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NLDS Preview: Braves vs. Giants

Oct 6, 2010, 10:30 AM EDT

When you watch a game, you can root with all your heart. When you preview a series, you gotta go with your head. My head and my heart tell me two different things when it comes to the Braves vs. the Giants.

Here at HardballTalk we pride ourselves on writing dozens of posts a
day obsessing on every single little thing possible. We’re told,
however, that some of you have lives and thus not all of you are able to
read dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing
possible.  That’s a shame, but for that reason, we’ve put together a few
previews covering the broad strokes of each of the four Division Series
matchups. Today, the final one:
Braves vs. Giants.

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

How’ve they been doing?
The Giants ended the season in pretty spiffy fashion, going 19-10 over
the last month. Really, their entire second half was pretty spiffy
(45-29).  The Braves, well, not so much. They were 14-16 in September
and October, and often looked bad doing it. They certainly peaked
mid-season, looking uncertain back in the spring and simply hurt/tired
as the weather cooled down.

Haven’t I seen you before?
The Braves took the season series 4-3. Two of those Braves wins, however, came back when Atlanta had Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and an effective Troy Glaus playing and before the Giants — in Mat Latos’ words — went out and got a bunch of guys and slapped “San Francisco” on their chests. The season series has very little bearing here. They are very different teams.

Who’s pitching?
The Braves go with Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson in the first three. Bobby Cox was being cute yesterday and said that maybe Brandon Beachy would start Game 4, but I think the odds of that occurring are about the same as sporting those red pinstriped uniforms from the late 70s. Is Derek Lowe on short rest ideal? Nah. But for such a thing to be a good move doesn’t require him pitching as good as Derek Lowe on full rest. It merely requires him pitching better than Brandon Beachy in a playoff game. Which I think he would do.

The Giants are going with Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez. Bruce Bochy said he’s not sure if he’d go with Madison Bumgarner or Barry Zito in Game 4, though I’m guessing it would almost certainly be Bumgarner. It’s one thing to avoid using your big expensive bust of a pitcher in the playoffs, but it’s another thing altogether to make a big point of it before the thing begins.  If the Giants’ backs are up against the wall in Game 4, however, we’d probably see Lincecum again.

The storyline which doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
but which TBS will nonetheless beat to death

Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox
Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox Bobby Cox.

Hey! Did you know that Bobby Cox is retiring? Did you that this is, in fact, his last time in the playoffs? Were you aware that the Braves and their fans would like to see Bobby get another World Series ring?  If not, be sure to keep the sound up during these games, because the broadcast team may just talk about this a bit.

Runner-up: Buster Posey vs. Jason Heyward. Yes, I love both of these players, yes they’re both awesome, and yes they’ll finish 1-2 for Rookie of the Year. But that voting is over now, and nothing they do in these playoffs will affect it.  I tend to get bored when too much focus is placed on one or two players in baseball — you can’t really take over a playoff series in baseball like you can in basketball or something — but we’ll probably hear a lot about that. 

The storyline which actually does matter but about which TBS won’t spend a lot of time
talking

There will be a lot of focus on the Braves’ off-brand lineup. And there should be, because how a team relying heavily on Melky Cabrera, Rick Ankiel, Nate McLouth, Matt Diaz, Brooks Conrad and Omar Infante managed to even make the playoffs is one of the greater mysteries of the known universe. But with the exception of Infante’s from-out-of-nowhere nice season, those guys are who we thought they were.  What we’ve heard very little of — and likely will continue to hear very little of — is how cold Jason Heyward and Brian McCann were late in the season.  We can talk about these no-names, but the couple of big-names the Braves have in the lineup need to step up.

