Your 2016 Giants: Playoffs

I don't have a lot of time to write before the start of the playoffs with the Cubs, so I took a comment I left on baseball monk a few days ago, and repurposed here, of course, with new edits, as I was also writing in reply to the original article.

ogc thoughts

I agreed with baseball monk about the starting rotation, that it is the best in baseball.  This is the reason why I loved the Giants signing Smardzija and Cueto, and then trading for Moore.   As baseball monk noted, it is arguably up there with the rotation of 2010, which he felt was better because they got it done.  baseball monk compared the two staffs:

  • #1:  Lincecum vs. Bumgarner
  • #2:  Cain vs. Cueto
  • #3:  Sanchez vs. Moore
  • #4:  Bumgarner vs. Samardzija

#1:  Lincecum vs. Bumgarner

I think for #1, knowledge of the future, as well as SSS, were clouding some of the analysis. Lincecum was coming off two straight years of Cy Young-ness, and had another magnificent year. At that point, he had always had a month of meh-ness sprinkled in, and his in-season implementation and execution of the changeup in August 2010 suggested that he had years more of dominance.

And who had a 3.79 ERA, pitching so bad that he had his start skipped in the middle of the playoffs? Bumgarner pre-2014. So was 2014 a fluke or his 6.00 ERA in 2012?

Still, comparing each point in time, I agree you have to go with Bumgarner in 2016, solely because he has had success in the playoffs, and Lincecum up to then, had a history of tightness in his first time experiences, which could haunt him in the playoffs (didn’t, probably because September was like one long month of playoffs) and World Series (did).

#2:  Cain vs. Cueto

I think for #2, in addition, you are also mixing in known performance vs. possible. Cueto has had a history of clear dominance in the regular season over the past few years. Cain in 2010 was considered a good but not great starter. I think baseball monk was counting his great playoff run to 2012 into the equation.

Based on regular season work, Cueto is head and shoulders above what Cain had done up to 2010, and Cain had no playoff experience at that point, whereas Cueto right now has a playoff history, though, frankly, it’s been spotty to poor, even last season. Though Cain was inexperienced entering 2010 and Cueto is experienced, it is because Cueto has been such a mixed bag that I would rate Cain above Cueto for #2, because he was so steady all those years leading up to 2010 playoffs (of course, Bumgarner was a mixed bag after two playoff seasons, and we all saw how great he was in his third one, in 2014).  So again I agree, Cain 2010 was better.

#3:  Sanchez vs. Moore

For #3, first, I would have compared Bumgarner with Moore, not Sanchez, because he was arguably better already, but maybe baseball monk was going with Bochy’s rotation, which had it Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner in the Braves and World Series, and Sanchez got the call for #2 in the Phillies series, and based on that, I can see the point. That’s a quibble on my part, I admit.

I think it’s clearly Moore over Sanchez, mainly because Moore has had a much better pedigree and acknowledgement in the league than Sanchez ever had. He might have similar wildness, but 2010 was Sanchez’s one and only good year, and while Moore has a similar spotty record, he has had a much better projection profile than Sanchez ever had. Plus I got a Jason Schmidt type of feel coming from Moore.

And as baseball monk aptly noted, Moore already has playoff experience (relatively good), and is a more mentally stable player than Sanchez ever was.  Moore is definitely better here, and I would say better than Bumgarner had he been the comparison point, because 2010 was Madison's first year, he was a very unknown quality at that point (though us Giants fans loved him to pieces, that didn't mean that he would necessarily turn out to be as great as he turned out to be), whereas Moore has a lot more history.

#4:  Bumgarner vs. Samardzija

For #4, Bumgarner vs. Samardzija, I mostly agree with what baseball monk wrote. Mostly because of the Shark’s up and down season, along with his up and mostly down career as a starter. So I see why he had the comparison as a toss-up.

One thing that tips it to Samardzija’s side, for me at least, is that mid-season, while in his down period, it was revealed that for some inexplicable reason, he dropped his curve when he converted from the bullpen to the starting rotation, which is the complete opposite of any other reliever-starter conversion, as generally you want more pitches as a starter than when a reliever, and that last incredible up you noted was the result of him adding his curve back into his repertoire (plus I think Fangraph analyzed his pitches, and found that he also dropped a pitch that wasn’t working for him). For that reason, I rate him above 2010 Bumgarner.

2016 NL Playoffs

I would also add in the fact that Samardzija has a history of being a great closer, and Bumgarner’s great relief game vs. KC, and those, plus the above rotation comparisons tips the rotation in 2016 as being better than the 2010 rotation, at least in my eyes.  And I just realized, looking through the four comparisons, that the individual comparisons for baseball monk and myself add up to 2016 being a better rotation, as well as being the best rotation in the NL playoffs.

As good as the Cubs are in 2016, the Nats were considered similarly good in 2014, and the Giants arguably played better in the regular season than they did, and it was the bullpen blown saves that cost us there.   As I've tried to show over the years with PQS, it is great pitching that overpowers great hitting, no matter how great they are, in a general sense.  Our rotation might not have been great in 2014, but they were good enough for DOM starts when we needed them, outside of Bumgarner.  And Madison carried us on his back in the World Series, his relief appearance would have qualified for a DOM start had he started.

On top of that, the Giants took on the Cubs, Nats, and Dodgers OK this season.  Basically broke even.   And each of these other team has problems with LH starters, and we got two of them, plus a number of lefties in the bullpen.   On top of that, I think the offense was returning to normal in the last week of the season.

The offense won't look great in the playoffs, but generally, better pitching will dictate that.  They just need to be relatively better against the opposition, then the opposition is against our pitchers.   And all of our starters are capable of whipping out a double digit strikeout start and go deep into the game while giving up only a handful of hits.  I like our chances of flying through the playoffs and not having to face elimination at any point.

I think we'll have the most problems with Chicago, both because they are good, as well as because it is a five game series and they got home advantage.   While I like our chances, it will not be easy, so Go Giants!

Note:  Giants Roster for Cubs Series:

The position players for the NLDS: Posey, Brown, Belt, Crawford, Gillaspie, Nunez, Panik, Tomlinson, Blanco, Hernandez, Pagan, Pence, Span.  Nunez replaced Adrianza.

The Giants went with 12 pitchers: Blach, Bumgarner, Casilla, Cueto (Game 1 starter), Kontos, Law, Lopez, Moore, Romo, Samardzija, Smith, Strickland.   Blach replaced Okert.  Moore took Parker's spot, as the Giants go for more speed off the bench (and in the lineup, apparently, both Hernandez and Tomlinson are starting game 1, while Span and Panik sits).

The starting pitching matchups:

  1. Cueto vs. Lester
  2. Samardzija vs. Hendricks
  3. Bumgarner vs. Arrieta
  4. Moore vs. Lackey
We are pretty evenly matched in each game.   As uneven Cueto has been in playoffs, so has Lester.   Meanwhile, Hendricks was not that good last year, though to be fair, he's been a much better pitcher this season over last.  Samardzija has nothing much of a playoff record (played for Cubs, A's and White Sox) but has been pitching really great since rediscovering his curve.  And while Arrieta had DOM starts, he didn't pitch well enough in 2 of 3 starts last season, when he had his great season, whereas he regressed this season.  While facing Bumgarner, who he publicly said is "beatable".  And Lackey has been up and down over the past few seasons as well, while Moore has been up and down in previous playoff stints.  So other than Bumgarner's game, we look pretty evenly matched, so it should be a good series, with Bumgarner being the edge for us, potentially, once again.