Orioles vs. Nationals

Even though they won't meet on the field this season, the two teams will draw plenty of comparisons.

How They Stack Up

April 03, 2005|By COMPARISONS BY DAN CONNOLLY | COMPARISONS BY DAN CONNOLLY,SUN STAFF

FIRST BASE

Jay Gibbons (.246, 10 HRs, 47 RBIs) vs. Nick Johnson (.251, 7, 33)

Johnson is a little younger (26 to Gibbons' 28) and better defensively. Both have had injuries the past few years. Johnson, however, hasn't come close to filling his vast potential. And Gibbons has hit 23 or more homers in a season twice.

Edge: Orioles

SECOND BASE

Brian Roberts (.273, 4, 53) vs. Jose Vidro (.294, 14, 60)

Both are excellent defenders, and Roberts is a more prodigious base stealer. Vidro has more pop and has shown remarkable consistency over the years. Roberts may win this one soon, but for now go with the veteran.

Edge: Nationals

SHORTSTOP

Miguel Tejada (.311, 34, 150)

vs. Cristian Guzman (.274, 8, 46) Guzman has wider range and could destroy Tejada in a footrace. There's no comparison otherwise. Tejada may be baseball's best shortstop.

Edge: Orioles

THIRD BASE

Melvin Mora (.340, 27, 104) vs. Vinny Castilla (.271, 35, 131)

Give credit to Castilla for resurrecting his career after he seemed finished in 2002. But he's on the down slope of his career and Mora looks to be in his prime.

Edge: Orioles

CATCHER

Brian Schneider (.257, 12, 49) vs. Javy Lopez (.316, 23, 86)

This one is much tougher than it looks. Lopez is a top offensive backstop and is adequate behind the plate. Schneider is an improving hitter and one of the best all-around defensive catchers. Schneider is also 6 years younger. At other positions, offense matters most. Not at catcher.

Edge: Nationals

LEFT FIELD

Larry Bigbie (.280, 15, 68) vs. Brad Wilkerson (.255, 32, 67)

Another tough call. Based on previous offensive output, Wilkerson wins this battle of promising 27-year-old outfielders. He has the potential to hit 40 homers and has a great eye, walking 106 times in 2004. Bigbie is a better pure hitter, but power is the tiebreaker at the corner outfield slots.

Edge: Nationals

CENTER FIELD

Luis Matos (.224, 6, 28) vs. Ryan Church (.175, 1, 6)

Matos gets the nod because the Nationals' grade is incomplete. Church, 26, has just 63 major league at-bats but likely will be forced into a starting role now that Endy Chavez was sent to the minors. Matos, 26, is a super defender, but he needs to show he can stay healthy and hit. It's possible Wilkerson will be moved to center, which would give Washington the edge. But then the Orioles would win the left-field battle between Bigbie and Terrmel Sledge.

Edge: Orioles

RIGHT FIELD

Sammy Sosa (.253, 35, 80) vs. Jose Guillen (.294, 27, 104)

Based on age, defensive ability and recent offensive numbers, Guillen should win this one. When it comes to the volatile Guillen, however, there is more to judge than just talent. He's a risk until he proves he can harness his anger. Sosa hasn't been a choirboy recently, but he was problem-free much of his career. A better attitude and nearly 600 homers sway the scales.

Edge: Orioles

BULLPEN

Unlike the shaky rotations, both bullpens could excel. Neither Chad Cordero (7-3, 2.94) nor B.J. Ryan (4-6, 2.28) is an established closer, but both can handle the job. The Orioles' 'pen, with its lefty-righty balance, is among baseball's best.

Edge: Orioles

BENCH

Orioles fans are giddy their team's bench is finally above laughingstock material. Professional hitter B.J. Surhoff (.309, 8, 50) is a tremendous asset, and David Newhan (.311, 8, 54) also can handle a bat. The Nationals' bench should include Jamey Carroll (.289, 0, 16), Sledge (.269, 15, 62) and Wil Cordero (.197, 1, 6).

Edge: Orioles

ROTATION

The Orioles have more upside with Daniel Cabrera (12-8, 5.00 ERA) and Erik Bedard (6-10, 4.59). The Nationals have more experience with Livan Hernandez (11-15, 3.60) and Esteban Loaiza (10-7, 5.70). The Nationals have health concerns with Tony Armas (2-4, 4.88) already on the disabled list with a strained groin and three others, Tomo Ohka (3-7, 3.40), Zach Day (5-10, 3.93) and John Patterson (4-7, 5.03), coming off injury-marred seasons. The Orioles have to deal with Sidney Ponson's misadventures. Because Hernandez is the best starter here, the Nationals win the duel between suspect rotations.

Edge: Nationals

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