As the San Francisco Giants gear up for a brutal playoff run, we fans try to create playoff scenarios for the team. And, as we think, Bruce Bochy makes his decisions.
He has experience with this, since he has been to the playoffs many times, been to the World Series twice and come away with the championship once. However, he will also have to consider how his players match up with the Reds.
He will have some tough decisions to make. He will have to manage the team perfectly, so they don’t get beat by a team that seemingly has more talent than them. Bochy has more of a set lineup than he did in 2010, but his decisions will still matter. Whoever sets foot on the field must be well-prepared and ready to step up.
Can his players step up? Yes. But who will step up when needed, and how do the Giants players compare to the Reds players? Find out as I break this NLDS series down by position.
Note: The grading scale is based out of 10 points. One player (or duo) will receive a certain amount of points, while the other will receive the leftovers. If I think Buster Posey deserves to blow out Dioner Navorro, I might give him eight points and Navorro two points.
Catcher: Buster Posey/Hector Sanchez vs Dioner Navorro/Ryan Hanigan
If Buster Posey doesn’t win the NL MVP award, it will be a crime. Dioner Navorro and Ryan Hanigan are just two players trying to fit in.
Posey finished with a batting average of .336, 24 homers, 103 RBI and a .410 OBP. Navorro has a respectable batting average of .290, but that’s in only 69 at-bats (he has a .245 career batting average). As you can tell, Posey is clearly better. Hector Sanchez will catch occasionally, and he is evenly matched with Navorro. However, Posey will be in the lineup in every game (unless he gets hurt), so it’s not fair to leave him out at catcher.
Sanchez hit .280 this year, but he only has three home runs and 34 RBI. He also has a miserable .286 OBP, suggesting that he loves to swing the bat. However, he plays decent defense and calls a good game, which will benefit the Giants. If he can cut down on the wild pitches (because most wild pitches in games Sanchez catches are catchable), that will help.
Ryan Hanigan is hitting .280, but he has barely any power and has only 23 RBI in more than 300 at-bats. Neither are as good as Posey, and neither is even close. Posey is nearly a lock to win the batting title and MVP award, and he is great on defense, too. This isn’t a hard choice for me to make at all.
Posey/Sanchez 9, Navorro/Hanigan 1. Total: Giants 9, Reds 1
First Base: Joey Votto vs Brandon Belt
Brandon Belt isn’t a horrible first baseman. But when he’s compared to Joey Votto, he is.
Votto hasn’t received tons of at-bats, and he won’t qualify for the batting title. However, he has a spectacular .337 batting average, and an insane OBP (which is .474). Somehow, his career OBP is .415, suggesting that he walks a lot. Votto has tons of power, and playing in miniature Great American Park certainly helps.
Belt has a great OBP (.360), and a respectable .275 batting average. He plays good defense at first base, and he isn’t slow. Belt doesn’t have much power, but he is good to have at the bottom of the lineup. He doesn’t chase, he works the count, and he comes through with big hits. Plus, Belt has been great in the last two months. His batting average was .229 on July 24, but it was all the way up to .277 on September 27.
It’s tough to have Belt get such a small fraction of the points, but Votto is one of the best players in the game. Belt deserves a bit of credit, but Votto is clearly better in every category. There is a reason why he gets on base almost half of the time.
Votto 9, Belt 1: Total: Giants 10, Reds 10
Second Base: Marco Scutaro vs Brandon Phillips
On July 27, when the Giants traded for Scutaro, I would’ve easily given the edge here to Phillips. But Scutaro has proven that he can be a star.
His batting average has skyrocketed from .271 to .306 since July 27, and he is currently in the midst of a 20-game hitting streak. He’s done well at second base, moving Angel Pagan up from first or starting a rally often. Despite hitting only seven homers (and three with the Giants), Scutaro has made a monumental impact.
Phillips has 18 homers and 77 RBI, easily beating Scutaro’s totals. However, he is hitting .281 with a mediocre .321 OBP, and he strikes out a lot more than Scutaro, who rarely goes down by way of the K. Phillips is the best defensive second baseman in baseball, but he isn’t doing well on offense.
