I’m in between a few things this morning, but here’s a few quick thoughts before the Giants and Phillies kick off NLCS Game Three today at 4:00 PM EST (What a weird starting time?) in San Francisco.
1. Will Andres Torres be able to catch up to the heat? – Torres’ bat looked noticeably sluggish against the Phillies in the first two games of the NLCS. He looked really bad against Roy Oswalt — who fed Torres nothing but high heat. Oswalt’s pitch selection to Torres in NLCS #2 was: 13 fastballs (PFX has some of them labeled as sinkers), 2 curveballs, and 2 changeups. Of the 13 fastballs that Torres saw, he swung at 8 of them and missed 5 of them completely — or what we like to call whiffs. It’s possible that Torres is still getting over his appendectomy and it’s affecting him at the plate. I think there’s a chance Bochy might give him a breather against LHP, but I would prefer to keep him in for his defense.
2. The return of Sandoval – It seems almost certain that Sandoval will start the next couple of games in San Francisco. I like this move. I don’t mind Mike Fontenot as a bench player or occasional starter against RHP, but he really doesn’t have the arm to play third base. He should be able to start a couple of games there during a regular season, but he’s not a player that you want playing third base with regularity, especially in the playoffs. Fontenot’s career wOBA — FanGraphs’ version — is .328. Sandoval’s wOBA for this season is .314. Slumping Sandoval = Mike Fontenot, but with some upside. Sandoval really should be starting for the rest of the playoffs no matter what he does over the next couple of games. His upside is higher and you might get lucky with him running into a few doubles/triples/home runs.
3. How will the Phillies left-handed batters (Howard, Ibanez, Utley) fair in AT&T Park?
Matt Cain will take the hill today in Game Three and I like the decision to push his start back a day so that he can pitch in San Francisco. It’s known that AT&T can be hard on LHB’s power, but how hard? Using Baseball-Reference’s park splits, here’s three categories — HR/PA, 2B/PA, and 3B/PA — for LHBs.
Note: The list is ranked by HR/PA highest to lowest. In addition, the red cells indicate the highest percentage and the green cells indicate the lowest percentage.
|as LHB@MIL-Miller Pk||3.47%||4.75%||0.35%|
|as LHB@CIN-GreatAmer BP||3.46%||4.71%||0.30%|
|as LHB@COL-Coors Fld||3.35%||4.85%||1.01%|
|as LHB@ARI-Chase Field||2.94%||5.07%||1.25%|
|as LHB@PIT-PNC Pk||2.81%||4.95%||0.46%|
|as LHB@ATL-Turner Fld||2.42%||4.57%||0.43%|
|as LHB@WSN-Natls Park||2.36%||4.43%||0.64%|
|as LHB@CHC-Wrigley Fld||2.32%||4.31%||0.86%|
|as LHB@SFG-AT&T Pk||2.26%||4.57%||0.86%|
|as LHB@LAD-Dodger Stad||1.92%||4.62%||0.43%|
|as LHB@NYM-Citi Field||1.89%||3.98%||0.74%|
|as LHB@STL-Busch Stad 3||1.81%||3.96%||0.54%|
|as LHB@SDP-PetCo Pk||1.73%||3.85%||0.80%|
|as LHB@FLA-SunLife Stad||1.36%||4.19%||0.84%|
In the NL, the Giants’ park ranks as the 10th hardest park to homer in for a LHB. Of course, these numbers are totally unadjusted so it’s probably not the best way to measure this, but I think it’s OK for a quick-and-dirty look. In fact, looking at the Astros’ 11th ranking, I’m sure that their overall team ineptitude on offense (101 HRs, .115 ISO, .296 wOBA) is influencing their HR/PA% more than any park effect.
The rest of the ‘lower tier’ of LAD, NYM, STL, SDP, and FLA seem plausible. Matt Cain has done an excellent job of preventing flyball homeruns in his career. And, for an extreme flyball pitcher, it’s a reason why he’s constantly beat his xFIP since xFIP normalizes the HR rate for flyballs. You want to put your starters in the best position to win and Cain fits AT&T well.
Also, Chase Field really looks like the new Coors Field.
Update: This is what I get for posting late, but Sandoval is still out of the lineup. Uribe is back and playing 3B with Renteria starting at SS and leading off. I think I would rather have Sandoval in the game than Renteria. Also, Rowand is in CF and hitting 8th. Yuck.