David Fucillo of SB Nation Bay Area, answered a few Giants questions for us on the eve of Game One.
SB Nation DFW: The Rangers want to be active on the basepaths, not only with aggressive baserunning but with Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and a few others looking to mix in some stolen bases. How well should Rangers fans expect Buster Posey and Giants pitchers to control that part of the Texas offense?
David Fucillo: This is sort of a two sides of the coin type of deal. Prior to the postseason, Buster Posey appeared in 76 regular season games as a catcher. This was due in part to his late May call-up and the Giants decision to wait on trading regular catcher Bengie Molina. Over those 76 games Posey threw out 37% of base stealers. The MLB leader among qualified players was Yadier Molina with a 48% caught stealing percentage. Among players with at least 50 games behind the plate (a completely arbitrary number), Posey was seventh in CS%.
On the other side you've got the Giants pitchers. In 2010, the Giants actually have three of their starters (Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez) in the top 11 for most stolen bases allowed. Fourth starter Madison Bumgarner is 56th in the league, but he also was a midseason call-up, which might help explain his lower totals.
Lincecum is the worst because he has a very involved wind-up. However, with all their starters, aggressive base-running could certainly lead to struggles for the Giants pitching staff.
SBN: We all know what Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain can do. Jonathan Sanchez had a breakout year, similar to C.J. Wilson's, with a few too many walks but lots of strikeouts and poor results when contact was made. Sanchez and phenom Madison Bumgarner dominated the Braves and were solid but not spectacular against the Phillies. What do you expect from these two against a potent Rangers lineup, particularly in games three and four when they will be facing a DH in an offensive park?
Fucillo: Prior to imploding in Game Six of the NLCS, Jonathan Sanchez was on a run of nine straight starts of 5+ innings and two or fewer earned runs. Sanchez only gave up two earned runs to the Phillies, but his wildness was evident and his temper tantrum after hitting Chase Utley was all the excuse manager Bruce Bochy needed to send him to the bench. Maybe Sanchez was due for a poor start, but I have to say I was pretty surprised he struggled so much. Prior to that I would have said he was pitching as well as anybody in the Giants rotation, but Game 6 certainly changed that. Sanchez needs to get his act together if he wants to make a positive impact on this World Series. If he's on his game he can contain these Rangers, but if not it could be a long Game 3.
Madison Bumgarner is a rookie who made his major league debut on June 26, fittingly enough in inter-league play against the Boston Red Sox. Prior to the postseason, Bumgarner basically had two starts where he didn't go at least five innings. When he went five or more innings in the regular season he gave up more than three earned runs only once. In looking at his postseason thus far, his biggest appearance might have been his two innings in relief in Game Six. He got into trouble in both innings but battled out of both, which has to be a big step for the young Bumgarner. Given his rookie status, it's hard to really make any predictions, particularly when dealing with a DH game. The Giants would probably be content with five to six innings of 3-run ball. They'd prefer better, but they could live with that.
SBN: There have been questions asked about this San Francisco offense, but stretching back to late in the regular season the Giants have seemingly gotten key hits virtually every time they've needed them. Who do you expect to see those hits coming from in this series?
Fucillo: It's really amazing how the Giants have managed key hits throughout the postseason, and indeed dating back to the regular season. This offense obviously has some talented players, but nothing that scares the opposition like Hamilton or Guerrero (who still scares me as an opposing hitter). Cody Ross was pretty huge in the NLDS and NLCS, but he was fairly quiet in the latter games of the NLCS. The Giants would love some more big hits, but considering Ross' history, they have to recognize they're playing with house money when it comes to Ross at this point.
If Cody Ross doesn't continue his heroics (you'll hear at least one annoying "Babe" Ross reference from McCarver and/or Buck), the Giants do have some solid hitters. The key has been when the Giants are able to string a few together. They're not going to bomb a team with home runs. Aside from Ross' four HRs, the Giants have only had two home runs in the postseason.
They really need Buster Posey to step up. He had a very strong NLDS but was fairly quiet in the NLCS. He was 4 of 5 with two RBIs in Game 4, but had one hit the rest of the LCS. They need consistent production from him in the cleanup spot. Just as important will be getting production from the table-setters at the top of the lineup. Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez were abysmal in the first couple NLCS games before really blowing up in the final two games. Torres and Sanchez were a combined 10 of 16 in Games 5 and 6 and will need to continue that hot streak in the World Series.
If I had to give you an "under the radar" guy to keep an eye on for some key hits, it would be Pat Burrell. Burrell is generally a feast or famine hitter, but he's one of the few guys on this roster with postseason experience. Burrell, Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria are the only guys in the starting nine that have made postseason appearances. Of those three Burrell and Uribe are the two who could come up with big hits for the Giants over the next week.
SBN: One of the key questions on Rangers fans' minds is whether Josh Hamilton will have an opportunity to impact the series, or if Bruce Bochy will walk him consistently as Joe Girardi did late in the ALCS. Will Hamilton get the Barry Bonds treatment? And a follow-up, the Yankees began that series thinking that Boone Logan would match up well against Hamilton. He did not. Do you expect Javier Lopez to be used in one-batter situations against Hamilton, and if so do you expect him to be successful?
Fucillo: During the NLCS, the Giants walked Ryan Howard three times, one of which was intentional. The intentional walk was with two out and men on second and third so some strategy there. I don't have the tape in front of me, but I don't believe they issued the proverbial intentional unintentional walk in the other two situations.
I'd imagine there were two reasons the Giants didn't walk Howard all that much. The first is the confidence Bochy had in his pitching to deal with Howard (and to a lesser extent, Utley the other lefty with pop). The second reason was that in spite of the Phillies offensive woes in the NLCS, that was still a dangerous lineup. Jayson Werth had a pretty solid NLCS hitting in the spot behind Howard and by the end of the series I was more concerned with Werth than with Howard.
Simply put, I think that barring strategic situations (men on second and third, looking to create the force out) the Giants will likely pitch to Josh Hamilton. Of course, if he blows up in games one they might change that philosophy as one would expect.
As for the Javier Lopez situation, I can say with certainty that assuming the Giants are either leading big or in a close situation, Javier Lopez will be guy the who will face Josh Hamilton in the late innings. I've been pimping out Javier Lopez's performances throughout the NLCS as much as I can. During the NLCS, Lopez was brought in to face Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in five of the six games and the two of them were 1 of 12 against Lopez.
During the regular season I caught the Giants-Reds series late in the season, and in two confrontations with Joey Votto, he made the slugger look like it was the first time he'd picked up a bat. He struck him out on the ugliest check swing I've ever seen, and two games later forced a grounder on another ugly swing. Obviously Lopez isn't un-hittable, but I'm actually excited to see how he does against Hamilton.
One thing to also keep an eye on is when, or even if, the Rangers bring in David Murphy. It sounds like Guerrero will start in the OF in San Francisco, and I'd assume the Giants would go with Guerrero, Hamilton and Cruz in the outfield. If Murphy were to get in the lineup, his location in the order could lead to multiple batters for Lopez. When the Phillies went Utley (left), Polanco (right), and Howard (left) in the 2-3-4 spots, the Giants were confidence letting Lopez face Polanco. Obviously Nelson Cruz and Vladimir Guerrero are tougher righties than Polanco, but if the Rangers were to go with Hamilton in the 3 spot and Murphy at 5, Lopez would likely be allowed to stay in to get to him.