Do you think Pablo Sandoval is ready for the postseason? Below is a picture the Panda @KFP48 posted today on his Twitter account getting into the festive #OrangeOctober mood. He and the rest of his San Francisco Giants’ teammates are getting ready to take on the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Division Series starting Saturday, October 6th at 6:30 pm PST. Pablo and the G-Men seem to be at their best when they are having fun. Will the orange hair of 2012 be the equivalent to the beards of 2012? Either way it’s a good thing for Giants’ that the Panda and the rest of the team seem to be having fun 90% of the time.
We know what we can expect from the Giants off the field and in the dugout but what can we expect from them on the field? The Giants lost the season series 3-4 to the Reds this year and will take on a rotation that won’t feature and lefty starters but has key lefty relievers in the bullpen. The Giants performed slightly better against left handed pitching all year but they will have to do damage against the right-handed starters. They must also pitch well to stay in games by containing a high powered offense which features some big left-handed hitters.
The first two games of the series will take place in San Francisco thanks to the new Wildcard format which has forced the NLDS to be played in this format just for this season. The Giants will start with their horse in RHP Matt Cain in Game 1 against RHP Johnny Cueto who has had a stellar season going 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA. In Game 2 the Giants will feature young lefty Madison Bumgarner who had a fine year going 16-11 with an ERA of 3.37 to start against RHP Bronson Arroyo who was 12-10 on the season with a 3.74 ERA.
Cain had great season which included a perfect game on his way to a 16-5 season with a 2.79 ERA and brings with him a 21 1/3 inning scoreless streak to the postseason from 2010. He has had his trouble against the Reds this season. In two starts against the Reds, with one on the road and the other at home, he lost both games and had a 5.54 ERA giving up 8 earned runs over 13 innings pitched. In fact, 5 of the 8 earned runs came at home on June 29th as the Giants lost 1-5. Cain had trouble against the two big left-handed bats of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in the Reds lineup that day as they were a combined 7-for-9 with 3 doubles. Cain also surrendered a homer to Zack Cozart to lead off the game and a homer to opposing pitcher Mike Leake in the 6th. It will be important for Cain to limit all the bats in the Reds’ lineup but he must control the big lefties from hitting homers and doubles to a short right field.
Just as Cain looks like he has his work cut out for him, so does Cueto. Some of the Giants have great numbers against Cueto but the Panda is definitely not one of them as he is 1-for-9 lifetime against him. As you would expect, Buster Posey has had success going 3-for-4 lifetime but it is not a large sample size. On the other side of the spectrum, Ryan Theriot, being a former NL Central guy has faced him the most, 48 times in fact and is 13-for-43 with a homer. There is no way he will start at second even though Marco Scutaro is 1-for-6 lifetime versus Cueto as you would expect Bruce Bochy to keep riding one of his best hitters. Lead off man Angel Pagan is 4-for-7 in 9 appearances with a triple and it will be important for him to continue getting on base to set the table for the middle of the order, especially if Scutaro falters hitting in the second spot in the order. They key to the lineup could be in left field. Xavier Nady who was brought in to be an extra right-handed bat against lefties, has had great success against the right-handed Cueto going 5-for-8 with a homer in 9 career plate appearances. Gregor Blanco, who normally platoons with Nady has not had career success by going 1-for-5 in 6 plate appearances. It will be interesting to see what Bochy does in left. Brandon Belt is also just 1-for-5 in 6 plate appearances but Hector Sanchez has never faced Cueto. I doubt we will see him catching to put Posey in at first base. Regardless of all the career numbers the postseason is a new start and Cueto has had an amazing year but in his only start against the Giants on June 28th in San Francisco he took the loss giving up 3 runs (2 earned) over 6 innings. The Giants won 5-0 that day, so anything can happen.
The pitcher Cueto faced in his only start against the Giants this year was Bumgarner. Madison had the best start of his career, surrendering just 1 hit while striking out 8 in his complete game shutout throwing just 107 pitches. Madison has had success shutting down some of the big bats in the Reds’ lineup over his career. This seemed logical to me as the Reds would seem to be susceptible against lefties. However, like the Giants, they have a better batting average facing left-handed pitching. For the Giants they have a .272 team batting average versus lefties and .268 average against right-handed pitching while it is .266 vs LHP and .246 vs RHP for the Reds. The Giants show that they hit well against both while the Reds really shine against lefties which comes as a total surprise to me. With the success Bumgarner had in his one start against the Reds it seemed likely it was a favorable matchup based on facing lefties who don’t hit left-handed pitching well but it is not the case. He has faced most of the rest of the Reds’ lineup and has held Bruce to just being 1-for-9 and Ryan Ludwick to 1-for-16 in 17 plate appearances. Former MVP Votto is 3-for-11 which is a .273 average against Madison with 1 homer are are very moderate numbers for the likes of Votto. Brandon Phillips has had the most success against Madison going 3-for-7 in 8 career plate appearances.
Bronson Arroyo had two starts against the Giants in 2012 and didn’t get a decision in either game while giving up 3 earned runs over 11 innings for a 2.45 ERA between them. He did give up 16 hits and 3 walks over both starts for a poor 1.73 WHIP. Of all the Giants, Hunter Pence has had the most success against him going 12-for-35 with 2 homers for a .343 batting average in 38 career plate appearances. Pablo is solid against Arroyo going 3-for-12 with a triple while Buster is 2-for-5 with a double in his career to round out the heart of the order. The table setters each only have 5 career hits against Arroyo a piece. Angel being 5-for-23 in 25 plate appearances, however 2 of those 5 hits were homers. Scutaro is 5-for-19 with 2 doubles in his 20 career plate appearances against Arroyo. Once again Nady is the “X-Factor” (too hard to pass this one up) since he has had real great success against Arroyo going 7-for-24 with 2 homers for a .292 career average against him. Blanco is once again just 1-for-5 except against Arroyo it is in 5 plate appearances. Belt is 2-for-3 and Sanchez is 2-for-2 each in 3 plate appearances but once again I doubt Bochy would not start Belt at first base. This allows him to keep Sanchez as a switch hitting option off the bench where he has had success. Theriot and Aubrey Huff give you solid options off the bench as well. It should be noted that Huff has ridiculous career numbers against Arroyo going 12-for-23 with a homer in 25 career plate appearances and although he won’t start, I would imagine he would be the first option to pinch hit off the bench if Arroyo is still in the game. If Huff gets a hit, the Giants will have to rely on Joaquin Arias to pinch run without Emmanuel Burriss or Francisco Peguero on the 25-man postseason roster.
Games 1 and 2 should be close so we will have to just sit back and see what happens. Below you will find Pablo Sandoval‘s final season totals. I will have a season end review session to look in depth at Pablo’s numbers once the postseason is over. On Monday I will preview Game 3 of the NLDS and any potential games after that if the series goes that far.
Final Season Update
by Raul Rekow Jr.