This is a very interesting match-up. Bobby Cox is going to retire after this season so the Braves will be playing all out to send him out in style. The Giants have a veteran team in the field and a very good young pitching staff. Here is a breakdown of the positions in this series:
CATCHER: Brian McCann is one of the best catchers in all of baseball. He played in 143 games for the Braves this year and he was 129 of 479 (.269 avg, .828 OPS) with 63 runs scored, 21 homers, 77 RBIs and 5 stolen bases. McCann has also played in 3 games in his post season career and he is 3 of 16 (.188 avg, .750 OPS) with 2 runs scored, 2 homers and 5 RBIs.
Rookie Buster Posey was a impact player for the Giants. He played in 108 games for the Giants this year and he was 124 of 406 (.305 avg, .862 OPS) with 58 runs scored, 18 homers and 67 RBIs. It will be interesting to see how Posey handles the pressure of the playoffs but I think he will be fine.
FIRST BASE: Derek Lee gives the Braves a power bat with Gold Glove caliber D. Lee played in 148 games for the Cubs & Braves this year and he was 142 of 547 (.260 avg, .774 OPS) with 80 runs scored, 19 homers and 80 RBIs. He has played in 23 games in his post season career and he is 25 of 95 (.263 avg, .678 OPS) with 9 runs scored, 1 homer, 8 RBIs and 2 stolen bases.
Aubrey Huff has been waiting his whole career to play in the post season so we will see how he does. Huff played in 157 games for the Giants this year and he was 165 of 569 (.290 avg, .891 OPS) with 100 runs scored, 26 homers, 86 RBIs and 7 stolen bases.
SECOND BASE: A lot of people scalded Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel for picking Omar Infante to the All-Star team but no one can argue that he didn’t have a great year. Infante played in 134 games for the Braves this year and he was 151 of 471 (.321 avg, .775 OPS) with 65 runs scored, 8 homers, 47 RBIs and 7 stolen bases. Infante has played in 2 games in his post season career and he is 1 for 3 (.333 avg, .833 OPS) with 1 RBI.
Freddy Sanchez is a scrappy player but his best days were when he was a Pirate. Sanchez played in 111 games for the Giants this year and he was 126 of 431 (.292 avg, .739 OPS) with 55 runs scored, 7 homers, 47 RBIs and 3 stolen bases. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sanchez steps up.
SHORTSTOP: Alex Gonzalez is a pretty solid all around shortstop as he’s good with the glove and he has some power. Gonzalez played in 157 games for the Blue Jays & Braves this year and he was 149 of 595 (.250, .741 OPS) with 74 runs scored, 23 homers and 88 RBIs. He has played in 20 games in his post season career and he is 11 off 68 (.162 avg, .450 OPS) with 7 runs scored, 1 homer and 6 RBIs.
Juan Uribe was a lifesaver for the Giants this year. He played in 148 games for the Giants this year and he was 129 of 521 (.248 avg, .750 OPS) with 64 runs scored, 24 homers and 85 RBIs. Uribe played in 16 games in the post season and he is 14 of 54 (.259 avg, .729 OPS) with 7 runs scored, 1 homer, 7 RBIs and 2 stolen bases.
EDGE: SLIGHT FOR GIANTS
THIRD BASE: Switch hitting Brooks Conrad will likely get the call here. He played in 103 games for the Braves this year and he was 39 of 156 (.250 avg, .811 OPS) with 31 runs scored, 8 homers, 33 RBIs and 5 stolen bases. Don’t be surprised though if the Braves have been giving Troy Glaus a lot of grounders at 3B.
Switch hitting Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval had a pretty weak year. He played in 152 games for the Giants this year and he was 151 of 563 (.268 avg, .732 OPS) with 61 runs scored, 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 3 stolen bases. This is a new season though so maybe Sandoval will step up and be the player he was in 2009.
LEFT FIELD: Melky Cabrera, Matt Diaz or Eric Hinske could be out in LF in this series. Cabrera is the guy that will likely play the most though. He played in 147 games for the Braves this year and he was 117 of 458 (.255 avg, .671 OPS) with 50 runs scored, 4 homers, 42 RBIs and 7 stolen bases. Cabrera has played in 19 games in the post season and he was 16 of 67 (.239 avg, .585 OPS) with 7 runs scored, 1 homer and 6 RBIs.
