Phillies-Giants NLCS Preview: Q & A with Chris Quick

Four wins separate the Phillies from their third consecutive World Series appearance. The confidence of Phillies fans is at a year-long high. Roy Halladay will start Game One fresh off of holding the National League’s best offense to zero hits, and hasn’t allowed a run since the seventh inning on September 21. Cole Hamels threw a complete game shut-out of his own to wrap up a series sweep of the Reds in Game Three. The bullpen is well-rested, and the walking wounded position players have had about a week to rest. Things couldn’t have come together any better for the Phillies.

The Giants, however, are no pushovers. They may not have the same caliber offense as the Phillies, but their pitching is not to be trifled with. To get an idea exactly what to expect from the Giants, I swapped questions with Chris Quick of ESPN SweetSpot blog Bay City Ball. His answers to my questions (in bold) are found below; my answers to his questions can be found over at his blog.

. . .

1. The Phillies are well-known for their fearsome trio of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, plus Joe Blanton. The Giants have some great starters of their own in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez, plus Madison Bumgarner. How do the two staffs compare in your estimation?

I think both staffs are really close in terms of talent. Halladay and Lincecum are both top flight starters in the NL. It’s hard to beat either when it comes down to it. I would probably give a very slight nod to Oswalt over Cain. Sanchez has matured a lot this year and his K-rate for a LHP is rare. Cole Hamels, however, is the better pitcher. The Giants win in the 4th spot. Blanton is incredibly consistent each year, but Madison Bumgarner has more upside and he’s equaled Blanton in WAR — 1.9 to 2 wins — in about 50 fewer innings pitched.

Overall, two very talented staffs with some great arms. I think it’s going to be a coin-flip most likely.

2. Matt Cain has made a habit of out-performing his ERA retrodictors like xFIP and SIERA. Why do you think this is?

It’s really hard to say. I think part of it is the home park (LHB have a hard time hitting home runs to their pull-field) that Cain pitches in. Sportswriters like to say that Cain has ‘figured it out’ but he’s really been the same guy that he’s always been. His control has gotten better each year over the past three years. And, for things like xFIP, for whatever reason, he rarely gives up home runs even though he’s an extreme flyball pitcher.

3. The Phillies scored, on average, about a half-run more per game than the Giants. Are Giants fans apprehensive about the offense going into this best-of-seven series against the Phillies?

I think so, even if they wouldn’t like to admit it. In the NLDS against the Braves, the Giants never really hit the ball that well and every game was decided by one run. The Giants’ pitching has been fantastic this year, but pitching against an offensive team like the Phillies has got to be stressful for the pitchers. Too many mistakes and it’s going to be hard to make up the difference. It’s a fine line to walk. But, I think if anyone can contain the Phillies — it’s the Giants’ pitching staff.

4. The Giants finished last in the National League in stolen bases. Will they be able to manufacture runs in other ways?

Do double-plays count as manufacturing runs? The Giants don’t do a lot of the ‘little things’ and I doubt they’ll start in the playoffs. The team’s penchant for hitting into double-plays might mean that Bochy starts runners more often, but that’s about it.

5. Pat Burrell is making another homecoming to Philadelphia. We loved him when he was here and he’ll get a great reception when he steps to the plate for the first time in Game One. How have Giants fans warmed up to Pat the Bat?

Yes. Burrell has been one of the more pleasant surprises of this year. He looked terrible in Tampa Bay but since returning to the NL with the Giants, he’s been one of our best hitters. His defense is still bad — as Phillies’ fans know — but his approach to hitting is extremely refreshing on a ‘hack first, ask questions later’ team.

6. The Giants were rated by UZR as the second-best defensive team in Major League Baseball. Of players with at least 300 defensive innings at one position, none had a negative grade. Do you agree with UZR? Have the Giants emphasized defense as an organizational priority?

The Giants’ UZR rating is one of the weirder things that I’ve seen, statistically, this year. The defense is a weird mix. For whatever reason, it just works. I don’t know how, it just does. Andres Torres plays the best CF in the NL but often he’s flanked by guys like Pat Burrell or (thankfully not for the NLCS) Jose Guillen. The infield is also a mixed bag. Pablo Sandoval is average-ish but his defense has been spotty this year. Juan Uribe has filled in nicely at SS, but his days a full-time starter at SS are done. The right side of Sanchez-Huff has been solid and Posey has been very good behind the plate.

Huff, in particualr, has played really good defense for a guy that has been DH’ing for a good portion of the past three years. I was skeptical of his defense before the year, but he arrived at camp noticeably in better shape and he’s made every play that’s been asked of him. The Giants seem to emphasize defense but they aren’t chained to that idea. With the inconsistent offense this year, the team has often traded defense for offense.

7. Game One will see a match-up of the two-time defending NL Cy Young award winner and the likely 2010 winner. Would you take the over or under on: 1.5 combined runs scored; 17.5 combined strikeouts; 5.5 combined hits?

I’ll say: Over/Under/Over.

. . .

Thanks to Chris for providing some Giants-related insight. Make sure to keep up with the enemy over at Bay City Ball and on Twitter (@BayCityBall).

