CNNSI.com MLB Post Season 2002 MLB Post Season 2002


 

OFFENSE
Giants
The Edge:
Cardinals
If we are to deduct anything from the Giants' win over the Braves in the Division Series, it is that Barry Bonds is no longer the postseason chump of years past. He hit three homers against a team that was doing everything not to let him beat 'em (well, save for the Game 1 dinger off John Smoltz). Expect Bonds to do plenty of walking this series, which -- as always -- means Jeff Kent will get plenty of opportunities. Leadoff hitter Kenny Lofton played well against the Braves. If he can continue to get on base, it'll be a huge boost.
Tino Martinez can laugh heartily at his old club in the Bronx, which gave him the boot after years and years of success. Hey Roger Clemens, remember when you turned your back on Martinez to recruit Jason Giambi? Well, enjoy your offseason. That said, it'd be nice if Martinez, who was terrible against the Diamondbacks, got his bat in gear. The lineup is still impressive, but it'll be more of a struggle without Scott Rolen, who's out for the series with a severely sprained shoulder. Miguel Cairo once hit .295 as Tampa Bay's starting second baseman ... but he's no Rolen.

DEFENSE
Giants
The Edge:
Cardnals
In Game 5 of the Division Series, Jeff Kent made a diving stop that would make Doug Flynn stand up and clap. Then he threw the ball away. Kent is a defensive liability, and difficult balls hit his way have a decent shot of finding their way to the outfield grass. J.T. Snow isn't much of a hitter anymore, but the guy can pick it at first. He's the exception. Overall, a very average group.
St. Louis offers the best defensive showcase in baseball (Tino Martinez at first, Vina at second, Edgar Renteria at short, Jim Edmonds and J.D Drew in the outfield), but the loss of Rolen stings. Nobody is better at charging in at grounders, and few have such a rifle of an arm. When Albert Pujols mans the position, the dropoff is major. It's not as bad with Cairo, but he's hardly Mr. Smooth. Luckily for St. Louis, two of their three probable starters are righties, thus limiting the number of right-handed Giants hitters lining bullets to third.

STARTING PITCHING
Giants
The Edge:
Cardinals
What's as big as a house and just as hard to knock down? Giants hefty starter Livan Hernandez, who continues to amaze in the playoffs. The guy's now 6-0 in postseason starts, and he just does not get nervous. Before his start against the Braves, Hernandez was dancing around the infield, signing autographs and joking with fans. Nerves? What nerves? Judging by his gutsy Game 5 showing against Atlanta, Russ Ortiz is the same way. There's no Johnson or Schilling, but these guys are big-game studs.
Matt Morris wasn't exactly John Tudor-esque during the regular season, but his Game 1 domination of Arizona in the Division Series was convincing. Plain and simple, he's a postseason horse who can carry a club. The health of Woody Williams is a major factor here. If he's good to go, St. Louis can feel secure in having three solid, battle-tested starters (Chuck Finley is the third). If not, it's back to Andy Benes and his iffy playoff history. Uh-oh.

BULLPEN
Giants
The Edge:
Cardinals
Back in the day (well, two years ago) Robb Nen was automatic in a Lee Smith-Dan Quisenberry sort of sense. He's still potent, just not quite as sharp as the old days. Still good, not great. The rest of the pen is made up of some solid pros, including Tim (You Can't Get Rid Of Me) Worrell and righty Felix Rodriguez, whose 98-mph fastball is downright juicy. Here's a hunch: You won't see much of Manny Aybar anytime soon.
Everyone talks about the Cards' deep lineup, but the bullpen is where they really wear teams down. No fewer than six above-average professional pitchers dwell here. A nice story is the re-emergence of right-hander Rick White, the David Wells look-alike who's pitched wonderfully in these playoffs. The A's thought they had upgraded by replacing Jason Isringhausen with Billy Koch. Well, uh, no. Isringhausen pitched two perfect innings in the Division Series against the Diamondbacks and picked up a pair of saves.

BENCH
Giants
The Edge:
Cardinals
When Shawon Dunston arrived in the bigs nearly two decades ago, he was a potent yet undisciplined swinger with no knowledge of the strike zone. The philosophy: With time, he'll learn. Well, time's up. Dunston is an important guy off San Fran's bench, but he remains a free-swinging windmill. The same can be said of Tsuyoshi Shinjo, a bust in his first season by the Bay. The bench is not a strong point.
Good news: Miguel Cairo was second in the league with 19 pinch hits this season. Bad news: With Rolen out, Cairo starts most of the games at third. That leaves do-everything Eli Marrero, spunky Kerry Robinson and been-around-the-world Eduardo Perez as the prime pinch-hit candidates. It's not horrific, but it ain't good, either.

MANAGER
Giants
The Edge:
Cardinals
By beating the Braves, Baker finally won a playoff series. Whew! Now that the pressure is off, Baker is managing for something else: His job. For some asinine reason, San Fran refuses to give Baker a vote of confidence. Bad idea. Baker is a player's skipper who gets the best out of his guys. If he's not in the Bay next year, he'll be winning elsewhere.
Tony LaRussa is close chums with Bobby Knight and Bill Parcells, and while that fact doesn't show up in the form of tantrums, it does in another way: managerial genius. It's about time we give LaRussa his due as one of the great skippers of our time. He's won with three different teams in three different eras.

X-FACTOR
Giants
The Edge:
Cardinals
Kenny Lofton: Bad news, Kenny. Cards catcher Mike Matheny is a hard-throwing fool, so to steal bases you'll have to -- well, you probably won't steal too many. But if Lofton can get things going, it'll be a huge boost for Kent and Bonds. And a huge pain in LaRussa's butt.
Tino Martinez: His bat looked mighty slow against Arizona. Without Rolen, it'd be nice for someone else to supply extra production. Here's your prime candidate.
Prediction: Giants in seven

 


 
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