Can’t write about potential playoff opponents any longer. It’s decided. The Reds have already landed in San Francisco where they’ll play the Giants in a best of five series. Kind of odd for a team that finished with more wins on the season to be playing its first two playoff games on the road, but such is the reward for success in MLB 2012.
You already know the Reds went 4-3 against the Giants this year. You’re aware that it arguably should have been 6-1, barring a Sean Marshall blown save in Cincinnati and an odd attempt at a fly ball from Jay Bruce in San Fran. But that’s hardly relevant now. That was another season ago, before the All Star Break.
On the mound, the teams aren’t that different – the Reds sport a team ERA of 3.34, while the Giants turned in a 3.68. The starting rotations are pretty even too – Reds starting rotation turned in a 3.64 ERA for the year, the Giants a 3.73.
The major difference, as is the case when comparing the Reds with any other team, is that the Reds’ #1 bullpen ERA (2.64) is nearly an entire point better than San Francisco’s, a bullpen that posted a 3.56 ERA and won only 23 games to the Reds’ 31. The Reds bullpen has struck out nearly 100 more batters than San Francisco’s.
The Giants are without question the better offensive team. There is no team in baseball better at scoring with RISP – they’re #1. They’re only 13th in BA with RISP, but obviously, bringing the runs across the plate is all that matters.
Their cumulative team batting average of .269 is clearly better than the Reds’ .251. They’ve had over 100 more hits. This is without Melky Cabrera, who was having an MVP season before peeing in a cup.
One reason offense may not matter in games 1 or 2 is because the Giants don’t score many runs at home. They’ve scored over 100 more on the road. It’s not just scoring – they have 784 hits on the road compared to just 711 at home.
Also slightly notable – the 31 home runs the Giants have hit at home is good for dead last in all of baseball.
That means this series is going to be all about pitching – at least the first two games will be. The Reds have already defeated Matt Cain twice, while Madison Bumgarner tossed a complete game shut out the only time he saw the Reds.
Johnny Cueto, against the Giants this year, threw just six innings, allowed two runs and picked up a loss. That was in San Francisco, the same game as Madison’s complete game shut out. Bronson Arroyo has tossed 11 innings against the Giants this year, gave up three runs and picked up two wins – one at home, one in SF.
Meanwhile, Cain and Bumgarner rank #2 and #5 in terms of best ERAs at home.
This series will be about pitching. Both offenses may starve in San Francisco. The difference is, the Reds can shorten the window of opportunity to score for the Giants by giving the ball to anyone behind the gate, whereas the Giants will need their starters go to longer because it doesn’t have a bullpen as reliable as the Reds.
No predicitions in this edition. I think the Reds are matched with a suitable opponent, and I’m expecting a compelling series that will say a lot about the Reds chances of making a serious run at a 2012 Title.