Stats & Info: Buster Posey

Top stats to know: Dodgers at Giants

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27

AP Photo/Jae C. HongDon Mattingly has his team playing .610 ball since June 9, tied for the best mark in the NL.
Tonight on ESPN’s "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN), first place in the National League West is on the line as the San Francisco Giants host the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers go into the game with a half-game advantage in the division. Through June 8, Los Angeles trailed San Francisco by 9½ games. Since then, the Dodgers have gone 25-16, while the Giants are 15-26.

Still, it’s easy to wonder if the Dodgers have underachieved, given their MLB-leading payroll. Similar questions could be asked of the Giants, who rank sixth in payroll. Part of the reason is that several of their star players haven’t played up to their star billing this season.

Adrian Gonzalez
Gonzalez started the season on a tear. At the end of April, he was hitting .317 with eight home runs and an OPS of 1.021. But since May, he is batting .245, with just seven home runs in 282 at-bats. His OPS over the last three months is down to .685.

Matt Kemp
In 2011 and 2012, Kemp was one of the top outfielders in baseball, finishing second in MVP voting in 2011 and making the NL All-Star team both seasons. Since then, however, Kemp has struggled.

Over the last two seasons, Kemp’s wins above replacement is a minus-0.6, meaning he’s worth less than a minor league call-up in the same position.

This season, his WAR is minus-1.1, which ties him for the third-worst among NL position players, behind only Domonic Brown and Jedd Gyorko.

Andre Ethier
Ethier’s decline has been going longer than Kemp’s. Ethier batted .292 in 2011, but his batting average has declined each year since, down to .248 this season. His home run total has also declined, from 20 in 2012 to 12 in 2013 to just four so far this season.

Hanley Ramirez
Although Ramirez is producing much more than the previous trio, he is still well off his mark from 2013, when he had a 1.040 OPS. This season, it’s .840. Last year, Ramirez had 20 home runs in 336 plate appearances. At this year’s All-Star break, he had 11 homers in the same number of plate appearances.

Buster Posey
One of the Giants’ stars, Posey has failed to live up to his 2012 NL MVP season, when he batted .336 with a .957 OPS. Over the last two seasons, Posey is batting .288 with a .801 OPS.

The key to Posey’s success might be a positional change. In his MLB career, Posey has a .361 BA and .996 OPS when playing first base. Those numbers drop to a .292 BA and .822 OPS when he’s in the lineup as a catcher.

Pablo Sandoval
After a rough start, Sandoval has turned his season around.

Through May 10, Sandoval was hitting .173 and striking out in more than 20 percent of his at-bats. Since then, his batting average is .332, and his strikeout rate is down to 11 percent.

His free-swinging style has worked for him. This season, no batter has swung at more pitches outside the strike zone than Sandoval’s 43 percent; he ranked second in that statistic last season. But he is hitting .255 on pitches out of the zone, the third-best mark in the NL and well above the MLB average of .163.

Giants winning with pitching/power combo

May, 4, 2014
May 4
What’s to like about the San Francisco Giants, who are now 20-11 this season after sweeping the Atlanta Braves over the weekend?

The Giants are winning on the strength of one thing that’s to be expected of them-- pitching- and another that’s a bit unexpected-- power. And it’s happening even without contributions from some players you would expect to be major factors.

When their game ended on Sunday, the Giants ranked second in the majors in ERA at 2.99, behind only the team they just swept (the Braves are at 2.72).

That the Giants have this record is impressive considering that Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong are a combined 6-8, with the latter three all having ERAs above 4.00.

Bumgarner had been due for a good day and had one on Sunday, allowing one run in six innings, with a season high 19 swings-and-misses against a strikeout-prone Braves lineup.

Tim Hudson has made up for the shortcomings of his teammates as a near-perfect fit, with a 2.17 ERA, 31 strikeouts and only two walks in 45 2/3 innings.

The Giants' bullpen, which gave them three scoreless innings on Sunday, a day in which they didn’t use Sergio Romo, has been fantastic. Their 1.86 ERA ranks second-best in the majors and an 0.94 WHIP rates first.

The Giants rank second in the majors with 41 home runs this season. They’ve now hit 28 in 16 games on the road after getting an unexpected two from shortstop Brandon Crawford in Sunday’s win.

Brandon Belt and Michael Morse have been the ones to spur this surge, combining for 16 home runs, 13 of which have come away from AT&T Park. Morse hit one in each of the first two games in this series before going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts in the series finale.

The Giants have needed those home runs to make up for a .227 road batting average, which ranks 23rd in the majors. They’ve also lacked in situational hitting. They’re hitting .238 with runners in scoring position this season after going 0 for 13 against the Braves in the series.

They’ve done this without much power input from Pablo Sandoval, whose rough start this season has produced only two home runs and a .170 batting average.

Counting on this to continue may be a little dicey. The Giants have ranked 16th and 14th in the National League in home runs in each of the last two seasons.

One player who can help pick things up on the offensive front is catcher Buster Posey, whose bat is starting to come around after a slow start. Posey is 11 for 26 in his last seven games after hitting .224 through April 26.

Posey had struggled early covering the outer half of the plate. He has more hits against those pitches in his last seven games (eight) than he did in his first 22 games this season (seven).

