Game 1: Lance Lynn vs. Bumgarner
Lance Lynn: Lance Lynn's last pitch of the season will not be the walk-off homer he served up to Jayson Werth in Game 4 of the NLDS. Instead, he'll take the ball in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday after allowing three runs in three playoff relief appearances.
Madison Bumgarner: Bumgarner's Game 4 Division Series triumph at Atlanta in 2010 made him the youngest Giants pitcher to win a postseason game (21 years, 71 days). He was 10-3 with a 2.38 ERA at home in the regular seasonLance had a nice first season in the majors in 2011, good toe-tipper, and this season he did very well, 3.78 ERA in 35 appearances, including 29 starts. 9.2 K/9 and 2.81 K/BB means that this was no fluke. Given he's just had his first full MLB season, not much history, though 2 starts, 7.15 ERA in 11.1 IP, but BABIP gods were mad at him as otherwise he was good, 11 K's for 8.7 K/9, only 3 walks for 3.67 K/BB, but 2 HRs and 12 hits in total led to 9 runs. Both starts were in St. Louis so how will he perform in SF?
How about we look at parks that are as low as SF in Bill James 3 year average, 2009-2011. In Dodger Stadium, he has a 3.75 ERA in 2 starts there, 9.0 K/9 and 3.00 K/BB. In CitiField in NY, he has a 4.26 ERA in 2 appearances, 1 start, could not strike out many and walked a hell of a lot, he was totally lost. His home park is down there too, and he has a 3.13 ERA (important to remember as he'll probably be starting in game 5 there). In Miller Park (at 99, same as AT&T), he has a great 1.23 ERA, 3 appearances, 2 starts, 14.2 IP, 9 hits and 1 walks, striking out 19! And in Turner Field, 2.57 ERA in one start there. Overall, he has a 9.4 K/9 and 2.93 K/BB, both great numbers, 3.67 ERA career.
Let's take a look at his splits. He dominates RHB, .228/.265/.338/.603 but is totally crushed by LHB, .266/.377/.448/.825. And that shows in his K/BB for each too: 8.93 for RHB, 1.43 for LHB. Luckily for the Giants, we have a lot of lefties, Belt, Crawford, Sandoval, Blanco, plus SH Pagan, and Pence hits both LHP and RHP pretty equally. And though Posey's splits vs. RHP is not great - .298/.368/.446/.814 is good not great - he clearly had a split season, and if he's hitting as well as he was in the second half, I have no doubts that he would be the 7th hitter who should be able to hit a RHP well. Scutaro, well, what he has done for the Giants is immeasurable (or nearly so), but he's been hitting way better than we can hope he can continue to hit. Or can we?
He has faced a number of Giants who came from elsewhere, as well as in the games against us. Too few PA (6 max) so I'll just list some names and OPS: Pence .667; Scutaro .333; Crawford .600; Pagan 1.100; Arias 1.667; Belt 1.333; Posey 1.667; Huff 2.500.
Bumgarner has 1 start against the Cards in AT&T, 4.91 ERA, but he has done well against them in St. Louis, which is a similar run environment park, he has 3 starts there, 20.0 IP, giving up 18 hits and 4 walks, striking out 17, 7.7 K/9 and 4.25 K/BB. He is especially effective against LHB, .226/.268/.334/.602, but has been good against RHP as well, .259/.307/.400/.707. He has done well against most Cards hitters, but has had trouble with Jay, Freese, and Beltran (all due to extra base hits) in the past, though minimal PA.
Lynn has been a very good pitcher for the Cards this season, and his overall numbers are stellar, but if there is any Achilles Heel, it is his numbers against LHB. And we have a lineup full of hitters who either bat LH or hit RHP well. The counterbalancing thing here is that in AT&T, left-handed power is damped down a lot. But our entire lineup should be hitting him regularly, so it could be a short game for him.
Also, not sure why, but he started the entire season then suddenly he was a middle reliever at the end of August and start of September, before ending with 4 starts. It could be that the Cards were being smart with him regarding IP - unlike the Nats and Strausburg - or maybe just a better pitcher got off the DL (Carpenter?) at that time - but clearly they did not consider him to be one of their better pitchers down the stretch (they also skipped a start around the ASG), yet here he is, starting Game 1, probably because they burned their better pitchers in the NLDS. Good for SF.
