2010 NL Playoff Rotations: San Francisco Giants

With their afternoon win followed by a Padres loss, the Giants have clinched at least a tie for the NL West crown. All they have to do is win one game at home this weekend to put themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Even in the unlikely event of a sweep they’ll still have a Game 163 on Monday. They’d head down to San Diego for that one, since the Padres have the season series at hand. But that scenario is still not likely. The odds are heavily in favor of San Francisco playing in the postseason.

While the Phillies have a seemingly unstoppable rotation, the Giants have a formidable staff themselves. There is only a small chance that the two will meet in the NLDS — it would take San Diego winning the West and San Fran taking the Wild Card over Atlanta. But this would be one amazing NLCS pitching match-up.

1) Tim Lincecum CHONE: 3.40 nERA, 2.60 FIP
2010: 5.2 WAR, 3.16 FIP, 3.22 xFIP, 3.47 tERA, 3.43 ERA

This hasn’t been Lincecum’s finest season, nor has he been the best pitcher on the Giants. But he has still been excellent, despite the narrative that something is wrong with him. Regardless of his standing among his rotation-mates, he lines up to start Game 1 of the NLDS.

While Linecum’s strikeout rate is down this year, 9.79 per nine against 10.42 in 2009 and 10.51 in 2008, he still leads the NL. His home run rate has almost doubled from last year, but he’s still in the Top 20. His FIP ranks eighth and his xFIP ranks fourth. In other words, a down year by his standards is still an ace-like one. A Lincecum – Tim Hudson NLDS Game 1 sounds like a thrilling one.

2) Matt Cain CHONE: 3.88 nERA, 3.77 FIP
2010: 4.4 WAR, 3.51 FIP, 4.20 xFIP, 3.31 tERA, 2.95 ERA

Tonight Cain gets the first shot at delivering the NL West title, as he’ll take the hill for the Giants. This is the second straight year Cain has produced an ERA under 3.00, an the fourth in a row in which he has outperformed both his FIP and xFIP. He has, however, been a bit closer to his tERA this year, mainly because of his lower line drive rate, 16.8 percent against 18.7 percent last year and 22.8 percent in 2008. Yet he’s still outperforming that. Some guys simply defy their component ERAs.

One noticeable change in Cain this year is that he’s lost about a mile per hour off his fastball, as suggested by both the BIS data and PitchFX. Yet heh asn’t let it get in the way of his effectiveness. The BIS data has him throwing the changeup a bit more often, and at a lower speed than in previous years. The PitchFX data differs slightly in changeup usage data, but reports the same trend in velocity. It also appears that he’s getting a bit more movement away from left-handed hitters.

Just as Lincecum matches up with any other team’s ace, Cain can stack up to any other No. 2 pitcher he’ll face.

Question Marks

I’m placing the next three pitchers as question marks, because I honestly have no idea how San Francisco will line up their staff in the postseason. Barry Zito pitches on Saturday, so he would line up for a Game 3 start. But he hasn’t pitched as well as Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner. Will the Giants go with Zito and his playoff experience, or a lefty who has pitched better? I’ll bet on the experience, just because that’s how these things seem to go.

3) Barry Zito CHONE: 4.47 nERA, 4.39 FIP
2010: 2.2 WAR, 4.25 FIP, 4.76 xFIP, 4.31 tERA, 4.08 ERA

In April it appeared as though we were witnessing the Great Barry Zito Resurgence. In 35.1 innings he produced a 1.53 ERA and 2.66 FIP. It was clear that he wouldn’t continue pitching like that all season, but he had a chance for a quality third season in San Francisco. But then in May he had a 4.50 ERA and 4.81 FIP, which evened out his numbers a bit. Later he had an August every bit as bad as his April was good, 7.76 ERA and 6.24 FIP, which has made his season look rather pedestrian on the whole. Yet given his veteran status and playoff experience he’ll probably get the ball in Game 3 — though I hope I’m wrong.