Looking ahead
The Giants have seven more games left on this road trip, with the next three coming in Pittsburgh. They may have to look to a different means of getting things done on the offensive front.

PNC Park hasn’t rated particularly homer-friendly this season. It ranks 25th in the majors by’s Park Factor ranking.

Top stats to know: Giants at Dodgers

April, 6, 2014
Apr 6
The San Francisco Giants will visit the Los Angeles Dodgers on ESPN2's "Sunday Night Baseball" at 8 ET.

Here are some storylines to watch for tonight.

Matt Cain
Cain will be on the bump for the Giants tonight making his second start of the season. After allowing an impossible-to-sustain nine home runs in 2011, Cain has seen more of his fly balls go for home runs over the last two seasons – 21 in 2012 and 23 last season.

Cain was a much better pitcher in the second half than he was in the first half last season.

Buster Posey
At age 27, Posey already has one NL MVP to his name. Over the last two seasons he has produced 12.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), fourth-most by a catcher in his age 25-26 seasons in MLB history.

Since the start of the 2012 season, no player has been better at hitting balls up in the zone than Posey. His .359 batting average on such pitches rank first (he ranks second in OPS at 1.132).

Zack Greinke
Greinke will take the mound for the second time this season. Greinke is winless in two career starts against the Giants.

Just how precise is Greinke with his pitches? We have the ability to show pitchers with the most pitches “on the corners”. In 2010, Greinke ranked ninth in baseball with most pitches on the corners, and ranked tied for 11th in 2012.

When he returned from injury in May of last season, Greinke was once again one of the most prolific at dotting the corners.

San Francisco is in position to sweep the series. But the Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Greinke was 6-0 in games that immediately followed a Dodgers loss last season and LA has won nine of his 10 such starts since coming to the Dodgers. Greinke is 1-0 in that situation this season.

Kenley Jansen
Jansen has been among the most dominant relievers of all-time from a strikeout perspective, as he has three of the 35 highest single-season K/9 totals in MLB history (min. 50 IP).

But what’s helped him take the next step has been the steady reduction in his walk rate. After walking nearly 14% of batters faced in 2010, he walked just over six percent last season.

Stat of the Game
Andre Ethier is hitting .441 in his career against Matt Cain, the highest career batting average against Cain among all players with at least 30 plate appearances.

Giants-Reds look to move past June

July, 1, 2013

Frank Victores/US PRESSWIRESan Fran and Cincy meet for the first time since the Giants came back from a 2-0 deficit in the 2012 NLDS.
The San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds meet on "Monday Night Baseball" (7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN) for the first time since last season’s divisional playoffs, when the Giants eliminated the Reds. The Reds won the first two games of that series in San Francisco, but the Giants won three straight in Cincinnati to advance to the National League Championship Series.

Both of these teams are looking to put June behind them.

The Giants went 10-17 in the month, marking their first losing month since going 11-18 in August 2011. The Reds, meanwhile, went 12-15 in June and have won just 13 of their past 30 games. This was the Reds' first losing month since September 2011, when they went 12-14.

After years of dominating with starting pitching, the Giants have struggled in that department this season.

Giants starters led the majors last season in opponent batting average with runners in scoring position (.222). This season, Giants starters have allowed a .298 batting average, last in the NL and 28th in all of baseball.

In addition, after ranking in the top five in ERA in each of the previous four seasons, San Francisco has a 4.47 ERA so far this year. That includes a 5.30 ERA on the road, which ranks 28th in all of baseball (the Giants' 3.64 ERA at home is 12th in MLB).

For the Reds, the No. 2 spot in the batting order has been a weak link between Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto.

Zack Cozart has the most plate appearances for the Reds in the second spot, which has recorded a .647 OPS, 13th in the National League. In comparison, the first and third spots have recorded an .894 and .951 OPS, respectively. That leads the National League in both batting positions.

Quick hitters
• Buster Posey is hitting .403 in his past 18 games, with four home runs in his past five. He’s the first Giants catcher with 12 home runs before the All-Star break since Bob Brenly in 1985.

• The Giants' 16 wins since May 14 are tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the fewest in the majors.

• Pablo Sandoval is just 3-for-23 since returning from the DL. He hasn’t homered since May 21.

• The Reds are a season-high 5.5 games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates for first place in the NL Central. Their largest deficit in the standings last year was 5.0 games on April 18.

• Bronson Arroyo has been incredibly efficient with his pitches this season. He’s averaged just 13.9 pitches per inning, the fourth-lowest rate in the majors.

• Since 2010, Joey Votto has just two infield popups. In comparison, Albert Pujols has 87.

Welcome to the show: Inside Cole's debut

June, 11, 2013
The Pittsburgh Pirates will unleash one of baseball's most promising prospects as former No. 1 pick Gerrit Cole takes the mound on Tuesday night against the San Francisco Giants.

Here's a look at some of the key stats to know about tonight's matchup.

The History
Cole is the third right-handed pitcher to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Pirates (Kris Benson and Bryan Bullington). No other team has drafted more than one right-hander No. 1 overall.

Bullington rates as one of the least successful No. 1 picks ever. Of the No. 1 overall picks to reach the majors prior to Cole, Bullington has the fewest big-league wins (1).

