Giants on the Mound

You want to know why the San Francisco Giants are in first place in the NL West right now? Their team ERA in September is 1.47.

That is not a typo. One point four seven. They have allowed 33 runs in 20 games. The Angels, who have the second fewest runs allowed this month, have given up 59. The Brewers, in third place, have given up 66. The Giants have allowed half as many runs this month as the team that has given up the third fewest in baseball.

Their pitching has been ridiculous. Here are their performances and ranks in the core pitching stats for September.

BB/9: 2.12 (1st)
K/9: 8.44 (3rd)
GB%: 47.9% (5th)

Their staff has essentially pitched like a collective of Adam Wainwrights. Even when you regress their HR/FB and BABIP rates (both unsustainably low, as you would suspect of any team with a 1.47 ERA), you’re still looking at a team xFIP of 3.34 this month, which is the equivalent of Mat Latos‘ season.

It has been a total team effort, with essentially the entire pitching staff throwing lights out every night. Matt Cain has the lowest strikeout rate of any of the starters, but he’s made up for it with a ridiculous 0.96 BB/9. Barry Zito hasn’t had good command, but he’s upped his K/9 to 8.31 this month. Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner have done both, avoiding walks and racking up strikeouts in bunches.

And then there’s the bullpen. In 50 innings pitched, they’ve allowed three runs. Seven of the nine relievers that have pitched for San Francisco this month have an ERA of 0.00. Brian Wilson (1.00) and Jeremy Affeldt (1.50) are the slackers who have dared to allow a run. Their .163 BABIP obviously won’t continue, but they have a bullpen full of groundballers who are pounding the strike zone, and that’s a pretty good combination.

The Giants face the suddenly slumping Rockies for three this weekend, and if they keep preventing runs at the rate they have been in September, they’ll put nails into Colorado’s coffin. The Rockies are going to have to figure out how to hit this pitching staff, which no one else has been able to do this month.

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Dave is a co-founder of and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

37 Responses to “Giants on the Mound”

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  1. The Duder says:

    Those are some silly stats, wow. Too bad for COL… I’m sure they’ve been trying to recapture their ’07 magic…

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    • B N says:

      Though if Tulo can somehow tear through the Giants pitching every night, maybe I’ll reconsider not voting for him in the MVP race. ;)

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  2. No joke, for a second I thought that this post was going to be about the Yankees’ call-up of Andrew Brackman.

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  3. TheChemist says:

    They’ve been good but half of their games have been either against the Dodgers or the Padres. This is the equivalent of facing a full lineup of Ryan Theriot’s.

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  4. chuckb says:

    The Brewers have allowed the 3rd fewest runs this month? Have they been pitching Yovani Gallardo every game?

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  5. Steroid Shuffle says:

    Not to mention they have allowed 3 runs or fewer in 17 straight starts, something that hasn’t been done since the White Sox did it for 20 consecutive games back in 1917.

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  6. Socrates says:

    As quickly as SF pitching has taken off it can come back to earth. At this point, I think that they definately have the best team in the division, and their pitching (while clearly not this good) is very good.

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  7. Bay Slugga says:

    Funny… not a mention of the ridiculous playoff rotation the Phillies have set up. Dave, have you bothered to look at the numbers on them since the trading deadline? Oh right, they aren’t great like the Giants…

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    • Cheese Whiz says:

      Maybe he simply wanted to do a post about the Giants and the NL West? The numbers were certainly worth noting I think.

      I swear it seems like have of the comments these days are just people looking for something to bitch about. The Phillies have an excellent rotation, but I don’t think that you needed Dave to point that out for you.

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  8. JD says:

    “You want to know why the San Francisco Giants are in first place in the NL West right now? ” Because the Padres fell apart.
    How does the Giants pitching match up against the Phils pitching, especially their big 3?

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    • Zach says:

      2.95 Halladay
      3.37 Hamels
      3.43 Oswalt
      4.06 Blanton

      3.31 Lincecum
      4.08 Sanchez
      4.10 Bumgarner
      4.26 Cain

      FIPs are closer, though they still favor the Phillies, and of course the Phils play in CBP so one would expect them to have higher HR/FB%.

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      • JD says:

        Zach, thanks for that post and good point about the ballparks. You confirmed what I had imagined the numbers to be. It doesn’t take anything away from the Giants, just that the Phils are better.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Full year numbers don’t mean anything in the playoffs. What counts is who is hot. Right now, the Giants pitchers are unconscious, the bullpen even more than the starters. Will they beat the Phillies? Perhaps not. It’s not exactly a level playing field when the Giants pitchers have to face the Phils lineup and the Phils pitchers get the face the Giants lineup.

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      • Anon says:

        And at any time SF’s pitchers could become…unhot. But hey, use that as a predictive measure. I’m sure it’ll work out well.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Yeah, they could become unhot, but I don’t think that is likely:

        1. Lincecum has actually regressed to his mean after some tough times earlier in the season.

        2. Cain has a long enough history of having his ERA’s outperform his xFIP’s that you can pretty much take it to the bank.