Still, looking at his PQS, he was pretty good, even at the end. He had a 59% DOM during the season (Bumgarner 66%; better but close enough) and only 14% DIS (Bumgarner 13%; same number, 4). Also, he ended the season with 3 DOM's before his final start was a 2 PQS.
Oh, but during the crucial NLCS playoffs, the Cards thought so much of him that he relieved 3 times. Their starters were Carpenter, Garcia (who I recall is now injured), Lohse, and Wainwright had 2 starts. And in his 3 appearances, 3.1 IP, 4 hits and 2 walks, 6 K's, 3 ER for 8.10 ERA, again, good for the Giants. Lohse had started in the Play-In game against the Braves, so it appears that Wainwright and Lohse are considered by the Cards as their two best pitchers. Garcia is up there too, as he started Game 2 for them (again, I recall that he is now injured). Still, their worse starting pitcher - as judged by their usage pattern - will be starting their first and fifth games for them, against one of our best, Bumgarner, though to be fair, his PQS was very good and similar enough to Bumgarner.
Of course, Bumgarner has not been himself in his last two starts, both disaster starts. He said that he had mechanical problems that he said he had ironed out before the playoffs. But the telling statement was his follow-up to that, which essentially said that it don't really matter (uh, it does, sorry) where he is with his mechanics, he will need to go out and pitch well.
But Bumgarner is usually good against anybody at AT&T, 3.08 ERA there, plus has been good in St. Louis, 3.15 ERA in 3 starts. With a 3.62 ERA overall against the Cards, that means his one start there, he gave up 4 runs in 7.1 IP. He has shut down Craig, Holliday, Molina, but Jay, Freese, and Beltran has hit him, but all in 2-4 games worth of ABs, nothing definitive.
Normally, I would give the Giants the edge, both because of Bumgarner and being the home team, plus Lynn is not really that good against LHB, but Bumgarner has to be considered a question mark because of two straight DIS starts. He has very rarely gone three bad starts, so that is a plus, but as we saw in the NLDS, there is a first time for everything.
Also, the team's splits suggest caution. The Cards are 31-17 against LHP, only 57-57 against RHP, so that for me is enough to say that Lincecum should start game 4 over Zito. The Giants were 54-49 against RHP, but 40-19 against LHP (though the plus here is that the Giants were only .500 vs. RHP until late in the season, so they are clearly playing RHP better now with this lineup). I would also note that the two teams have almost identical records against winning teams, Giants 44-42, Cards 39-40. But I would note that the Reds was 40-36, so obviously anything can go in the playoffs; or as Bochy notably was quoted in the Reds series, you have to throw out every thing that happened before (though still, good to see what the patterns show in the season showed). Also, accounting for the fact that they were -5 in the win column in one-run games, and -5 against their Pythagorean, they have played better than their record indicated.
I think it should be a tough close game, much like NLDS game 5, until the cork is popped somewhere and the runs will just come and come. Then the rain will stop again, as both bullpens are probably equally good. I was thinking that Lincecum might be our reliever unless he is not needed, then he's a starter, but given how poorly the Cards play against RHP, it seems like it would be best to start Lincecum, especially since Zito has not done well overall in St. Louis, where Game 4 will be held. Then again, he had a great start there this season and has done pretty well against Beltran, Holliday, but Molina, Schumaker, Craig, Freese, and Jay have demolished him pretty well. And that's the thing, they have good hitters up and down the lineup, that suggests that maybe the Giants might carry Hensley over another player on the edge (Zito? or even Mijares as the Cards don't have great LH hitters), since he is a RHP.
Remaining Rooting Ruminations
I was thinking about rooting interests while hearing a part of the Yankees-Tigers game. I definitely don't want the Yankees to win, but then I thought, wouldn't that be neat, beating the Yankees in the World Series, to avenge 50 years ago? Wouldn't that be a matchup?
And that would be pretty good, if so, as that would mean the Giants beat the Cards to get to the World Series. In 2002, the Giants avenged past hurts by beating the Braves (1993; Padres just gave away McGriff to them, and thus gave them the division title) and the Cards (1987). In 2010, beat the Braves again, then finally won it all, the World Series Championship. Now in 2012, we beat Dusty and the Reds (Foster trade, forgot about that one long ago), and it would help even things up if we can beat the Cards in this series (Cepeda, Clark, forgot about that one, plus 1987), then if the Yankees make it to the World Series, we could avenge 1962, 1951, 1937, 1936, and 1923.