4) Jonathan Sanchez CHONE: 4.42 nERA, 3.91 FIP
2010: 2.6 WAR, 4.01 FIP, 4.10 xFIP, 3.67 tERA, 3.15 ERA

For the first time in his career Sanchez has out-performed his FIP, and the Giants’ staff is all the better for it. He has continued his career-long trend of being a high-strikeout, high-walk pitcher who allows about an average number of home runs. The difference this year is that he’s limited line drives to 14.6 percent, which has in part caused a dip in his BABIP to .263 from a career mark of .301. A 78.7 percent strand rate has also helped his ERA.

Based on his results for the 2010 season, Sanchez seems like the pick for a Game 3 start. There’s the risk that his walks come back to haunt him, or that he sees some hits fall in that didn’t during the regular season, but that’s a risk with any pitcher. He has produced the results this season, and the Giants should give him a chance to finish his strong finish to the season (1.17 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 10.86 K/9 in September).

5) Madison Bumgarner CHONE: 4.78 nERA, 4.45 FIP
2010: 2.0 WAR, 3.66 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, 3.59 tERA, 3.00 ERA

He’s just 20 years old, but Bumgarner has been a major contributor for the Giants this season. And, as is the case with Sanchez, he’s finishing the season strong. In 32 September innings he has a 1.13 ERA and 1.96 FIP, striking out a batter per inning along the way. His BABIP is a bit high at .340, but he’s helped off-set that with a 92.5 percent strand rate. It’s been quite a month, and if the Giants think they can ride that into October they should hand him the ball in Game 4. It’s a long shot, of course, with both Zito and Sanchez on the roster. But if the Giants want to go on results, it will be Sanchez and Bumgarner taking the ball while Zito watches from the bench. The more likely scenario is that Bumgarner finds a place in the bullpen.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

29 Responses to “2010 NL Playoff Rotations: San Francisco Giants”

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  1. JP says:

    “This hasn’t been Lincecum’s finest season, nor has he been the best pitcher on the Giants.” Huh??? Is Brian Wilson better?

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    • richard says:

      I’d argue that this season, Cain has been the more reliable overall. If not for his horrible August, Timmy would’ve been the best by a mile this year…

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  2. Boomer says:

    Don’t the Giants play the Phillies if the Braves take the WC and the Reds have a better record?

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    • richard says:

      Yes, but the Reds won’t have a better record.

      Phils – Reds
      Giants – Braves

      That’s how it’s going to shake out.

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      • Mike says:

        They could tho, if the Giants lose 3, then win the tie braking game, while the Reds sweep this weekend.

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    • Bhaakon says:

      The only way the Reds will finish with a better record than the Giants is if the former wins out and the later loses out then wins the play-in game. Possibly, but a very long shot.

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  3. Alec says:

    Really hoping to see an NL series between the Giants and the Phils. A Phils and Giants series will likely by very low scoring, solid defense, we’ll see some young guys on the Giants, some guys like Halladay that have never been in the playoffs before, just lots of good story lines and some really really good NL baseball.
    I’m indifferent with respect to the Reds, but I hate the Braves — Bobby Cox can go into some retirement home and whine about the maintenence staff for all I care. Giants vs Phils in the NLCS would be a really great match up.

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    • Anon21 says:

      Well, we’ll be happy to stomp all over you in the NLDS, so that you don’t have to see too much of Bobby. How does a sweep sound?

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      • Alec says:

        Anon21 — are you a player on the braves? I’ve always found the use of “we’ll” when describing ones team to be a bit lame, but whatever. You have to admit Bobby Cox is fine if you are a Braves fan, but if you aren’t then he gets really annoying always whining about bad bounces, poor umpiring, unfair stadiums (as if his team doesn’t bat in the same stadium…just dumb), etc.

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      • Anon21 says:

        It’s a pretty normal convention; sorry you don’t like it.

        And as for Bobby, all I know is that he’s a great player’s manager. If he has to blame the stadium or the umps so as to keep his guys from hearing a negative word escape his lips, that’s just him doing his job.

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  4. GiantsFan14 says:

    not that it matters much, but Bumgarner is 21.

    also, the Giants are just the type of organization to go with experience over results, I’d be quite surprised if they went with Sanchez or Bumgarner over Zito.

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    • Bhaakon says:

      Normally, I’d agree, but the Giants have been very willing to bounce Zito’s starts around the last week. It’s a strong indication of where they rank him in the rotation.

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  5. Matt says:

    The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.

