Defense wins championships, still.
The first thing that came to mind when assessing these teams was not the stellar starting pitching on either sides, or the high end offensive quality, but the defense.
If you watched the NLCS, you could tell which team was more fundamentally sound, or at the very least executed better with the glove. The Cardinals repeatedly shot themselves in the foot in games 6 and 7, while the play of the Giants only seemed to get better with each opportunity. Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco are fantastic outfielders who have shown off great range; Brandon Crawford is one of the best defensive shortstops in the league (lead the NL in range factor), Marco Scutaro has shown off some nifty glove work, and Pablo Sandoval is not a complete liability at third. Contrast this with the Tigers defense and we get an entirely different story.
Austin Jackson aside, the Tigers defense is and has been sorely lacking all season. Miguel Cabrera is not an adequate third basemen, he’s actually better at first, but Prince Fielder is over there and he should be a DH. However, the Tigers have to play games in the NL Park where there are no designated hitters, which means the god emperor of outfield suck Delmon Young has to play Left, which he hasn’t done in a while. Remember Vladimir Guerrero in the 2010 World Series? We could see gaffes of epic proportions.
The ALCS MVP had a few good games against the Yankees, but the former #1 draft pick has no skills other than popping a few home runs, and maybe a few cheeseburgers. He’s a big guy, and I don’t see the move to the outfield as a positive. But of course, Jim Leyland has to play him because it’s what he’s doing throughout the season, but I can’t help but wonder if old Jim will replace him for an Andy Dirks or Don Kelly late in games against a Santiago Cassia or Sergio Romo.
Defense Edge: Giants (more…)
NLCS preview: Cardinals v. Giants – After another improbable playoff comeback, the St. Louis Cardinals are at it again, defying odds and expectations to be in the championship series against the other most recent World Series winner. San Francisco survived the Division round against Cincinnati by winning three straight games on the road, and now open at home to the cardiac Cardinals, so who will win?
The starting pitching matchups for the first few games should look like this.
• Game 1: Lance Lynn v. Madison Bumgarner
• Game 2: Chris Carpenter v. Ryan Vogelsong
• Game 3: Matt Cain v. Kyle Lohse
• Game 4: Barry Zito/Tim Lincecum v. Adam Wainwright
Lance Lynn last pitched to Jayson Werth in NLDS game 4, when Werth deposited a center cut Lynn fastball into the Nationals bullpen. He didn’t start a game last series, after spending the entire season in the rotation, so manager Mike Matheny may treat this as a pseudo bullpen by committee game. If Lynn struggles early, he won’t hesitate to bring in the flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal or Mitchell Boggs. From the Giants perspective, they get the home/road advantage with Vogelsong pitching in AT&T Park.
Like most of the Giants pitching staff, they benefit from a big outfield in San Francisco, which most importantly affects home run to fly ball ratios. Vogelsong and Bumgarner should have a slight edge, and it helps that they have some fantastic outfield defense with Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan to assist. (more…)