I think we can all agree that the 2-3 format being used in the Division Series this year is stupid. I mean, it's really really stupid and Bud Selig is just the worst. But no matter how much we gripe about how the Reds would be better off in their match up against the Giants if the old format were in place, it's not changing. One aspect that hasn't been discussed is that there is an awful lot of pressure on the lower seeded team to win both of their home games. A split of the first two games, with the series heading back to Cincinnati for good, would have to be viewed as a major advantage for the Reds.
Game One tonight will feature the tastiest pitching match up of the series, with two bona fide aces squaring off to try and set the tone for the series. I never thought I'd say this, but Matt Cain and Johnny Cueto are very similar pitchers. Well, that is to say, since the evolution of the "Tiant Turn" they are. Johnny Cueto has been something of a DIPS-defier over the last two seasons. His ERA since the start of the 2011 season is over a full run lower than his xFIP. Many assumed that his 2011 season was a fluke due to his career low K rate and career low BABIP, but Johnny C came back in 2012 and turned in the best season of his career, while posting a very normal .296 BABIP.
It seems for the last few years we have seen preseason articles written about this being the year that Cain is finally going to regress. Between 2009 and 2012, Cain has posted BABIPs between .252 and .263, which are well below the league average of around .290. A lot of that has to do with the Giants home park suppressing honked wangers per fly balls at around a 6% clip, and the fact that the Giants have fielded an above average defensive team over the course of the last four seasons. But over a nearly 900 inning sample size, Cain has been extremely consistent in posting a low average on balls in play, leading a lot of people to assume that he possesses some sort of super secret BABIP skill.
The main difference between Cueto and Cain lies in the batted ball data. Cain is a fly ball pitcher (41.7%), whereas Cueto does his thing by keeping the ball on the ground (48.9%). This makes a ton of sense that these two are successful pitching the majority of their games in their respective home parks. But aside from the batted ball differences, these two hurlers have a lot in common, and this game should be a ton of fun to watch. I'm expecting an old fashion, low scoring, pitchers duel coming down to which bullpen can hold on in the final innings. Advantage Reds.
Eerily Similiar 2012 Numbers
Cain: 2.79 ERA, 3.82 xFIP, 3.78 K/BB, 8.4 % HR/FB, 79.0% LOB
Cueto: 2.78 ERA, 3.62 xFIP, 3.47 K/BB, 7.9% HR/FB, 78.8% LOB