By Paul DiSclafani:
So why would anyone waste their time writing or reading articles that predict the winner of a game or a series?
Because it’s fun, that’s why.
The juices will be flowing on Wednesday night as two of the top pitchers in the National League will try and carry their teams on their huge shoulders in a winner-take-all game for the right to face the Chicago Cubs in the National League Divisional Series, which begins on Friday night at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
And man, do they literally have huge shoulders. The 27 year-old Giants lefty, Madison Bumgarner, is 6-5 and weighs 250 pounds. He finished the season 15-9 with a 2.71 ERA and struck out 251. And if you aren’t already sick of hearing about his post season pedigree, you already know about these bullet points:
- His post season ERA on the road is 0.60, the lowest of any pitcher in baseball history with at least 25 innings pitched. That’s better than Bob Gibson (0.97), Mariano Rivera (1.02) and Sandy Kofax (1.04).
- The Giants have won all seven of his road starts in the playoffs
- He appeared in seven games in the 2014 playoffs, compiling two complete game shutouts in addition to pitching five scoreless innings in relief in Game 7 of the World Series.
On the other side of the field, Noah Syndergaard, in only his second year in the majors, is no slouch. He’s actually an inch taller than Bumgarner and has much cooler hair. The last time he was on the mound in the post season was against the Royals in Game 3 of the World Series and it was the only game the Mets won in the series. He famously knocked down Alcides Escobar with the first pitch of the game, sending a message that was heard loud and clear. Then he backed it up by saying that the whining Royals players know where they could find him; 60 feet, 6 inches way.
Syndergaard also had a great 2016 season. He finished at 14-9 with an ERA even better than Baumgarner at 2.60, striking out 218. But in his last seven starts, his ERA was 2.06 with 47 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings. And he’s been pitching with bone spurs in his elbow that will require surgery.
And are we still going to continue that nonsense that the Giants are destiny’s children because they win the World Series on even years? Yes, they won in 2010, 2012 and 2014, but they didn’t win in 2008, did they? Haven’t you heard the financial disclaimer that “past performance is not a guarantee of future results”? The reason for picking the Giants simply because of this odd set of circumstance is just ludicrous.
The Mets finished the season 27-13 over their final 40 games, mostly with a AAA lineup and by having the worst batting average in the league with runners in scoring position (.225). Over those same 40 games, the Giants finished 19-21 and had to win eight of their last 12 games, including the last four in a row, to accumulate those 19 wins. I’ll do the math for you; they were 11-17 before their recent “hot” streak.
If you match up the Mets and Giants, position player by position player, you are not going to get too many check marks in the “advantage” column for the Mets.
But there are things that can’t be measured by the numbers alone. If all we did were look at the numbers, how would you explain how the Mets are in the position they are in right now? How does ANY team lose three of their five starters (#’s 2, 3 and 4 in the rotation, by the way), three of their four infielders, make a trade for the player leading the league in RBI, only to have him hit .152 and still pull together enough wins to get them into the post season?
So, I’m not going to waste your time with a “Five Keys to Victory” or “What the Mets/Giants Need To Do To Win”. You can get that from your local newspaper or from other web based sources.
I’m just going to tell you what I think.
I think this Mets team is sick and tired of being beat down by the media and sometimes, their own fans. They don’t need to have anyone tell them how “lucky” they are to be here because of all their injuries. They have never once used injuries as an excuse. All they did was lace ‘em up and give their best out there.
But every team gives you their best, don’t they? Unless, of course, you watch the Phillies (sorry, that was a cheap shot). But in general, giving your best doesn’t always win games, does it?
This Mets team found a way to win games when there was just no possible way on God’s green Earth they should have. Terry Collins said this team had a lot of heart and character. Every manager says that, but this team actually does.
Unfortunately, the best team doesn’t always win a single baseball game, which is the crap-shoot we call the Wild-Card. Single baseball games are won by pitching. Good pitching always prevails over good hitting, that’s why 3 out of 10 is considered a good for a hitter. If a pitcher only got 3 outs for every 10 batters they faced, they would soon be a shoe salesman.
Having this game at home, in front of a rabid Citi Field crowd, is an advantage for Syndergaard. I’ll go out on a limb and say that if Syndergaard gets out of the first inning 1-2-3, the Mets will win this game. How’s that for a completely ridiculous basis for a prediction?
Let’s put it this way, if the Mets can score against Baumgarner and keep a lead into the late innings, they will win because they have a better bullpen, hands down. But if the Mets can’t solve Baumgarner early, the veteran will throw 150 pitches and finish the game himself. Heck, they don’t even need to pinch hit for him, so the only reason to take him out is if he is not doing his job on the mound.
So back to that first inning for a minute, shall we? A 1-2-3 top of the inning will keep the crowd at a fevered pitch as Jose Reyes strolls to the batter’s box to lead off. What happens if he gets on base and steals second with Cabrera and Cespedes up next?
As the late, great Bob Murphy would say, “Fasten your seat belts…”
Paul DiSclafani is a featured author at “A View From the Bench”, an official affiliate of MLB.com. “A View from the Bench” is recognized in the Top 100 of MLB.com/blogs.