Phillies-Giants position-by-position

Phillies-Giants position-by-position

This is a fun exercise: Match up the Phillies and Giants, position-by-position, and see who has the edge.

Truth be told, however, it's quite possible just one position will matter.

The most dominant pitching staffs in the National League, arguably in baseball, will face off for the chance to go to the World Series. It's the way playoff baseball ought to be.

But you know how these things can go: We can spend the days between now and Game 1 comparing accomplishments, breaking down pitch locations and selections and crunching the numbers, then be treated to a series full of 9-8 games. Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park is a bandbox with tight power alleys. San Francisco's AT&T Park could be a high-scoring place if balls are hit to the right-center alley.

What follows is an in-depth glance at the NLCS through the eyes of a panel of MLB.com reporters. We want to hear from you, too. Tell us where we got it right and where we're way off base. Sound off below; we look forward to hearing from you.

CATCHER

Phillies
Carlos Ruiz: .302, 8 HR, 52 RBIs
Brian Schneider: .235, 4 HR, 15 RBIs

Giants
Buster Posey: .305, 18 HR, 67 RBIs
Eli Whiteside: .238, 4 HR, 10 RBIs

This is where many would dismiss Posey because he's a rookie. Don't. He's too important to the Giants' offense to do that, and he didn't show any jitters against the Braves.

Does that mean the Giants get the edge? Not so fast.

Ruiz posted a .400 on-base percentage during the regular season and reached at a .500 clip against the Reds. This is key because he produced these numbers from low in the batting order, which set up opportunities for the strong top of the lineup. So it's closer than you think, but Posey's power carries the day.

EDGE: Giants

FIRST BASE

Phillies
Ryan Howard: .278, 31 HR, 106 RBIs
Mike Sweeney: .240, 2 HR, 8 RBIs

GIANTS
Aubrey Huff: .290, 26 HR, 86 RBIs
Travis Ishikawa: .266, 3 HR, 22 RBIs

Howard went 3-for-11 with five strikeouts and no RBIs against the Reds, so you'd assume he's due. He has hit .364 with a .462 on-base percentage against the Giants this year. However, he has just one extra-base hit against Giants pitching.

Huff hit .150 with six strikeouts in five games against the Phillies this year.

EDGE: Phillies

SECOND BASE

Phillies
Chase Utley: .278, 16 HR, 63 RBIs
Wilson Valdez: .255, 4 HR, 33 RBIs

Giants
Freddy Sanchez: .292, 7 HR, 47 RBIs
Mike Fontenot: .283, 1 HR, 25 RBIs

Utley battled injury during the regular season and finished with sub-par numbers, but it's the postseason and he's back to giving the Phillies good at-bats at key times. Sanchez struggled against the Braves, but had a key late single -- after a couple of wild swings early in the count -- as part of the ninth-inning, Game 3 comeback.

EDGE: Phillies

SHORTSTOP

Phillies
Jimmy Rollins: .242, 7 HR, 37 RBIs
Wilson Valdez: .255, 4 HR, 33 RBIs

Giants
Juan Uribe: .248, 24 HR, 85 RBIs
Edgar Renteria: .276, 3 HR, 22 RBIs

Each of the starters at this key position has won a World Series ring -- Rollins with the Phillies in 2008 and Uribe with the White Sox in 2005. Add in Renteria's crown with the Marlins in 1997 and there's plenty of bling-bling.

While Rollins played below his typical All-Star level during the NLDS, he's generally considered one of the best in the game at his position. Uribe didn't have a great NLDS, either, but he's a power threat and can change a game with one swing of the bat.

