Matchups

October 17, 1992|By Jim Henneman

First base

Toronto: John Olerud

Atlanta: Sid Bream, Brian Hunter

Olerud is quietly emerging as one of baseball's best hitters. The lean left-handed batter, often overlooked in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup, has a good stroke and adequate power.

Bream is one of baseball's premier overachievers and has been a solid postseason performer despite gimpy knees. Hunter will be used mainly as a pinch hitter/designated hitter against the Blue Jays' predominant right-handed staff.

Edge: Toronto, because Olerud does everything better.

Second base

Toronto: Roberto Alomar

Atlanta: Mark Lemke

Lemke tried to play Superman in last year's World Series and almost succeeded. Good defense, more power than you'd expect from a little guy, but generally a below-average hitter.

If he isn't already, Alomar is very close to becoming the best all-around talent in the game. He has no flaws -- superb in the field, a good base runner, solid hitter with decent power.

Edge: Toronto, and it isn't even close.

Shortstop

Toronto: Manuel Lee

Atlanta: Jeff Blauser, Rafael Belliard

Lee is probably Toronto's shakiest defensive player, which is more an indication of the Blue Jays strength than an indictment of the light-hitting switch-hitter. Veteran Alfredo Griffin is the backup, but this is an erratic position for the Blue Jays.

Blauser is not as flashy in the field as Belliard and generally leaves in the late innings if the Braves have the lead. Blauser, however, does have enough pop to be an offensive factor.

Edge: Atlanta, only because two are sometimes better than one.

Third base

Toronto: Kelly Gruber

Atlanta: Terry Pendleton

Gruber, plagued by injuries, had a horrible year. But he is still capable of hitting an occasional long ball and making the big defensive play -- and he did both in the AL playoffs.

Pendleton has the knack of being in the middle of everything good that happens to the Braves -- he led off the three-run ninth-inning rally against Pittsburgh with a double. He's a switch-hitter who hits for average and power and has above-average speed.

Edge: Atlanta, and it's a substantial one.

Left field

Toronto: Candy Maldonado

Atlanta: Ron Gant

This could be the most even matchup of the series. Both Maldonado and Gant are adequate outfielders who let their bats do their talking. Both are home run and RBI threats, with Gant having more speed.

Gant's numbers dropped off from the past two seasons. Maldonado just plods along doing his unspectacular job.

Edge: Atlanta, because of Gant's speed.

Center field

Toronto: Devon White

Atlanta: Otis Nixon

Both leadoff batters have exceptional speed, with Nixon more of a base-stealing threat and White the better defensive player.

They cover an equal amount of ground in the outfield, but White has more power and a stronger arm.

Edge: Atlanta, because Nixon will run if he gets on base.

Right field

Toronto: Joe Carter

Atlanta: David Justice

Carter has been the most productive hitter during the past eight years. He is the best home-run hitter on either team, has good speed and is a Gold Glove quality outfielder.

Justice has shown flashes of brilliance, but tends to be a streaky hitter. His overall ability makes him a threat to dominate a short series -- especially against a team stacked with right-handed pitchers.

Edge: Toronto, because Carter's many talents can't be ignored.

Catcher

Toronto: Pat Borders

Atlanta: Damon Berryhill

Borders, who caught more games than anyone in baseball this year, is underrated. Berryhill was Greg Olson's backup until the Braves starter broke his ankle late in the season.

Borders is better defensively than he's given credit for and has some power. Berryhill is a journeyman whose assets are an ability to call a game and hit an occasional home run.

Edge: Toronto, Borders wins in every department.

Designated hitter

Toronto: Dave Winfield

Atlanta: Deion Sanders, Lonnie Smith or Hunter

Winfield's bat is important enough to Toronto that manager Cito Gaston said he won't be limited to his customary role as DH (which will be used in Games 3, 4 and 5 in Toronto). Gaston said Winfield will be in the outfield in games played in Atlanta.

Because he's a left-handed hitter and the Blue Jays feature right-handed pitchers, this could be the best chance for Sanders.

Edge: Toronto, and it's a mismatch.

Starting pitching

Toronto: Jack Morris, David Cone, Juan Guzman

Atlanta: Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery

This is where the Blue Jays' superior depth is most evident. Morris gets the leadoff role not because he's the best, but because he has had success in the postseason.Cone can be overpowering, and Guzman is the best of the three. One potential problem, and it could be a big one, is that all three are notoriously bad at holding runners on base.

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