2012 Post-season / Reds - General / Series Preview

NLDS Preview: Giants’ Hitting and Starting Lineup

The 2012 San Francisco Giants rank just above the middle of the National League in hitting, finishing seventh in team OPS (Reds were sixth). Keep in mind the Giants’ home field is severely favorable to pitchers, while the Reds play their games in a Little League park. Nonetheless, San Francisco hit more home scored more runs this season than the Reds. They were also 4th in the NL in stolen bases (Reds were 14th). The Giants have ways to win this season other than pitching arms.

[The Reds hit the fewest home runs of any team in baseball in the months of September/October. The Washington Harpers hit 53, your Reds hit all of 22. Wonderful.]

While it isn’t exactly your grandfather’s Giants teams (Mays, McCovey, Cepeda), the 2012 group has plenty of pop.

Through August 15, Giants left fielder Melky Cabrera was leading the league in batting average (.346) when he tested positive for testosterone. With Ryan Braun’s miracle cup apparently unavailable, Cabrera was suspended for 50 games, essentially ending his season. Yet, San Francisco has shown decent resilience playing without him. A couple weeks ago, Cabrera voluntarily removed himself from consideration for the batting title. While this bought him some goodwill with Giants fans and did clear the way for one of his teammates to win the title, no one  will mistake Cabrera for Tony Bennett at the Venetian.

Here is the Cabrera-free lineup that manager Bruce Bochy will probably send on the field Saturday night against Johnny Cueto:

Angel Pagan (S) CF – .288/.338/.440
Marco Scutaro (R) 2B – .362/.408/.549
Pablo Sandoval (S) 3B – .283/.342/.447
Buster Posey (R) C – .336/.408/.549
Hunter Pence (R) RF – .219/.287/.354
Brandon Belt (L) 1B – .275/.360/.421
Xavier Nady (R) LF – .240/.333/.400
Brandon Crawford (L) SS – .248/.304/.349

Angel Pagan (31) leads San Francisco in runs scored (95) and stolen bases (29). Pagan also hit a remarkable 15 triples this year, aided by the cavernous power alleys at AT&T Park. He’s a switch-hitter whose best side (.296/.351/.448) is vs. RHP. In particular, Pagan is 4 for 7 against Cueto. Not that you should give any weight to past hitter-pitcher matchups.

[Dave Cameron at Fangraphs summarizes the research on the predictive value of past hitter-pitcher matchups: “Batter/Pitcher match-up data has been shown to have no predictive value. In The Book, Tango, Lichtman and Dolphin devote an entire chapter to looking for evidence that previous results of specific batter/pitcher match-ups would predict future results in those same match-ups. It wasn’t there. Despite looking at the 30 most extreme examples of matched-pairs where the batter had dominated the pitcher over a three-year period, the group was barely better than average in the fourth season against those same pitchers. When looking at the flip side, where pitchers had dominated the hitters, the results were the same. Most interesting is that there was little difference in actual future performance by the 30 hitters who had dominated their rivals versus those who had been dominated by opposing pitchers. Even at the extremes, specific batter/pitcher data showed no real usefulness in projecting future results.” Rest assured that despite the overwhelming research, Dusty Baker will use this meaningless data to determine the postseason roster, the starting nine, the batting order and pinch hitters, like it’s the word of Hank Aaron.] 

Marco Scutaro (36) was acquired from the Rockies at the end of July and he’s hit well in his two months with San Francisco, ending the season with an 18-game hitting streak. Scutaro is credited with having a major impact on the Giants, providing “reliable defense and timely hitting,” and more than earning the $2.1 million in salary the Giants picked up in the trade. The Giants are Scutaro’s eighth major league franchise and he also played for the Venezualan team in the World Baseball Classic. Scutaro was once featured in the documentary A Player to Be Named Later. True story.

As a switch hitter, Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval (26) has a higher average against LHP, but more power vs. RHP (.275/.344/.465). You probably saw the video of the acrobatic catch the Panda made during the Giants division-clinching game against the Padres. He fell into the third base dugout catching a pop-up off the bat of Yonder Alonso – all while blowing a bubble. The multi-talented Sandoval also has a unique handshake for every Giants teammate.

