San Francisco Giants 2012 NLDS Success: The Answer Is in the Bullpen

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San Francisco Giants 2012 NLDS Success: The Answer Is in the Bullpen
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

The San Francisco Giants stand a very solid chance to win against the Cincinnati Reds tonight, and for the entire series, assuming the bullpen is ready to play.

Without question, the Giants will miss closer Brian Wilson in the later innings. But closing the game is not the most important scenario.

The Giants' success against the Reds is simple: hold it. That doesn't mean wait for the answer at the bottom of the page—that is the answer, and it's a paramount one.

The Giants have the hitting, finishing third in average in the National League (.269)—which includes Melky's "juiced average," so the number is skewed a bit—and they display a skilled defense. Combine that with a solid starting pitching staff on the mound, which had 58 percent of the win total, and their record of 94-68 makes perfect sense.

But this is not the regular season; all the rules for success are magnified once playoff time begins—even the infield fly rule, apparently. Each decision weighs much more heavily on the coach and the players when the "get them next game" slogan is not a guarantee.

Every inning matters.

While a game can be won in the beginning and lost at the end, the middle is what separates the winner from the loser; it's an aspect the Giants excelled at this season. The bullpen amassed 102 holds in 2012, only allowing 23 percent of the inherited baserunners to score.

Protecting the lead is a trend the Giants will want to follow in the playoffs, giving Bruce Bochy the option, and trust, to make a pitching change at any moment. Without it, the closer means nothing—except for the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman that Giants hitters will have to face in the ninth without a lead.

The committee of Jeremy Affeldt, Guillermo Mota, Clay Hensley, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla will be a seriously important factor in the Giants' success. The Reds have a similar hold percentage, so the matchup will be about who performs the best in a playoff environment. 

If the Giants get the game to the ninth with a lead, then the edge is theirs. They hold a 79 percent save ratio over the Reds' 76 percent. Although that is not a huge difference, every little bit counts when October wins and losses are on the line.

Speculative Fact: The last time the Giants bullpen had similar hold numbers and save-percentage ratio was in 2010—their World Series championship season. 

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