The Josh Hamilton-Bengie Molina Series

They could – and did – give the trophies to other guys, but let’s face it, if you’re a fan of the Phillies, or the ’09 Yankees, or the ’10 Giants, you know that the World Series MVP last year was Damaso Marte, and the NLCS MVP this year was Javier Lopez.

Simply put, for whatever degree of offensive incompetence the Phillies didn’t create themselves, Lopez did it for them. He pitched in all six games and faced Chase Utley and Ryan Howard each time. And they were 1-for-12 off him, completely mesmerized by his left-handed sidearming.
Josh Hamilton faced him this year, went 0-for-1. He faced him three times in 2008, went 1-for-3 with a double.
Past performance, as they say, is not a guarantee of future results, but even if Lopez continues his hot streak (and remember his ERA for the Red Sox in ’09 was 9.46), Hamilton just isn’t as easily dominated by lefthanders. If his ALCS home run details don’t tell you that (Game One: Sabathia; Game Three: Pettitte; Game Four: Logan — all LHP, plus a fourth game off Sergio Mitre in garbage time), just check out his 2010 splits:
                                    AB    HR     RBI     AVG    SLG
At Home Vs LHP           82       5       13     .305     .524
On Road Vs LHP           84       3       10     .238     .393
Overall Vs RHP           352      24      77      .401     .716
That last one is thrown in there for the edification of Brian Wilson. Josh Hamilton hit .401 against right-handed pitching this year.
This underscores the Giants’ obvious problem: Hamilton is the only essential lefthanded bat in the Texas line-up. These are not the Phillies. The bats who surround him, particularly Michael Young, Nelson Cruz, and Vladimir Guerrero, are all righties. The other lefties in the Texas lineup are fungible.
In short, unlike the Phillies, the Rangers are not going to whiff themselves out of big innings by virtue of their power being suffocated by a same-side sidearmer. 
The other salient issue of this Series is Bengie Molina. We are in new territory here. Never before did the catcher for one of the World Series teams open the season catching for the other World Series team. Pressed about this in interviews, Molina has been taciturn, almost blank, insisting he doesn’t think it’s much of an advantage. I think Benjie wants us to believe that, but if for no other reason than the Giants have to completely rejigger the pitch signals and any lingering dugout-to-coach or coach-to-hitter signals, he will inconvenience San Francisco mightily.
For my money, the kind of scouting Molina can offer on San Francisco pitching is the kind of information for which teams scramble at this time of year. The Yankees’ National League scouting under the supervision of Stick Michael was so startlingly good that during the ’99 Classic it seemed as if few Yankee fielders had to step more than a foot or two to field or grab a ball, so well did the Yankees know what and where the Braves would hit it. My guess is Molina can provide that – only in real time, on the field – for all of the Giants’ pitchers (and imagine during his own at bats, his familiarity with their pitch qualities, selections and patterns).
The most recent vague comparison to this unique situation would probably be Ted Simmons, who moved from the 1980 Cardinals to the 1981 Brewers, then wound up facing his old team in the ’82 Series. Simmons caught Game One and the Brewers pounded his old St. Louis battery-mate Bob Forsch 10-0 (with Simba hitting a homer). They faced Forsch again in Game Five and beat him up for six runs in five-and-two-thirds. In the other starts they lost to John Stuper (a 1982 rookie Simmons had never caught) and Joaquin Andujar (who joined St. Louis half a year after Simmons was traded). In the other Milwaukee victory, the Brewers were largely stymied by Dave LaPoint (one earned run). He had gone from Milwaukee to St. Louis in the Simmons trade.
For these two reasons alone (we haven’t even mentioned Cliff Lee) I like the Rangers and fast: five or six games.
Just for the record, Molina will join very, very select company when he appears against the Giants in Game One. Only Lonnie Smith, who started 1985 with the Cardinals and then played against them for the Royals in the Classic, has previously pulled off the both-teams stunt. The year before, reliever Sid Monge went from the Padres to the Tigers but did not pitch in the post-season for Detroit. Of all the MLB-issued media guides to all the World Series I’ve covered, the one I cannot find is 1984, so I can’t check my memory that Monge was indeed eligible but just wasn’t used.
If not, he falls into a slightly larger club: playing for both Series teams in one year, but not being eligible for the Classic. Jack Kramer (1951 Giants and Yankees), Johnny Schmitz (1952 Dodgers and Yankees), Jim Bruske (1998 Padres and Yankees), and Chris Ray (2010 Rangers and Giants) are on that list, and if you want to stretch it, so is catcher Eddie Tucker of the 1995 Indians, who wound up the property of the Braves the same year but never playing for them.
So there.

18 Comments

I was just tellin’ my Dad yesterday that I think Bengie Molina will decide this series before it even begins, for the very reasons you mention here. The Giants strength has been their pitching (everyone knows they can’t hit), and since Molina’s caught these guys for the past couple seasons… well… any good catcher KNOWS their pitchers strengths and weaknesses inside and out. It’s their job to keep the pitcher going even when he don’t have it that day. I think Molina’s info is definitely more detailed & valuable than the scouts.

