Giants at Padres: Series Preview

It's Opening Day! The grass is green, the caps are out and baseball is in the air! The Giants start out their season on the road in San Diego, playing a team that's within their division, and a team that, like the Giants, made upgrades in the offseason.

First Base:
The Giants' will be sending out someone different this year on Opening Day to take the bag at first because they parted ways with J.T. Snow this offseason. Instead, young Lance Neikro will finally get a chance to play full-time. Neikro did very well in Spring, but has only faced five of the current Padres' pitchers. He has gone up against Jake Peavy, tomorrow's starter for San Diego, and hit a homerun against him. He is also 2-2 against Shawn Estes, with a double and a roundtripper. However, he has faced closer Trevor Hoffman three times and has no hits against him. Playing Neikro's back-up will be former Padre, Mark Sweeney. Sweeney has one double in three at-bats against his former teammate, Peavy.

The Padres may also have a young player, Adrian Gonzalez, starting at first base for them with Sean Burroughs gone. He has never faced any of the Giants' pitchers.

The Edge: Giants
Lance Neikro has major league experience under his belt, which will give him the advantage at first base. Neikro has seen more pitches in the majors, and will have more knowledge on what to expect. Gonzalez has played in a few major league games, but this will be his first full season.

Second Base:
The Giants are hoping, and expecting, a good and injury-free season for Ray Durham. However, for the season opener, Durham needs to have better luck. He is 6-38 against Peavy with two doubles and a triple. Durham is 1-5 against Estes with one walk. Against Hoffman he is 3-8 with two doubles.

Without Mark Loretta on the team, the Padres will mostlikely put Mark Bellhorn at second base. Bellhorn is 2-9 against Jason Schmidt, with one homerun. He has one hit in eight at-bats against Matt Morris with three strikeouts, and he also has one hit in three at-bats against Noah Lowry, which was a triple. Bellhorn is 0-3 against Tim Worrell, who will probably end up being the Giants' closer in the absence of Armando Benitez.

The Edge: Giants
Loretta was a Giants' killer. With him gone, the Giants should get the advantage, but Durham's track record against Padres' pitching should put him in a tie with Bellhorn. However, Durham has had more at-bats than Bellhorn, which means he has seen more pitches from the Padres than Bellhorn has seen from the Giants. San Francisco gets the edge on this one, but not by much.

Shortstop:
Another solid year is expected by Omar Vizquel this season. His defense has always been magnificiant, but the Giants are hoping that Vizquel will keep more than his glove hot. However, they should probably put their money on another day because Vizquel is 1-9 against Peavy. He is 2-4 against Estes, and 1-3 against Hoffman with a walk and a strikeout.

His and the rest of the infield's back-up, Jose Vizcaino, has a better record, 6-12 with three doubles and a homerun, against Peavy, and might have been penciled in to start against Peavy if it wasn't Opening Day. Vizcaino is also 8-18 against Estes, with a double and a jack. Look for him to get some at-bats during this series.

Every time Khalil Greene goes up against the Giants, he always manages to give them a difficult time. He is 6-15 against Schmidt with a double, a triple and a homerun with five RBIs and five strikeouts. He is 0-0 against Morris with a walk, and 1-7 against Lowry with a double and two strikeouts.

The Edge: Tie
Vizquel still has limited experience against NL pitching, but his experience will get him a tie against Greene. Greene has teed off on Schmidt, but has had a difficult time with Lowry, which evens him out with Vizquel. Vizquel's defense is also better than Greene's, which should make up for what gap is left from Greene's offense over Vizquel's.

Third Base:
After spending so many years with the Giants, Pedro Feliz finally gets to start. Permanately. At one position. He is batting .250 against Peavy, with one double and one roundtripper. Feliz is 4-13 against Estes with two doubles and three strikeouts. He has four hits in thirteen at-bats against Hoffman with one homerun and a walk.

Vinny Castilla is also another new member of the Padre' squad. Castilla has never done well against Giants' pitching. He is 9-52 against Schmidt with a double, a jack and ten strikeouts. Against Morris, he is 5-31 with one homerun and eight strikeouts, but against Worrell, Castilla is 5-17 with two homers.

The Edge: Tie
Castilla has more experience against Giants' pitching than Feliz, but Castilla's numbers against the Giants' pitchers are terrible. Up to this point, Feliz is still a mystery to most people. He shows flashes of brillance and power, but on the other hand he has been known to hack carelessly into double plays or miss the pitch entirely. It will be tough to tell which Feliz we'll be getting at the beginning of the season.

Catcher:
Mike Matheny was an important offensive player for the Giants last season. He had the best average with runners in scoring position. However, Matheny has never had a hit against Peavy in his entire career. He's had five strikeouts in ten at-bats. However, he is 7-16 against Estes with one double. He will also have a better chance against the Padres' closer at two hits in five at-bats, but with two strikeouts.

Yet another new face in the Padres' lineup is Mike Piazza. The slugger has done well against Giants' pitching in the past. He is 11-32 against Schmidt with a double and five roundtrippers with six strikeouts. He has faced Morris 26 times and got ten hits, which included two doubles. Against Worrell, Piazza is 10-21 with a double and five jacks.

The Edge: Padres
Piazza has much more power than Matheny. Also, Matheny has not done well in the past against Peavy and Piazza has done well against all Giants' pitching in his career. However, Matheny have already worked with his pitchers for an entire season, more than one in Morris' case, and Piazza is new to his team. When it comes to catching a good game, the edge will go to Matheny.

