Why Facing The Reds In the NLDS Would Be Much Better For the Giants


September 21, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48, right) is congratulated by third base coach Tim Flannery (1) after hitting a two-run home run during the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at AT

The Nationals and Reds are battling for the best record in the NLDS, while the Giants are just relaxing. But should the Giants really be relaxing?

No, they shouldn’t be. They should be watching the Nationals and Reds games, praying for the Nationals to come away with the top seed. Because that would mean that they would get to play the Reds.

It’s not good to play the Reds. The Giants would much rather play the Astros or Cubs, but that’s obviously not going to happen. The Reds have Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and Aroldis Chapman, among others. They won the NL Central in 2010, meaning they have an edge over the inexperienced Nationals when it comes down to experience.

Votto has an insane .477 OBP, and his .342 batting average isn’t too shabby either. Votto and Bruce have lots of power, and they can wreak havoc on opposing pitchers in their tiny ballpark. Phillips, Todd Frazier, Scott Rolen and others have some power, and you often see Reds players making headlines for going deep. There will be at least one and maybe three games at Great American Park, which is good for the Reds.

But, none of that has me convinced. Facing the Reds is much better for the Giants.

The Nationals are a well-rounded team with no flaws or holes. They rank 11th in runs, second in team ERA, and ninth in fielding. Every player that enters the game for them is capable, despite their inexperience. Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond are all doing well, and all of them have great numbers.

Oh, and the other players have done well too. Kurt Suzuki has filled a void at catcher, and Danny Espinosa has done well too. Steve Lombardozzi and Tyler Moore have done well off the bench, helping spark the offense. Zimmerman has been red-hot in the second half, while Harper broke out of a midseason slump. Werth has dominated in the leadoff spot, while Morse, LaRoche and Desmond are excelling in the middle of the order.

While their offense has been doing well, their pitching has been exceptional. Gio Gonzalez leads the league with 21 wins, Jordan Zimmermann has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the league, Ross Detwiler’s ERA is around 3.00 and Edwin Jackson has done very well at the bottom of the rotation. Jackson hasn’t been too consistent, but at times, he’s been dominant. Detwiler has gotten by forcing weak contact all season, and that’s why he’s having a breakout year. Oh, and Gonzalez has a great curveball, one of the most dominant pitches in the league.

Washington is 5-1 against the Giants, and they have looked dominant against San Francisco. Madison Bumgarner has done alright against the Nats, but Tim Lincecum has been horrible against them. Matt Cain did alright in a start against Washington, as their offense lit the Giants pitching up. The Reds went 4-3 against the Giants, but they weren’t as dominant.

Cain has struggled against them, but in the postseason, he is 2-0 with an 0.00 ERA in three starts. Bumgarner shut them down in a one-hit shutout in June, while Barry Zito did well against them. Lincecum hasn’t pitched against them, but he has struggled on the road. Pitching in Great American Ballpark won’t help, but in reality, it won’t be much better for him at Nationals Park.

Oh, and Lincecum has had his share of postseason success.

The meetings against the Reds were in April and June, when the Giants didn’t have Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence, Xavier Nady or Jose Miljares. The Reds have improved, too, but San Francisco’s offense has exploded recently. Cincinnati doesn’t score many runs, and that’s why I expect Cain, Bumgarner, Zito and Lincecum to have success. They don’t have any dangerous hitters, aside from Votto, Bruce, Phillips and Todd Frazier.

Washington has looked like the better team all year, and in my mind, they are. They seem to play the game flawlessly, and they have a +133 run differential (the Reds have a +82 run differential). The Nationals have players with playoff experience, while the Reds have some players with limited postseason experience. The Reds have holes, and those holes will be exploited by the Giants.

And then, the Giants will be back in the NLCS.