Pat Burrell was a godsend for the Giants as they probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him. Burrell played in 120 games for the Giants & Rays this year and he was 94 of 373 (.252 avg, .817 OPS) with 50 runs scored, 20 homers and 64 RBIs. He has played in 17 games in his pre-season career and he is 12 of 55 (.218 avg, .793 OPS) with 4 runs scored, 4 homers and 9 RBIs.
CENTER FIELD: The Braves will either go with Rick Ankiel or Nate McLouth in CF in this series. McLouth played in 85 games for the Braves this year and he was 46 of 242 (.190 avg, .620 OPS) with 30 runs scored, 6 homers, 24 RBIs and 7 stolen bases. Rick Ankiel played in 74 games for the Royals & Braves this year and he was 49 of 211 (.232 avg, .709 OPS) with 31 runs scored, 6 homers, 24 RBIs and 3 stolen bases. He has played in 5 games in his post season career and he is 0 for 3 with 2 whiffs.
Switch hitting Andres Torres has been a lifesaver in CF for the Giants this year. He has played in 139 games for the Giants and he is 136 of 507 (.268 avg, .822 OPS) with 84 runs scored, 16 homers, 63 RBIs and 26 stolen bases. Torres plays hard all the time and he’s a late bloomer so he might excel in the playoffs.
RIGHT FIELD: Jason Heyward turned in a outstanding rookie year for the Braves. Heyward played in 142 games for the Braves and he was 144 of 520 (.277 avg, .849 OPS) with 83 runs scored, 18 homers, 72 RBIs and 11 stolen bases. It will be interesting to see if Heyward can step up or if he will be overmatched in this series.
Jose Guillen will be the starting RF in this series for the Giants. He played in 148 games for the Royals & Giants and he was 135 of 524 (.258 avg, .730 OPS) with 55 runs scored, 19 homers and 77 RBIs. Guillen has played in 4 games in his post season career and he is 5 of 11 (.455 avg, 1.117 OPS) with 1 run scored and 1 RBI.
BENCH: Both of these benches are loaded with veteran players who can impact this series. David Ross is one of the best backup catchers in baseball. Eric Hinske, Troy Glaus and Matt Diaz give the Braves a lot of quality bench players and they all have power.
The Giants have Mike Fontenot, Edgar Renteria, Aaron Rowand, Travis Ishikawa and Cody Ross on the bench. Catcher Eli Whiteside will back up Buster Posey but he won’t play unless the rookie gets hurt.
STARTING PITCHING: The Braves could have some issues here as they needed Tim Hudson to pitch late in the season to get them into the playoffs meaning that he won’t be starting until Game #3 in Atlanta. Hudson started 34 games for the Braves this year and he was 17-9 with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. He has also pitched in 9 games (8 starts) in his post season career and he is 1-3 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Although the Braves tried like heck to trade Derek Lowe all winter (they dealt Javier Vazquez instead) but he will now be pitching in Game #1 tonight. Lowe pitched in 33 games (all starts) for the Braves this year and he was 16-12 with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Lowe pitched in 21 games (10 starts) in his post season career and he is 5-5 with 1 save, a 3.33 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Second year man Tommy Hanson will be #2 in line for the Braves in this series. He started 34 games for the Braves this year and he was 10-11 with a 3.33 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Hanson has potential to dominate because his stuff is as good as anyone else in this series. If the Braves need a #4 starter they will turn to rookie righty Brandon Beachy. Beachy started 3 games this year for the Braves and he was 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.
Tim Lincecum won the Cy Young Award in 2008+2009 but he hasn’t looked the same this year. Lincecum started 33 games for the Giants this year and he was 16-10 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. He still has been pretty dominant as he has whiffed 231 batters in 212 1/3 innings this year while only giving up 194 hits. Matt Cain will be starting Game #2 in this series and he is pretty darn good in his own right. Cain started 33 games for the Giants this year and he was 13-11 with a 3.14 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Lefty Jonathan Sanchez really stepped up for the Giants this year. He pitched in 34 games (33 starts) for the Giants this year and he was 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. Sanchez only has given up 142 hits in 193 1/3 innings this year and he has 205 whiffs showing what kind of stuff he has. Rookie lefty Madison Bumgarner will be the #4 starter if the Giants need one. Bumgarner has started 18 games for the Giants this year and he was 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.