Left Field:
All eyes are on Barry Bonds this season. Well, when are eyes not on Bonds? Against Peavy, he is 5-20, but has teed off on Peavy three times. Peavy has also issued Bonds eleven walks and five strikeouts. He is 3-8 against Estes with just one walk. Bonds is 5-18 against Hoffman with two jacks, six walks and four strikeouts.

With Ryan Klesko put on the DL, there may be a possiblity of Ben Johnson or Termel Sledge starting in left field. Sledge is 0-3 against Schmidt with one strikeout and 1-2 against Morris with a jack. He has three hits in seven at-bats against Worrell with a triple. Johnson is 0-4 against Lowry with two walks and two strikeouts. He is also 0-1 against Worrell.

The Edge: Giants
Bonds gets the advantage over Klesko, let alone over Johnson or Sledge. Whether or not he gets pitched to, Bonds is a frightening factor in the other team's eyes. Look for Bonds to try to get his first jack at Petco Park.

Center Field:
Randy Winn will be another key player in the Giants' success this season. He is 3-11 against Peavy with one double. He has never faced Estes, but he is one of the few Giants who have faced Chris Young. He is 1-6 against Young with one strikeout. Winn also has one hit in two at-bats against Hoffman, which was a triple.

Along with Klesko, Mike Cameron has also been placed on the DL. His back-up will mostlikely be Dave Roberts. Roberts is 12-42 against Schmidt, with three doubles and six K's. He is 3-7 against Morris with one double, and he has two hits in three at-bats against Worrell.

The Edge: Giants
It is hopeful that Winn will continue his tear at the plate this season. His numbers do not look good against Padres' pitching, but if he hits like he did last season, then anything close to being over the plate will find a gap. Roberts has speed, but his power is limited. He also hasn't done well against the Giants in the past.

Right Field:
Against Peavy, Moises Alou is 3-10 with one double. Alou is 6-19 against Estes, with a triple and a homer. He is 4-22 against Hoffman, with a double and two jacks, but nine strikeouts. Alou's bat will be key in the heart of the Giants' lineup.

Brian Giles, one of the few left from last season's lineup, has never done well against Schmidt. He is 7-34 with one double and a jack with four strikeouts. Giles has ten hits in 24 at-bats against Morris with two doubles and two roundtrippers, and is 5-16 against Lowry with two doubles and a homer.

The Edge: Tie
Alou and Giles are both important to their respective teams offensively. Both of their defense is at the same level, and the numbers against the respective teams pan out about the same as well.

Pitching:
Taking the mound for the Padres on Opening Day will be Jake Peavy, and the Giants will send up their ace, Schmidt. The young starter has always been tough on the Giants. Durham has the most at-bats against Peavy at 38, but only has six hits against Peavy. Steve Finley is 6-17 with two doubles and three jacks against Peavy, so he may get some at-bats against Peavy. Bonds has three homeruns against Peavy, but has been walked by him eleven times.

The guy missing Klesko the most will be Schmidt. Klesko is 7-48 against Schmidt with a .146 average. The only players who have come close to doing well against Schmidt on the Padres is Piazza and Greene. Piazza has five jacks against Schmidt.

Former Giant Estes will be starting against new Giants Morris. Finley has the most at-bats against Estes at 29, but only has seven hits. Alou has a .316 average with a triple and a homerun, and Vizcaino is 8-18 with a double and a jack. Matheny also has notable numbers, batting .438 against Estes with a double. Castilla has faced Morris the most at 31 at-bats, but only has five hits. Morris is another pitcher that Piazza has done well against, but Piazza has never taken Morris to the fence.

Chris Young is the projected starter for San Diego. He will go up against Noah Lowry. Young has only faced two players on the Giants' roster, Finley and Winn, who each have just one hit against him in nine and six at-bats, respectively. Young has struck out Finley four times. However, the surprise factor may play in advantage of the Padres because not many players have seen Young pitch.

Giles has faced Lowry the most at 16 at-bats, and has five hits, including two doubles and a jack. Other than Giles, the rest of the Padres' lineup have not been able to figure Lowry out. Piazza is 2-3 against Lowry, too little at-bats to draw any conclusions from. However, Eric Young is 4-5 against Lowry with a double, so there is a chance he may get the nod to start in place of Bellhorn for the last game of the series.

The Padres have another season of Hoffman closing for them. Benitez was placed on the DL for the Giants, so it is likely that San Francisco will turn to Worrell to be their closer again. For those who do not remember, Worrell was very reliable when Robb Nen went down with injury in 2003. For 2002, Worrell was a valuable arm coming out of the bullpen to help the Giants' pennant run. However, Piazza, again, has dominated another Giants' pitcher. He is 10-21 against Worrell with five jacks. Giles is 7-10 with three doubles.

The Edge: Giants The season opener will be a good game of pitching on both sides. Both teams are sending up their ace and it is expected to be a low scoring game. However, the second and third game may prove different. Morris has had a better career than Estes, and both pitchers are pitching for different teams. However, Morris gets more bonus points because Matheny will be catching him. Morris and Matheny were long-time teammates on the St. Louis Cardinals before Matheny signed on with the Giants last offseason. A big part of why Morris signed with the Giants is because of Matheny, so the pitcher and catcher have a close relationship, which will help Morris on the mound.

Young is a mystery for the most part against the Giants, which can be either good or bad. However, Lowry has proven time and again that he can help his team win games.

Hoffman is one of the best closers in baseball today. Worrell is solid, but is nowhere near Hoffman's level. Given the two track records, the edge definitely goes to Hoffman.



Sara Kwan is a writer and co-publisher for SFDugout.com. Got a bone to pick? Just want to say hi? Comments about the article and/or the site? Hit me up: kwanchino@alpha-q.net .

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