The Pirates haven’t had a starting pitcher win his major-league debut since Paul Maholm against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005. The last nine Pirates starters to make their debut are a combined 0-4 with five no-decisions. The nine-start streak is the longest for any team.

Maholm is the only one to win since the start of the 2002 season.

Inside the Matchup
Among the challenges that Cole will face.

Giants catcher Buster Posey is hitting .328 with a .920 OPS in his last 32 games, and enters with 10 hits in his last 28 at-bats.

What to watch for: Posey’s recent history against right-handed pitchers is that he thrives when they throw him a fastball inside. His .367 in at-bats that end with fastballs/sinkers/cutters on the inner-half of the plate or just off the outside corner, ranks 15th-best in the majors since the start of 2012.

Second baseman Marco Scutaro is hitting .405 with eight walks and only three strikeouts in his last 26 games. He enters ninth in the majors in hitting with a .332 batting average.

What to watch for: Scutaro entered Monday ranked fourth in the majors in batting average with two strikes, .311.

Right fielder Hunter Pence is hitting .316 with 21 extra-base hits in his last 35 games.

What to watch for: Pence has been aggressive on the basepaths recently, with 12 steals and no caught stealing this season. Keeping runners close has been an issue for Cole in 2013. In Triple-A, he allowed 16 stolen bases in 17 attempts.

Cole’s rival moundsman will be Tim Lincecum, who is coming off one of his best starts of the season—seven innings, one run, three hits, with six strikeouts against the Blue Jays.

What to watch for: Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen is 1-for-12 against Lincecum, one of six pitchers against whom he has 10 ore more at-bats and a sub-.100 batting average. The others: Roy Oswalt, Matt Cain, Bronson Arroyo, Travis Wood, and Roy Halladay

The last 3 No. 1 picks to debut
Here's a look at the last 3 No. 1 picks to make their MLB debut

David Price (September 14, 2008 vs Yankees)
Price made his MLB debut a little more than a year after being selected No. 1, pitching 5 1/3 innings of relief and allowing 2 runs in a loss to the Yankees.

Later that season, Price would be pitching in a pretty important spot-- closing out the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Stephen Strasburg (June 8, 2010 vs Pirates)
Strasburg had an electrifying debut against the Pirates, striking out 14 in 7 IP, one shy of the record for strikeouts in a debut.

Bryce Harper (April 28, 2012 at Dodgers)
Harper went 1-for-3 with a double and RBI in his debut against the Dodgers. Harper was the 4th teenager since 1969 to get an extra-base hit in his major-league debut-- the other 3: Ken Griffey Jr., Adrian Beltre, and Jose Reyes.

Five stats you’ll likely hear quite a bit more about on tonight’s "Sunday Night Baseball" matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers on ESPN.

1. Dodgers rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu has 46 strikeouts through his first six appearances, the second most that an active pitcher has had within the first half-dozen games of his career (trailing only Stephen Strasburg’s 53) and the second most in Dodgers history, trailing only Hideo Nomo’s 49 in 1995.

Despite a fastball that tops out at only 90 miles per hour, Ryu is averaging 11 strikeouts per nine innings. One aspect of his game that intrigued "Sunday Night Baseball" analyst Orel Hershiser was Ryu’s curveball.

The 19 mph difference in velocity between Ryu’s average fastball and curveball ranks as the third largest among NL starters.

Ryu’s slider has actually been the more valuable of his breaking pitches. It has netted him 25 outs and yielded only two hits.

2. Giants starter Matt Cain had a particularly bad April. His 6.49 ERA for the month was the highest by a Giants starter in April since Brett Tomko’s 7.57 in 2004, and his nine home runs allowed in April matched the club record set by Allen Watson in 1996.

Cain has not had the same level of success when pitching to the inner third of the plate/off the inside corner that he’s used to having. He’s already yielded six home runs on pitches to that area, more than he allowed in either 2011 (five) or 2012 (four).

Cain hasn’t lost any velocity on his fastball. But his miss rate is down on pitches in the strike zone. His norm is usually about 15 to 16 percent. This season, he’s netting only an 11 percent miss rate on swings against those pitches.

Cain was 0-8 at one point in his career against the Dodgers, but he is 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his past 10 starts against them.

3. Buster Posey, who hit his first career walk-off homer on Friday, would be among those very much looking forward to facing a left-handed pitcher. He's hitting .360 against southpaws this season. In 2012, Posey hit .433 with 13 homers against lefties. He’s one of three players to hit at least .430 with 10 homers against lefties in the past 30 years -- Jeff Bagwell (1994) and Ryan Braun (2007) are the other two.

4. Fresh off his three-homer performance in the World Series, Pablo Sandoval has gotten off to a good start in 2013.

Sandoval is the Vladimir Guerrero of his era -- a hitter who can do damage to any pitch in any location. He has the most hits in the majors against pitches outside the strike zone over the past five seasons with 266. Ichiro Suzuki ranks second with 223.

5. The Dodgers' woes on the left side of the infield have been a problem all season. Hanley Ramirez returned for two games before being placed on the disabled list.

