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How much do homers really matter? The Reds out-homered the Giants 172-103, but the Giants outscored the Reds by 49 runs. Some of that is a function of the two teams’ ballparks, so let’s get new wave: OPS+ adjusts on-base percentage and slugging percentage to various ballparks. It says the Giants are far better. Good enough for us.
Only Atlanta committed fewer errors than the Reds among National League teams; the Giants ranked 13th among the league’s 16 teams. The Reds also score far better in the techno stats like total zone rating and runs saved above average. In short, they get to more balls and still make fewer errors.
While the Giants are often viewed (rightly so) as a pitching-first team, this is actually pretty close. Mat Latos bolstered the Reds’ rotation, while Ryan Vogelsong helped mitigate a surprisingly bad year by Giants ace Tim Lincecum. Reds rate slight edge in number of quality starts and Average Game Score (you either know or you don’t) despite their cozy park. So
Only Philadelphia used its bullpen less than the Reds (4341/3 innings) and Giants (4522/3 innings). The Reds’ relief corps leads the league with a 2.65 ERA and in holding opponents to a .219 average, while the Giants are in the middle of the pack at 3.56 and .255.
The category breakdowns favor the Reds, right? But the Giants showed some extra moxie in overcoming Lincecum’s decline and by weathering the suspension of outfielder Melky Cabrera, who was building an MVP resume. They also shrugged off the Dodgers’ big mid-season push, and they still have lots of the parts of their 2010 champions.
Giants in five.
Three reasons the Reds will win
1. Great bullpen. Postseason games are often close and won late.
2. Serious pop. It’s harder, generally, to generate runs in the postseason with multiple-hit innings. The Reds have seven guys who hit at least 14 homers, and that doesn’t include Scott Rolen, who missed over a month of the season.
3. Manager Dusty Baker is due for some good luck after suffering a stroke earlier last month – not to mention (just did) those postseason heartbreaks in San Francisco and Chicago.
Three reasons the Giants will win
1. Catcher Buster Posey. An MVP candidate, he carried the Giants in the second half, particularly following the Cabrera suspension.
2. Right-hander Matt Cain. He showed big-game chops in the Giants’ 2010 postseason run to the World Series crown: one unearned run in 211/3 innings over three starts.
3. Manager Bruce Bochy. With Tony La Russa now retired, Bochy just might be the best in the big leagues at running a game.