EDGE: Phillies

THIRD BASE

Phillies
Placido Polanco: .298, 6 HR, 52 RBIs
Wilson Valdez: .255, 4 HR, 33 RBIs
Greg Dobbs: .194, 5 HR, 15 RBIs

Giants
Mike Fontenot: .283, 1 HR, 25 RBIs
Pablo Sandoval: .268, 13 HR, 63 RBIs
Juan Uribe: .248, 24 HR, 85 RBIs

Sandoval struggled in September, hitting .207, and after starting the NLDS slowly and committing an error found himself on the bench for Game 3. Fontenot made the decision look great with a first-inning triple off the Braves' Tim Hudson. Maybe he's an X-factor.

Polanco missed Game 1 with back soreness and was replaced by Valdez. Polanco came back to start the next two games, but his Game 3 double was his only hit against the Reds. It's difficult to go against Polanco, who has plenty of playoff success, but this could be Fontenot's time to shine.

EDGE: Giants

OUTFIELD

Phillies
Raul Ibanez: .274, 16 HR, 80 RBIs
Shane Victorino: .258, 18 HR, 68 RBIs
Jayson Werth: .294, 26 HR, 83 RBIs
Ben Francisco: .271, 6 HR, 25 RBIs
Domonic Brown: .217, 2 HR, 12 RBIs

Giants
Pat Burrell: .252, 20 HR, 64 RBIs
Andres Torres: .268, 16 HR, 63 RBIs
Jose Guillen: .258, 19 HR, 77 RBIs
Cody Ross: .269, 14 HR, 65 RBIs
Nate Schierholtz: .242, 3 HR, 17 RBIs

The leadoff hitters come from these groups. Victorino didn't exactly tear up the NLDS, going 3-for-13, but he drove in three runs and is a threat on the bases. Torres struggled even more, however.

The key players in this series could be the Phillies' Werth and the Giants' Burrell. They're both capable of turning hot and carrying a ballclub. Werth had nine home runs and drove in 22 runs in September and Burrell had six homers and 15 RBIs in the final month. Don't be surprised if the series turns on one of these two hitters.

The Giants can bolster their defense with Schierholtz, and Guillen can bring power. The Phillies get enough on both ends from their regulars.

EDGE: Phillies

STARTING PITCHERS

Phillies
Roy Halladay: 21-10, 2.44 ERA, 250.2 IP
Cole Hamels: 12-11, 3.09 ERA, 206.2 IP
Roy Oswalt: 13-13, 2.73 ERA, 210.2 IP
Joe Blanton: 9-6, 4.74 ERA, 174.2 IP
Kyle Kendrick: 10-10, 4.76 ERA, 175.2 IP

Giants
Tim Lincecum: 16-10, 3.43 ERA, 33 starts
Matt Cain: 13-11, 3.14 ERA, 33 starts
Jonathan Sanchez: 13-9, 3.07 ERA, 33 starts
Barry Zito: 9-14, 4.15 ERA, 33 starts

Is it possible that these stellar pitching staffs cancel one another out? The teams split six games during the regular year, each team taking two of three at home.

On April 28, Lincecum faced off with Hamels at AT&T Park. Lincecum struck out 11, Hamels fanned 10. Lincecum lasted 8 1/3 innings and gave up three hits and two runs. Hamels gave up four runs in six innings after running into trouble in the fifth and sixth. The game ended up in the hands of the bullpens, and the Phillies pulled out a 7-6 victory in 11 innings. It was the Phils' only win in the three-game series.

All the games weren't like that. None of the other games were decided by fewer than three runs.

But these are the playoffs, when runs are at a premium.

Let's cop out here and let the fans argue.

EDGE: Even

MIDDLE RELIEVERS

Phillies
Ryan Madson: 6-2, 2.60 ERA, 52 IP
Danys Baez: 3-3, 4.89 ERA, 46 IP
Chad Durbin: 4-1, 3.90 ERA, 67 IP
Jose Contreras: 6-4, 3.46 ERA, 54.2 IP
J.C. Romero: 1-0, 3.57 ERA, 35.1 IP

Giants
Sergio Romo: 5-3, 2.18 ERA, 68 appearances
Santiago Casilla: 7-2, 1.95 ERA, 52 appearances
Jeremy Affeldt: 4-3, 4.14 ERA, 53 appearances
Javier Lopez: 4-2, 2.34 ERA, 77 appearances
Ramon Ramirez: 1-3, 2.99 ERA, 69 appearances

The middle of the Phils' bullpen is well-rested, thanks to the outstanding starting pitching they received against the Reds. The Giants used their bullpen well against the Braves. Expect their relievers to be a little sharper.

