa, or Edgar Renteria, or Conor Gillaspie can win the game.  So, let's just skip to the Giants 4 projected SP's for the series and why I am bullish on the Giants chances.

Madison Bumgarner:  OK, I don't think we need to even analyze this one.  He just might be the best postseason pitcher of all time!

Johnny Cueto:  Cueto has been a co-ace all season.  In fact, if it weren't for Madison Bumgarner's long history of postseason heroics, I might even prefer Cueto in a must-win game!  Cueto has a history of fading in the second half and postseason, but he found an extra gear in September this year:  4-0, 1.78, 35.1 IP, 7 BB, 35 K's.  He had that groin twinge in his next-to-last game which was a bit scary, but came back to pitch 7 innings and strike out 11 against the Dodgers on the final weekend.  I'm assuming he's healthy and have every bit as much confidence in Cueto as I do Bumgarner and have no problem with him getting the 2 starts if it goes 5.

Jeff Samardzija:  Shark has had his ups and downs but re-tooled his pitches on the fly around mid-season by adding a spike curveball that became a true out pitch.  Then, in his final start he broke out a rather nasty looking splitter which he could use against LH batters to keep them off his FB, which still goes mid-90's.  Samardzija had a 2.76 ERA in August and 2.95 in September.  In his final 2 Starts, he allowed just 2 runs in 13 IP with 1 BB, and 20 K's.  So, Shark may not be a true ace pitcher, but he's been pitching at ace levels for the last 2 months, particularly his last 2 starts.

Matt Moore:  Another guy who runs hot and cold.  He's still young and a bit excitable and has gotten lit up when he was too amped, but he got that under control for the final Dodgers series.  In his final 2 Starts of the season, he allowed 2 Runs in 15.2 IP, with 2 BB's and 17 K's.  So he's another guy who has ace stuff and can pitch like an ace if he can keep his emotions in check.

So there it is.  I'll put up that starting 4 against any other 4 in baseball right now and take my chances in a series of low scoring games.


  1. I really like the Giants chances, too. I'm slightly worried about Cueto only because we've learned that power pitchers have the most success in the postseason, and guys with great command and movement but lower velocity have often struggled. But I still am happy to have Cueto starting and I'm optimistic; he's been great for us. Along that vein, I think this is where Samardzija could really shine being that he's a power pitcher with nasty stuff, just he loses focus sometimes and can struggle with command. Same with Moore, good velo and great stuff, so I think there's a great chance he does well. Bum's just gotta keep doing his thing, and we've got some starting pitching that finally rivals the 2010 staff (and 2012 to some extent but 2010 they were at their peak collectively) with 3 aces in Lincecum, Cain, and Bum.

    1. I've never considered Bumgarner a power-pitcher. To me he's strong-endurance guy with exceptional control coupled with nasty off-speed who supplements with a good, but not elite FB he spots exceedingly well to keep batters honest.

      In fact, he didn't even average 91MPH this year (90.7). Yet his 4-seam FB was ranked (FanGraphs) in the Top-30 of all MLB and he throws his slider nearly as much as he does his 4-seam.

    2. Bum is unique. I agree he doesn't feel like a true power pitcher since he throws 90-92, but he's not a complete finesse guy either. He's probably a combination of the two, which might be what a truly great pitcher should be. His mentality might be more that of a power pitcher though, since he constantly challenges hitters with the fastball and doesn't nibble on corners.

  2. I like Samardzija in Game 2 for a couple reasons: power RH and Wrigley experience, although the latter is mixed. If the Giants get blown out in either of the games in Chicago, BB could give Moore an inning of relief to let him blow off his amps. He would be ready for a sure Game 4 at AT&T on Tuesday.
    In the Gearrin v Casilla choice for the last slot, isn't that a no brainer? Even if BB decides to use Castilla, is there any place Casilla is a better choice. He got his post season stripes Wednesday in a game he was NEVER going to pitch in.

  3. I really like our 4-man rotation and I think they compare well to the Cubs. I'm listing all their Top-30 ranked pitches (Fangraphs). Top-11-through-30 unless otherwise are just listed while Top-10 & Top-5 are noted:

    Bumgarner - Three excellent pitches. Fastball, slider (Top-10), curve (Top-5).
    Cueto - Three excellent pitches. Fastball (Top-10), Cutter (Top-10), Change up.
    Samardzija - Three excellent pitches. Slider, Cutter (Top-5), Curveball (Top-10)
    Moore - Four excellent pitches. Fastball, Cutter, Curveball (Top-10), Change up.

    The funny thing is, Samardzija has the most velocity on his FB. He's only who goes mid-90s MPH on an average basis. Bumgarner hovers around 91-ish. Cueto 92. Moore pushes 93. While Samardzija hits 94+. Yet that, and his splitter, are his two worst pitches when it comes to weighted run issues.