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October 21, 2010

Playoff Prospectus

Thursday NLCS Game Five Pitching Matchup

by Matt Swartz

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Giants at Phillies
Roy Halladay: 2.44 ERA, 2.93 SIERA
Halladay was far more hittable in his second post-season start than his first, evidenced primarily by the fact that the Giants actually got hits against him, unlike the Reds in the NLDS opener. Halladay was stronger than his four runs surrendered would suggest, striking out seven and walking none in seven innings of a loss to the Giants in Game One. He gave up a pair of home runs to unexpected hero Cody Ross, and a dropped fly ball at the wall by Raul Ibanez led to another pair of runs in the fifth. Even still, Halladay continued his dominance of the strike zone that made him the league leader in SIERA, and he will be even tougher to score against in AT&T Park, where home runs are scarcer.

From Game One: Halladay leads the major leagues with a 2.93 SIERA, though his 2.44 ERAis even below that mark. No pitcher other than Cliff Leeissues fewer bases on balls than Halladay, who only walked 3.0 percent. Halladay also struck out 22 percent of hitters he faced, and kept 53 percent of all balls in play on the ground. Doc led the league in outs recorded (three times innings pitched) and with only 3.59 pitches per hitter, he was able to average 7.6 innings pitched per start. With a Phillies bullpen that is among the weakest in the postseason outside of closer Brad Lidgeand set-up man Ryan Madson, getting two of their five NLDS games pitched by a guy that made it through at least seven innings in all but five of his 33 starts is a major advantage.

Tim Lincecum: 3.43 ERA, 3.16 SIERA 
Lincecum was also more hittable in his NLCS start than his NLDS start, but he came away with the win in Game One in unfriendly confines. He struck out eight, walked three, and surrendered a couple of home runs in six innings, but his ability to pitch out of trouble enabled him to limit the damage just enough. The three walks highlight some of the problem with his regression in 2010, but keep in mind that his SIERA regressed far less than his ERA, and if he can continue to generate whiffs out of Phillies’ bats, he could give the Giants a clinching win in Game Five.

 From Game One:  Lincecum’s ERAincreased by 0.95 runs in 2010, but his SIERAonly went up by 0.43 runs. His strikeout rate did decline from his lofty 2008 and 2009 levels of 28.6 and 28.8 percent to 25.8 in 2010. While striking out as many hitters as any starting pitcher did during his Cy Youngyears in 2008 and 2009, Lincecum was able to get away with mediocre walk and ground-ball rates. However, as his velocity declined, Lincecum became slightly more hittable and batters were able to get more runs off him. Lincecum did put up a career-best 50 percent ground-ball rate in 2010, suggesting that he is learning how to pitch smarter. However, he also had some bad luck as well—his BABIPwas .315, primarily due to a 20.9 percent line-drive rate. This sounds bad, but line-drive rate is the least persistent pitcher statistic. In his career, Lincecum has allowed a .301 BABIP, so there is little reason to expect this to change. He is still one of the top 10 pitchers in the league. Lincecum will still strike out about a quarter of hitters he faces, Two starts against Lincecum are not going to be easy, though, and the righty gives the Giants a real ace and a chance to win each post-season series.  

Matt Swartz is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Matt's other articles. You can contact Matt by clicking here

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