If you’re not following me on Twitter and want to hear my oftentimes snarky, sometimes serious thoughts, follow @CrashburnAlley.

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  1. Sundar

    October 15, 2010 05:29 AM

    The tenor of this Giants blogger compared to the Reds blogger you had is like night and day.

  2. Matty B.

    October 15, 2010 11:31 AM

    Not bad, but Oswalt with only a slight nod over Cain? Uh, no.

  3. Mike

    October 15, 2010 11:54 AM

    yeah I would give Cain the edge on Oswalt

  4. Dave

    October 15, 2010 11:56 AM

    Completely off-topic:

    I stumbled upon the ’93 Giants on baseball-reference.

    Did they win the most games for a team who failed to make the playoffs? That team was loaded. I also seem to remember a Phillies pitcher breaking Matt Williams’ hand with a pitch a few years later when Williams was having a MVP-caliber season. Or was it his foot?

    Can someone help me out here? Did I make that up? Help me for my own sanity.

    Sorry for the OT, Bill.

  5. Matty B.

    October 15, 2010 12:07 PM

    @Mike – Cain is a good pitcher who looks like an elite pitcher in AT&T Park. Roy Oswalt is actually an elite pitcher.


    October 15, 2010 12:11 PM

    I don’t know about the broken bone, but I do know Williams was having an MVP season, and possibly a single season HR record season (pre Mac of course), before the ’94 strike.

    That ’93 team is the team with the most wins ever to not qualify for postseason, I think. I think that includes all teams pre-divisional play. They were knocked out in the final game of the season. Wild Card play came shortly after…

  7. erutio

    October 15, 2010 12:16 PM

    wow that ’93 Giants team WAS stacked…

    Although, by ’93, he was a bit past his prime, they even had Michael Jackson and his impressive resume of billboard #1 singles coming outta the pen.


    October 15, 2010 12:20 PM

    I think Oswalt and Cain are closer than you think. Cain seems to have an ability to beat his FIP, each season. That .227 BABIP for Roy once he arrived in PHI sure aided in his second half assault. And Cain’s home/away splits aren’t drastic at all. In fact, there along the lines of what we know to be true, players tend to just BE better at home. But sure, the park helps.

    Going forward, he’s certainly the better bet given his age.

  9. GiantfaninLA

    October 15, 2010 03:02 PM

    ’93 team was tremendous. Braves won by a game in the last year w/out Wild Card. They got McGriff mid year in Padre bi-annual salary dump, which did the deed. Also, Braves finished home with three against 1st year Rockies and swept the season series. Giants finished with 3 in LA, won the first two and were clobbered with rookie Salomon Torres on the mound on the last day. That was the difference. A skinny Bonds had 2 3-run shots and triple in game 1. Oswalt is outstanding, though the Giants beat him 3 times this year. But don’t underestimate Cain. He is an absolute horse, 3.14 with 1.08 WHIP wasn’t done at home alone and was 2.89 1.18 last year. Just turned 26 2 weeks ago, younger than Lincecum. He knows how to pitch with no support, as he’s had the worst throughout his 5 full years. Hitters will tell you his FB is “heavy”. That’s why the fly balls don’t go out. Good luck Philly fans, should be a great series.

  10. SFG

    October 15, 2010 04:28 PM

    Matt Williams broke his foot by fouling off a pitch in 1995, the year after he was on pace to break Maris’ record when the strike it. I believe he was in the lead in the triple crown categories when he broke it (he was batting like .380 at the time). The strike and the broken foot robbed him of two possibly-historic years that would have made him the best 3rd baseman of the decade (he still may be).

  11. c1ue

    October 15, 2010 04:54 PM

    Cain had a no hitter going into the 8th at Colorado – with a Colorado team fighting for the post season.

    Clearly he doesn’t just need a large park to be successful in.

    The other point to consider is Citizens Bank Park. Yes, the Giants aren’t as good at putting up runs as Philly based on their season long run scored.

    But the Giants were 11th in the majors in home runs – only 2 places behind Philly.

    BA, OBP, Slugging, all within about 10 points.

    The launching pad ballpark actually favors the weaker offensive team – doubly so with the Giants having the stronger strikeout pitching.

    As I Giants fan, I suspect the scoring will be far higher than anyone anticipates, and not in the way anticipated.

  12. Bill Baer

    October 15, 2010 05:09 PM

    The Phillies’ offensive numbers are depressed due to having Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, etc. all miss time on the disabled list. Wilson Valdez got 350 more at-bats than he was ever expected to have.


    October 16, 2010 03:39 AM

    And the Giants’ are too, as their current and improved lineup looks nothing like Opening Day. Burrell, Posey and Torres (leading off) make a world of difference.

  14. Julian

    October 16, 2010 09:38 AM

    The reason Cain beats his xFIP every year despite being an extreme fly ball pitcher is simple, and its something people have know for a long time – there is a big difference between a lazy can of corn fly ball and a home run. Sabermetrics have proved that on-average most pitchers don’t have much influence on whether or not the average fly ball leaves the yard, but you can’t take to an extreme. BABIP and flyball/groundball ratios are useful, but they’re limited. Look for them to be updated over the next few years.

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