10-25-10: 2010 MLB Post-Season Mayhem, Part the 3rd

Hello again everybody...

Welcome back to another week. Hope your weekend was as good as mine.

Did I do anything particularly memorable? Not really. But it was relaxing and pretty low-key, and I can't get enough of that.

Oh, and my favorite college football team beat a highly-ranked opponent for the second week in a row, this time on the road!

Be honest, you didn't think you were getting through this column without a Badger Football mention did you?!

I'll save the detailed breakdown for Wednesday or Friday, but suffice to say, the Badgers are now tenth in the latest BCS rankings. I don't think their schedule will allow them to climb up into the top two, even if they win out, but a BCS bowl is now a definite possibility.

Two weeks ago, I'd never have been able to imagine it. Oh, how I love college football!

But as I indicated, college football talk is for later in the week. Today is about baseball.

The World Series participants have been set, and if I had made picks before the LCS's, I'd have been 100% wrong. That's why it's fun to watch, right?

So let's get to the previewing...

Right after the quote.

“The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.”
- Thomas Carlyle (1795 - 1881), Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher

Personally, I prefer to be unconscious as a general rule (I likes me some sleep).

MLB Post-Season Mayhem, Part the 3rd

Prior to the LDS's and the LCS's I broke down what teams needed to do to win their respective series, and now that we have our two World Series representatives, it's only reasonable to do one last set of previewing.

I've been asked several times since the Giants clinched the NL pennant who I thought would win the World Series, and the honest truth is I have no idea.

Put a gun to my head and I'll point to “home field” and “good pitching beats good hitting” and say San Francisco, but the truth is, I won't be the least bit surprised if Texas gets one more Ginger Ale bath (copyright Josh Hamilton) as well.

So instead of making a prediction, I'm going to stick to breaking down what both clubs need to do to win a World Championship.

World Series: San Francisco Giants vs. Texas Rangers - The two teams did not meet during the regular season.

What the Giants need to do to win:

To put it simply, the Giants pitching needs to be dominant.

San Francisco has found ways to score runs - more than I'd thought they'd be capable of - but there's no question where their bread is buttered: pitching.

As was the case in their NLDS win, San Francisco won each of their four victories in the NLCS by one run. The Giants aren't going to bludgeon the Rangers to death offensively. That means that the pitching staff that's compiled a post-season 7-3 record, a 2.47 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and a 4.13 K/BB ratio has to continue its dominance.

That starts with Tim Lincecum who'll go for San Francisco in Game 1. He's been nothing short of outstanding so far. In his three starts, he's got a 1.96 ERA, a 0.74 WHIP and 5.80 K/BB ratio. His command has been brilliant and he's mixed up his pitches effectively.

But at most, Lincecum will be available for three games in the series (1, 4 and 7 if they push it). That means that Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez have to be great as well.

Cain has yet to surrender a run in the post-season. Along with a 1.02 WHIP and 2.20 K/BB ratio, his numbers can't be argued with. The only potential issue with Cain has been his ability to work deep in games. He's averaged just over 6 IP in his two starts. That's good, but not great. If he can work deeper into games it'll take pressure off the San Francisco bullpen.

Sanchez has the worst numbers of the three - 2.93 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.17 K/BB - but they're far from awful. Like Cain, however, he's been unable to work deep into games, averaging just over 5 IP per start.

That, of course, brings us to the Giants bullpen. Closer Brian Wilson has been spectacular. He's got five saves in his seven appearances and a 0.00 ERA/0.89 WHIP/3.00 K/BB line is about as good as it gets.

As a whole the Frisco 'pen has a 3.18 ERA/1.13 WHIP/3.50 K/BB line. So if the starters can get into the late innings with a lead, it's going to be awfully hard for Texas to mount a comeback.

Offensively, the Giants' team line of .231/.296/.330 is hardly going to strike fear into Texas' pitching staff.

Cody Ross has been a godsend for San Fran. His line of .324/.395/.794 has clearly carried his club. He's also tied for second in the post-season with 8 RBI. In fact, that number doubles the next best batter on his own club (Pat Burrell - 4). His 1.189 OPS is over 400 points better than the next two batters on his club (Burrell .737, Buster Posey .723).

