Tim Lincecum, all-world two-time defending Cy Young winner, will pitch the first game of the series for the Giants. Lincecum put up a 3.21 FIP this season, striking out 231 in 212.1 to lead the National League, and was good for 5.1 WAR this season. Lincecum has allowed 6 runs (5 earned) in 23 innings of work in his three starts in his first foray into postseason action.
Matt Cain, the Giants “second ace,” will likely pitch game 2 for San Francisco. He was the third starter for the Giants in the NLCS, but Jonathan Sanchez pitched the Giants’ clincher on Saturday, so my guess would be that Cain goes in game 2. He’s allowed a 3.65 FIP this season and put up 4.0 WAR, striking out 177 in 223.1 innings of work. He’s also been fantastic in his first postseason, as he’s yet to allow an earned run in 13.2 innings on the mound in his two starts.
Jonathan Sanchez will be pitching either game 3 or game 4, but which one is not yet completely clear. He’s always been something of a crapshoot for the Orange and Black, coming up huge when he’s on, but looking lost on the mound on nights when his control isn’t quite there. Sanchez is certainly talented, as last season he threw the Giants’ first no-hitter since John Montefusco’s in 1976. However, he’s struggled with his at times this postseason, and could only get through 2 innings in game 6 before being pulled. Sanchez can be maddening for Giants fans, but when he’s on, he’s on. The big lefty won’t have as much of a platoon advantage as he did against the lefty-heavy Phillies (Josh Hamilton is the only lefty in the core of the Rangers’ lineup), but he still has the stuff to shut down Texas’ powerful offense. Sanchez put up a 4.00 FIP and 2.6 WAR this season, striking out 205 batters in 193.1 innings.
Giants’ rookie Madison Bumgarner is the last piece of this rotation, and he’ll pitch game 3 or 4 (whichever Sanchez doesn’t start). The big lefty has been extremely effective for the Giants since his midseason callup, putting up 2.0 WAR in only 111 innings and contributing a 3.66 FIP. He’s had one good and one mediocre start in the playoffs, going 6 innings and giving up two earned to clinch the NLDS against Atlanta, and then giving up 3 runs in 4.2 innings in the Giants’ game 4 comeback win. He also pitched two strong innings in relief in game 6 of the NLCS. Bumgarner may be the Giants’ third strongest starter, but it could be tough for Bochy to trust him in big situations, as he is only a rookie. He’s earned some trust with his strong campaign, however, and he’s at least as capable as Sanchez of holding the Rangers’ offense down.
The big name here is closer Brian Wilson. The wacky reliever has developed quite a legend along the way to his NL-leading 48 regular season saves and 5 in the playoffs. For me, Wilson simply brings to mind two lyrics:
“Your anger is a gift” –from Freedom, by Rage Against the Machine
“Anger can be power if you know that you can use it” –from Clampdown, by the Clash
Wilson’s deadly arsenal only partially consists of his actual stuff on the mound. Wilson has a strong fastball (8.6 runs above average this regular season) and cutter (4.9), and will mix in a slider once every so often (4.1% of pitches this season, lowest in his career). However, he also provides a dose of raw emotion on the mound, simply seeming to overcome hitters with sheer will and determination. Wilson’s a sight to behold, and probably more than slightly out of his mind (link NSFW), and while he takes pride in giving up a few baserunners and making the game interesting, the bottom line is that he gets his job done, doing so more times than any closer in the league this year.
Others to note are Javier Lopez, the Giants’ lefty specialist turned shutdown reliever in the playoffs, and Jeremy Affeldt, who pitched two strong innings in relief in game 6. Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo have been strong this season, but after shaky playoff outings the Giants will need them to turn it around and solidify the bullpen in the series.
As we’ve stated previously, the Giants’ team 56.4 UZR this year was second only to Arizona. Leading the way was Andres Torres’ 24.8 UZR between each of the three outfield positions. Nate Schierholtz gives the Giants some great defensive innings in right, with a 6.4 UZR in only 542 innings. Schierholtz has been used as a defensive replacement in 8 of the Giants’ 10 games this postseason, so expect to see a healthy dose of JuggerNate in close games. Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff have also provided good defense at first and second base, while only Cody Ross will play in a position where he’s had a negative UZR, and Cody’s only been a –0.4 and –0.6 in center and left in 77 innings at each position. This matchup will be extremely interesting, as the Giants are among the top teams in the league in pitching and defense, while the Rangers’ strength is undoubtedly their bats.
Elvis Andrus is really the igniter for this club. He will lead off for the Rangers, and he’s got some serious wheels, having swiped 30 bags in each of his first two seasons in the bigs. He’s not necessarily sabermetrically sound as a leadoff man, as his OBP of .342 is much lower than you’d like to see from the top spot in the order. However, he’ll still be dangerous on the basepaths, especially against the Giants ace, as Lincecum is pretty bad in his prevention of the running game. Probably the only thing he does poorly.
Josh Hamilton was the best player in baseball this year by WAR, and though he may not win the MVP, he’s as involved in the conversation as pretty much anybody. Hamilton has had the season predicted for him long ago, before his career was interrupted by drug and alcohol problems. He’s a fantastic comeback story and really a fun guy to watch. He looks like he’s having a great time playing the game, and, honestly, why wouldn’t you be when you hit like Hamilton? He hit for a wRC+ of 182, and led the league in SLG at .633. Hamilton was the ALCS MVP, and will hit third for the Rangers.
Nelson Cruz was second in WAR among Rangers hitters, with 5.1 this season. He put up a 156 wRC+ this season, and he can also swipe a bag, with 17 steals this year. Ron Washington will likely want to put Cruz in motion as much as possible with Lincecum on the mound, but with an arm like Posey’s behind the plate, he’ll have to be careful about the situations he runs in and the pitchers he tries to run against.
Ian Kinsler provides a decent bat at a premium position. The second baseman logged a .357 wOBA for a wRC+ of 122, which puts him behind only Robinson Cano among AL 2Bs. Like many others in Texas’ lineup, he provides a dual threat by producing with the bat and also wreaking havoc on the basepaths, having stolen 15 bases in 103 games this season after 31 last year.
Check back tomorrow, when we'll be taking a look at the other side of the series, with the Giants at the plate and the Rangers in the field and on the mound.