In his last seven games, Phillips is hitting .185 (5-for-27). Scutaro has hit safely in his last 20 games. Scutaro is definitely riding the hot hand, but Phillips’ defense and power make this a hard choice. So, I’ll make it a tie.
Scutaro 5, Phillips 5: Total: Giants 15, Reds 15
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford vs Zack Cozart
Brandon Crawford and Joaquin Arias have done well at shortstop for the Giants, with Arias posting superb numbers, especially for a utility player. However, since the Reds will have right-handed pitchers take the ball each time, Crawford will get the nod at shortstop.
Despite a lot of errors early in the season, Crawford has made some outstanding plays and is a Gold Glove candidate. Cozart is great on defense, too, so defense is a draw. Crawford doesn’t have great numbers, but a .248 average and .304 OBP isn’t bad for a No. 8 hitter playing in AT&T Park.
Cozart’s stats are worse, though. He hits .246 with a .288 OBP and only 35 RBI in 561 at-bats, while Crawford has 45 RBI in 126 less at-bats. And, Cozart plays at hitter-friendly Great American Park, which has definitely boosted his home run total. However, Cozart has a plentiful amount of extra-base hits (52), which has boosted his slugging percentage and OPS.
This one is also very close to call. Both are better at different things, but overall, they are very similar. So, I’ll do the same thing here that I did at second base.
Crawford 5, Cozart 5: Total: Giants 20, Reds 20
Third Base: Scott Rolen vs Pablo Sandoval
In 2010, the Kung Fu Panda limped through a horrendous regular season and postseason. However, he’s ready to help in 2012.
Sandoval is playing much better defense, and his stats are up. Sandoval may have just 12 home runs, which is horrible for a No. 3 hitter. However, his strikeout rate has dipped down under 15 percent, which is great. His batting average is decent, although he hasn’t done too well in the last week.
Scott Rolen’s stats are worse than Sandoval’s, as he is hitting .245. Rolen has a huge edge in experience, however, and that can’t be forgotten. Sandoval is probably the better defensive third baseman, but he does bobble some routine plays. Rolen’s experience will help the Reds, but I have to give the edge to the Kung Fu Panda here.
Sandoval 6, Rolen 4: Total: Giants 26, Reds 24
Left Field: Ryan Ludwick vs Xavier Nady/Gregor Blanco
Since being picked up on waivers, Xavier Nady has done some great things for the Giants. He probably earned himself the everyday job in left field. But, it’s hard to say he is better than Ludwick.
Ludwick batted fourth in the Reds’ regular season finale, likely a playoff lineup preview. He is hitting .275 with a .346 OBP, 26 homers, 80 RBI and a lot of clutch hits. His success has sparked an offense that finished 21st in runs scored, with 49 less runs than the Giants.
Nady has worked the count and hit the ball well, and he hasn’t been too shabby in the field, either. However, his batting average for the season is below .200, and you could definitely make an argument that he is washed up. Blanco plays good defense and will probably start some, because he is a lefty who gets on base a lot and has speed. But, Blanco has a poor batting average and limited power.
Ludwick has broken out of his 2011 slump to come up big for the Reds, and he should do the same in the postseason.
Can the X-Man come up big? Yes. Is he better than Ludwick? No.
Ludwick 7, Nady 3: Total: Reds 31, Giants 29
Center Field: Angel Pagan vs Drew Stubbs
Drew Stubbs has slumped all season, as his batting average has plummeted down to the .200 area. Meanwhile, Angel Pagan is enjoying a career year.
Pagan finished the regular season hitting .288 while thriving in the leadoff role. He hit eight homers and knocked in 56 runs, despite playing in AT&T Park. Pagan shattered the franchise record for triples in a season, scoring 95 runs, posting a 4.5 OWAR, striking out just 16 percent of the time and playing great defense in center field.
Stubbs has lots of speed, and he plays great defense. However, his OBP (.277) is worse than Pagan’s batting average, and he has a gut-wrenching .213 batting average. Stubbs’ strikeout rate is more than double Pagan’s (Stubbs’ is 33.7 percent), while he has just 40 RBI and a -0.5 OWAR.
Convinced? You should be. Pagan is a much better center fielder. The only thing I had to think about here was how much Pagan would win by, and I’m taking a large margin (Stubbs has slumped recently, too).
