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October 10, 2012

Playoff Prospectus

NLDS Game Three Recap: Giants 2, Reds 1

by Sam Miller

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Ryan Hanigan was behind the plate for 3,623 batters this year. On average, Reds pitchers threw 3.82 pitches per plate appearance, so Hanigan called 13,840 pitches. Of those, about 36 percent were either fouled away or put into play, so Hanigan actually caught roughly 8,854 pitches. Of those, about 59.5 percent came with bases empty. With runners on base this year, however, pitchers threw 3,588 pitches in Ryan Hanigan’s direction.

Of those 3,588, just 17 went for wild pitches, and just three went for passed balls. Three passed balls in 110 games is very good. Only two players—Geovany Soto and Buster Posey—caught at least 800 innings and allowed fewer than two. Seventeen wild pitches in 110 games is also very good. Only one player—Carlos Ruiz—caught at least 800 innings and allowed fewer than 17. Lump the two into one category, and no catcher was better than Hanigan. He let a ball get past him every 44 innings; Yadier Molina let a ball get past him every 28 innings. Ryan Hanigan is a very, very good catcher, and he should probably be one of your favorite players. Now take a look at Ryan Hanigan in the 10th inning of Game Three:

That put runners on second and third, which would have put an end to it on a routine grounder to third. Scott Rolen stood at third base for 3,021 batters this yea... nah, just kidding. But you get the point: the Reds have a very good defensive team, and they lost the game because of two defensive mistakes by two very good defenders. If you’re a Reds fan, that’s just bad luck. If you’re the Reds, that’s losing.

The Giants are still long-shots, 21.2 percent likely to win the series if we declare the home-team Reds 54 percent favorites in each game. There’s a volatility to this series now that unsettles that number somewhat. With Johnny Cueto unlikely and Mat Latos fighting flu-like symptoms, it’s entirely possible the Reds will go with a 4.54 ERA pitcher in Game Four. Or, if they prefer to leave Mike Leake out of this, they will go with two pitchers on short-rest in the final two games. On the other hand, Barry Zito. Barry Zito, who has earned $80 million as a Giant, has produced a cumulative 0.9 WARP, and who this year (if you believe it) actually had his second-worst WARP, is set to have his one big moment of redemption. I remember the last time he was set to have his one big moment of redemption, back in 2010. He made it one batter into the fourth, and the Giants had to wait another day to clinch the NL West. Sure, Barry Zito. It’s somewhat disturbing that, in the postgame show on KNBR, Mike Krukow asked Ryan Vogelsong whether he was ready to pitch again in Game Four if necessary. You’d laugh it off as a joke, except Barry Zito.

***
You can have your advanced metrics, your acronyms, and your what-have-yous. I’ll take the one stat that correlates almost perfectly to winning: MLB.com highlights. And to get a sense of just how brutally the Reds had beaten down the Giants before Game Three, here are how many highlights each team had, by type:

Team Hitting Pitching Defense Baserunning
Reds 12 13 5 2
Giants 2 2 5 1

The Giants out-highlighted the Reds 10-4 on Tuesday.

***

The thing about good stuff isn't just that good stuff is hard to hit. It's also that it makes mistakes easier to get away with, because hitters are getting ready for the good stuff. So Sergio Romo got away with a bunch of crud:

Postgame show:
Mike Krukow: Romo, good lord. That’s the worst stuff he’s had in a month, two months, maybe all year. And he gets it done in, what, 15, 16 pitches?
Duane Kuiper: Six of them hanging sliders. 

***

Homer Bailey has good stuff AND didn't make mistakes. Homer Bailey is not his real name, you know. Irwin Christensen is his real name. Homer Bailey is just his pitching porn name, and these six consecutive strikeouts are his pitching porn product: 

***

The one run that Bailey allowed came after Ryan Vogelsong bunted two runners into scoring position and Angel Pagan hit a sacrifice fly. I've watched that play probably 50 times to try to figure out whether Bailey could have/should have thrown to third to get the lead runner or to second to at least preserve the force. I think he should have. It looks moderately clear that he could have. But I can't quite convince myself that I'm not off. Here's the play: 

And a couple moments in time: 

Strangely, in the view from behind home plate it looks like he could easily get the runner at third but maybe not second. From the aerial shot, it looks like he could easily get the runner at second but maybe not third. Either way, it's odd that he didn't look at either base. There were two potential plays, two very significant potential runs, and Vogelsong certainly wasn't going to pressure him to make a quick throw to first. 

***

The Reds are going to win.

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

6 comments have been left for this article.

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