And the Dodgers have gotten next to nothing from their third basemen this season. In fact, Dodgers pitchers have a higher slugging percentage than those players currently manning the hot corner.

The year in MLB heat maps

December, 31, 2012
With 2012 about to come to a close, we thought we'd take one more look at the baseball season.

We'll do so both in words and with heat maps-- visual images that may bring back a memory, or tell you something about the greatness of a particular moment or performances.

The Year of the Triple Crown

Miguel Cabrera became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown. He produced one of the most memorable baseball seasons in recent memory.

Cabrera helped the Detroit Tigers all the way to the World Series, by outhitting and outsluggling everyone in his path.

He solidified his finish and the Tigers pennant hopes by hitting .333 with 11 home runs and 30 runs batted in in September/October.

Cabrera would go on to win the AL MVP in a much-discussed resounding victory.

The Year Buster Posey Returned

Sidelined for a good portion of 2011, Buster Posey returned to form in the latter part of 2012 to cop MVP honors and help the San Francisco Giants to the World Series.

Posey hit .385 after the All-Star Break, a batting average 35 points better than anyone else in the majors and a number topped only three times in Giants history.

The Giants have won two World Series in three seasons with Posey as of their most important figures. He's establishing very early in his career that he'll be a player not to be forgotten.

The Year of Trout

Mike Trout lived up to his billing as one of baseball's most touted prospects. It didn't take long before he was the best player in the game.

Trout was a five-tool player who seemed like he could do almost anything at bat or in the field.

He hit .326 and finished one stolen base shy of a 30-homer/50 steal season.

He also robbed four players of home runs with his running, leaping catches at the fence.

...and Harper
Bryce Harper had some weaknesses in his game, but improved significantly upon those in helping the Washington Nationals to the NL East title.

Harper showed he would not be intimidated by stealing home after Cole Hamels hit him with a pitch.

His numbers in the season's final month were among baseball's best.

The AL and NL Rookies of the Year showed the ability that has many thinking they’ll be two of the biggest stars of this generation.

Each brought an intensity and skill that wowed fans of all ages.

The Year of Josh Hamilton's Extremes

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton looked like he was going to be the one contending for the Triple Crown in the early part of the season.

In his first 27 games, he hit .406 with 14 home runs and 36 RBI, capped by a four-homer game against the Baltimore Orioles.

What was most interesting about those four homers is that they came against pitches on the outer-third of the plate.

Those same pitches would give him quite a bit of trouble later in the season.

As good as Hamilton was early in the season, he struggled almost as much in the year's final weeks.

In his last 26 games (including the one-game playoff against those same Orioles), Hamilton struck out 39 times and missed on 45 percent of his swings.

Pitchers took advantage of his overeagerness repeatedly getting him to chase pitches out of the strike zone.

Hamilton went 2-for-17 in his last four games, a rough end to his Rangers career.

But his greatness was still enough to net him five years and $123 million from the Angels this offseason.

The Year of Perfection

There were a major-league record three perfect games in 2012, thrown by Philip Humber, Matt Cain, and Felix Hernandez.

Humber's was special for its unlikely nature. His 11 wins entering his perfecto start were the second-fewest by anyone at the time of their perfect game.

Cain's was magical, remembered both for his strikeout total (14, tying Sandy Koufax's record for strikeouts in a perfect game) and the great defensive play by Gregor Blanco to save it.

Hernandez's was great because of his dominance with both his fastball and his offspeed pitches. All 12 of his strikeouts came with his offspeed stuff.

The Year of the Knuckleball

New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey brought the knuckleball to new heights in 2012.

Dickey found a way to command and dominate with a pitch that baffled opposing hitters.

Dickey resorted to a few new tricks, throwing it a little harder than usual and a little higher than usual.

The image at right shows Dickey’s success vs lefties. He whiffed as many in 2012 (110) as he did in 2010 and 2011 combined.

He finished with 230 strikeouts in all, becoming the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young Award.

The Year the Orioles Flew High

No one figured on the Baltimore Orioles making the postseason in 2012, but this overachieving group put together one of the more improbable runs on its way to winning a wild card spot.

Buoyed by timely hitting and a great bullpen, the Orioles won 16 straight extra-inning games.

The Orioles didn't have anyone who ranked among baseball's best in Wins Above Replacement, but their sum was greater than their parts.

Adam Jones epitomized Baltimore’s late-game magic by smacking four game-winning extra-inning homers.

The Orioles outlasted the Rays and challenged the Yankees for the AL East title, then took New York to five games in the ALDS.

The Year of the Unlikely Athletics

After a major offseason overhaul, the 2012 Oakland Athletics roster was comprised of a cast of unlikely standouts, who somehow knocked off the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels to win the AL West.

Grant Balfour was among many who achieved beyond their usual means and had a little something left at season’s end. He closed the season with seven saves and a win in his last 10 appearances.

Lefties hit .157 against Balfour in 2012. The last 13 to face him were retired.

The Year of the Scutaro

Marco Scutaro was an afterthought to many in baseball after the Giants picked him up late in the season, but he’d be anything but an afterthought the rest of the way.

Scutaro hit .362 in the final 61 games of the regular season. Then, after nearly being taken out of the series on a hard slide from Matt Holliday, he bounced back up and finished as NLCS MVP with a .500 batting average.

