Ramp Posted September 29, 2003 Share Posted September 29, 2003 c/o yahoo sports NL Division Series Position-by-Position Capsules September 29, 2003 By Santosh Venkataraman SportsTicker Staff Writer JERSEY CITY, New Jersey (Ticker) - A position-by-position look at the National League Division Series matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Florida Marlins: Catcher: San Francisco's Benito Santiago is an integral part of the lineup since he must provide Barry Bonds with protection. Santiago performed adequately in the postseason a year ago until he had just six hits in 26 at-bats in the World Series. Ivan Rodriguez had a strong season batting third after battling through injuries his last three years with Texas. Rodriguez is lethal against lefthanders, but may struggle against San Francisco's power righthanders. Edge: Marlins First base: San Francisco will platoon lefty J.T. Snow and 42-year-old Andres Galarraga. The two combined for 93 RBI, but Snow was just 1-for-11 against the Marlins this season. Derrek Lee is a steady run producer for the Marlins, but like many of his teammates, his numbers against righthanders are poor. Snow has been terrific in the postseason, batting .329 (27-for-82). Edge: Giants Second base: Ray Durham, who took over for the departed Jeff Kent, missed most of August with a strained right hamstring for the Giants. Durham has responded with a strong September and is a pesky presence as a leadoff hitter. Durham is making his third appearance in a Division Series and hit .333 last season in Oakland's five-game loss to Minnesota. Florida's Luis Castillo slowed down a bit in September, but still turned in an outstanding year at the No. 2 hole. The switch-hitting Castillo has been a major sparkplug at the top of the order. Edge: Marlins Shortstop: The Giants' Rich Aurilia turned in modest numbers for the second straight season after a monster 2001 campaign. Aurilia, who missed three weeks due to an appendectomy, has hit better since the All-Star break after struggling in the early going. Aurilia has batted just .244 in postseason play in his career. Alex Gonzalez slumped badly down the stretch for Florida and is prone to strikeouts. Gonzalez is an excellent fielder and decent situational hitter. Edge: Giants Third base: Edgardo Alfonzo was considered a major acquisition by the Giants in the offseason to help offset the loss of Kent. It never worked out since Alfonzo provided little protection for Bonds and had to be pushed down in the batting order. Alfonzo is a solid fielder who is part of a strong defensive infield. Mike Lowell is Florida's leader and returned from a broken left hand Sunday. Despite playing just 130 games, Lowell led the team with 32 home runs and 105 RBI. Edge: Marlins Left field: Barry Bonds put to rest any idea that he cannot perform when the stakes are raised with last year's torrid postseason. Bonds hit a robust .356 (16-for-45) with 27 walks in 17 playoff games a year ago, including an awesome four-homer effort in the World Series. Bonds endured a trying season due to the death of his father, but still turned in a campaign worthy of a sixth MVP award. Bonds walked eight times in four games against Florida this year and, quite obviously, should not see many pitches to hit. The Marlins may use three players here, righthanded hitters Jeff Conine or rookie Miguel Cabrera or lefty Todd Hollandsworth. Conine played for the 1997 championship club and hit .412 in a critical three-game sweep of Philadelphia down the stretch. Cabrera is a future star and played third when Lowell was hurt. Edge: Giants Center field: Juan Pierre has been the catalyst throughout the year for Florida. Pierre became the first Marlin to reach the 200-hit plateau and is one of the toughest batters in baseball to strike out. He led the major leagues with 65 stolen bases, forming a lethal one-two combination at the top of the lineup with Castillo. Pierre is what the Giants' Marquis Grissom used to be. Grissom is 36, 10 years older than Pierre. Grissom has found a nice niche batting in front of Bonds, turned it up since the All-Star break and brings some tremendous intangibles to the table. Edge: Marlins Right field: Florida's Juan Encarnacion had his best season, driving in 94 runs and cutting down on his strikeouts. Encarnacion is also a terrific outfielder and did not commit an error all year. That is critical, given the spacious dimensions in right field at Pacific Bell Park. San Francisco's Jose Cruz Jr. strikes out frequently and had trouble adjusting to the National League in May and June, but has become more patient at the plate and is a dangerous hitter. Cruz also is a good outfielder, registering a career-high 18 assists. Edge: Marlins Starting Pitching: The Giants' Jason Schmidt is one of the toughest pitchers in baseball. Opponents hit just .200 against him this year and he went 17-5 with a 2.34 ERA. Schmidt is 5-0 lifetime against Florida and was 2-1 with a 4.24 ERA in four postseason starts last year. The rest of the Giants' rotation is a bit of a question mark. Trade deadline acquisition Sidney Ponson will make his playoff debut and lefthander Kirk Rueter has mixed results in his career against the Marlins, who were terrific against southpaws. Florida's Josh Beckett compiled a 2.08 ERA in five starts in September and is the choice to face Schmidt in the opener. Game Two starter Brad Penny was unbeaten in his last five starts. Mark Redman, who has pitched well, has never faced San Francisco and gets the nod in Game Three while fellow lefthander Dontrelle Willis is a Bay Area native who showed some signs of fatigue after the All-Star break. The Giants hit Willis well earlier this year and also are very strong against southpaws. Edge: Marlins Bullpen: San Francisco's bullpen has been tremendous after learning in spring training that closer Robb Nen would be lost for the year. There has been virtually no drop in production as Tim Worrell recorded 38 saves. Worrell was roughed up by Atlanta in the Division Series a year ago (12.00 ERA), but rebounded nicely through the rest of the postseason. Righthanders Felix Rodriguez and Joe Nathan may have had some rough moments, but they are two of the best setup men. Nathan had a career year, averaging better than a strikeout per inning. Lefthander Scott Eyre should see limited use because of the Marlins' predominantly righthanded lineup. Florida can use Ugueth Urbina or Braden Looper as the closer. Urbina has been one of the best trade deadline acquisitions, but it remains to be seen how Looper will adjust to a setup role. Righthander Chad Fox turned in a great year, but southpaw Michael Tejera is not particularly effective vs. lefty hitters. Edge: Giants Bench: Florida has some useful spare parts in Conine and Hollandsworth, depending on who starts. Lenny Harris is a veteran pinch hitter and Andy Fox is a smart pinch runner. The Giants make much more use of their bench, especially if Galarraga is available. Neifi Perez started part of the season and is a veteran infielder who is useful to insert in double switches. Marvin Benard and Jeffrey Hammonds are capable of coming through as pinch hitters and Yorvit Torrealba is a quality backup catcher. Edge: Giants Manager: The managerial matchup between San Francisco's Felipe Alou and Florida's Jack McKeon is one of the highlights of the postseason, since neither has managed in the playoffs. The 68-year-old Alou's quiet presence has been a blessing for a veteran team that is built to win and does not need a manager's ego to get in the way. The cigar-smoking 72-year-old McKeon will be the oldest skipper in postseason history and is a strong candidate for Manager of the Year honors. McKeon took over on May 11, engineered an unlikely turnaround and has developed a grandfatherly presence with his young, loose team. McKeon boldly changed his closer near the end of the season and has plenty of experience. Edge: Giants Prediction: Marlins in five. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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