Archive for October 6th, 2012

MLB Postseason Preview: Giants vs. Reds

San Francisco Giants (94-68) at Cincinnati Reds (97-65)

OVERVIEW

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.

LINEUPS

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.

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MLB Postseason Preview: Tigers vs. Athletics

Detroit Tigers (88-74) at Oakland Athletics (94-68)

OVERVIEW

Two division winners that actually trailed their divisions for most of the year face off in this series, though each team took a different path to its comeback. The Tigers were expected to win the AL Central, but underperformed all year and then snuck in when the White Sox lost 11 of their last 15 games. The A’s, on the other hand, surprised people be staying competitive all year, and ultimately finished ahead of both the Angels and the Rangers in what was probably the league’s toughest division.

LINEUPS

Obviously, Detroit has Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years and one of two serious MVP candidates in the AL this year.* Behind him, the Tigers have now added Prince Fielder, who justified his $214 million contract (as much as such a thing can be justified): Fielder’s numbers were great this season, if slightly less extraordinary than Cabrera’s. After those two, though, there is a considerable drop-off. It is what Jonah Keri likes to call a “Stars and Scrubs” lineup—the team was only sixth in runs scored despite having two of the best three hitters in the league (by OPS+). Jhonny Peralta returned to his subpar form, Delmon Young couldn’t maintain his production for a full year, Alex Avila took a big step back, etc. Austin Jackson had a breakout year and Andy Dirks shouldn’t be overlooked, but stopping this lineup is really about stopping Cabrera/Fielder. Continue reading