Both the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals have essentially named their rotations for the National League Championship Series. In the potential seven game set, both teams will stick with the rotations that got them into the next round of October baseball. Despite his elbow bothering him, Wainwright will indeed take to the rubber, to square off with Bumgarner in game one.
Game five: Adam Wainwright versus Madison Bumgarner
Game six: Lance Lynn versus Jake Peavy
Game seven: Shelby Miller versus Ryan Vogelsong
Have a look at this table of how each Cardinals fared in the Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. What comes as a huge surprise is the fact Wainwright got hit, hard and often. Assuming that start was merely an anomaly, their rotation looks very good. Having said that, if the Giants can defeat the Nationals and their stellar rotation, they can beat anyone.
[table id=88 /]
On the whole, they are a brilliant rotation yet evenly matched with the Giants’ aces. The Giants can do nothing more than hope and pray for two things: Their own rotation continues their postseason dominance and that Wainwright, and his elbow, and Miller struggle once more. While these Cardinals are the team who knocked out those Dodgers last round, we must offer our thanks, and move on: Time to hate the Cardinals.
So, what can we look for in these starters for the Cardinals — especially the staff ace, Wainwright?
From Wainwright, you’ll see the standard pitch combination: A fastball: It averages around 90 miles per hour, he has impeccable control over it, and will throw it 12% of the time, which is a little low for the typical starter. A cutter: He added a cutter two years ago and it is now his go to pitch, with it being very effective. Using it 31% of the time, it will have clear movement, and will normally be round the 86 miles per hour mark. With runners on base, look for his sinker: With incredible sink, causing hitters to roll over the top of the ball, this is his go to pitch when he needs to the double play. It will be used 26% of the time, on a normal start. He has a nasty 12-6 curveball, and will throw two or three changeups every start.
His season, on the whole, has been interesting. While his ERA is at a career low – when he has pitched at least 150 innings – 2.38, his walks per nine are up, his strikeouts per nine are down, and his FIP and xFIP are both up. The prime reason probably being his BABIP is over 40 points lower than last season. This can often be down to some good luck — only in conjunction with other statistics, however — and the hence the Giants will have to try and find holes in the Cardinals defense.
Lance Lynn, who will take the ball in game two, had a season similar to Adam’s. While his ERA, of 2.74 was a career low, his strikeouts per nine are down, and his xFIP and FIP are up. Regardless he is an ace, too. His ERA- of 76 says it all, really. He is a fastball pitcher; his four seam is his bread and butter, with the occasional cutter. He has hard slider, a curveball and a changeup – but none of these pitches are overly dominating.
John Lackey is a an average pitcher, to be harsh. His ERA of 3.82 and his FIP of 3.82 demonstrate this. He strikes out over seven batters per nine, but walks, on average, just over two every start. His home-run per fly ball percentage of 11% is high, and should be taken advantage of. He throws lots of fastballs and cutters/sliders. His fastball will average 91 miles per hour, which is impressive. Having said that, fangraphs calculate his fastball to have been worth negative runs this season.
Last but not least, Miller will take to the mound in the last guaranteed game, however it is likely the game one-three starters will get another go at conquering October. Miller entered this season with lofty, to say the least, expectations. Sadly, his ERA has gone up close to eighty points to 3.74, and at the season’s end, his FIP was 4.54, and his xFIP was 4.47. The Giants will need to attack Miller, and hit him hard and often. He is the true vulnerability of the rotation.
All in all, whilst being a very strong rotation, it is most certainly a beatable rotation for the underdogs, the Giants. The Giants, who have pitched brilliantly thus far, will have to continue to do so in the Championship Series if they have any serious aspirations of reaching the World Series. Oh, and some offensive production and runs would be nice, too. Is that really too much to ask?