I’m going to be a little bold and call this one. Now that we’ve looked at each on-field aspect of both teams, we have the information we need to compare them. Home-field advantage is going to be huge, as each team is built to play in the league they compete in, so having to deal with the DH rule will hurt San Francisco when the series goes to Texas, while the Rangers will have some trouble without the DH at AT&T Park. The Giants don’t really have a clear DH candidate, and while Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval both provide potentially effective options, there are problems with every way the Giants could play this. It’s really a situation where they have to minimize the advantage Texas gets by having a more settled DH situation. Likewise, Ron Washington will face an interesting decision. On one hand, Vladimir Guerrero has been a great bat in the middle of the lineup, DHing and providing some serious pop behind Josh Hamilton. On the other hand, he’s a defensive liability. Washington has decided to split the difference by starting Vlad in one of the first two San Francisco games and David Murphy in the other. Many in the blogosphere believe they might be better off playing Murphy in both and keeping Vlad as a pinch-hitter and DH in the games in Texas.
On offense, I think the Rangers are clearly the better team. Josh Hamilton is one of the best hitters in baseball, and he’s surrounded by a lot of strong bats. The Giants’ ragtag group of misfits relies on timely hitting, and timely hitting is nice, but it’s not something you can count on consistently.
On defense, the Giants clearly are the better team. Andres Torres will be the best defensive player in this series, and despite having a few guys with somewhat limited range, they’ve been strong this year behind their pitchers. The Rangers won’t blow up defensively like the Braves did, but they are prone to making some defensive mistakes.
The pitching is an interesting issue. Lincecum and Lee are both world-class aces, but with apologies to the mop-haired hero I’d have to say that Lee’s been a better pitcher this season. That said, either has the potential to pitch their team to a win, and I’d be surprised if tonight’s game is anything other than a low-scoring affair. However, that’s what I said about Lincecum-Halladay pt. 2, and we all know how that turned out. I’d take Cain over Wilson, especially in San Francisco’s home park, which isn’t a great place for a guy like Wilson but is absolutely built for right-handed flyball pitchers like Cain. Colby Lewis has the advantage over Jonathan Sanchez in game 3, and I’m partial to Madison Bumgarner in his game 4 matchup against Tommy Hunter. The Giants have the better bullpen, with Brian Wilson leading the way and Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez both looking extremely strong this postseason. The Rangers’ bullpen is good, but they’re not on the same level as the Giants’ relievers. I’m going to say that overall, the Giants have the superior pitching.
In game 1, Tim Lincecum will oppose Cliff Lee at AT&T Park. My mouth is watering as I write. I had as much trouble as a person can possibly have with flights today, and after switching to what is by my count my 4th flight of the morning, I’m now on track to fly to Phoenix and connect to the City by the Bay in time to get to the ballpark by first pitch.* It’s my first ever playoff game, and it’s Timmy and Cliff Lee in the World Series. Can’t beat that. I think either way the Vlad situation will screw with the Rangers. If he’s in the field, it just seems like a relative certainty that a hard-hit ball will find him. If he’s not, missing his bat in the lineup will be an issue for the Rangers, and cut down on the offensive advantage they enjoy. I’m taking the Giants in this game, with Lincecum and Lee both going 7+. At least.
I’m also going to take the Giants in game 2. As I said before, AT&T Park fits Matt Cain like a glove. It fits CJ Wilson like an ugly Christmas sweater his grandma knitted for him when he was twelve. Guessing 7 or so runs are scored, with the Giants taking the majority of them to go to Texas up 2-0.
I’m gonna say Lewis gets the better of the Giants in the first game in Texas. Sanchez hasn’t developed the consistency under pressure for me to trust him to put up 6 or more quality innings against an offense as good at Texas’. Lewis won’t shut the Giants down, but he’ll be good enough to take the win.
I don’t like the Hunter decision. If I’m Ron Washington, I give the ball to Derek Holland without thinking twice. He’s simply been better than Hunter has this postseason, cleaning up Hunter’s mess in game 4 to get the W. Unlike the Who’s rock opera, this Tommy isn’t blind, deaf, and dumb, but he isn’t a shutdown starter either. Holland will once again come in for mop-up duty, but I’m gonna say Madison Bumgarner has another strong start and Holland’s relief work is not enough to keep the Giants from a win.
Game 5 will feature Lincecum-Lee, pt.2. Pitching in his home park, I think Lee gets the better of Big Time Timmy Jim in another close game, meaning the aces split their two starts with a win each.
That’d bring the series back to San Francisco for game 6, with Cain facing Wilson once again. Cain’s home-field advantage will prove too much, the Giants will get at least a couple runs off Wilson pretty early in the game, and the Giants celebrate their first World Series in San Francisco. Bias is once again readily apparent. But who says I can’t make picks with my heart? Either way, this should be a close series, and Texas is an extremely strong ballclub. However, pitching and defense will trump good hitting, allowing the Giants to take the series with Cain going 7+ in the final game.
* I’m writing this from the airport, but I can’t get an internet connection until I get home after the game. So when I get home after game 1 and post a completely wrong prediction for a game that’s already happened, you’ll know why.