MLB playoffs: Braves vs. Giants on Thursday
Head-to-head comparisons of the N.L. West-champion San Francisco Giants and the N.L. wild card Atlanta Braves:
Starting pitching: Giants. They are so good that they will not need Barry Zito, who makes $18.5 million per year. Their depth kept Bruce Bochy from pushing any of his starters too hard (Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain had four 120-pitch starts, none after August), and their starters had a 1.78 ERA in September. The Braves’ rotation is good too, but not Giants good.
Relief pitching: Giants. Brian Wilson might be the best closer in the majors, and Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo are about to make names for themselves working in front of him. The Braves also have a powerful pen, with rookies Johnny Venters, Mike Dunn and Craig Kimbrel all posting sub-2.00 ERAs in front of closer Billy Wagner.
Hitting: Giants. The Braves won’t scare anyone without Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. The Giants aren’t a scary bunch, either, but they’re clicking on all cylinders behind rookie Buster Posey and invaluable addition Pat Burrell.
Fielding: Giants. The Braves also miss fielding of Prado and Jones. The Giants never know what will happen when a ball is hit to Pablo Sandoval, but shortstop Juan Uribe is solid.
Bench: Giants. Like Zito, highly paid center fielder Aaron Rowand has been reduced to the role of reinforce- ment. He’s a weapon for Bochy, as are Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz and speedy Darren Ford. Eric Hinske can do damage for the Braves.
Manager: Braves. Bobby Cox is as good as it gets in the dugout, even if it isn’t reflected in his jewelry collection. Bochy reached the World Series with a weaker Padres team in 1998 than the one he’s managing now.
Gut read: This is the biggest mismatch on the board. Look for the Cox era to end with a loss Sunday in Atlanta, possibly Monday.
PICK: Giants in three.
By Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune