Minnesota Vs. Atlanta: Who Has The Edge?

October 18, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

MINNEAPOLIS -- There will be some interesting matchups when the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves open the World Series here tomorrow night.

Here's a position-by-position look at the American League and National League champions:


* TWINS -- There's nothing fancy about Minnesota's rotation. With a week's rest, the Twins are expected to go with their three JTC best starters, just as they did in the playoffs. That means Jack Morris, the most experienced of the postseason pitchers, could make three starts.

Kevin Tapani, who didn't pitch as well in the playoffs as he did during the regular season, and Scott Erickson, who dropped off after a sensational first half, will follow Morris. All three are durable, strong-armed and well rested.

* BRAVES -- At the age of 21, Steve Avery might be on the verge of becoming the most dominant pitcher in the National League. He's the best on a top-heavy lefthanded staff that also features Tom Glavine, Charlie Leibrandt and righthander John Smoltz. The bad news is that Avery won't be available until Game 3. The good news is he would be ready to pitch Game 7.

* EDGE: Call this a push -- primarily because of Minnesota's righthanded-hitting lineup.


* TWINS -- Rick Aguilera is the closer and Steve Bedrosian is the setup man, but David West, Mark Guthrie and Carl Willis could be the keys. West and Guthrie are lefthanders who can neutralize hitters who swing from that side, and the righthanded Willis was a revelation in the playoffs.

There are better bullpens in baseball, but the Twins seem to have found a good balance at the right time.

* BRAVES -- The late-season acquisition of Alejandro Pena was probably the most important trade of the year. The hard-throwing righthander, stonewalled in New York, gives the Braves a bona fide closer who more than makes up for the absence of Juan Berenguer. Before Pena arrives late in the game, a bullpen committee consisting of Kent Merker, Jim Clancy, Mark Wohlers, Mike Stanton and Mark Grant serve as setup men.

* EDGE: Twins -- Aguilera has more help than Pena.


* TWINS -- Kent Krbek has been a fixture here for the last 10 years. The lefthanded slugger can be inconsistent with the bat, but he's a tough out who can do a lot of damage with one swing. Very underrated defensively.

* BRAVES -- Sid Bream took his power from Pittsburgh to Atlanta and could be a vital factor against the Twins' predominantly righthanded staff. Brian Hunter platoons, but doesn't figure to see much action.

* EDGE: Braves -- Because lefthanded starters should neutralize Hrbek.


* TWINS -- Chuck Knoblauch was a nobody when the season started, but he's far from that today. He is an opportunistic hitter and a sound defensive player who solidified a worrisome position in the Minnesota lineup.

* BRAVES -- Jeff Treadway provides some offense, Mark Lemke defense. They give the Braves a workable combination in the middle of the infield and enough offense to keep the opposition alert.

* EDGE: Twins -- Knoblauch is a veteran rookie.


* TWINS -- Mike Pagliarulo returned to the American League as, of all things, an average hitter. Somehow the description doesn't fit. He still has long ball potential, but gives way to Scott Leius against lefthanders.

* BRAVES -- Switch-hitting Terry Pendleton gave the young Braves leadership, solid offense and strong defense. Hits for average and with some power. Can be erratic, but is generally in the field.

* EDGE: Braves -- Pendleton has more all-around tools.


* TWINS -- Greg Gagne has been one of the most underrated players on his team for five years. His defense is enough to draw some Gold Glove support and he's a better hitter than his position in the Twins' lineup (ninth) would indicate.

* BRAVES -- Rafael Belliard is a good example of the flashy fielder-mediocre hitter type often found at this position. Capable of making all the plays in the field, but sometimes can be more spectacular than consistent.

* EDGE: -- Twins, because Gagne has better overall tools.


* TWINS -- Kirby Puckett is one of the best all-around players in the game, but this is a position where the Twins are a little suspect. Dan Gladden is not an ideal leadoff hitter and Shane Mack, who hit for average and power during the regular season, tailed off a bit at the end. Except for Puckett there is nothing spectacular about the defense.

* BRAVES -- David Justice is an excellent all-around performer, his alleged base-running gaffe in Game 5 of the NLCS notwitstanding. He combines with Ron Gant to give the Braves two legitimate power hitters in the outfield. Lonnie Smith struggles at times in leftfield, but is a veteran with good postseason credentials. Defense is only fair.

* EDGE: Braves, because Puckett doesn't have a strong enough running mate.


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