Pagan 9, Stubbs 1: Total: Giants 38, Reds 32
Right Field: Jay Bruce vs Hunter Pence
If you asked me to compare Pence to one player, I might just say Bruce. Why? Because they are so alike.
Sure, Pence is a righty and Bruce is a lefty. However, both have power, both drive in runs, both don’t hit for average, and both strike out a lot. Pence is having a down year, but he is still among the NL leaders with 104 RBI. Pence has gone down on strikes a lot, but not as much as Bruce.
However, Bruce has whacked 34 baseballs into the seats this year. He is hitting .252, while Pence is hitting .253. Bruce is slugging a .514, while posting a spectacular .841 OPS. Pence has just 54 extra-base hits, so his slugging percentage is .425. Pence has knocked in a lot of runs, but he hasn’t hit many home runs this year, and he hasn’t reached base a lot.
Both players are very similar, but I’ve got to give the edge to Bruce. He does play in Cincinnati, but 34 home runs are still great, especially considering that Pence spent a lot of time in Philadelphia. Pence is hitless in his last nine at-bats, with five strikeouts. He is known for pressing in clutch situations, and that will hurt the Giants. So, I’ll give Bruce the small edge.
Bruce 6, Pence 4: Total: Giants 42, Reds 38
The Giants bullpen dominated in 2010, and they have been great as of late. However, the Reds bullpen has been amazing this year.
Led by flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati’s bullpen ERA has been a remarkable 2.65, as they have made it nearly impossible to come back against them in the late innings. San Francisco’s bullpen ranks in the top half of the league, but their bullpen ERA is still 3.56.
Cincinnati’s bullpen isn’t experienced, but they’ve been dominant. Jonathan Broxton, a familiar face in San Francisco, has had a great year, and Chapman will probably receive Cy Young votes. Sergio Romo has a 1.79 ERA and an 0.85 WHIP, as his frisbee-like slider and dominant change-up has continued to puzzle hitters, especially righties. That will help especially against the Reds, who are predominantly right-handed.
Ryan Vogelsong will likely pitch out of the bullpen, helping the Giants even more. He has a 3.37 ERA and feasts on overaggressive hitters, so he’ll be a valuable long reliever, too. Javier Lopez will probably be brought in against Cincinnati’s two dominant lefties, Bruce and Votto. However, that still doesn’t change anything.
The stats are there, and they show that the Reds have a huge edge. But thanks to Romo and Lopez, the edge for Cincinnati won’t be as high as it would be.
Reds 7, Giants 3: Total: Giants 45, Reds 45
The Giants won the 2010 World Series because of pitching. While it hasn’t been as dominant, pitching has vaulted the Giants to the playoffs.
Tim Lincecum has an ERA north of 5.00, but Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have been great. Vogelsong will probably be working out of the bullpen, but the Giants still have a great playoff rotation.
Lincecum has valuable postseason experience, and the same goes with Zito, a 15-game winner this year. Cain and Bumgarner thrived in the playoffs, and both have enjoyed 16-win seasons. Cain always seems to come through in big games, and he will be well-rested to start Game 1 against Johnny Cueto.
Cueto is a Cy Young candidate, but he has struggled as of late, allowing four or more earned runs in half of his last three starts. Mat Latos is having a nice year, while Homer Bailey, fresh off of a no-hitter, and Bronson Arroyo, are having breakout seasons. Cincinnati’s starting pitching has been instrumental to their success, but it’s not enough
The Giants come up big in big games, and they have five starters with 10 or more wins (and 4 with 14+ wins). So, they get the slight edge here, which also leads to them taking the overall edge.
Giants 6, Reds 4: Total: Giants 51, Reds 49
Just because the Giants won this doesn’t mean that they will win, but I think they deserve the edge. They will feed off of the energy from the first two games, while their experience will help, too.
I look for the Giants to win Game 1 behind Cain and Game 3 behind Lincecum, who will bounce back. I have the Giants winning the series, probably in four games. However, I could envision any outcome, even if it includes the Reds pulling off a sweep.
What will happen in this series? Tune in to TBS on Saturday night, and Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday (if necessary) and Thursday (if necessary) to find out.