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NLDS Breakdown: San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds

The champions of the NL West (Giants) and NL Central (Reds) are going to hook ‘em up in one of the two Division Series. The Reds won the season series 4-3, but the close nature of the season series could foreshadow how closely contested this series might be.

Lineup

The Giants’ offense has surprised a lot of baseball fans this year with how good they have been. Signing Angel Pagan in the offseason and acquiring Marco Scutaro at the deadline have been keys to their success. Add them to a lineup that revolves around MVP candidate Buster Posey, and you have got a tough road to traverse. However, the Reds offense is built for a deep run, and their ballpark plays to their strengths. Votto, Bruce, Frazier, Phillips and company will make them very hard to beat.

Advantage: Reds

Starting Pitching

This might be closer than you would think. The Giants have been renowned for having the top rotation in the National League, but teams like the Nationals and Reds have caught up this season. The Reds have four pitchers that have thrown 200+ innings this year and Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman are real Cy Young contenders. However, from top to bottom, the Giants have the best rotation. Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Lincecum, and Zito will give the Giants a great chance to advance.

Advantage: Giants

Bullpen

The Giants have had inconsistencies in the bullpen for much of the season, and the Reds have had one of the best bullpens in the league for the entire year. Add that to the fact that the Reds have TWO accomplished closers at the back of their bullpen in Chapman and Jonathan Broxton and the Reds have the best chance to shorten games in this series.

Advantage: Reds

Manager

As a side note, it is great to see Dusty Baker back in the Reds’ dugout following some health concerns. Aside from that, this will be a matchup of two grizzled managers in Baker and Bruce Bochy. One of the many advantages of watching every game in the Cave this year is that I have gotten to see how many of the managers think. As such, I have seen Bochy make some very questionable bullpen moves and fielding alignments over the past several weeks of the season. Baker seems to have a better grip on his team.

Advantage: Reds

Experience

A great number of Reds players have very little (if any) playoff experience. Their playoff run in 2010 was incredibly short and lackluster (swept by Phillies), and the Giants have many of the same pieces from that year’s World Series championship team.

Advantage: Giants

Biggest Storyline: Lincecum’s Return to Form

It is well chronicled at this point that Lincecum has struggled to find his Cy Young form the entire season. Just two seasons ago, he was the World Series MVP and the clear leader of that incredible pitching staff. He has been improving over the past several months, but he will need to have pinpoint command if he hopes to help the Giants advance.

Key for the Giants: Don’t Let Votto Beat You

If Votto would have stayed healthy for the entire season, he might have been the runaway choice for NL MVP. As such, the Giants have to do all that they can to avoid his bat. Jay Bruce, Votto’s biggest protection in that lineup has been struggling mightily in September, and the Giants need to exploit that fact by pitching around Votto to get to Bruce.

Key for the Reds: Split on the Road

With the new playoff setup, the higher seed actually has to go on the road for two games before they come home for three. A split in San Francisco will be paramount for the Reds. You have got to like the Reds’ chances to advance by winning two out of three at home.

Prediction: Giants in 5

Pitching can negate a hitting or ballpark advantage in a hurry. I think that the Giants and Reds will trade wins until the Giants take the series in the finale. For the record, I made this prediction prior to Ashley threatening me.

Tweet to @MLBFanCave using the hash tag #NLDS to let us know who you think will win this game.

The champions of the NL West (Giants) and NL Central (Reds) are going to hook ‘em up in one of the two Division Series. The Reds won the season series 4-3, but the close nature of the season series could foreshadow how closely contested this series might be.

Lineup

The Giants’ offense has surprised a lot of baseball fans this year with how good they have been. Signing Angel Pagan in the offseason and acquiring Marco Scutaro at the deadline have been keys to their success. Add them to a lineup that revolves around MVP candidate Buster Posey, and you have got a tough road to traverse. However, the Reds offense is built for a deep run, and their ballpark plays to their strengths. Votto, Bruce, Frazier, Phillips and company will make them very hard to beat.

Advantage: Reds

Starting Pitching

This might be closer than you would think. The Giants have been renowned for having the top rotation in the National League, but teams like the Nationals and Reds have caught up this season. The Reds have four pitchers that have thrown 200+ innings this year and Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman are real Cy Young contenders. However, from top to bottom, the Giants have the best rotation. Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Lincecum, and Zito will give the Giants a great chance to advance.

Advantage: Giants

Bullpen

The Giants have had inconsistencies in the bullpen for much of the season, and the Reds have had one of the best bullpens in the league for the entire year. Add that to the fact that the Reds have TWO accomplished closers at the back of their bullpen in Chapman and Jonathan Broxton and the Reds have the best chance to shorten games in this series.

Advantage: Reds

Manager

As a side note, it is great to see Dusty Baker back in the Reds’ dugout following some health concerns. Aside from that, this will be a matchup of two grizzled managers in Baker and Bruce Bochy. One of the many advantages of watching every game in the Cave this year is that I have gotten to see how many of the managers think. As such, I have seen Bochy make some very questionable bullpen moves and fielding alignments over the past several weeks of the season. Baker seems to have a better grip on his team.

Advantage: Reds

Experience

A great number of Reds players have very little (if any) playoff experience. Their playoff run in 2010 was incredibly short and lackluster (swept by Phillies), and the Giants have many of the same pieces from that year’s World Series championship team.

Advantage: Giants

Biggest Storyline: Lincecum’s Return to Form

It is well chronicled at this point that Lincecum has struggled to find his Cy Young form the entire season. Just two seasons ago, he was the World Series MVP and the clear leader of that incredible pitching staff. He has been improving over the past several months, but he will need to have pinpoint command if he hopes to help the Giants advance.

Key for the Giants: Don’t Let Votto Beat You

If Votto would have stayed healthy for the entire season, he might have been the runaway choice for NL MVP. As such, the Giants have to do all that they can to avoid his bat. Jay Bruce, Votto’s biggest protection in that lineup has been struggling mightily in September, and the Giants need to exploit that fact by pitching around Votto to get to Bruce.

Key for the Reds: Split on the Road

With the new playoff setup, the higher seed actually has to go on the road for two games before they come home for three. A split in San Francisco will be paramount for the Reds. You have got to like the Reds’ chances to advance by winning two out of three at home.

Prediction: Giants in 5

Pitching can negate a hitting or ballpark advantage in a hurry. I think that the Giants and Reds will trade wins until the Giants take the series in the finale. For the record, I made this prediction prior to Ashley threatening me.

Tweet to @MLBFanCave using the hash tag #NLDS to let us know who you think will win this game.