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  6. pm says:

    Bumgarner is 2nd on the Giants in ERA and 2nd in xFIP. He should be the game 2 starter if the Giants were smart, but instead they are dumb led by a dumb GM and dumb manager.

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    • Brendan says:

      ya they’re just so stupid for running out lincecum and cain 1-2, what a horrible run team

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    • Matt says:

      I’m not the biggest Sabean fan because of some of his signings over the years (Zito, Rowand, Renteria), but let’s give the guy some credit. He drafted Timmy, Cain, Madbum, Sanchez, Wilson, and of course Posey. He signed Huff and Burrell. He gave Torres a chance. And while the Freddy Sanchez trade hasn’t been great, he has produced and played excellent D when healthy.

      Plus, using a strictly by the numbers approach to a human game doesn’t always work out perfectly. I’m all for advanced metrics (I’m commenting on fangraphs, after all), but to say that Bumgarner should be the game two starter is ridiculous. Remember when the Cardinals threw Rick Ankiel in Game 1 of the playoffs a few years back? How’d that work out? I love Bumgarner and I think he’s a mentally tough kid, but do you really think he’ll do better in a situation like that than Cain and Sanchez?

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  7. pitnick says:

    One thing I expect they’ll consider is Bumgarner’s age. He’s only 21 and he’s put a lot of innings on his arm this year. That won’t be a primary concern when you’re talking about playoffs, but might be a sort of tie-breaker consideration between him and Sanchez. I’d expect to see him in the ‘pen.

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  8. TexasRanger says:

    Wait so who is better than Tim Lincecum on the Giants staff? Is there really a pitcher you’d rather throw against another teams ace than Big Time Timmy Jim?

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    • Bhaakon says:

      “Big Time Timmy Jim? And I thought “Cainer” was lame.

      Clearly the all important ranking of nickname quality demands a Dirty Sanchez-MadBum 1-2 punch.

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  9. Buster Posey says:

    I would hope the SFGiants go:

    Game 1: Timmy
    Game 2: Cain
    Game 3: MadBum or Dirty (please no Zito)
    Game 4: Timmy (on 3 days rest)
    Game 5: Cain (on full rest)

    You get your two big guns out there for 4/5 games, only once needing to throw someone out on short rest. Also, because of days off, you can get Timmy back for Game 1 of the NLCS on full rest. Cain can then go game 3 of NLCS on five days rest, and be ready to come back for game 7 on full rest again.

    I know it is looking far into the future, but I see no reason not to plan ahead (and then you can always switch around as needed if a series ends in less than 5 or 7). Max the usage of your top guns, esp when all it does is require one of them to start one time on short rest.

    Is this too video-gameish? Would real world teams/managers not consider this?

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  10. Lyrictube says:

    Just relax watching music video lyrictube.us

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  11. lucask7 says:

    Does anyone understand the MLB.com TV packages for the playoffs? What should I do without TBS? Any suggestions/plans?

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    • adohaj says:

      go to the bar and flirt with the bartender while you watch

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    • mlb rep says:

      last year, and i assume it’s about the same this year, MLB.TV playoff package gave access to as many as 4 camera angles (out of about 8 choices) at once, but NOT the TBS/Fox feeds. you can listen via the home or away radio call while watching the 4 cameras and get a pretty good visual sense of the game. it’s different, but works fine and you get to see the between innings happenings from strange angles, which i actually enjoyed.

      you can watch the TBS/Fox feeds on archive if you’re patient and don’t check any news sites.

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      • Victor Frankenstein says:

        Yeehaw. I JUST plunked down money better spent elsewhere for MLB Postseason. I’d forgotten that wonderful camera angle selection, and how frankly annoyed I was by it. It still seemed limiting, and subpar to regular season camera coverage.

        I can do the patience/no news sites angle. I started watching the last Giants/DiamondBLANKS series the day after it ended. Those games were of the type that filled you with false hope which was then dashed and subsequently revived by the Padres.

        What comes next in that horrific cycle? Oh yeah.

        P.S. Bhaakon is a McCoven.
        They don’t watch ESPN, they have more self respect than that.

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  12. Etta Osucha says:

    Fascinating column , I am going to spend much more time reading about this subject

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