Did I mention that Ross was waived by the Marlins earlier this year? Talk about your all-time career resurrections!

Can he keep those numbers up? If San Francisco's going to hoist the hardware, he'll likely have to. Either that, or some other guys are going to have to step up in a big way to help him out.

If the Giants can keep finding enough offense, and their pitching remains dominant, they can win the World Series.

What the Rangers need to do to win:

As good as San Francisco has been in terms of pitching, Texas has been in terms of offense.

They lead the majors in every post-season batting category imaginable: .281 BA, .337 OBP, .478 SLG, .815 OPS, 59 runs, 107 hits, 22 doubles, 17 home runs, 182 total bases, 55 RBI. Every single one of them is the best in the post-season.

They've yet to face a pitching staff like San Francisco's, however. They'll need to find a way to get to the Giants starters early and often, use up San Francisco's bullpen early and force them into match-ups favorable to the Rangers.

Nelson Cruz has been huge for Texas so far. He leads baseball in post-season home runs (5), slugging percentage (.875) and OPS (1.294). Presumptive AL MVP Josh Hamilton hasn't hit that often (.231 BA), but when he has, he's made them count - 4 home runs, 8 RBI, .975 OPS. Ian Kinsler's been fantastic offensively as well. He leads baseball in RBI (9) and is in the top 10 in OPS (1.067).

In fact, the only batter that's been a disappointment for Texas so far has been their DH, Vlad Guerrero (.616 OPS).

Texas will need that kind of solid, balanced production from it's line-up if it's going to handle the Giants pitching.

As a team, the Rangers have amassed more-than-respectable pitching numbers - 2.76 ERA/1.14 WHIP/2.89 K/BB. Those numbers aren't as good as San Francisco's, but then again, nobody's are.

Texas' pitching doesn't have to be better than the Giants', it just has be be good enough.

For the Rangers, everything begins with staff ace, Cliff Lee. As great as Tim Lincecum's been for the Giants, Lee has been better for the Rangers.

In his three starts, Lee's put together a line of 0.75 ERA/0.58 WHIP/34.00 K/BB. In each statistic, he's been better than Lincecum (and that K/BB number is just downright filthy). He's also worked late into games, averaging eight innings per start.

The only edge I can give Lincecum is that I *know* he'll go three times if necessary (1, 4 & 7). I can't say that about Lee. Lee had the opportunity to go on short rest against the Rays, and passed. For a starter to make three starts in a seven game series, short rest is a given. Will Lee step up if needed? I honestly don't know.

After Lee, Texas leans on Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson. Lewis has been good, Wilson has struggled a bit.

Lewis' line over three starts: 1.45 ERA/1.18 WHIP/1.64 K/BB.

Wilson's line over three starts: 3.93 ERA/1.20 WHIP/1.63 K/BB.

Both have averaged just over six IP per start

Those numbers are okay, and if Texas' offense continues to knock the cover off the ball, they'll be good enough to win. But if the offense slows down - as they very well might against the Giants' pitching - then Lewis and Wilson will have to be better to keep the Rangers in the series.

That brings us to the Rangers' bullpen. Their line of 3.64 ERA/1.45 WHIP/1.76 K/BB doesn't knock you over, but it's hardly alarming either.

Texas closer Neftali Feliz has been great, and the nerves you might expect from a rookie closer in his first playoff run have not been at all evident. He's yet to record a save, but that's because he hasn't been given the opportunity. Every single game Texas has won in this post-season has been by four runs or more, so while Feliz has gotten work in, it hasn't been while trying to nail down a close game.

Will that come into play in the World Series? As good as San Francisco has been on the mound, you'd certainly think so.

If Texas can keep the offense rolling, and their pitching doesn't regress, they can win the World Series.

So there you have them. My case for both clubs to win the world series. I know this won't be the ratings-bonanza that Philly/New York would've been, but it has the potential to be a memorable Fall Classic.

San Francisco vs. Texas. Great pitching vs. great hitting. The unmovable object vs. the irresistible force.

Game 1 is Wednesday night on Fox. Check your local listings and enjoy the wonder of the World Series!

That's going to wrap things up for today. The plan is to have the standard college football column up on Wednesday. But as you all know, plans are subject to change!

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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