Catcher Buster Posey (25) is a frontrunner to win the NL-MVP award. His .336 average was good enough to win the league batting title (JoeyMVP hit .337 but sadly, lacked enough plate appearances to be eligible). Posey was the first San Francisco player to lead the league in hitting since Barry Bonds* in 2004. After being named NL-Rookie of the year in 2010, Posey missed most of 2011 after suffering a gruesome broken ankle from a collision while blocking home plate (story/picturesvideo).

Hunter Pence (29) was traded to the Giants from the Phillies at the trade deadline. Pence hasn’t hit very well for San Francisco, with a .219 batting average. But he does have a boatload of RBI, mostly due to the opportunities created by hitting behind Posey. Pence realizes the connection, “They’re walking Posey a lot with runners on base,” Pence said. “One reason I’m getting all those opportunities is because they’re walking him.” His manager, Bruce Bochy, takes the paleolithic view: “Average is overrated to me,” Bochy said. “I like damage and driving in runs. That’s how you win ballgames.” Pence is the only member of the Giants with more than 10 PA against Cueto (Pence has 30).

Brandon Belt (24) is the Giants’ top rookie position player. Like Drew Stubbs, he played college ball for the University of Texas. Belt has seen regular playing time the past four months and hit particularly well in August and September. Belt usually plays first base but may start in LF in Game Three if/when Tim Lincecum pitches. Lincecum and catcher, Buster Posey haven’t seen eye-to-eye this season, so Posey moves from behind the plate to first base when the two-time Cy Young winner is on the mound. Because Belt is hitting too well to bench, he moves from first to left field. And Belt’s nickname is “Baby Giraffe.” You know what they say about men with long necks.

[According to the fountain of questionable wisdom that is Wikipedia, the main theory for why giraffes have such long necks is known as the sexual selection hypothesis, which proposes that the long necks evolved as a secondary sexual characteristic, giving males an advantage in “necking” contests to establish dominance and obtain access to sexually receptive females. However, one objection is that it fails to explain why female giraffes also have long necks.]

Xavier Nady (33) started 2012 playing for the Washington Harpers. The Giants picked him up on September 1 and his 53 PA for San Francisco have been fairly underwhelming. Nady may share time in the outfield with speedster Gregor Blanco (L). Nady does have a home run in one of his few AB vs. Cueto, (which you know, if you’ve been reading carefully, could not be more meaningless).

Brandon Crawford (25) is a standard good-field/no-hit shortstop. Bochy and the Bay area press are talking Crawford up as a potential Gold Glove winner. Crawford has hit better (.260/.327/.370) since the All-Star break. Compare those numbers to what Zack Cozart (.238/.272/.385) has produced over that time.

In summary, the Giants offense is a bit above average for the National League. They have a couple dangerous hitters (Posey, Sandoval) and a few other solid veterany citizens (Pagan, Scutaro, Pence). But the Reds talented pitching staff should be able to keep them under reasonable control, especially in the games on the Bay.

 

30 thoughts on “NLDS Preview: Giants’ Hitting and Starting Lineup

  1. If the giraffes with long necks are getting all the ladies they’re going to pass that trait to both their little boys and girls.

    Re: Scutaro @ .362: yes, he certainly has “hit well.” I seem to remember him doing quite a bit of damage against the Reds. Not again.

  2. Cardinal fans loved Homer’s “Little League park” comment. They now refer to GABP as a little league park.

  3. The Giants scored almost 5 runs per game in September (while the Reds were just below 3 per game). I won’t comment on the Reds lack of September offense, but I looked into the Giants September run production. They inflated their average with a series in Arizona and two series against the Rockies, especially of course at Coors. They scored a decent number of runs in SD, but not against any of SD’s regular starters.

    And surprisingly, Pagan and Sandoval finished the regular season slumping (which probably won’t mean anything, those two are dangerous) but anyway. Their offense depends on which Hunter Pence shows up and the Reds have (according to mlbnetwork) already said that they’re going to pitch around Posey and challenge Pence (duh).

    Steve’s last paragraph summary says it all. I’ll add that the Reds pitching also shut down the Giants offense in Cincy in the regular season series and I think they can do it again.

    • The Giants scored almost 5 runs per game in September (while the Reds were just below 3 per game). I won’t comment on the Reds lack of September offense, but I looked into the Giants September run production. They inflated their average with a series in Arizona and two series against the Rockies, especially of course at Coors. They scored a decent number of runs in SD, but not against any of SD’s regular starters.

