NL Playoff Preview Part II

Steve O Speak

A Guest Blog By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Andrew Chubb

Atlanta Braves (91-71) vs. San Francisco Giants (92-70)

In the final year of legendary skipper Bobby Cox, the Atlanta Braves surprised a lot of people by maintaining their lead in the National League East over the 3-time defending NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies for a majority of the regular season. With a solid starting rotation led by 3-time All-Star, Ace-of-the-staff Tim Hudson and an excellent bullpen, the Braves relied on timely hitting and stellar defense from All-Star catcher Brian McCann, rookie phenom Jason Heyward, as well as first time All-Stars Omar Infante and Martin Prado. However the Braves recent stumbles in August and September allowed for the Phils to gain ground in the East and eventually overtake the lead in the division. The Braves playoff hopes hinged on the final day of the regular season when they secured a Wild-card birth with a win and a San Diego Padres’ loss.

The San Francisco Giants, led by manager Bruce Bochy, played catchup with the San Diego Padres for most of the regular season. However, after the Padres stumbled with a 10-game losing streak in August and September, the Giants overtook the lead in the National League West by winning one out of three games in their final series against the Padres at the conclusion of the regular season. When looking at their starting pitching staff, it’s no surprise as to what the Giants owe their post season berth to. Last years Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum, stalwart right-hander Matt Cain, and left-hander Jonathan Sanchez all had excellent numbers through out the 2010 season. The Giants’ starting pitching staff compiled an absurd 1.78 ERA in the month of September alone. They also enjoyed a sensational year from saves leader and closer, Brian Wilson. While the offense struggled throughout most of the year, they were able to get solid contributions down the stretch from rookie catcher Buster Posey and resurgent veterans Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff.


This will be an interesting matchup. The Giants starters had the second best ERA in the National League at 3.54 with the Braves being close behind at 3.80. While it could be said that Tim Lincecum had somewhat of a down year (3.43 ERA), he still won 16 games and had the most strikeouts in the National League. Matt Cain had a year much like Cole Hamels, in that his success did not translate to the win column. He went 13-11 with a 3.14 ERA, but still has the repertoire to be a shutdown ace. Jonathan Sanchez had a good second half of the regular season, and is capable of frustrating hitters with breaking balls and can overpower with his fastball when his command is there. The Braves will have to rely on sinker balling veteran Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, and the young right-hander Tommy Hanson. Lowe is the veteran with the most postseason experience, and if he can place his sinker with precision, it will be tough for the Giants hitters to get the ball out of the infield. The revitilized Hudson enjoyed a 17-9 season with an ERA of 2.83 and, like Lowe, will rely on a sinking fastball to get ground ball outs. The postseason wildcard of the staff has to be Hanson. At only 24 year old, he was inconsistent at times during the regular season and prone to mental lapses. If he can overcome some control issues and get hitters deep in the count so he can use his devestating 12-6 curveball, Hanson will be able to put his team in a position to win.

Edge: Giants


While the Giants have an excellent closer in Brian Wilson, their success in the regular season was in large part due to the starters being able to pitch deep into games. If they are to advance they will need good performances from setup men Jeremy Affeldt (4.14 ERA) and Guillermo Mota (4.33 ERA). The Atlanta Braves have two excellent setup men in Peter Moylan (2.97 ERA) and Johnny Venters (1.95 ERA), and have enjoyed a comeback season by closer Billy Wagner (7-2 1.43 ERA).

Edge: Braves


Both offenses were somewhat mediocre during the 2010 regular season, with the Giants having the edge in power. They will continue to rely on Aubrey Huff’s surprising numbers (.290 BA, 26 HR, 86 RBI) and Buster Posey’s excellent rookie production (.305 BA, 18 HR, 67 RBI) to spark their offense. While third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s offensive production dipped this year, the Giants enjoyed a stellar year from infielder Juan Uribe (24 HR, 86 RBI). Outfielder Andres Torres has great speed and a good bat, which could also contribute to San Francisco’s success if he can get on base and steal some bases. Atlanta will try and counter with the consistent and heady catcher Brian McCann, and the rookie phenom outfielder Jason Heyward. While McCann does not have the power of an elite hitting catcher, he more than makes up with it with a great eye and a fundamental swing. When healthy, Heyward has been Atlanta’s lightning in a bottle. Heyward has great speed on the basepaths and in the outfield, can hit to all fields for power and average, and is a surprisinly mature hitter considering he is only 21 years old. Adding Derrek Lee late in the season to replace injured Troy Glaus was a good move considering his veteran leadership, character, and postseason experience.

Edge: Giants


When you’re looking at Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez in a 5 game series, you have to be confident if you’re the Giants. The losses of Chipper Jones and Martin Prado really hurt because it has become apparent that Brooks Conrad cannot be an everyday player. His defensive lapses have cost the Braves at a position that has been manned since 1993 by an almost certain first ballad Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones. With Atlanta’s road record being near the bottom of the league, the Braves will face an uphill battle to get the Conference Series. However, this series will be close if Atlanta’s starting pitching can match San Francisco’s, as both offenses are somewhat comparable to each other. Ultimately, I believe the Giants starting pitching and momentum going into the postseason will be too much for the Braves to handle and despite the Braves desire to send the Bobby Cox out on top, the Giants will win the Divisional Series in 5 games.


Game 1: Derek Lowe (16-12, 4.00 ERA) vs. Tim Lincecum (16-10, 3.43 ERA) at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA

Game 2: Tommy Hanson (10-11, 3.33 ERA) vs. Matt Cain (13-11, 3.14 ERA) at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA

Game 3: Tim Hudson (17-9, 2.83 ERA) vs. Jonathan Sanchez (13-9, 3.07 ERA) at Turner Field in Atlanta, GA

Game 4: TBD (If necessary) at Turner Field in Atlanta, GA

Game 5: TBD (If necessary) at AT&T Park in San Francisco, CA

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