Wednesday, October 5, 2016

NL Wildcard: Why the (Giants / Mets) Will Win

Topping last night's dramatic extra-innings walk-off victory by the Toronto Blue Jays over the Baltimore Orioles is going to prove difficult for the combatants in Wednesday night's NL Wild Card Game.
The New York Mets of the NL East will host the San Francisco Giants of the NL West at Citi Field in a game between two teams who were headed in somewhat opposite directions as the 2016 MLB regular season wound to a close.
The Giants were sitting at 57-33 on July 10 following a 5-1 homestand, and were leading the division by 6.5 games at that point.
On that same date, the Mets were at 47-41, in second place in their division, six games out. They would eventually fall below the .500 mark, to a low of 60-62 following an 8-1 drubbing at AT&T Park to the Giants on August 19.
Following that victory, the Giants had slipped back a bit at 68-54, but were still on top of the NL West. They would remain there for just one more day.
From the date of that Giants thumping of the Mets in San Francisco, the Mets would surge to a 27-13 finish, rising from third in the division to the top NL Wild Card position.
San Francisco, on the other hand, had already been playing shaky ball. They would really fall back after that point, finishing the season with a 19-21 mark that left the Giants scrambling for a playoff berth in the final days.
So the two teams who meet tonight in Queens resemble very little those two who met back in mid-August.
The Mets have been playing with increasing confidence, while the Giants have been scrambling to find their footing. Until they prove that the postseason is a different story, we cannot ignore that the Giants had a losing record in each of the season's final three months.
Meanwhile, the Mets first found equilibrium and then consistent winning. One of these teams is clearly hot, the other is not. Advantage: New York
These NL Wild Card foes met seven times head-to-head and settled very little. The Mets won four of the seven, outscoring the Giants by just a 39-35 margin.
New York was 44-37 at home this year while the Giants fashioned a similar 42-39 road mark. The HTH and home/road seems to find little to separate the two clubs. Advantage: Even
These are teams of contrasting playing styles. The Mets are a power bunch, finishing second in the National League with 218 home runs.
The Giants smacked just 130 long balls this year, just 13th of the 15 teams in the league. They have seven players in double-digit home runs compared to the Mets' six, but have no big boppers. Advantage: New York
The Giants are far more selective, which could lead to more base runners and more scoring opportunities. Their cumulative on-base percentage of .329 ranked fourth in the NL, while the Mets' .316 mark was just 12th of the league's 15 teams. Advantage: San Francisco
San Francisco makes up for the over-the-fence power gap in a few ways, closing to within .733 to .728 when comparing their cumulative OPS marks.
The Giants did this by accumulating 40 more doubles and a whopping 35 more triples. Their 79 steals were 37 more than the Mets' total, which ranked just 14th of the 15 NL ball clubs. On team speed, the edge is clear. Advantage: San Francisco
San Francisco is arguably the best defensive team in the National League. They led the Senior Circuit in fielding percentage at .988, and their 72 errors were fewest in the league.
The Mets committed just 89 errors themselves, which was good for fifth in the NL, while their .985 fielding percentage was tied for fourth in the league. Advantage: Even
When skipper Terry Collins turns to the pen in the middle to late innings, he has a handful of strong options in righties Addison Reed and Hansel Robles, as well as lefties Jerry Blevins and Antonio Bastardo.
However, as we saw last night, all arms are on deck in this one-and-done format. Don't be surprised if you see Bartolo ColonRobert Gsellman, or Logan Verrett if the situation warrants.
Jeurys Familia closes for New York, one of the top shutdown men in the league. For the Giants it could be anyone from among Santiago CasillaHunter Strickland, or Sergio Romo being called upon by manager Bruce Bochy at the end.
That's just if he goes the traditional route. Bochy could reach for a starter as well, with someone like Jeff SamardzijaMatt CainJake Peavy, and even Johnny Cueto seeing action. Advantage: Even
The two starting pitchers in the NL Wild Card Game are two of the most exciting in the game today. Madison Bumgarner of the Giants is a 26-year-old lefty who has been in the big leagues since he was a teenager, and who will be making his 15th postseason start.
Noah Syndergaard of New York is a 23-year-old in just his second season in MLB. He made four postseason starts in the Mets' run to the World Series a year ago: two in the NLDS, and one each in the NLCS and the Fall Classic.
While the starting pitchers are each capable of dominating the other lineup, Bumgarner is widely considered in any conversation of the best starting pitchers in the game today. Syndergaard is still trying to earn his way into those talks. Advantage: San Francisco
While I believe that the Giants hold a slight edge in the style of game traditionally played in the National League, they were not playing it well enough over the second half of the season.
The Mets have been one of the game's best teams, displaying similar toughness as a year ago when they also got hot down the stretch, riding that to the NL pennant.
I would make the Mets the favorites in this game simply because they are clearly the hotter team, combined with their holding the home field edge in this NL Wild Card Game at Citi Field.
But for me, Bumgarner evens everything up. If he is on, New York will have a very hard time scoring runs. The same can be said of Syndergaard. I would be shocked if this wasn't a taught, low-scoring pitcher's duel.
As with last night, one big blow could decide things, and as I said with the AL Wild Card Game, you can toss a coin to determine the winner here.

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