2010 NLCS: Comparing Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants Infields
We just did a piece on the pitching matchups for the NLCS, that you should really read if you haven't already.
This time, we're breaking down the infields of the finalists for the National League pennant.
Obviously, the Phillies boast Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in their infield. Can the Giants infield offense (and defense) compete?
Each slide will breakdown the position battle, and see which team has the advantage at each position.
Catcher: Buster Posey (SF) vs. Carlos Ruiz (PHI)
He may be on his way to the Rookie of the Year award. Posey hit .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI in just 108 games this season behind the plate for San Francisco. He also did a remarkable job defensively behind the plate, especially for a rookie, and one who has only been at the position of catcher for a few years now.
"Chooch," as the Phillies faithful lovingly call him (I'm not so sure I'd be so thrilled with that nickname) has come up with clutch hit after clutch hit for Philadelphia this season. He hit a career-high .302 this season, which is off the charts for a player like Ruiz.
Ruiz has just had one of those special years for Philadelphia. He's hit in the clutch all year long for the Phillies, why would he stop now? Posey's been clutch for the Giants all year, too, but the deeper in the postseason we get, the more experience becomes a factor.
First Baseman: Aubrey Huff (SF) vs. Ryan Howard (PHI)
Outside of Posey, he's probably the Giants' most dangerous hitter. He led the Giants in home runs, runs scored, and runs batted in for the regular season. For the Giants to succeed in the NLCS, Huff will need to hit. He's done OK in his first postseason series, hitting 4-for-15 with one RBI. That RBI was a big one, as it tied Game 3 in the 9th inning with two outs. San Francisco would go on to win that game.
Is there anyone you'd rather have in the batter's box when you need a home run? He's probably the most dangerous home run threat in the game. He hasn't gotten going yet this postseason, though. He's 3-for-11 with no runs batted in. You can never discount Ryan Howard though, especially in the rabid atmosphere of Philadelphia, where he just always seems to come up with the big hit when they need it. Not to mention, he was the Most Valuable Player of the entire NLCS last postseason.
Huff's a seasoned veteran, so his postseason inexperience won't be as much of a factor as it is with Posey. But Howard's just too good and too dangerous.
Second Baseman: Freddy Sanchez (SF) vs. Chase Utley (PHI)
Freddy is the No. 2 hitter for San Francisco. The Giants have had enough trouble scoring runs, and they won't be helped if the batters at the top of the order, including Sanchez, can't get on base for the big hitters such as Huff and Posey to drive in. Sanchez played impeccable defense at second base this season, committing only four errors.
Utley is the most dangerous all-around hitter for Philadelphia. He proved it last postseason, hitting six home runs and driving in 10 runs in 15 games for the Phillies, all while hitting .296. He hit five of those home runs in the World Series, which tied Reggie Jackson's all-time record. Utley wasn't as valuable as Sanchez in the field, committing seven more errors (11) than Sanchez in just five more games played.
While Sanchez's defense at second base is superior to Utley's, the potential for Utley to carry the Phillies on his back in this series gives Philadelphia the advantage at second base.
Shortstop: Juan Uribe (SF) vs. Jimmy Rollins (PHI)
As stated before, Huff led the Giants in home runs and runs batted in in the regular season. Uribe was second in both categories. Uribe hit 24 home runs and drove in 85 runs. He, like Sanchez, has played fantastic infield defense, committing just six errors in 103 games at shortstop. He's yet to get going this postseason, with just one hit in 14 at bats.
The 2007 MVP just always seems to come up with the clutch hit. But he, like Uribe, has only one hit thus far in the postseason. While Uribe might have just hit a little skid, there's more worry for Rollins. Rollins was bothered by a troubled right calf all season. When it wasn't keeping him off the field, it was still a cause for concern on the field, as he never looked like the Jimmy Rollins we've come to know.
Advantage: San Francisco
No matter what Rollins has done in the past, these types of muscle injuries always seem to act up in cold weather. Late nights in San Francisco and Philadelphia will not help that. Uribe has also been an important factor in the Giants' lineup, to where their success may hinge on whether he has a big series or not.
Third Baseman: Pablo Sandoval (SF) vs. Placido Polanco (PHI)
Sandoval was benched for the final two games of the series against Atlanta after getting just one hit in six at-bats, and never really getting in going during the regular season. Mike Fontenot got the final two starts for the Giants in the NLDS, but considering he didn't hit much either (1-for-6), it's feasible that Sandoval could return to the starting lineup for Game 1. The Giants gave Sandoval every opportunity to get back to the .330 hitter he was in 2009, and probably will do so again in the NLCS.
One of the best pure hitters in the game. He's almost a lock to hit just above or around .300, and plays solid defense. He also has an uncanny knack for getting on base, which is extremely important in a bandbox like Citizens Bank Park.
One of the most inconsistent players in baseball all season, against one of the most consistent players in baseball for the past decade? I'll take my chances with Polanco, thank you very much.
Needless To Say....
The Phillies undoubtedly have the edge when it comes to the infield. If Rollins were 100 percent healthy, it probably would've been a sweep across the board.
Do you disagree? Sandoval over Polanco? Rollins over Uribe? Posey over Ruiz?
They're all questions, and each fan/analyst has their answers. The questions will be answered for real when the series is over.