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2010 World Series Preview
Texas Rangers vs. San Francisco Giants
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
October 27, 2010

Records - Rangers 90-72, Giants: 92-70
Runs Scored
- Rangers  787 (5th), Giants 697 (18th)
Runs Allowed - Rangers  687 (11th), Giants 583 (2nd)

Overview

Even though many people are billing this as a battle of hitting versus pitching, these teams have become more well-rounded than people realize.  The Rangers may be 11th in Major League Baseball in runs allowed, but they were 4th in the American League.  Even their overall rankings don't tell the whole story, because in the postseason, they do not have dead weight pitchers Scott Feldman (5.48 ERA in 141.1 IP) and Rich Harden (5.58 ERA in 92 IP) bogging them down.  In fact, just removing those two pitchers reduces their team ERA from 3.93 to 3.63, which would have ranked second only to Oakland in the AL and 6th overall.  Of course, they did not merely drop those two troublemakers, but they also added possibly the best postseason pitcher ever in Cliff Lee. 

Pitching Probables
Game Rangers Giants
1@SF Cliff Lee
(14-13 3.22)
Tim Lincecum
(16-10 3.43)
2@SF C.J. Wilson
(15-8 3.35)
Matt Cain
(13-11, 3.14)
3@TEX Colby Lewis
(12-13 3.72)
Jonathan Sanchez
(13-9, 3.07)
4@TEX Tommy Hunter
(13-4 3.73)
Madison Bumgarner
(7-6 3.00)
5@TEX Cliff Lee
(14-13 3.22)
Tim Lincecum
(16-10 3.43)
6@SF C.J. Wilson
(15-8 3.35)
Matt Cain
(13-11, 3.14)
7@SF Colby Lewis
(12-13 3.72)
Jonathan Sanchez
(13-9, 3.07)

While the Rangers' pitching is underrated, their hitting is quite overrated.  They may have ranked fifth in baseball in runs scored, but in runs scored on the road, they were 10th.  They slugged .391 on the road as a team, and many of their key players - such as Vlad Guerrero, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Elvis Andrus - struggled in the second half of the season.

The San Francisco offense has been completely overhauled since the start of the year.  While the Rangers upgraded their pitching simply by acquiring one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, the Giants got better on offense by replacing their terrible offensive players with decent ones.  Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, and Mike Fontenot aren't All-Stars, but they took playing time away from the likes of Nate Schierholtz, Aaron Rowand, and Eugenio Velez.  Most importantly, they shipped Bengie Molina to Texas in order to clear room for Buster Posey, who was as good as any other catcher in the National League offensively.  The result was 697 runs scored, just four off the NL average of 701.  As Richard said in his preseason preview, the Giants with a league average offense are a playoff team.

Unfortunately for San Francisco, this upgrade for the offense came at the cost of the defense.  Replacing Schierholtz and Rowand with Burrell and Ross is troubling for a team full of flyball pitchers.  While Fontenot is a competent second baseman, his inexperience at third base makes his defense there just as questionable as Pablo Sandoval's.  Posey has performed as well as Molina with the notable exception of his work with ace Tim Lincecum; The Freak had a 3.76 ERA in 15 games with Posey as his catcher and a 3.23 ERA partnered with Molina.  Make no mistake; this is still a great team at run prevention.  But those who talk about the 2010 Giants as one of the best pitching staffs of all time make this an overrated defense nonetheless.

Matchups

The big question of this series is whether Lincecum can do what no other pitcher has done: beat Cliff Lee in the postseason.  Eight times teams have tried to beat Cliff Lee in the postseason and eight times they have failed.  It's hard to imagine the Giants' serviceable offense succeeding where good offenses like the Rockies, Dodgers, Rays, and Yankees have failed.  Lincecum not only has the handicap of working with Posey, but in facing an American League team.  He has a career ERA of 3.99 against AL teams, including 4.24 this year.  He has also struggled in some of the NL's most extreme hitter's parks, including Colorado, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia, at all of which he has a career ERA higher than 3.50.  Pitching in Arlington to a lineup that includes a DH will prove very difficult for him.

Perhaps the hype should not bee Lee versus Lincecum, but rather, Lewis versus Cain.  Colby Lewis has a 1.45 ERA in three starts this postseason and was at least as deserving of the ALCS MVP Award as teammate Josh Hamilton was.  If Lewis doesn't shut down the Yankees in game two after the heartbreaking loss of game one, the Rangers do not win that series.  Cain has been even better than Lewis, allowing only one unearned run in two starts.  Cain's command has steadily improved over the years, and the just-turned-26-year-old should be the most feared Giants starting pitcher in the World Series.  It is a shame that Cain and Lewis aren't likely to face each other.

I say "most feared Giants starting pitcher" because there is a man in their bullpen with a big black beard who should be even more feared.  Brian Wilson has allowed just nine baserunners in nine innings this postseason, which has led to just one unearned run.  He also had a regular season ERA of 0.95 from August onwards.  The Rangers' closer can just about match him, however.  Neftali Feliz allowed just five baserunners from September onwards until he had one bad game against the Rays in the ALDS.  He appears to have forgotten about that outing, since he did not allow a hit against the Yankees in three ALCS innings.  Bottom line, whoever is leading after eight innings wins the game.  The Giants may have a slight edge only because Bruce Bochy appears more willing to use Wilson for multiple-inning saves than Ron Washington does with Feliz.

Another possible edge for the Giants is the DH factor, but it likely won't be as much of an edge as people believe.  Vladamir Guerrero had a .748 second half OPS, a .796 road OPS, and has a .615 OPS so far this postseason.  Losing him for the games in San Francisco won't cripple the Texas offense to say the least.  Pat Burrell, the most obvious Giants candidate at designated hitter, is a .209 career hitter as a DH, and Giants designated hitters managed just two hits in 22 at-bats this year for a .091 batting average.  You would expect the games in San Francisco to favor the Giants with the pitchers having to hit, but Giants pitchers batted just .122 this year, while Rangers pitchers hit .182.

X-Factors

So far, the two biggest postseason surprises have been Derek Holland and Cody Ross.  Holland's incredible minor league numbers (23-9, 2.47 ERA) make him more likely to continue his success in the postseason as a reliever than the 29-year-old Ross is to continue to perform like the best slugger in the postseason.  However, even if Ross regresses, his presence in the lineup should cause whoever hits ahead of him to see better pitches.  If Holland regresses, it could mean the Rangers surrendering a lead at a key moment.

Molina is 10-for-30 with two homers this postseason.  Swinging the bat with confidence, he will want to make the Giants regret trading him (although he could probably hit 10 homers in he series and Brian Sabean would still feel good about the trade).  Andres Torres is another X-factor.  Although Torres is slated to play after injuring his hip in game six of the NLCS, if the Giants' leadoff hitter and centerfielder is playing significantly less than 100%, it could be devastating to them on both sides of the ball.

Final Word

Since the new playoff format began in 1995, home teams are 11-4 in the World Series.  They are 3-0 when the series goes to a game seven and 6-1 if there is a sixth game.  That is pretty strong evidence that if the Rangers want to win their first World Championship in franchise history, they will need to do so before the series goes back to San Francisco, regardless of their remarkable 5-1 road record so far this postseason.

Fortunately for Texas, they get to use Cliff Lee twice in the first five games.  The way Colby Lewis is pitching, he has to be a huge favorite for game three in Arlington.  Look for San Francisco to take either game two or game four and keep the other games close, but also look for Giants fans to have another excuse to use the word "torture" to describe watching their team as they are so fond of doing.

Prediction: Rangers in Five



Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.

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