The postseason isn’t like the regular season. Over the course of the 162 game marathon, the best players on their respective teams always get their stats even if they struggle at some point during the season. Pitchers’ earned run averages generally even out over 30+ starts. Yes, Tim Lincecum is a bad example, indeed.
The postseason is a bit different. No longer do players have time to adjust and breakout of funks, as for most teams, at least in the NLDS, only get five games to perform barring a series win.
Simply put, the regular season stars could fade while a certain bench player or pitcher could arise and lift his respective team into the postseason. Ironically, the San Francisco Giants are very familiar with those procedures.
Former Giant Cody Ross, is a perfect example of a non-star emerging down the stretch and carrying it into the postseason. More simply, an X-Factor.
It began with the Giants picking Ross up off the waiver wire. Originally, they picked him up for nothing but to block him from going to the first place San Diego Padres. But little did they know that he would turn out to be their postseason MVP by a wide margin. From September 10th to October 3rd (20 games), he hit over .340, and carried his success into the postseason.
Ross hit a key home run in the 2010 NLDS, three home runs in the NLCS, with two of those coming off Roy Halladay in game one, and one home run in the World Series. There isn’t a more exact example of an X-Factor then what Ross was in the Giants’ memorable 2010 World Series run.
Who will emerge this year?
As confirmed by the manager Bruce Bochy, Blanco will start game one against the right-hander Johnny Cueto, in spite of Xavier Nady’s solid numbers against Cueto.
Receiving a start right off the bat could benefit Blanco greatly. For starters, he will get a chance to contribute with his speed and knack to put the bat on the ball before Nady gets a chance to bury him on the bench with his offensive contributions. That would surely permit Blanco from making his mark as an X-Factor.
More significantly, Blanco is by far the Giants best defensive outfielder, and especially better then the slow-footed Nady, the other option for the left field job.
During the regular season, defense is certainly important, don’t get me wrong. However, there’s more room for error. In the playoffs, not so much. Defense in the postseason could decide a series. That’s why Blanco is considered an X-Factor.
In retrospect, when the Giants head back to Cincinnati for games three through five with the last two being if necessary, defense won’t be quite as important. Great American Park’s simpler and smaller surroundings figure to be a much more comfortable environment for outfielders compared AT&T Park’s complicated outfield configuration. This should give the skipper a chance to start Nady without much concern defensively.
However, San Francisco gets a crack to deliver a bold statement if they win the first two games in their home park. It’s
Nady is clearly the better hitter when compared to Blanco. Plus, Matt Cain is a fly ball pitcher, meaning that Giants‘ outfielders should get a considerable amount of action in game one Saturday night. That makes Blanco a better choice for defensive purposes. With Madison Bumgarner on the mound Sunday, Nady should be a better option, as Bumgarner is more of a fly ball pitcher
Remember, sometimes defense can contribute more to a team than hitting. This just might be the case for Blanco.
Lopez was one of the many unsung heroes during San Francisco’s 2010 World Series run, mainly against left-handers. In the NLCS against the Phillies, he yielded lefties’ Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to just one hit in nine at-bats. Then, in the World Series he pitched a total of just 0.2 innings, but induced a fly ball to Rangers’ slugger Josh Hamilton for one of those outs.
Conceivably, Lopez’s efforts were overshadowed, but a similar performance could be on the horizon for him in this year’s NLDS.
Particular Reds who could fall victims to his stubbornness on lefties are obviously Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, the main producers in Cincinnati’s potent lineup, and the only two left-handed hitters out of the projected starters.
What shouldn’t be forgotten, however, is the fact that Votto hits southpaws very well, represented by his .288 batting average. The same can’t quite be said for Bruce, who has a .225 batting average against lefties. But the point is, if those two are held in check, then the Giants stand a far better chance at winning like they did in 2010 when Chase Utley and Ryan Howard were shutdown by Lopez.
While many will argue that Lopez can’t make a substantial difference given that he’s not a starter, again, revisit what he accomplished in the 2010 postseason. I would say he made a difference.
As anticipated, the most hyped X-Factor amongst the group, Lincecum literally holds the keys to the Giants’ to beating the Reds. As it currently stands, he’s scheduled to face Mat Latos in game three in Cincinnati. Latos comes into the game on fire, having only allowed two runs over his past 20 innings (three starts). Lincecum, however, has given up 11 home runs in his past 12 innings to end his disappointing 2012 campaign on a bad note.
For Lincecum to fulfill his X-Factor role, he will have to limit the long ball. It’s really that simple.
Great American Park isn’t like AT&T Park. It favors the hitter rather then the pitcher. Per ESPN Park Factors, GAP allows the second most home runs per game in baseball, trailing just Miller Park for the lead. Lincecum, who has allowed 16 of his 23 home runs on the road, this doesn’t seem to be a good match up. And it isn’t, considering that the Reds hit the third most home runs in the National League during the regular season.
Whether or not past results factor into the final score, Lincecum doesn’t have a lot working for him in terns of past results. He has 7.41 career ERA against the Reds in one start, and the road has been disaster for him this year.
Therefore, he’s definitely an X-Factor.