PN Interview

PN Roundtable: Phillies/Giants, NLCS

In this Phillies Nation Writers Roundtable, the whole crew examines a couple of questions. Here they are:

Q: On a scale of 1 to 10, how worried are you to face the Giants (10 being most worried, 1 being least worried)?

Bonus Q: What one players worries you the most from the Giants (and try not to say Tim Lincecum)?

Nick “The Beerman” Staskin: On a scale of 1-10, my worry-meter is at about an 8. Lost in the superb pitching performances of Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels last week, was the fact that once again the offense went MIA. The combination of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Placido Polanco went 7-45 against pitching that wasn’t exactly the rotation of the San Francisco Giants. For two months, I’ve been hoping and praying that the Phillies could avoid the Giants en route to their third straight pennant, but that was not to be. While H20 is an awesome trio, you can’t win games without scoring runs. Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez both have lethal career numbers against the Phillies as well. Philadelphia has hit Matt Cain good over his career, but Madison Bumgarner could prove to be an interesting wildcard.

(Bonus):The Giant who scares me the most is easily Jonathan Sanchez, a powerful lefty who has had the Phillies number his entire career. He is 3-1 against the Phillies with a 2.86 ERA and .175 BAA, to go with 40 strikeouts in 34.2 IP. The key to getting to Sanchez is patience though, as he has the propensity to throw a lot of walks, including seven in 13 innings pitched against the Phillies. However, he did go 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 0.92 WHIP against the Phillies in two starts this year. In those two starts, the Phillies managed just five hits.

Amanda Orr: Comparing offenses, the Reds are superior to the Giants.  However, when it comes to pitching, there is no argument; the Giants have one of the best staffs in the league.  They led the majors with a 3.36 team ERA, .236 batting average against, and 1331 strikeouts. Tim Lincecum had a “down year,” but his 14 strikeouts/complete game shutout in the NLDS indicate what he is capable of.  He’ll remain a top pitchers for several years.  It goes beyond Lincecum, though. Actually, Matt Cain was better, posting a 3.14 ERA and 1.08 WHIP.  The pitching doesn’t stop there.  Jonathan Sanchez, another strikeout pitcher, had a 3.07 ERA this season.  The Phillies arguably have the edge with a 1-2-3 punch of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels,

but the Giants are not too far behind.

The Phillies clearly put up the better offensive numbers.  The Giants no longer have Barry Bonds, or anybody that puts up a huge power display, although they do have a good core of players that can hurt opposing pitchers.  This year’s Giants offense is much improved as opposed to the past few years.  Pablo Sandoval didn’t live up to his expectations this year, but he is always a threat.  Aubrey Huff had a very good year.  Rookie Buster Posey has yet to let anybody down. While the Giants may not have the best offensive numbers as a team, they do have guys then can cause some damage.

(Bonus):  Tim Lincecum is an obvious pick, but I’ll go with Jonathan Sanchez who is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in nine career games against the Phillies.  He has 40 strikeouts in 34.2 innings.  As a whole, the Phillies have collected a batting average of .175 against Sanchez.

Paul Boye: Before the playoffs started, I found myself worrying more about the Giants than the team the Phillies were actually playing, the Reds. One series later, I don’t feel much different, save for a bit of extra confidence in the Fightins. I love the way the Big Three pitched, and even though the offense didn’t have many hits fall, they put a fair charge into a few that could have easily been hits, were they not at fielders.

I’m still worried, as I always am at playoff time, but where I would have answered this question with an 8.5 last week, I’ll now say 7. The Giants are good, and not to be overlooked, but I think the Phillies have a better shot to prevail now than they did last week.

(Bonus): The scariest Giant comes packaged in unassuming, baby-faced sheep’s clothing, but the wolf that is Buster Posey is not something to taken lightly. He’s a rookie, sure, but he’s already one of the best offensive catchers in all of baseball. In a lineup that doesn’t feature many tough bats, Posey is the key; keeping him off the bases, much like Joey Votto in the Reds series,  will be essential for the Phils. Runs will be hard to come by, and the less you let Posey hurt you, the better your chances are of escaping with a win against a tough array of Giants starters.

Kieran Carobine: After the Phillies clinched the NLDS, I will admit I was rooting for the Braves to beat the Giants. We all know that did not happen. And yet, the Giant are really not that scary. Their offense is led by Aubrey Huff at .290/26/86. Now don’t get me wrong, those are good numbers. But when you are coming in against a Phillies team with offensive leaders hitting .298, smashing 31 homers and knocking in 108 RBIs it is kind of hard to compare numbers. I won’t waste the typing telling you who holds those stats; you know the names.

