The Braves were fifth in the National League in runs scored in 2010. That sounds impressive to people who follow a team that started the season with Aaron Rowand, Bengie Molina, and Edgar Renteria in the starting lineup, but the Braves only finished 41 runs ahead of the Giants.
That’s not a small margin, but it’s not as wide as it appears when you look at the teams’ recent body of work. The Giants added Buster Posey and Pat Burrell in the middle of the season, while the Braves lost Chipper Jones and Martin Prado for the season. Hopefully, these are offenses that are passing each other in the night. The last Braves lineup -- in a must-win game, mind you -- featured Matt Diaz, Alex Gonzalez, Brooks Conrad, and Rick Ankiel. Fair hitters, for the most part, but this more of a lineup filled with competent hitters than it is an offensive juggernaut.
The national media is focused on the Buster Posey/Jason Heyward matchup, which is a shame. Don’t they know that there are two ex-Royals competing in some sort of cosmic Mr. Garbage pageant? Sheesh. How could the Royals just let Rick Ankiel and Jose Guillen go? I’ll bet that’s why the Royals are always awful. Misjudging talent like that, it’s no wonder they’re hurting. edit: now Guillen is off the roster. The Braves have the upper hand. Repeat, the Braves have the upper hand.
Speaking of Heyward, here are two reasons to be annoyed with him: a. his nickname, "The Jay-Hey Kid", implicitly references the greatest player in Giants history in a way that pleases Braves fans, and, b. he is the only thing standing between Buster Posey and the Rookie of the Year award. But danged if I can’t hate the guy. What a freaky talent. His historical peers are limited -- guys like Mel Ott and Frank Robinson. He’s just amazing. I’m almost certain I’d trade Aaron Rowand for him.
Rumors abound, though, that Jason Heyward is, indeed, having it. This could be a big deal in this series. Stay tuned.
Here’s a possible lineup for tonight:
Omar Infante - 3B
Jason Heyward - RF
Brian McCann - C
Derrek Lee - 1B
Brooks Conrad - 2B
Nate McClouth - LF
Alex Gonzalez - SS
Rick Ankiel - CF
Troy Glaus - lurking
Something like that. Conrad is the regional variation of Matt Downs or Ryan Rohlinger, but he’s done well enough to earn a starting job in Prado’s absence. It’s hard to complain about the ascendancy of Infante without acknowledging how much more unlikely it was to have Andres Torres break out.
I see two frightening hitters and a whole bunch of mediocre-to-fair hitters throughout the lineup, There is depth, for sure. If this team scores runs off a pitching staff, fine. No shame. At least they aren’t the Padres, who have figured out how to turn iffy, second-generation hitters into 10-pitch at-bats. That's at least six times more annoying.
A spectrum of solid hitters, ranging from positionally adequate to well above-average? No real 1.000 OPS monster, but no 50 OPS+ goofball gumming up the lineup every time through, with the exception of a recently added ex-Royal?
Gentlemen, we have met the enemy, and the enemy is us. All of the goofballs who are thinking the Giants should just roll over the Braves -- and there are a few -- are deluded. This is as evenly matched as two teams can get.