      And surprisingly, Pagan and Sandoval finished the regular season slumping (which probably won’t mean anything, those two are dangerous) but anyway. Their offense depends on which Hunter Pence shows up and the Reds have (according to mlbnetwork) already said that they’re going to pitch around Posey and challenge Pence (duh).

      Steve’s last paragraph summary says it all. I’ll add that the Reds pitching also shut down the Giants offense in Cincy in the regular season series and I think they can do it again.

      The Giants scored the second-most runs in the NL post ASB. They are 6th in runs. I respectfully disagree with both you and Mr. Mancuso that their offense is a “bit above average”. They are a well-above average offense. They play in a cavern.

      Also, how is Brandon Crawford a standard good field/no hit SS? His OPS+ is 88, which is fine for a SS. He’s better offensively than Cozart this year. Mancuso mentioned the park effect, but I still don’t think it’s being properly considered.

  4. They finally released some more game times:

    Game 1: 9:30 ET (we already knew that)
    Game 2: 9:30 ET
    Game 3: 5:30 ET
    Game 4: TBD
    Game 5: TBD

  5. I hope the Giants’ hitters try to use those base stealing skills against Cueto, Chapman, and Hanigan. I don’t expect that skill will help the Giants much.

    • I hope the Giants’ hitters try to use those base stealing skills against Cueto, Chapman, and Hanigan.I don’t expect that skill will help the Giants much.

      Personally, I hope they don’t use them at all, because no runners are on base!

  6. Two of the most painful losses of the Reds regular season were against the Giants. Pagan’s 9th inning 3 run HR against Marshall kept the Reds from sweeping the series in Cincy, and I forgot that Jay Bruce’s game ending last second unsuccessful leap on what appeared to be a routine fly ball was hit by Pagan.
    Still 4-3 against them in 2012. The pundits say you can throw all that out, but I think the Reds match up well against the Giants, especially with only Cain pitching consistently well among the Giants starters.

    • Two of the most painful losses of the Reds regular season were against the Giants. Pagan’s 9th inning 3 run HR against Marshall kept the Reds from sweeping the series in Cincy, and I forgot that Jay Bruce’s game ending last second unsuccessful leap on what appeared to be a routine fly ball was hit by Pagan.
      Still 4-3 against them in 2012. The pundits say you can throw all that out, but I think the Reds match up well against the Giants, especially with only Cain pitching consistently well among the Giants starters.

      I think these regular season results are meaningful. The players hit the field knowing they can beat them in both AT&T and GABP. Confidence means a lot this time of year.

  7. Great preview and thanks for linking that fangraphs article on pitcher vs hitter match-ups. Small sample sizes over extended periods of time helped bring that result into focus.

  8. Steve, as always a wonderfully informative and entertaining article. I don’t want to stir the It’s-A-Travesty-That-The-Higher-Seeds-Start-On-The-Road pot (just because we can’t do anything about it) but I do want to say this. Isn’t it so relieving we don’t play a game tonight? I can’t tell you how nervous I’d be having to be in this new Wild card format, win or go home. Imagine ’99 Reds/Mets situations year after year. Talk about stomach ulcers. Here’s to being a division winner! Cheers.

  9. What’s the feeling in regards to the game tonight? Based on how ATL has been pitching, I wouldn’t mind seeing them lose and hope WAS can knock the Cards out. I hate the idea of giving the Cards a chance to play a 5 game series though.

    I think the only thing that’s swaying my thoughts is the fact that this is Chipper’s last season. I would hate to see him get bounced in the WC game.

    • What’s the feeling in regards to the game tonight? Based on how ATL has been pitching, I wouldn’t mind seeing them lose and hope WAS can knock the Cards out. I hate the idea of giving the Cards a chance to play a 5 game series though.

      I think the only thing that’s swaying my thoughts is the fact that this is Chipper’s last season. I would hate to see him get bounced in the WC game.

      I want to see Chipper get a big hit to help the nearly unbeatable Kris Medlen eliminate the Cardinals. Wanting to see Chipper end his career in style and a strong dislike of the Cardinals both make that outcome desirable. I think Atlanta is tough for one game but easier to beat after getting past Medlen… while the Cardinals would have a tough offense every day. I wish I had some Braves gear.

    • What’s the feeling in regards to the game tonight?