To cap off the amazing end to the season, Scutaro got the winning hit for the Giants in extra innings in their World Series-clinching win against the Tigers.

Trout wins WAR, Cabrera wins battle

November, 15, 2012
Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, is the first Tigers position player to win the MVP since Hank Greenberg in 1940.

Cabrera won the award over Mike Trout, who contributed 10.7 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2012. There have been eight previous individual 10-WAR seasons in the Divisional Era (since 1969). Alex Rodriguez losing to Jason Giambi in 2000 is the only other time a 10-WAR season did not win the MVP when it was the league leader in WAR.

Cabrera is the first MVP from either league to capture the award in the same year in which he made the last out of the World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Cabrera (2012) and Justin Verlander (2011) are the first teammates to win consecutive AL MVP honors since Ivan Rodriguez (1999) and Juan Gonzalez (1998) for the Texas Rangers. Jimmy Rollins (2007) and Ryan Howard (2006) of the Phillies were the most recent teammates to accomplish this in the National League.

Cabrera is the first player born in Venezuela to win an MVP award. Born in Venezuela, Cabrera was the first Hispanic player ever to win the Triple Crown and also the first Triple Crown winner ever to be born outside of the United States.

Buster Posey
With Buster Posey and Cabrera both winning the MVP award in their respective leagues and leading their teams to the Fall Classic, it marks the first time since 1988 that MVP winners faced each other in the World Series. In 1988, NL MVP Kirk Gibson led the Dodgers over AL MVP Jose Canseco and the Oakland Athletics.

Posey led NL position players in WAR this season (7.2).

Posey, at 25 years old, is the youngest NL MVP winner since Ryne Sandberg in 1984.

He’s the first catcher to win the award since Johnny Bench for the Cincinnati Reds in 1972.

Cain looks to win another clincher

October, 28, 2012

Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesMatt Cain gets the start Sunday as the Giants look to sweep the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series
Matt Cain will look to close out the sweep for the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the World Series Sunday.

Although Cain hasn’t been as dominant this postseason as he was in 2010, he still has a chance to make some history. If he picks up the win, he’ll become just the third pitcher in MLB history to get the win in the clinching game of three series in a single postseason according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The others are Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees in 2009 and Derek Lowe of the Red Sox in 2004 (one of Lowe’s wins came in relief).

Finishing with the Fastball
Cain looked to have his stuff back in his last start against the Cardinals, helped by his ability to get outs when the count went to two strikes. In his first three starts of the postseason, Cain allowed seven hits (including three home runs) in two-strike counts. But in his last start, the Cardinals went 2-for-14 with four strikeouts. The key for Cain will be to use his fastball in two-strike counts, where opponents are hitting .087 (2-for-27) in two-strike at-bats ending with a fastball.

Among Tigers hitters, the only ones with significant history against Cain in the regular season are Prince Fielder and Omar Infante who have each gone 5-for-18 (.278) against the Giants righty.

Max Urgency
Just like Cain, Max Scherzer brings the heat when he gets two strikes on a hitter. This postseason his average fastball velocity is 92.5 MPH when he has fewer than two strikes and 94.1 MPH when he has two strikes.

Max Scherzer
Last postseason Scherzer struggled mightily, allowing 10 runs in 15⅔ innings, but this year he’s been lights out – allowing one earned run in 11 innings while striking out 18.

The problem for Scherzer is that because he relies so heavily on strikeouts, his pitch count gets inflated. He reached the 90-pitch mark in the sixth inning of both his starts this postseason and didn’t finish either inning.

The Giants lineup on Sunday could feature up to six left-handed hitters – with the exceptions being Marco Scutaro, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

That shouldn’t be a problem for the Tigers’ flamethrower as he’s dominated lefties this postseason, allowing them only two hits in 29 at-bats while striking out 15.

Stats to Watch
• Only two teams have swept their League Championship Series only to be swept upon reaching the World Series: the 2007 Colorado Rockies and the 1990 Oakland Athletics.

• The Giants have four shutouts this postseason which is tied for the most in MLB history. The previous three teams to do it went on to win the World Series (2010 Giants, 1998 Yankees, 1905 Giants)

• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Giants have not trailed in their last 54 innings this postseason. That is six innings shy of the single postseason record set by the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

Game 7 keys: Lohse, Cain, Jay, Posey

October, 22, 2012
The St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants will play one game on Monday for the right to go to the World Series.

The Giants have home-field advantage and momentum after winning Games 5 and 6 against a Cardinals team that has lacked offensive punch.

Let’s take a look at some key numbers for a few of the pivotal players in this contest, focusing on the starting pitchers and a hitter from each team who is due for a breakout.

Key stats for Kyle Lohse
Lohse is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts this postseason. He survived a very shaky start in Game 3, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings, despite yielding seven hits and five walks.

Kyle Lohse
Lohse has had a very effective slider in his three starts. The pitch netted him 3.3 outs per baserunner in the regular season but has produced 18 outs, with just two hits and one walk allowed, in these playoffs.

The Giants have a weapon on their bench that could give Lohse trouble, should they need it in a big spot. Utility infielder Ryan Theriot is 12-for-22 in his career against Lohse, though the two have not faced off since 2009.

