Giants and Cards Head to St. Louis

THE TRUTH ABOUT SF AND STL HEADING INTO GAME THREE OF NLCS

During our summer baseball coverage over the years, and seemingly always in the playoffs...we have to scold the mainstream media for its extreme ignorance about how ballpark effects create statistical illusions. It's time do to that AGAIN now with the San Francisco Giants heading on the road to play Game Three of the National League Championship Series in St. Louis.

You see...the San Francisco Giants become their real selves on the road. At home, they play in an extreme pitcher's park that makes their hurlers look like stars, and their hitters look like weaklings. You've probably heard a dozen times already that San Francisco wins with pitching because their anemic offense can barely scratch across any runs.

Everyone was also saying that two years ago in the SF-Texas World Series when the media had everything exactly backwards. That San Francisco team had a good offense but vulnerable pitching once you adjusted for park effects. That Texas team had excellent pitching but an inconsistent offense once you got them out of their hitter's paradise in Arlington.

Here are the road only offensive numbers this year for the Giants and the Cardinals. Remember that the Cardinals have an "explosive" offense that led them to a great run differential this season. St. Louis has sluggers. San Francisco supposedly has a bunch of 98-pound weaklings.

ROAD SCORING
San Francisco: 5.1 runs per game
St. Louis: 4.5 runs per game

ROAD HITTING
San Francisco: .271 batting average, .327 on-base, .415 slugging
St. Louis: .258 batting average, .329 on base, .401 slugging

It's the GIANTS who have the better offense once you neutralize conditions. In an assortment of parks that averages out to neutral, they're scoring more than a half more per game...with advantages in hitting and slugging.

This is no slam on the Cardinals. Nothing wrong with 4.5 runs per game in a league where pitchers have to hit. The point is...San Francisco actually had the more potent offense this season (though some of that was steroid induced from Melky Cabrera!). The media storyline that the Giants can't hit is false. If St. Louis had to play 81 games per year in San Francisco, or if the Giants got to play home games in less chilly and spacious conditions....the Giants offensive superiority would be clear to everyone.

That's hitting. What about pitching? Don't the Giants become a JUGGERNAUT if they combine a top offense with their stellar pitching staff? 

ROAD ERA'S
San Francisco: 4.29 ERA
St. Louis: 4.18 ERA

ROAD PITCHING
San Francisco: .262 opponent's batting, .327 on-base, .436 slugging
St. Louis: .262 opponent's batting, .320 on-base, .407 slugging

Sorry Giants fans. Your staff isn't actually that great! Put them in neutral parks and they become hittable. Well, Matt Cain is an ace caliber stud (though he's struggling so far in the playoffs). It's St. Louis who actually has the better pitching this season by a slight degree.

FOX TV and the wire services are suggesting this is an evenly matched series matching the pitching of San Francisco and the hitting of St. Louis. It's actually an evenly matched series in BOTH of those categories once you take Cabrera's stats out of the mix. These are two very good teams who would probably be seen as virtual clones if they played the same schedules in the same ballparks.

As you handicap the three games in St. Louis, keep THAT in mind! You're trying to evaluate how well Vegas oddsmakers have captured the reality of the series. You can't do that if you don't know the reality yourself.

Here are the probable pitching matchups, with full regular season stats for each pitcher...

WEDNESDAY
Cain: 16-5, 2.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 7.9 K-Rate
Lohse: 16-3, 2.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 6.1 K-Rate

Cain struggled vs. Cincinnati allowing 6 ER in 10.2 innings including three gopher balls. He'll obviously need to pick up the pace if the Giants want to win this series. He would be slotted to throw in Game Seven at home if the series goes that far. Lohse has only allowed 3 ER in 12.2 innings vs. Atlanta and Washington in the postseason. He did allow a couple of homers though. Be sure you check weather conditions to determine home run potential Wednesday Night. This is a huge game for the Giants because they can't be sure they're going to get good outings from their starters the next two nights. Frankly, Cain's recent struggles make all three games possible question marks.

THURSDAY
Lincecum: 10-15, 5.18 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 9.2 K-Rate
Wainwright: 14-13, 3.94 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 8.3 K-Rate

Lincecum has made three postseason relief appearances that add up to the equivalent of one start. And, he's been great so far! Lincecum has allowed 1 ER in 8.1 innings, with 9K's and only 1 walk. That's a far cry from the regular season disaster. Which Tim will show up Thursday? Wainwright has allowed 7 ER in 8 IP so far in the postseason, with one horrible start and one good start vs. Washington. He only lasted 5.2 innings in his good start though because 10K's helped inflate his pitch count. This is a game the Giants can steal if Lincecum is still on. It's a game that could fly Over the Vegas total if he's not.  

FRIDAY
Undecided:
Lynn: 18-7, 3.78 ERA, 1,32 WHIP, 9.2 K-Rate

This would be Madison Bumgarner's spot for the Giants. But, he's been lit up in two playoff starts so far. As we go to press the spot is still listed as "undecided." Barry Zito may be under consideration, though he struggled in his only playoff start.  The main quintet of Cain-Vogelsong-Bumgarner-Zito-Lincecum started 160 of SF's 162 games this year. Will it become "Vogelsong and Cain...then pray for rain?" Lynn was used in relief against both Atlanta and Washington before starting Game One of this series. The instability has not suited him, as he's allowed 7 ER in 7.1 innings of work, including 3 homers. Lynn took Jaime Garcia's spot in the rotation after Garcia came up lame. Another spot to look at the Over as long as weather conditions aren't favoring the pitchers too much.

JIM HURLEY has Wednesday Night's game figured out...and has mapped out the full trio of games under the arch. You can always purchase game-day releases in both the NLCS and ALCS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Remember that baseball can be added to any football package for a nominal charge.

Football resumes Thursday. We'll preview Seattle at San Francisco in the big NFC West battle that's turned into one of the most important matchups of the young season. Then another huge football weekend awaits! Here's our current schedule for stat previews this week in the NOTEBOOK:

Thursday: Seattle at San Francisco on the NFL Network
Friday: South Carolina at Florida in Saturday's CBS national game in the SEC
Saturday: Kansas State at West Virginia in the FOX prime time game from the Big 12
Sunday: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati in the prime time game on NBC
Monday: Detroit at Chicago on ESPN's Monday Night Football

Make sure you're with us EVERY DAY in the NOTEBOOK so you know what's REALLY going on in the world of sports (like what's REALLY going on with the hitting and pitching of the San Francisco Gaints!)...then link up daily for BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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