October Special #2 - The NLCS

Welcome to the 16th Czar’s blog of 2014 celebrating our San Francisco Giants!  This is the special postseason blog, hopefully the second of three (one for the NLDS, one for the NLCS and one for the WS). 

Are we having fun yet?


It was difficult to predict a month ago that the Giants would be in the final four but not only did they make the NLCS, they took the first game from the Cardinals last night 3-0 behind an awesome performance by Bumgarner for 7 and 2/3 innings. 


The end of the NLDS was pretty cool. We lost game #3 to the Nationals only because of an error by Bum throwing to 3rd rather than getting an out at first. That play was actually one of the only examples of the team not playing the Giants way we have seen in the post-season.  The Giant’s way is slow, methodical, inning by inning, base by base, grinding out every at-bat and not making mistakes.  That play was high-risk and it cost us the game.  The ship was righted in Game #4 when Vogelsong went 5 and 2/3, the bullpen took it the rest of the way and the G-Men won 3-2. 


However of note is the fact that (other than in the WC game) the G-Men scored only 2 and 3 runs in taking the NLDS, and last night in taking Game #1 of the NLCS they squeaked out 3 runs.


The Giants and the Cardinals (besides trading the NL championship back and forth since 2010) are almost identical teams.  Good pitching, good bullpens, solid players, good managers (in the Giants case great), really professional front office and great fans.  Both teams play fundamental baseball, station to station hitting, good defense and minimal errors. That’s why the games are going to be low scoring.


Game #1, however, was an example of why Giants fans should be confident going into the three games at AT&T. Bum is clearly at the top of his game, and Wainwright is clearly not.  An uncharacteristically sloppy Cardinals defense behind Wainwright directly contributed to 2 of the Giants 3 runs.  The Cardinals defense is not going to continue to play that way.


In terms of match-up the Cardinals are evenly split between right and left handed batters and the G-Men lean slightly left-handed (Crawford, Belt, Panik, Ishikawa) with two switch-hitters (Panda and Blanco) and two right-handers (Posey and Pence). Most of the Cardinals pitchers are right handers.  This favors the Giants. 


Generally speaking the Giants pitchers are better (ERA, bullpen holds, etc.) than the Cardinals staff but its close.  Frankly the fact that Wainwright is playing hurt (he is for sure) may be the deciding factor. Tonight is Lynn versus Peavy, Tuesday is Hudson and Wednesday is Vogelsong – in both cases with Petite and Lincecum right there if they falter. The Giants bullpen is also slightly better than the Cardinals and, as they say, good pitching beats good hitting.


In terms of positon players you have to give the edge to Posey over Molina (but both are great players). However the Cardinals have the edge at 3rd (Carpenter over the Panda), short (Peralta over Crawford), Left Field (Holliday over Ishikawa) and Center Field (Jay over Blanco). I give us the edge at 1st (Belt over Adams), 2nd (Panik over Wong) and Right field (Pence over anyone).


It’s a pretty even match-up on the whole and should be great baseball.


The real match-up though might be Bochy over Matheney, and that’s in the Giants favor.


But this is perhaps the Giants biggest asset!




Right now the Royals are up 2-0 on the Orioles, and going back to Kansas City to (I believe) wrap up the  ALCS. The Royals play fast, they play small ball and they keep coming back with big innings after being down. They have now taken 6 straight playoff games (the A’s in the Wild card, the Angels in the NLDS and 2 games in Baltimore.  My prediction (joined by most of baseball I suspect) is that either the G-Men or the Cardinals will be seeing the Royals week after next.  However I also predict that the WS will be a different experience for the Royals because the pitching they face in the NL will be a lot better than the pitching they faced in the AL -  pitching is the big difference between the AL and NL right now.  Besides, wouldn’t it be sweet to see Morse as the DL?


It’s League Championship playoff time!


Ciao, and GO GIANTS!


The Czar


PS, We would have liked to see the Dodgers in the NLCS, but it was not to be