        3. Sanchez, Bumgarner and Wilson are are all on an upward trajectory.

        4. Zito is historically much better at the end of the season.

        Still, the Giants could pitch better than the Phillies in the playoffs and still lose due to the large difference in the quality of hitter’s faced.

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      • Bhaakon says:

        Fortunately for the Giants, defense (Giants +35.8 UZR, Phillies -10.0) also figures in to the overall run prevention picture.

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    • Giant Torture says:

      Pretty good actually, especially when you consider that they have a better bullpen. If they stay away from egos and go Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez that’s a staff that can go head to head with anyone. Lincecum is obvious, but Cain has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since the break with a FIP of 2.43 in August and 3.41 in September, and Sanchez’ stuff is flat Dirty, his K/9 this year are down from last year to 9.58, 4th in all of baseball and just one spot back from Lincecum. Plus, if both team’s use a 4th starter the Giants have a pretty big advantage with either Bumgarner or Zito.

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  9. Conshy Matt says:

    Bay and Zach – Dave would probably rank the Phils rotation #6.

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  10. bflaff says:

    It’s worth noting that the Giants have only scored 71 runs in the same period (20 games), which means every NL team has scored more than them since September 1st except for the Dodgers and Padres.

    Rockies have scored the most runs during the same period (132 runs), so something will give this weekend.

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  11. Alex says:

    In a short series between the Phils and the Giants I would imagine the line woud be pick’em. Those three starters for each team are really good, and Sanchez is like kyrponite against the Phils hitters…all in all, that series will be a bunch of 1-0, 3-2 type pitching gems that hopefully will be on TV a decent time (not buried during normal working hours).

    All of this assumes these two teams match up in the first round of course…but man that could be a really good series if you like pitching.

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    • Giant Torture says:

      Doubtful they’d match up in the NLDS, since Philly has the best record, they’ll get the Wild Card and if the Giants make it, it’ll most likely be by winning the West.

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      • braves fan says:

        actually there is a pretty decent shot of this happening if the Braves win the wild card. Cincy and SF have the exact same record at the moment, so whoever has the worst record of those two would play the Phils if the braves win the WC.

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      • Alex says:

        I was thinking the Braves would win the WC, the Phils would have the best record, Cinn would play the Braves and the Phils would get the winner of the NL West because they can’t play the WC from their own division.

        I’m not a huge fan of watching 8 – 6 ballgames, so Phils Giants in a low scoring short series would be exciting.

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      • Huh says:

        For having some of the smartest baseball folks on the web not knowing how the wild card works (Can not play team in same division) is pretty poor showing, kinda like not knowing the rules of sudden death overtime means whomever scores first wins.

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    • Jimmy the Greek says:

      You are insane if you think the Giants-Phils series line would be pick’em. The pitching staffs are equal only if you’re being generous to the Giants (with extra rest, the 4th starter doesn’t come into play, and Doc-Hamels-Oswalt is slightly better than Timmy-Cain-Sanchez). I’ll make it even just because, as you note, Sanchez kills the Phils lineup. But as hot as the Giants’ starters have been, the Phils’ starters have been just as hot.

      That said, the offense matchup strongly favors the Phillies. They are 3rd in the league in runs (despite Dave Cameron somehow thinking they’re “mediocre”), and the Giants are 9th, and the Phillies have better offensive component stats. Any adjustment for park (which would make the Giants look better) would be more than offset by the fact that the Phils played most of this season with one or more of Rollins, Polanco, Utley or Howard on the DL. You’ve seen what they’ve done with the band back together recently. Plus the Phillies will have home-field advantage, where they’ve gone 12-3 the last two postseasons.

      The line would be Phillies in the series -135, if not more. No way would it be a pick-em.

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      • TheFreak says:

        You’re kidding, right? The Giants pitching staff has the lowest ERA of any team. That means they are better. They will most likely leave our rotation with five pitchers so they will be well rested, more rested than the Phillies. Wilson>Lidge, Romo>Madson, Giants’ bullpen>Phillies bullpen, Lincecum=Halladay, Cain=Oswalt, Sanchez=Hamels, Zito>Blanton, Bumgarner>>>Kendrick. That means our pitching is much better than yours. And you’ll find that better pitching in the playoffs means a lot.

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      • Jimmy the Greek says:

        That would be a great point if 4th and 5th starters pitched in a 5-game playoff series with an extra day off.

        However, since they don’t, your point about the starting pitching is meaningless and thus your argument falls apart.

        Good job not addressing the offensive disparity at all, as well. You really killed this one.

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  12. CD says:

    Unless Atlanta is the wild card

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  13. Matt says:

    Someone mentioned this earlier, but the difference between the Giants and Phils bullpens is pretty big, isn’t it? Assuming the starters are about equal, isn’t it conceivable that the Giants capitalize on the bullpen (if the Phils big three don’t complete every game, that is)?

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