      Braves please. I’ve got no need for the Reds to have to (maybe) prove anything by beating the Cards later. The proof will be in the Cards not being there.

  10. I’m not sure where you got the stats from. Scutaro is only hitting .306. If he were hitting .362, he would have won the batting title.

    • I’m not sure where you got the stats from.Scutaro is only hitting .306.If he were hitting .362, he would have won the batting title.

      That’s what he’s hit for the Giants.

  11. Steve M:
    “Nonetheless, San Francisco hit more home runs this season than the Reds.”

    did you mean to say SF hit more ROAD home runs than the Reds did on the road?

    • Steve M:
      “Nonetheless, San Francisco hit more home runs this season than the Reds.”

      did you mean to say SF hit more ROAD home runs than the Reds did on the road?

      Should have said “scored more runs” instead of hit more home runs. Thanks.

  12. I thought I read somewhere though that the Giants as a team have taken fewer pitches at the Plate over the season then the Reds…is that true?

  13. Giants fan checking in here. Nice summary of the Giants’ position players. You mention that the Giants’ park is severely favorable to pitchers, but even that might be understating it a bit. The Reds’ OPS is .726 to the Giants .724, but the Giants OPS+, adjusted for ballpark, is tied for the league lead with the Cardinals at 107, while the Reds are at 90. I think the park factors are off this year, at least for AT&T Park, because while AT&T Park is generally friendly to pitchers, it’s never been this extreme. For comparison’s sake, the Reds are leading the league in ERA+ by a wide margin at 126, while the Giants, usually a strong pitching team, are down at 95.

    This all seems a little off to me, but I think it’s fair to say that the Giants have stronger hitting and the Reds have stronger pitching. It should be a really competitive series, and it’s a shame one of these teams has to go out in the 1st round.

    • Giants fan checking in here. Nice summary of the Giants’ position players. You mention that the Giants’ park is severely favorable to pitchers, but even that might be understating it a bit. The Reds’ OPS is .726 to the Giants .724, but the Giants OPS+, adjusted for ballpark, is tied for the league lead with the Cardinals at 107, while the Reds are at 90. I think the park factors are off this year, at least for AT&T Park, because while AT&T Park is generally friendly to pitchers, it’s never been this extreme. For comparison’s sake, the Reds are leading the league in ERA+ by a wide margin at 126, while the Giants, usually a strong pitching team, are down at 95.

      This all seems a little off to me, but I think it’s fair to say that the Giants have stronger hitting and the Reds have stronger pitching. It should be a really competitive series, and it’s a shame one of these teams has to go out in the 1st round.

      Welcome, and thanks for the comments. Nice of you to take the time, especially since your team is going home for the winter early next week. (Just kidding, though I am hoping!)

      I think your analysis is right on—but do you have an explanation for why AT&T is playing a bit differently this year? Just curious.

  14. Thanks Hank Aarons Teammate (HAT?). You know, looking at the MLB Park Factors here: http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor AT&T Park has been extremely pitcher friendly the last two years, but if you go back more, it’s usually around the league average. This year especially, the Giants and almost all of the west coast teams have had really low run-scoring environments (5 of the bottom 6 teams are on the west coast), so there are theories going around about environmental effects or something of that nature. No one really knows though. It might just be a weird statistical quirk.

    • @Scott: Welcome! And thanks for the insight. Please check back during the series to offer your thoughts from the Giants perspective.

      It’s always interesting to look at the perspective of the other team’s fans. I can’t speak for all Giants fans, but it seemed pretty clear during the season that the Reds and the Nationals were the class of the NL. Luckily, anything can happen in a short series, and the Giants are good enough to make it close to a 50/50 proposition. I’m still annoyed that they’re having the lower seed host the first two games before going to the higher seed for 3 games; the Giants lost to the Marlins with this format back in ’97, and it didn’t seem right back then either. At least it’s just a one-time thing.

    • @Bill Lack: Homer can say anything he wants. If he keeps throwing no-hitters, I’d agree with renaming GABP to LLP.

      Big IF….I mean, last start, he gave up 4 hits for goodness sake….

    • @Bill Lack: That’s the story no one ever hears. A guy throws a no-hitter and the next chance he gets, he’s out there letting a couple guys on base.

      Yeah, the nerve. Send the bum to AAA.

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