Theriot’s .545 batting average ranks second among hitters with at least 15 at-bats against Lohse, surpassed only by a player currently on Lohse’s side, Carlos Beltran (.564 in 39 at-bats).

Key stats for Matt Cain
Cain has a 4.67 ERA in three postseason starts and has not looked like the pitcher who dominated in the early part of the season.

Cain’s off-speed stuff has been very hittable. He’s thrown 51 percent of those pitches in the strike zone (up from 45 percent in the regular season) and some of them have caught too much of the plate.

Matt Cain
Cain allowed one home run for every 165 off-speed pitches he threw in the regular season, but has allowed four on the 128 off-speed pitches he’s thrown this postseason.

Cain’s curveball was a valuable pitch in the regular season, netting outs at a rate of 3.5 for every hit. But in this postseason, the hook has netted just four outs and yielded three extra-base hits.

The Cardinals have three hitters with really good numbers against Cain, albeit in a limited sample. If Matt Holliday can’t go, Matt Carpenter would take his 5-for-6 history against Cain into Game 7. Teammate Jon Jay is 5-for-8 against Cain.

Cain’s biggest nemesis could be Beltran, who is 7-for-19 with a home run against him. The home run came on a curveball, the only one he’s seen from Cain this season, on Aug. 6.

Looking for a breakout: Buster Posey
Posey is 3-for-22 in this series after grounding out three times and striking out once in Game 6.

Of the 92 pitches Posey has seen in this series, 84 of them have been on the inner third or outer third of the plate, or off the inside/outside corners.

Posey is 2-for-19 in at-bats ending on pitches to those areas this postseason. He hit .314 with 14 homers against them during the regular season.

Looking for a breakout: Jon Jay
Jon Jay has had a hard time getting going this postseason. He’s 9-for-49 with seven strikeouts, though his hits have been timely ones (he’s 4-for-10 with runners in scoring position).

Jay is 5-for-26 against right-handed pitching this postseason, but has been hindered by his inability to hit the ball in the air. Of the 18 balls he’s put into play, 12 have been ground balls.

Jay has struck out 12 times this postseason, 10 times against right-handed pitching. Jay’s timing has been just a little bit off.

In the regular season, he fouled off 38 percent of pitches from right-handers. That rate has increased to 57 percent in the postseason.

To read about the Cardinals' and Giants' histories in Game 7, click here.

Giants win in spite of their numbers

October, 11, 2012
How did the San Francisco Giants come back from a 2-0 deficit to win the NLDS over the Cincinnati Reds?

Their win was pretty amazing considering that their .194 batting average was the second-worst of any team to win a Division series in the Wild Card Era.

The Giants became the first team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-5 series by winning three straight road games.

They became the first team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-5 since the 2003 Boston Red Sox won three straight against the Oakland Athletics.

They won because the bats woke up …
In the first three games of the series, the Giants totaled four runs and had a .394 OPS. In the last two games of the series, they scored 14 runs and had an .895 OPS.

The Giants didn’t get a lot of hits, but they got timely ones, like Buster Posey’s grand slam that extended a 2-0 lead to 6-0 in Game 5.

Posey became the third catcher to hit a grand slam in a postseason game, joining Yogi Berra (1956 Yankees) and Eddie Perez (1998 Braves)

He became the fourth player to hit a grand slam in a postseason winner-take-all game, joining Moose Skowron (1956 Yankees), Troy O’Leary (1999 Red Sox) and Johnny Damon (2004 Red Sox).

It was the third postseason grand slam in Giants history. The other two were by Chuck Hiller in 1962 and Will Clark in 1989.

The Giants were 0-for-12 with six strikeouts with runners in scoring position in the first three games and 5-for-15 with two homers in Games 4 and 5.

They won because the Reds failed to take advantage …
The Reds had the tying run at the plate in each of the last four innings on Thursday, but failed to come through.

They went 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position in the last three games of the series.

Reds hitters were a little overeager.

They swung at only five pitches out of 30 thrown out of the strike zone with a runner in scoring position in the first two games of the series (17 percent).

But in the last three games of the series, they took 27 swings on the 69 pitches that were thrown out of the strike zone to them with a runner in scoring position (39 percent).

It was a tough way for the Reds to end their season. They hadn't lost three straight home games at all in 2012, but did so to close out the NLDS.

They won with defense
Baseball Info Solutions, which categorizes defense into more than 30 categories of "Good Fielding Plays" had the Reds with 17 Good Fielding Plays and the Giants with 12 in the first four games of this series.

But in Game 5, the Giants outdid the Reds in Good Fielding Plays by a 5-1 count. Chief among them were catches by shortstop Brandon Crawford and Angel Pagan to help preserve the lead in the eighth inning.

Difference Maker
The biggest difference maker in this series was Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, who with six strikeouts in relief in Game 4 broke Christy Mathewson’s Giants franchise record of 48 career postseason strikeouts. Lincecum now has 51 and counting.

Stat of the Series
In their entire history -- New York and San Francisco -- the Giants have faced elimination in 19 different postseason series (meaning the other team was one win away from winning the series at any point).