EDGE: Giants

CLOSER

Phillies
Brad Lidge: 1-1, 3.02 ERA, 27 SVs

Giants
Brian Wilson: 3-3, 1.81 ERA, 70 appearances, 48 saves

It seems every year there is a Lidge crisis, but he has shown a knack for putting all that behind him in the playoffs and pitched a scoreless inning in the NLDS. The Giants truly trust Wilson and have no fear of asking him to pitch more than one inning.

EDGE: Giants

BENCH

Phillies
Brian Schneider: .235, 4 HR, 15 RBIs
Mike Sweeney: .240, 2 HR, 8 RBIs
Wilson Valdez: .255, 4 HR, 33 RBIs
Greg Dobbs: .194, 5 HR, 15 RBIs
Ross Gload: .280, 6 HRs, 22 RBIs
Ben Francisco: .271, 6 HR, 25 RBIs
Domonic Brown: .217, 2 HR, 12 RBIs

Giants
Aaron Rowand: .230, 11 HR, 34 RBIs
Nate Schierholtz: .242, 3 HR, 17 RBIs
Edgar Renteria: .276, 3 HR, 22 RBIs
Jose Guillen: .258, 19 HR, 77 RBIs

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is a master at the offensive substitution, and he has plenty of seasoned players to choose from. But don't sleep on the Giants' bench contingent. There is a good mix of glove and bat. And if Sandoval sits, he could turn up at a key time. What a time that would be for him to find his swing again.

Edge: Even

COACHES

Phillies
Manager: Charlie Manuel
Bench coach: Pete Mackanin
Hitting coach: Greg Gross
Pitching coach: Rich Dubee
Third-base coach: Sam Perlozzo
First-base coach: Davey Lopes

Giants
Manager : Bruce Bochy
Bench coach: Ron Wotus
Hitting coach: Hensley Meulens
Pitching coach: Dave Righetti
Third-base coach: Tim Flannery
First-base coach: Roberto Kelly

Manuel and Bochy are two playoff-tested managers who aren't afraid to make a daring move, whether it's a substitution during a game or a lineup change beforehand.

Where the Phillies could find an edge is in the running game. Posey is a rookie, and his blocking of balls in the dirt is still a work in progress. With Lopes taking copious notes on the opposing pitchers and understanding when Giants hurlers want to work low in the zone, the Phillies could be primed to advance 90 feet at a key time in the game.

EDGE: Phillies

FANS

Giants: McCovey Cove, the unique tones of public address announcer Renel Brooks-Moon, the enticing smell of garlic fries.

Phillies: Those distracting white towels, the Phillie Phanatic, absolutely beautiful view of Philadelphia beyond the center-field seats (if you're sitting high enough).

Both ballparks give fans unique experiences. You visit, and you don't soon forget about it.

The Giants' fan base is underrated. You've got to love the "Ooo-Ribe" chant, and they way they warmed over "Barry, Barry, Barry" for Zito when his work became worthy of such praise. Because of the lack of foul ground and the passion of the fans, AT&T Park is a difficult place to play.

But the Phillies get the edge here. And, no, not for being loud or boorish. The old stories about "Iggles" fans booing Santa and the famously poor behavior of a few fools at baseball games this year detract from a fan base that knows how to take in big moments. The sense of knowing when to be quiet and when to make the stadium rock during Halladay's no-hitter against Cincinnati are examples of why the fan base is second to none in the Majors.

EDGE: Phillies