With the 2012 postseason drawing to a close, Alex Remington takes a look at the statistics that might make a difference in this World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers. Game 1 is scheduled for Wednesday night at AT&T Park.
.080 The difference between the Giants' OPS this postseason with runners on base (.751) versus their overall OPS (.671). That's much higher than their regular-season OPS bump from having men on base, which was just .029 (.753 versus .724), or the league-average bump of .024 (.748 versus .724). The Giants are doing a great deal better than that. That wouldn't be sustainable over a long season, but the Giants just need a week more worth of pixie dust. Right now, it doesn't matter whether you're lucky or good — just that you're winning ballgames.
9.4 The strikeouts per nine innings of the Detroit Tigers' entire pitching staff this postseason, better than a man an inning. Unusual for most teams, the starters are actually leading the way: The Tigers' starting pitchers have struck out 9.6 men per nine innings, while the bullpen is at 8.7 K/9. And those strikeouts come in handy, considering that the Tigers are not well regarded for their defense.
.520 The OPS of opposing teams against the Giants bullpen this postseason, which makes San Francisco tops among all playoff teams. That's far better than it was during the regular season, when they allowed opposing hitters a .711 OPS. The Giants bullpen has been tremendous in Brian Wilson's absence, far better than anyone would have expected. If they can keep up their good work, the Giants relief staff could be a major source of strength compared to the Tigers' somewhat weaker pen.
-28.1 The number of runs the Tiger defense gave back during the regular season as measured by UZR, fourth worst in the majors. The best defense in the majors belonged to the Braves -- somewhat ironically, given their terrible showing in the wild-card game -- whose defense was worth a positive 53.1 runs. In other words, if the Tigers were as good at defense as the Braves, they would have won about eight extra games this season. As the Giants discovered in Game 7 against the Cardinals, if they can put the ball in play, good things are likely to happen.
3.88 The Giants starting rotation's ERA this postseason, a far cry from the Tigers starters' hard-to-believe 1.02 ERA, and even slightly worse than the 3.73 ERA the Giants starters posted in the regular season. Ryan Vogelsong has easily been their most reliable starter, followed rather remarkably by Barry Zito. But Madison Bumgarner has been a disaster, as has Tim Lincecum (though Lincecum was good as a reliever), and Matt Cain was very shaky until his solid performance in Game 7 of the NLCS. Which pitchers can Bochy trust?
4.6 percent The Tigers' unintentional walk percentage this postseason — the rate of unintentional walks per plate appearance — second worst among all of the 10 playoff teams. Only Baltimore had a worse rate, and seven of the other eight teams had an unintentional walk rate over 7 percent. (Unintentional walk rate is often good for cross-league comparisons, because teams in the National League often intentionally walk the No. 8 hitter to get to the pitcher and that doesn't happen in the AL.) The Tigers are a see-ball-hit-ball kind of team, which means their offense can be potent — but it can also be streaky.
1.140 The NLCS OPS of Marco Scutaro, the NLCS MVP. According to an ESPN tweet, he became "the sixth player to win such a postseason award who was acquired in midseason," an illustrious list that includes Cody Ross of the 2010 Giants and Mike Devereaux of the 1995 Braves. Scutaro is a 36-year-old journeyman who never got 500 at-bats in a season till he turned 32, but over the past five seasons has been one of the most reliable shortstops in baseball. Since joining the Giants he's been unconscious: He batted .362 in the 61 regular-season games after the Giants acquired him, and he's hitting .354 in the postseason, including a cool .500 in the NLCS. Don't ask me to explain it. It's just simply amazing. It's also a fortunate thing for San Francisco, too, since Buster Posey's hitting .178 in the postseason.
4.14 The pitches per plate appearance thrown by Tigers pitchers, most in the 2012 postseason. All of those strikeouts come at the cost of raised pitch counts. If Giants hitters can be patient against Tigers starting pitching — at least, other than Justin Verlander — they will likely be able to get into the Tiger bullpen, which is less impressive than the starting rotation.
6 The number of batters San Francisco pitchers have hit this postseason, more than twice as many as any other team. They hit Ryan Hanigan, Zack Cozart, Jay Bruce, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, and most recently Matt Holliday; all but Bruce and Craig were personally plunked by Matt Cain. And as a sign of how much the concept of "retaliation" disappears in the postseason, Giants batters were only hit once: The Reds' Homer Bailey hit Gregor Blanco in the third inning of Game 3 of the NLDS, which may have prompted the Giants' Jeremy Affeldt to hit Jay Bruce in the sixth. None of Matt Cain's HBPs drew any retaliatory plunks.
.802 Phil Coke's career OPS against right-handed batters, versus .623 against left-handed batters. The Tigers' newly minted closer is death on lefties but very hittable against righties, which should make late-inning matchups fun to watch. Especially considering that master tactician Bruce Bochy was angling for the right lefty-righty matchup in Game 7 with a 9-0 lead in the ninth inning in the middle of a monsoon.