How could I forget Lonnie Smith in ’85?!?!

I won’t argue with your logic, but my heart leads me to a different conclusion. Keith, even YOU must be wrong sometimes…right? Well, let’s hope so. After all, the Giants weren’t exactly favored in the last series, and statistics are really only good at predicting the predictable.Besides, I liked it when you said “…I like Texas.” The new way, “I like the Rangers…” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. GO GIANTS!!!So there.
P.S. See you at game 2! =)

Couldn’t disagree more. Cody Ross (and his beard) pretty much won the NLCS for us by provding the bulk of the offense. He earned that series MVP trophy.

Ah, yet another expert predicting the Giants imminent demise because the other team has too many weapons. We heard this about our chances to catch the Padres. We were told that the Braves would shut us down. We were told there was no way we get past the mighty Phillies, and even when we led the NLCS 3-2, the “experts” were still guaranteeing a Game 7.

Wrong every time. The reality is the Giants play as a team, have small-ball weapons up and down the line-up, and possibly the best pitching in the majors.

I don’t think the Molina factor is going to be all that big. This not the same team he left back on June 30th. If we’re that worried about his knowledge of our pitchers, walk him. He’s not the greatest baserunner in history, you know.

Giants in 6, 2002 is avenged, party on Market St.!

YHTfrS At last, someone comes up with the “right” answer!

Jwin, I completely agree, but I think one of the Giants’ biggest assets is constantly overlooked, and that’s Bruce Bochy. The man has been willing to try anything, use anyone, every way imaginable to win games. He also has the vision to see what ordinary players have to offer the team, and has made them champions. He did the same for the Padres.

The Giants are mocked by the East Coast baseball establishment (that’s you, Keith) for being a “rag-tag” bunch of “has-beens.” Guess what? They won the pennant. No one, except probably Bochy, ever expected them to get this far this year. I think he’s a Hall of Famer.

Cant wait for the paloyffs to see how our best record in Baseball lefthanded lineup matches up against the lefthanded relievers in the Atlanta bullpen, in Yellowstone Park I mean Turner field all those strikeouts of Howard ,Ibanez , Brown should be exciting stuff.

Keith, my only question is: if the Rangers win do they give Chris Ray a ring and a World Series share?

Hopefully your anti-Giants predictions continue to bring them luck. GO GIANTS!

tsk,tsk Keith. Still refuse to see and enjoy baseball for what it, unlike NBA,NFL or any other sport (with the possible exception of soccer! :) ) huh? The 2010 SF giants represent determination vs anointment, will vs expectation and every over good, true thing vs cynicism, arrogance and delusion.

Game 1 in the NLCS should’ve been the wake up call.

Beating the snot out of the “invincible” Cliff Lee in Game 1……Screaming Klaxon!

I called it on here after Game 1 of the NLCS…Giants in 6.
In the World Series….Giants in 5!

Get Used to it now East Coast clueless!…The 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants!

Obviously the Molina threat was highly overrated.

Keith, keep picking the teams you are picking.

Three Words: East Coast Bias. You might want to take a good long look at yourself because you define it.

Keith,
Big fan of your show and this blog. However, as a long time Giants fan; was offended by your dismissing of SF Giants. Well all I got to say now is: THREE TO ONE BABY!
Emerson

Keith,

You picked the Rangers with about as much reflection as Bush invading Iraq. Unlike Bush, you still have my vote.

The 2010 Giants are much more than the sum of their parts. While weak bats plagued us and our very appearance in the post season came by way of a Padres meltdown, this is a team that inspires much more camaraderie and fan support than any from the Bonds-centric past.

This season will still taste sweet many years from now.

James in Berkeley

Keith,

You picked the Rangers with about as much reflection as Bush invading Iraq. Unlike Bush, you still have my vote.

The 2010 Giants are much more than the sum of their parts. While weak bats plagued us and our very appearance in the post season came by way of a Padres meltdown, this is a team that inspires much more camaraderie and fan support than any from the Bonds-centric past.

This season will still taste sweet many years from now.

James in Berkeley

Keith,

You picked the Rangers with about as much reflection as Bush invading Iraq. Unlike Bush, you still have my vote.

The 2010 Giants are much more than the sum of their parts. While weak bats plagued us and our very appearance in the post season came by way of a Padres meltdown, this is a team that inspires much more camaraderie and fan support than any from the Bonds-centric past.

This season will still taste sweet many years from now.

James in Berkeley

You got the fast right.

But why did you ignore the #1 adage in baseball, good pitching beats good hitting? Especially in the “year of the pitcher”. Statistically the Rangers were the best hitting team. After this series, not only were the Giants statistically the best pitching team in baseball, they were the best pitching team in baseball.

Comments above see this as East Coast / West Coast. I think they are completely wrong. I think it is an AL / NL issue. AL fans are much more offense centric than NL fans.

Congrats to the Giants!!!!!!!! I thought they played great baseball the entire post season.

 This is definitely a blog worth following. You’ve got a great deal to say about this subject, and you can also tell that by the huge number of comments!

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