CLOSER: Lefty Billy Wagner is going to retire at the end of this year along with Bobby Cox. He pitched in 71 games for the Braves this year and he was 7-2 with 37 saves, a 1.43 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP. Wagner has only given up 38 hits in 69 1/3 innings this year and he whiffed 104 batters showing that he still has great stuff. But, Wagner has had a awful time in the post season in his career to date. Wagner has pitched in 13 games (0 starts) in the post season and he is 1-1 with 3 saves, a 10.32 ERA and a 1.94 WHIP.
Righty Brian Wilson has graduated to the top class of closer this year. Wilson pitched in 70 games for the Giants this year and he is 3-3 with 48 saves, a 1.81 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. Wilson whiffed 93 batters in 74 2/3 innings this year while allowing only 62 hits as he has been dominating this year.
BULLPEN: The Braves bullpen has been depleted by injuries to lefty Eric O’Flaherty and righty Takashi Saito but they still have talent. Rookies Craig Kimbel and Jonny Venters could wind up being the top set up men in this series for the Braves. Righty Kimbel has been outstanding this year. Kimbel has pitched in 21 games for the Braves so far this year and he is 4-0 with 1 save, a 0.44 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. He has control issues with 16 walks in only 20 2/3 innings but he has only given up 9 hits while whiffing 40 batters showing just what kind of stuff he has. Lefty Jonny Venters has also been incredible. He pitched in 79 games this year and he was 4-4 with 1 save, a 1.95 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He has only given up 61 hits in 83 innings pitched while whiffing 93 batters which is pretty darn good. Righty Peter Moylan has been a horse in the pen for the Braves this year. Moylan has pitched in 85 games in which he is 6-2 with 1 save, a 2.97 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. Righty Kyle Farnsworth has incredible stuff but he hasn’t ever really turned it into the kind of results he should have. Farnsworth has pitched in 60 games for the Royals & Braves this year and he is 3-2 with a 3.34 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He has pitched in 13 games in the post season and he is 0-0 with a 5.79 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Lefty Mike Dunn is another lefty with really good stuff on the Braves. Dunn has pitched in 25 games for the Braves this year and he is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP.
The San Francisco Giants have too many pitchers for the pen so some guys are going to be left off the roster. If I had to guess lefty Dan Runzler and righty Guillermo Mota would get left off the roster. Righty Sergio Romo has been the Giants’ top set-up man all year long so look for that to remain his role in the playoffs. Romo pitched in 68 games for the Giants this year and he was 5-3 with a 2.18 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. Ramon Ramirez will also likely be working late in games for the Giants in this series. He pitched in 69 games for the Red Sox & Giants this year and he was 1-3 with 3 saves, a 2.99 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Javier Lopez will likely be the situational lefty for the Giants in this series. He has pitched in 77 games (0 starts) for the Pirates & Giants this year and he is 4-2 with a 2.34 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt is ready to go after missing a big chunk of the year and he has better stuff than Javier Lopez. Affeldt pitched in 53 games for the Giants this year and he was 4-3 with 4 saves, a 4.14 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. Affeldt has pitched in 7 games in his post season career and he is 0-0 with a 1.69 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP. Righty Santiago Casilla came out of nowhere to dominate in the pen for the Giants. Casilla pitched in 52 games for the Giants this year and he is 7-2 with 2 saves, a 1.95 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Chris Ray is also a power righty in the pen for the Giants. He pitched in 63 games (0 starts) with the Giants & Rangers and he is 5-0 with 2 saves, a 3.72 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.
MANAGER: Bobby Cox is a Hall of Fame Manager and this post season is his swan song. He has a career record in the post season of 66-66 (50%) but he has won one World Series (1995). Cox has a career record during the regular season of 2,504-2,001 (55.6%). I just have a feeling that Cox is going to motivate his team in this series because he is a winner and he wants to go out in style.
Bruce Bochy is a tough guy who was a catcher when he played. But, he has a 1,274-1,300 (49.5%) record during the regular season in his major league career as a manager. Bochy has often appeared overmatched during the post season as he sports a 8-16 record (33.3%).
PREDICTION: I think this series is going to go back and forth but in the end I like the Braves in five games.