This is just the second time in 19 series that the Giants have won a series in which they faced elimination. They trailed the Braves 2-games-to-1 in the 2002 NLDS and won Games 4 and 5 to advance. They advanced to the World Series, losing to the Angels in seven games.

The Giants also became the first NL team to rally from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-5 series since the first year of the Wild Card, 1995.

How do you defend against Buster Posey?

October, 6, 2012

In his first full season, Buster Posey has developed into one of the best hitters in baseball and a strong NL MVP candidate thanks to an otherworldly .385/.456/.646 (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) in the second half.

How does one pitch to such a hitter? What should pitchers expect with two strikes? And does Posey’s batted ball profile suggest he’s worth employing a shift against?

Let’s take a look.

No holes against lefties
Posey is a big reason the San Francisco Giants are a major-league-best 40-19 against left-handed starters this season. He’s hitting an absurd .433/.470/.793 against lefties this season, including .489/.526/.966 in the second half.

As you would expect, a hitter with that kind of line has few weaknesses. Posey is hitting .415 against pitches on the inner half from lefties; he’s hitting .451 on the outer half. He’s batting .449 on pitches above the belt and .426 on pitches below the belt. If you leave a pitch middle-middle, he’s hitting .632 (12-19) and has swung and missed just three times all season.

Vulnerable against breaking balls from righties
Compared with lefties, right-handers have made Posey look ordinary this season. He’s hitting .292/.382/.440 against righties, including a .331/.423/.479 line in the second half.

Posey has crushed fastballs from righties on the inner half (major-league-best .413 BA among right-handed hitters) but has been vulnerable at times to stuff away, especially breaking balls. He’s hitting just .190 in at-bats ending with a breaking ball, which ranks 67th out of 75 qualified righties. Although he’s having a stellar second half, Posey hasn’t carried that same level of improvement against breaking balls. He hit .179 against breaking balls in the first half and .203 in the second.

Against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS, he’s likely to see a heavy dose of breaking balls. In seven games against Cincinnati this season, Posey saw 44 percent breaking balls, his second-highest percentage against any opponent. The only team higher? The Washington Nationals, who could await in the NLCS. Posey was a combined 3-for-21 (.143) against breaking balls from those opponents this year.

Making pitchers work
If there’s one thing Posey does as well as, if not better than, anyone, it’s making pitchers work. He’s averaging 4.25 pitches per plate appearance this season, which ranks second in the NL. On a Giants team filled with aggressive hitters, Posey is the one who extends at-bats, runs up pitch counts and frustrates pitchers.

He’s fouling off 44 percent of his swings when he’s behind in the count, which leads the NL. He has a .324 on-base percentage after he falls behind 0-2 this season, which ranks second in the NL. He has had six plate appearances of 10 or more pitches this season, with two homers and three walks.

Is there any defensive positioning to consider with Posey?
Although Posey has the ability to hit the ball to all fields, he’s typically a dead-pull hitter when it comes to balls on the infield. Eighty-two percent of his ground balls and short line drives this season have been to the left side of second base. Does it make sense then for the defense to consider using an infield shift against him? Maybe.

Baseball Info Solutions (BIS), which tracks this type of defensive data for major league teams, estimates that right-handed hitters are candidates for a shift when they hit the 85 percent threshold. Posey, at 82 percent, is close enough that an argument can be made. So far, however, nobody has employed a shift against Posey this season, according to BIS.

Kershaw has the hook vs the Giants

September, 9, 2012

Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw has the lowest ERA of any pitcher against the Giants in MLB history.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants play the rubber match of their series tonight at AT&T Park (8 ET on ESPN).

The Giants lead the season series 8-6 with another three-game set slated for the final week of the season. If San Francisco can keep their advantage, it would be their third straight non-losing season series vs the Dodgers. The last time they had a streak like that against their rivals was 1990-92.

The Dodgers send Clayton Kershaw to the mound tonight with a chance to move into the second wild card spot, pending the outcome of the St. Louis Cardinals game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Although Kershaw wears the Dodger blue, he is quite comfortable pitching by the bay at AT&T Park and against these Giants.

His 1.39 ERA versus the Giants is the lowest of any pitcher in major-league history with at least 100 innings pitched against the franchise, since the league began tracking earned runs in 1912.

He has been even more dominant at AT&T Park, where his 0.66 ERA in 54 2/3 innings there is the lowest all-time at the stadium. In seven starts at AT&T Park, Kershaw has two shutouts; in 83 starts at AT&T Park, Sunday night’s opposing starter, Barry Zito, doesn’t have a single shutout.

Kershaw’s signature curveball has been nearly unhittable this year, as he leads the all starters in opponent batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and strikeout rate in at-bats ending in a curve.

Like most teams, the Giants haven’t been able to figure out how to hit the pitch. This season, Giants batters are hitless in 15 at-bats ending in a curve from Kershaw and 10 of the 15 outs have been strikeouts. In his career, he has held the Giants to a .077 batting average with his curve.

If the Giants are able to even to get wood on a curveball from Kershaw tonight it would be nearly historic. He has thrown 95 curveballs at AT&T Park in his career and only three have been put in play and none have gone for hits.

