This series looks to be a series with some amazing pitching. The "Big Three" of each team is very impressive. The Giants will have Strikeout King Tim Lincecum (3.43 ERA, 9.8 K/9), Jonathan Sanchez (3.07 ERA, 9.5 K/9), and Matt Cain (3.14 ERA, 1.084 WHIP) going in their first three games. Clearly the Phillies have their work cut out for them, despite their amazing offense.
Luckily for the Phillies, to go with their amazing offense, they have a "Big Three" of their own with extremely impressive numbers. They will be sending likely Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay (2.44 ERA, 1.041 WHIP, 1.1 BB/9) to the mound, followed by WHIP-leading Roy Oswalt (2.76 ERA, 1.025 WHIP, 8.2 K/9), followed by Cole Hamels (3.06 ERA, 9.1 K/9).
Obviously in most statistical categories (aside from Strikeouts), the Phillies have an edge in pitching. However, it should be noted that the Phillies "Big Three" have not faired especially well against the Giants, which is kind of baffling giving the Giants' mediocre offensive attack. So far this season, in 45 innings against the Giants, the "Big Three" has put up a 4.80 ERA. This is a somewhat small sample size, but it is not a miniscule one. Psychologically, it may also give the Giants more of an edge than people think.
Obviously in sizing up the line-ups, the Phillies have the clear advantage. One through eight the Phillies have an above average offensive player given their position. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, and Jimmy Rollins (when healthy) are all well above average offensive players.
The Giants can not boast two former MVPs in their line-up like the Phillies can, but they are not completely punchless either, as Giants teams of the last few years have been. Buster Posey, who will be battling Jason Heyward for Rookie of the Year honors, proved himself to be an offensive weapon (.305/.357/.507 with 18 Homers in only 108 games), and Pat Burrel seems to have had a Renaissance in the National League since being let go by the Rays, bashing 18 home runs in 96 games for the Giants. Still, the Phillies have a very clear edge in the offensive department.
Like I did in my post about the ALDS, I will finish up by discussing some key questions for each team.
For the Giants:
Can Kung Fu Panda turn it on? - Pablo Sandoval was one of the biggest dissapointments of the year for the Giants, following his impressive 2009 with a .268batting average and only 13 home runs. He also did not do anything impressive against the Braves in the ALDS, collecting one single in 7 plate appearances. The fact that he was only used in two of the four games indicates how little faith the Giants have in him right now. However, if Pablo Sandoval can get it going, and start hitting like he did in 2009, if only for this post-season series, it would be a major upgrade for the Giants line-up.
Will Tim Lincecum pitch on short rest? - I realize this is kind of a cop out, because I used a similar question to discuss the ALCS too, but in this "Year of the Pitcher" with so many pitchers being utterly incredible this year, it is hard not to talk about. I have not heard whether or not the Giants plan on using Lincecum on short rest. At this point it seems that Madison Bumgarner is slated to pitch game four. Bumgarner is no slouch, and Lincecum's smaller frame, at least according to "baseball guys", doesn't seem like the best body type to stand up pitching on short rest throughout this series. It seems more likely that Bumgarner starts game 4, and that Lincecum pitches on normal rest throughout the rest of the postseason.
For the Phillies
Do the Giants have the "Big Three" figured out? - If the Phillies "Big Three" pitch against the Giants like they did in the regular season, they may very well find themselves on the losing end of this series. A 4.80 ERA allows for plenty of runs for the Giants rotation to get wins from. The big question here is whether or not the Giants just coincidentally encountered the "Big Three" at times of the season when they were a little off, or if the Giants have the Phillies' "Big Three"'s number.
Will Roy Halladay pitch on short rest? - Yeah, I did it again. I think this is a very big question, as dominant as Halladay has been this season, and as sturdy of a pitcher he seems to be. It should be noted that Halladay has pitched a staggering 259.2 innings this season (counting the post-season), and even he has to have a wall that he will encounter. While Halladay is largely considered capable of pitching on short rest by scouts, it will be interesting to see if the Phillies are weary to do so because of his massive workload this season. If Halladay does NOT pitch, it seems likely that Joe Blanton, who did not have an especially impressive season will take the ball. While the Phillies have a marginal advantage when looking at the first three pitchers for each team, when looking at all four pitchers (Bumgarner for the Giants, Blanton for the Phillies), things look a lot more equal.
That's it for now, enjoy ALCS game one tonight!