What’s gonna go down?
There’s a time for being a fanboy and time for being a realist. Right now, it’s time for realism. While I think the Braves have a better shot of knocking off the Giants than either the Reds or Phillies, I can’t in good conscience pick them here. Yes, they have a decent 1-2-3 starting pitching punch, but it’s inferior to the Giants’. Yes, the Giants offense is rather anemic and one-dimensional (home runs), but the Braves’ is anemic too, and not as good in that one dimension as the Giants are. The Braves have a good pen. But if you don’t have a lead to protect . . .

I’ll root my heart out tomorrow evening, but I think the Giants take this one in four games.

  1. f*ck la - Oct 6, 2010 at 10:43 AM

    Craig i believe you’ve goofed in the how’ve they been doing section.

  2. Trevor B - Oct 6, 2010 at 10:43 AM

    How’ve they been doing?
    The Rangers were 16-14 over the last month or so. The Rays: 15-15. The Rangers did it without their best player in their lineup. The Rays: no such excuse, though they did play tougher competition.

    What does this have to do with the Braves and Giants?

  3. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 6, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    Sorry guys. Fixed now.

  4. Trevor B - Oct 6, 2010 at 10:49 AM

    You disappoint us.

  5. Gobias Industries - Oct 6, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    I will never read HBT again until the next post. Oh, there is now. Okay, boycott’s over.

  6. Mr. Heyward - Oct 6, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    Braves in 4: yes, I must give game 1 to Lincecum.

  7. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    Braves in 4. It’s not being a fanboy to predict this, since I hate the Braves. I think they will beat the Giants because Lowe will be money, Hudson is a beast, and while I think Hanson will not win game 3, it doesn’t matter. I predict Braves win 1 and 2. Giants win 3. Lowe throws 7 1/3 shutout innings in game 4 and Billy Wagner, after choking his whole life in the playoffs, will throw a 5 out save for the series win. Phillies in 5 in the NLCS.

  8. doctorfunke - Oct 6, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    Craig, I really like that you make no qualms about who you are rooting for. I also like that you are able to separate that from your predictions and observations regarding the actual games that your team is involved in. Thank you for both your unabashed fanboydom and unbiased commentary. It really puts things into perspective when you are talking about other teams that you may not have as much interest in.

  9. Jonny5 - Oct 6, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    You’re just trying to be nice. Giants in 5.

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 6, 2010 at 2:05 PM

    Not true Jonny. I think the Braves win the series. Lowe wins game one, Hudson wins game 2. Giants score a bunch of runs and beat Atlanta in game 3. Lowe/Wagner win game 4. I have seen it in a vision…

  11. Jonny5 - Oct 6, 2010 at 4:01 PM

    I’m trying to envision my last vision…… mm nice, yeah, I only envision naked chicks apparently. Sorry. I would love to see the Braves take out SF actually, i just can’t envision it.

  12. Bad Boy - Oct 7, 2010 at 8:55 PM

    Beginning in 2004, the Braves have gone through spells of team funk at some point during the season. This became progressively worse during and after the 2006 season. Some years have been worse than others, but nonetheless the funk has always risen its ugly head at some point during the season.
    The funk has beset them again this year. Once earlier in the season, they suffered through a nine game losing streak and again in September – October when they were plagued with injuries and miserable defense. Their bats often grew ice cold as well.
    Who in the world knows what Braves team will show up for the playoffs? They could be a terror or they could be a mouse. Because of this uncertainty, were I a betting man, I would put my money on the Braves opponents. Whoever they may be.

  13. Bad Boy - Oct 7, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    Beginning in 2004, the Braves have gone through spells of team funk at some point during the season. This became progressively worse during and after the 2006 season. Some years have been worse than others, but nonetheless the funk has always risen its ugly head at some point during the season.
    The funk has beset them again this year. Once earlier in the season, they suffered through a nine game losing streak and again in September – October when they were plagued with injuries and miserable defense. Their bats often grew ice cold as well.
    Who in the world knows what Braves team will show up for the playoffs? They could be a terror or they could be a mouse. Because of this uncertainty, were I a betting man, I would put my money on the Braves opponents. Whoever they may be.

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