Ramp Posted September 29, 2003 Share Posted September 29, 2003 By Jayson Stark ESPN.com 1. How much will Barry Bonds get pitched to? The Braves, Cardinals and Angels walked Bonds 27 times in last year's postseason. He ought to consider it a good week if he isn't walked 27 times in this series. Bonds walked in 44 percent of his plate appearances (8 of 18) against the Marlins during the regular season. The only left-hander in the Marlins' bullpen, Michael Tejara, let left-handed hitters bat .397 against him this year. And when asked which reliever he planned to use to pitch against Bonds, Florida manager Jack McKeon replied by holding up four fingers. The Marlins' left-handed starters -- Dontrelle Willis (.216, 1 HR to LHs) and Mark Redman (.200, 4 HR to LHs) -- are more effective against left-handed hitters. But as one scout says, "The key to this series will be: Is somebody going to get hot hitting behind Barry?" 2. The Giants went 5-1 against Florida this season. Were they really that dominant? Not really. Of the Giants' five wins, three were by one run, and the other two were by two runs. The first three wins came in Florida -- and actually prompted the Marlins to fire Jeff Torborg as manager two days later. Josh Beckett went 0-2 against the Giants this year, but hurt his elbow in the first inning of the first start and pitched great in the second start. Brad Penny gave up only four hits in seven innings in a start the bullpen eventually lost. Redman never faced the Giants. And Willis actually left his only start with a 2-1 lead, but the bullpen coughed that up. Jason Schmidt (6 IP, 3 H, 8 K) had a dominating start against Florida in a no-decision. But the only member of the Giants' playoff rotation to beat the Marlins this year was Sidney Ponson, who won an August start (8 IP, 6 H, 2 R) for his first win as a Giant. 3. The Marlins were only 63-60 when facing a right-handed starter this year. How big a problem is that against the Giants? That ought to be the Marlins' biggest concern. All their left-handed hitters combined hit seven home runs this season (one of the seven by Dontrelle Willis). So they can be shut down by right-handed power pitchers, and that's the strength of the Giants' staff. Schmidt is unbeaten (5-0) in 12 career starts against the Marlins. Ponson "has the same kind of stuff as Schmidt when he's right," says one scout. Jerome Williams (who has never faced Florida) throws 95 mph. And in the bullpen, Tim Worrell, Felix Rodriguez and Joe Nathan combined for a 2.45 ERA, 10 strikeouts and only seven hits allowed in 11 innings against Florida. The Giants plan to start left-hander Kirk Rueter in Game 3. But while Rueter has had trouble with the Marlins (1-3, 5.70 the last three years), "he's a good October pitcher," says one scout, "because he's such an experienced guy. In the playoffs, the hitters are all jacked up. And he's great at keeping them off balance." 4. Can the Giants stop the Marlins' running game? The only way to beat the Marlins, says one NL pitcher, "is to stop those two guys at the top of the order" -- i.e., Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo. Well, the Giants did a tremendous job on Pierre (.231 avg., .259 on-base pct., just 2 SB in 6 games) -- and almost as well against Castillo (.261 avg., 0 SB, but .370 on-base pct.). Opposing base-stealers were successful in 69.5 percent of their stolen-base attempts against the Giants this year -- almost identical to the league average (69.2). But of the four scheduled Giants starters, only Rueter (who allowed just two steals in only three attempts) holds runners on well. Base stealers went 17 for 17 vs. Schmidt, 12 for 16 vs. Ponson and 9 for 13 vs. Williams. So the key is to keep Pierre and Castillo off base in the first place. "I'm not so sure they can," says one scout. "The kind of baseball those guys play is the kind of baseball that wins in the playoffs." [5. How susceptible are the Giants to a first-round upset? The Giants won't be happy to learn that teams with the better regular-season record are 1-10 in the division series over the last three years. On the other hand, teams that won at least nine more regular-season games than their opponents, as the Giants did, are 6-3 in the first round all-time. And the more you see of the Giants, the more they remind you of the Yankees of the late '90s -- a bunch of veteran professionals who fit together, do all the little things and get it. "They're a classic case of a team where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts," one scout says. "They know how to play. They have tough at-bats. They're very unselfish. They've got depth in the bullpen. They catch the ball. And it doesn't hurt that they have the best player in baseball." Prediction: Giants in five. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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