2014 National League Wild Card Preview

With one wild card game finished, we have one to go. This time it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates hosting the San Francisco Giants for the right to move on to the Divisional Series and face the NL best Washington Nationals. I’ve already stated my love for the wild card games, and while we don’t quite have the marquis pitching matchup featured in the AL game yesterday, we should be in store for another exciting game.

Pitching Matchup

Madison Bumgarner vs Edinson Volquez

Starters

EDGE: San Francisco. Volquez’s ERA has been much better than anyone outside of the Pirates could have anticipated, and his strong second half is one of the many reasons the Pirates were able to right the ship (pun intended) after a rough start. Still his peripherals compared to his opponent aren’t encouraging if you’re having him start an elimination game (as can be seen by a FIP that is more than a run higher than his ERA). Bumgarner is the easy pick here.

Bullpens

Again, I’m only including the top 3 relievers here (according to fWAR). I’m also excluding Pittsburgh’s John Holdzkom, due to only pitching 9 innings in the majors. Despite that, he’s accumulated 0.2 fWAR, good for 3rd among Pittsburgh relievers. He could end up playing an important role in the game, especially if he unleashes that deadly palm ball (ok, no one will die, but it looks nasty).

Relievers

EDGE: San Francisco, but a very slight one, especially if Holdzkom can keep rolling continues where he left off.

Offense

Offense

EDGE: Pittsburgh (especially since the Giants will be missing the injured Angel Pagan).

Baserunning

Baserunning

EDGE: Pittsburgh.

Defense

Defense

EDGE: Pittsburgh, but I’m not saying that with a lot of confidence. Obviously DRS thinks the Pirates’ defense is the “bees knees”, but UZR/150 has them as a below average defensive club.

Verdict

It’s obvious that Pittsburgh is the better team here, but I’m picking the Giants to win the Wild Card game, almost entirely based on the starting pitching matchup. The peripherals for Volquez don’t inspire much confidence, and I’m having trouble trusting him in a game of this magnitude, out of fear that he could go all “2011-2013” on us (ie, not good). I’d be more inclined to pick the Pirates if Gerrit Cole (definitely), Francisco Liriano (probably), or even a healthy Charlie Morton (maybe) were toeing the rubber instead of Volquez. Again, anything can happen in a single game, and although I’m picking the Giants here, if the Pirates can get past this round, I think they’re good enough to go pretty deep in the playoffs.

*DEFINITIONS: FIP, wRC+, UBR, wSB, DRS, UZR/150

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