I was a guest on a San Francisco Giants-themed podcast on Tuesday, the night before Game 1 of the World Series. Danny and Thomas, the fine hosts of Two Guys, A Glove & A Coke Bottle, asked me if I’d noticed that the Giants had only faced right-handed starting pitchers through the National League Division Series against the Reds, and the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals, and would only face right-handed starting pitchers in the World Series against the Tigers. “Hmmm,” I said. “I hadn’t noticed that,” or words to that effect.
I was deliriously tired after the podcast, as I’d attended Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS at AT&T Park, and spent my other waking hours since Sunday writing about the Giants and baseball. I know, tough life. I’m not complaining, just explaining why I didn’t immediately do any follow-up research on the Giants’ postseason-streak of facing only right-handed starters.
Yesterday, my friend Anna, the lovely and talented @SFBleacherGirl, wondered aloud on Twitter whether any team other than the Giants had faced only right-handed starters throughout the postseason. “Oh,” I said in my empty home office, “I meant to look at that after the podcast.” “Thanks Anna,” I tweeted back, “I’m going to write a post about that!”
So here we are.
The 2012 San Francisco Giants are the only team since League Championship Series were introduced in 1969 to (1) play in the World Series; and (2) face a right-handed starter in every postseason game.
In the Division Series against the Reds, the Giants faced Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake and Mat Latos, all right-handed starters. In the League Championship Series against the Cardinals, the Giants faced Lance Lynn (in Games 1 and 5), Chris Carpenter (in Games 2 and 6), Kyle Lohse (in Games 3 and 7), and Adam Wainwright, all right-handed starters.
In Game 1 of the World Series, the Giants faced Justin Verlander. In Game 2 it was Doug Fister. In Game 3, scheduled for tonight, San Francisco will go up against Anibal Sanchez. In Game 4, to be played on Sunday night, the Tigers will send Max Scherzer to the mound. Then it will be Verlander, Fister, and Sanchez again, if necessary. All are right-handed starters.
Getting an answer to Anna’s question wasn’t easy. Sure, I could have read through every postseason box score dating back to 1969 and then looked up the handedness of each starting pitcher (at least the ones I didn’t know off the top of my head). But that would have taken a long, long time. Instead, I queried the indispensable Play Index on Baseball-Reference for all postseason games since 1969 started by right-handed pitchers. Then I organized the results by year and opposing team.
Here are the results for the 2012 Giants that Play Index search:
Notice that every game of every series is listed. There are no gaps. For every other team that played in a World Series from 1969 to 2012, there was at least one gap, one missing game in which the team faced a left-handed starting pitcher.
The team closest to the Giants record? There are two. The 2004 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1998 New York Yankees. The 2004 Cardinals faced only right-handed starters in the NLCS against the Astros and in the World Series against the Red Sox. But in the Division Series, the Cards faced off twice against the Dodgers’ Odalis Perez, a lefty. Sorry Cardinals. The 1998 Yankees were up against only right-handed starters on the Rangers in the Division Series, and only right-handed starters on the Indians in the ALCS. But in World Series Game 3, the Padres sent Sterling Hitchcock to the mound against New York–the only lefty starter the Yankees faced the entire postseason. Sorry Yankees.
One more thing: In the regular season, the Giants had a much better record when facing a left-handed starting pitcher. San Francisco was 40-19 against lefty starters with a .273/.320/.420 batting line. Against right-handed starters they were 54-49 with a .267/.332/.383 batting line.
In the postseason so far, the Giants 9-5, all against right-handed starters. Two more wins against righties and the Giants will have their second World Series Championship in the last three years.