Tremendous expectations surround the pitching duels expected in this year’s NLCS, with the Game 1 blockbuster between San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay already bordering on instant classic status. The Giants’ staff and bullpen are equipped with several talented arms, while the Phillies feature three ace starters. Expect to see electrifying swings and misses, but realize that the two teams’ pitching ranks should cancel each other out.
And therein lies the Phils’ significant advantage: offense. Philadelphia is more disciplined at the plate (see below), gets on base more often (.332 OBP for Philadelphia versus .321 for San Francisco), runs the basepaths more aggressively (108 stolen bases vs. 55) and successfully (84 percent SB success rate vs. 63 percent), and plates its baserunners with higher frequency (772 runs scored vs. 697). These differences would be even more pronounced if three of Philly’s best hitters — Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins — did not miss a combined 140 games due to injury. With the Phillies’ infield core now healthy, even the Giants don’t possess pitching strong enough to silence Philadelphia’s sluggers throughout the seven-game series.
Phillies in 6
Key stat: Plate discipline
In a series with a surplus of elite pitching, a team’s plate discipline can be the difference-maker. Teams that can avoid swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone (O-Swing percentage) will stay ahead in counts and ultimately see their share of hittable pitches. Likewise, clubs that can draw walks and avoid strikeouts (BB/K) keep rallies alive and put more pressure on opposing pitchers.
O-Swing % BB/K
Phillies 27.6 0.53
Giants 32.3 0.44