The San Francisco Giants need to understand the importance of Ryan Vogelsong’s Game 2 performance in the NLCS if there is going to be any chance of a Game 3 victory or World Series appearance.
Thanks to an old facet of the pitching game, Vogelsong exposed a major Cardinals’ weakness, perfectly orchestrated and hopefully understood by pitching coach Dave Righetti and the rest of the staff, who needed the tutorial badly.
The Giants’ starters have been awful this postseason, averaging under five innings a start and collectively carrying more than one hit per inning.
The unexpected trend has been caused by an attempt to paint the outside corner, eliminating the inside corner completely, and missing to the center; causing an early exit and difficult run margin, all before the fans even get into their seats.
Let's face it, the San Francisco Giants need starting pitching in the MLB playoffs like the Yankees need the complete set of Tom Emanski's instructional baseball videos — preferably the volumes that cover hitting.
It's been ugly, to say the least. However, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum have broken the trend, averaging well under the numbers Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgardner possess, and there is a reason for that.
While the media masses pick and prod the possible dirty slide by Cardinals Matt Holiday, the real NLCS news worthy of recognition is Vogelsong's pitching, more importantly his location.
His aggressive inside attack is a page taken out of the old school thought-process in the MLB; one that has been recently shelved due to fear of hitting a batter — who know goes to the plate wearing enough armor to make Patton blush — plate coverage by overly strong athletes and the college mentality backed by the lethal aluminum bats.
The newer pitching philosophy is simple: Go inside for effect, and effect only.
It's an unfortunate practice, especially around playoff time when aggressiveness is often most rewarded. Pitchers like Roger Clemens, Bob Gibson and Mariano Rivera's success in October coincided with controlling the inner half with dominance.
Yes, the inside is not an easy area to control. Missing the spot by a fraction either equates to a batter shaking off a seemed bruise on their way to first base, or driving the ball deep — like Matt Cain’s mistake to Matt Carpenter in the third inning of Game 3.
However, done correctly and the other team is left with more broken bats than hits, like Vogelsong's outing Monday night.
He continuously pounded the inside corner against the Cardinals hitters, showing they could not bring their hands in quickly enough to provide any sort of pop on the pitch.
If you watched the swings of Allen Craig, David Freese, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday replayed in slow-motion during the FOX broadcast, you easily could see the handcuffed situation they were facing: Each player did nothing with the pitch, thus doing nothing in the game.
A similar success using the inside corner can be credited to Tim Lincecum. He has controlled hitters in the playoffs by setting up his off-speed pitches with inside fastballs. Now, he has found his Cy Young winning-form and looks to be the Giants answer in Game 4.
It’s a sign of what the Giants’ staff needs to do if they want to represent the NL in the World Series. If Vogelsong's explanation during the FOX Sports Postgame Show with Ken Rosenthal wasn't enough — crediting the success against the Cardinals by using inside pitches — then Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti must understand the situation and act, accordingly.
Matt Cain missed the memo in Game 3, opting to pick the outside predominantly in his 100 pitches thrown, leaving with a 3-1 deficit and erasing any momentum from Vogelsong's performance.
Will the Giants rebound or will they need the Emanski videos next?
Perhaps the rain delay will give them time to revisit the Game 2-pitch sequence, regaining the old school-edge, again.