San Francisco Giants (94-68) at Cincinnati Reds (97-65)
Contrary to the muddled playoff picture in the American League, the National League’s top three has been settled for some time. The Reds and Giants each clinched their divisions rather early, winning them by nine and eight, respectively — the two largest margins in baseball. Two years removed from a surprising run to the World Series, the Giants are back looking for more postseason magic. The Reds can improve on their 2010 postseason by 1. Getting a hit in each game they play; and 2. Winning one of those games.
Contrary to what you might think (and what I thought when I started writing this sentence), the Giants actually outscored the Reds this season by an average of 0.3 runs per game. San Francisco has been led by otherworldly performances from Melky Cabrera (in the first half) and probable NL MVP Buster Posey (in the second half). Posey posted a .336/.408/.549 line for the season; since the All-Star Game, his OPS is something like 3.600 (fine, it’s only 1.102). Posey, combined with the addition of Marco Scutaro, have allowed the Giants to overcome Cabrera’s suspension—which, mind you, ends if San Francisco gets to the NLCS (although the team has indicated it would not bring him back).
Cincinnati’s offense revolves around Joey Votto, who would also be in the MVP race if he hadn’t missed 51 games. Votto’s .474 on-base percentage is the highest (min. 475 plate appearances, the number Votto had on the dot) by a non-steroid user (sorry Bonds and Giambi) since Edgar Martinez in 1995. Even counting steroid users, it’s the 11th-best of the divisional era. At the same time, Votto was more a doubles than a home run hitter this season. The rest of the lineup makes up for that drop in power. Jay Bruce hit 34 homers, Ryan Ludwick had a comeback year with 26 long balls, and Jersey’s own Todd Frazier hit 19 as a rookie fill-in for Scott Rolen at third.
Baseball season is already underway, but John S didn’t let the first weekend alter his preseason predictions. You’ll just have to trust him on that…
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
2. San Francisco Giants*
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
You really nailed this division last year, huh? It’s true that last year I had the Diamondbacks, who ultimately won the division, finishing last in my season preview. So in order to make up for it, I’ve picked them to repeat in 2012.
And it’s not like it’s a trendy pick, either, since nobody’s really expecting Arizona to make the playoffs again. Continue reading »
Yesterday was Opening Day, and while NPI still be caught up in college basketball excitement, that doesn’t mean we can’t bring you the brilliant baseball analysis you’ve come to expect. Today John S will be breaking down the National League, so brace yourself for backhanded compliments, ill-informed generalizations, and an overall tone of condescension and derision!
1. San Francisco Giants
2. Colorado Rockies
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. San Diego Padres
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
Hey, remember when the Padres were in first place? What? When did that happen?
For most of last year, actually. Lies! Next you’ll be telling me that it was largely due to someone named Luke Gregerson…
Well, now that you mention it—Look, the Giants’ whole “underdog” thing was fun when they toppled the Phillies, but it sort of ignores the fact that San Francisco has great starters, including two of the best in baseball. And it’s not like any of the four had unsustainably great years—in fact, we can probably expect Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner to get better. After all, Lincecum had by far the worst year of his young career in 2010, and Bumgarner only pitched half a season. Continue reading »
Tim and John S already proved their baseball knowledge by issuing World Series predictions that were proven wrong within moments of the series starting. Now, with Game 3 moments away, they reconvene to discuss the series in progress.
TIM: Two games into the World Series, John, and as everyone expected, the Giants are just bludgeoning the Rangers’ pitching. I don’t think I’m telling any tales out of school when I say that everyone knew Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson could handle the Yankees, but neither one really stood any chance against this San Francisco lineup, right?
JOHN: Surely nobody expected Cliff Lee and his 1.26 postseason ERA to shut down a lineup that included Juan Uribe and Freddy Sanchez, but did anyone expect a dazzling 5.2 IP, 4 ER shutdown performance from Tim Lincecum? In all honesty, I think a lot of people were prepared for that matchup to disappoint after the relative anticlimax that was Lincecum-Halladay, but it was obviously shocking to see Lee pulled in the 5th for Darren O’Day. I think what Game 1 showed, though, was why the idea of a “great postseason pitcher” is kind of a flawed notion. Most of the time, Lee has excellent control and is masterful, but when he starts missing spots, even slightly as he did in Game 1 (only 1 BB and 1 HBP), he becomes a mediocre pitcher. The reason his playoff numbers were so great was that he simply hadn’t had a game like in the playoffs yet.
TIM: Well, I think you can say it shows why the idea of calling Cliff Lee a “great postseason pitcher” is flawed, but not the concept in and of itself — with the caveat, of course, that most great postseason pitchers are great pitchers, period. Even the best postseason pitchers — such as Bob Gibson and Curt Schilling — have had bad outings somewhat like Lee’s the other night. One bad outing may hurt his reputation, but it doesn’t tarnish it.
Continue reading »