Overall as an opponent, the Giants are a scary 6 (on a scale of 10). Tim Lincecum at the top of the rotation is not fun. Roy Halladay will try to make it funner but it will be a tough game with ultimately Doc pulling it out. Offensively speaking, neither one of these teams really made headlines in their respective Division Series. Both teams hit a meager .212. And I am not sure if it makes it better that the Phillies did it in three games as opposed to the four games it took the Giants to reach that mark. For the regular season, it looked like the same story. The Phillies had the edge, barely, in average (.260/.257) and home runs (166/162). San Francisco does have the edge, I guess, in pitching. They did lead the league in ERA (3.36) and strikeouts (1331).

Looking at these two teams, it is odd to see their stats side by side. On paper, they seem evenly matched. I don’t think this is the case. The Giants have the Freak, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez lining up against Doc, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Even if I wasn’t a Phillies fan, I would say it’s not fair.

(Bonus): After all this, I am worried about Buster Posey. The kid can play. There is no question about that. He calls a great game behind the plate and can hit for average and power to all parts of the field. Besides Posey, Giant’s closer Brian Wilson’s beard really disturbs me. It looks like a bad impression of Sean Connery by Darrell Hammond with glued on facial hair. He would probably take ‘swords’ for 200.

Pat Gallen: I’m at about a 5.5 on the freakout meter right now. Lincecum and Halladay completely cancel out and I think the duo of Hamels/Oswalt gets a slight nod over Cain/Sanchez. And lets face it, the Giants can’t hit a lick. Buster Posey is really the only formidable threat in that order. Pat Burrell might give the Phils some trouble because he knows them well, but other than that, the offense is sub-par.

As for the Phillies lineup, it somehow gets enough bang for its buck. They’ve done enough and are waiting, just waiting, to break out big. It basically comes down to which lineup has the better series and we all know who holds the advantage here. So I’m slightly worried. I’m not confident, per se, but I’m not worried either, so put me in the middle. It should be a very entertaining, low scoring series. But the Phillies should prevail.

(Bonus): Jonathan Sanchez bothers me a bit. He’s a sneaky son of a gun. One moment it looks like he can be beaten, next thing you know he’s racked up 10 strikeouts in seven innings. Patience is the key with Sanchez, he’ll make you swing out of the zone and if he’s successful, it could be a long Game 3 for the Phillies.

Michael Baumann: On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate this series an 8. This isn’t because I think the Giants are a better team than the Phillies, or even that I think the Phillies will lose–it’s just that the Giants have one great strength (starting pitching) that can exploit what has been the Phillies’ biggest weakness over the past few weeks (streaky offense). While the Giants, in my mind, are a bigger threat than the Reds were, I still expect the Phillies to win. My high anxiety level mostly stems from this being one more opportunity to go wrong as the Phillies get deeper into the postseason. They could play a U-15 travel team from Missoula, Montana and I’d still rate this series at least a 6.

There isn’t one player on the Giants that I really fear. If you go position-by-position, there are three places where San Francisco has a marked advantage: closer, center field, and left field. Buster Posey might win NL Rookie of the Year, but his OPS+ this season was only one point higher than that of Carlos Ruiz, who is the superior defensive player. The Giants’ rotation arms might be the scariest part of the team, but when Lincecum-Cain-Sanchez-Bumgarner are compared to Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt-Blanton, it’s a wash at the absolute worst. At closer, Brian Wilson has been just about the best in the game this year, but at most he’ll pitch five or six innings this series, and the Phillies have demonstrated an ability to come back in the late innings against just about anyone. In center field, Andres Torres had a better year than Shane Victorino, but Torres’s OPS was only .656 over the last 28 days of the season, and he’s still only a few weeks removed from an appendectomy. Now that Torres has cooled off, center field is also a draw at worst. That leaves…left field, where Raul Ibanez has been streaky, but serviceable, posting a .275/.349/.444 line in 155 games. The Giants’ left fielder, however, posted an OBP 15 points higher and a slugging percentage 65 points higher after joining the team in midseason. That’s a clear advantage.

And there you have it: the San Francisco Giant I fear most in this series is Pat Burrell.

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