Buster Posey has emerged as an MVP candidate in the second half with a MLB-best .380 batting average since the break. That mark would be the third-highest batting average in the second half by a catcher in the All-Star era (since 1933).

His hot second half has been fueled by his significant improvement in hitting pitches on the outside part of the plate.

His OPS in plate appearances ending in pitches away has more than doubled since the break compared to before it, and he has also cut his strikeout rate on those pitches in half.

However, he’ll face a stiff challenge to keep up this second-half surge against Kershaw tonight. Posey is just 6-for-31 (.194) with eight strikeouts in his career against the lefty. That is Posey’s worst batting average against any pitcher he’s faced at least 10 times.

Dodgers look to solve Bumgarner's fastball

August, 20, 2012

Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesMadison Bumgarner's .222 opp BA vs his fastball is the lowest average among all lefty starters.
The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers meet Monday night (ESPN2, 10 ET) with the NL West lead on the line. The Dodgers lead the NL West by a half-game over the Giants despite scoring fewer runs than all but four teams in the National League. Those four teams -- the Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros and San Diego Padres -- are a combined 99 games under .500.

The Giants continue to attempt to fill the gap left by Melky Cabrera's suspension, and will certainly miss his play on the road this season. Cabrera leads the majors in road batting average at .367, and is second in slugging percentage (.595), behind only Josh Hamilton.

Aside from Cabrera, Giants outfielders have not produced at a high level this season, batting just .255 with a .389 slugging percentage.

The Giants still have a considerable weapon on offense in Buster Posey, however. He leads the majors in batting (.424) and OPS (1.246) since the All-Star break, and his 4.9 wins above replacement this season ranks fifth among NL position players.

What's been the key? He's crushing the fastball, batting .554 since the break, and is having no trouble with the changeup either (.533).

Madison Bumgarner, who will get the nod for the Giants, will be looking to baffle the Dodgers with his heater, a pitch that has been lethal this year. Bumgarner is allowing the opposition to bat only .222 off his fastball this season, the lowest average among all left-handed starting pitchers.

Opposing Bumgarner will be Clayton Kershaw, who has excelled in two-out situations so far this season; his .166 opponent batting average with two outs is beaten only by Felix Hernandez among starters. What's more, Kershaw will be going to work in Dodger Stadium, a venue he has thrived in. For his career, he has just a 2.44 ERA at home, the lowest among all active starting pitchers, minimum 400 innings.

The Dodgers have struggled since jumping out to a 32-15 record through May 27th. Since that date, they've posted just a 35-40 record while averaging 3.7 runs per game (4.5 prior). Matt Kemp has been a significant reason why the Dodgers remain in a battle for the division title, however. He's batting .345 with runners in scoring position this season, and has a .324 average since the All-Star break.

Kershaw and the Dodgers have shut out the Giants in two straight games, and according to Elias, the Dodgers have never shut out the Giants in three consecutive games in their 123-year history. The last time the Dodgers shut out any team in three consecutive games was when they zipped the Atlanta Braves in three straight in 1971.

ESPN Stats & InformationSince the All-Star break, pitchers haven't had many options when looking to get Buster Posey out.
Buster Posey hit a three-run home run in the first inning Tuesday, which proved to be enough as the San Francisco Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 to even their series.

Posey’s homer came off a slider from Lance Lynn. Throughout Posey’s career, that has been the easiest way to get him out; his .234 average against sliders is the worst against any pitch that he has seen at least 200 times.

But that hasn’t been the case since the All-Star break. Posey is 5-for-12 with a double and a home run against sliders in the past four weeks.

In fact, the Giants catcher has been punishing almost everything since the All-Star break. He is hitting .508 (31-for-61) on pitches in the strike zone and, as the grid at the top of the article shows, he is hitting at least .333 in every area of the zone.

In addition to covering the entire plate, he has been able to handle almost every type of pitch. His eight home runs have come against five different pitch types. His lone kryptonite since the break has been the curveball, against which he is 0-for-7 with six strikeouts.

Posey has 30 RBIs since the All-Star break, the most in the majors. With 73 RBIs this season, he has moved into a tie for fifth in the National League and is five behind Carlos Beltran for the league lead.

He is also leading the league with 39 hits and a .448 batting average over the past four weeks.

Beast of the American League
One of the few hitters challenging Posey for supremacy since the All-Star break is Miguel Cabrera, who hit his league-leading 11th home run since the break on Tuesday.

Cabrera has five home runs in eight games against the New York Yankees this season. The only player with more is Mark Trumbo with six.

While Cabrera was vulnerable to offspeed pitches in the season’s first half, he has handled them better since the All-Star break. In that span, he is hitting (.344 to .304) and slugging (.750 to .739) better against offspeed pitches than fastballs.

Working overtime
The Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles played extra-inning games on Tuesday, and the end result continued long trends for both teams.

The Astros lost to the Washington Nationals in 12 innings and are 0-11 in extra-inning games this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other team in major league history to lose its first 11 extra-inning games was the 1969 Montreal Expos, who lost their first 12.

The Orioles needed 14 innings to beat the Seattle Mariners. Baltimore has won its past 12 extra-inning games. The Orioles are the only team in the majors to play five games of at least 13 innings this season, and they’ve won all five.