Position-by-position breakdown: Giants-Cardinals

Position-by-position breakdown: Giants-Cardinals

Once again, the Giants and Cardinals will square off with a National League title on the line. They've met three times before, and their fourth meeting will make the matchup the third-most played NL Championship Series in history. Believe it or not, only Pirates-Reds and Phillies-Dodgers have been played more frequently.

Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the two clubs, who have combined to win each of the last four NL pennants:

  Date Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 11 SF 3, STL 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 12 STL 5, SF 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14 SF 5, STL 4 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15 SF 6, STL 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 16 SF 6, STL 3 video
Catcher: The age-old Buster Posey vs. Yadier Molina debate renews itself yet again. This time, however, Molina simply hasn't been himself at the plate since sustaining a thumb injury in July. He hit just .250 in September, and he has managed just six extra-base hits -- postseason included -- since returning to action in late August. He has continued to play Gold Glove-caliber defense, however, picking Andre Ethier off third base with a great throw in the sixth inning of St. Louis' 3-2 series-clinching win on Tuesday. Posey, meanwhile, has been arguably the NL's best hitter in the second half of the season (.354/.403/.575), and he's batting .391 in the postseason. Advantage: Giants

First base: The lasting moments from both NL Division Series were provided by first basemen. Brandon Belt's 18th-inning homer gave the Giants a 2-0 Series lead over Washington, while Matt Adams' shot off Kershaw sent Busch Stadium into a frenzy Tuesday and was the difference in the deciding Game 4. It's been a better postseason thus far for Belt, but Adams' raw power can be a difference maker at any time. Plus, he hit .288 during the season, second among all NL first basemen. Advantage: Cardinals

Second base: Among rookies with at least 250 plate appearances this season, Joe Panik and Kolten Wong ranked third and sixth, respectively, in OPS. And they continued their breakout seasons on the biggest stage. Panik is tied for second overall with seven hits this postseason, and Wong hit the two-run homer off the Dodgers' Scott Elbert in the seventh inning Monday night to tilt the series in St. Louis' favor. During the regular season, Panik hit 56 points higher than Wong, and his bat hasn't cooled one bit. Advantage: Giants

Third base: You'd be hard-pressed to find two more clutch hitters on the planet right now than the Giants' Pablo Sandoval and the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter. Sandoval came up big in the NL Wild Card Game with a pair of hits, and again in Game 2 of the NLDS with his game-tying double in the ninth. But, thus far, Carpenter has him beat. The Cards' leadoff man hit .500 in the NLDS, including a home run and a three-run double off Clayton Kershaw. Of his six playoff hits, three are doubles and three are homers (a 1.500 slugging percentage). Plus, he works the count as well as any hitter in the league. Advantage: Cardinals

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta set a record for the most home runs by a Cardinals shortstop with 21 this season, although he has struggled a bit in the playoffs. Brandon Crawford, meanwhile, not typically known for his pop, helped put the Giants in the NLDS with his grand slam against Pittsburgh in the NL Wild Card Game. Crawford can flash the leather with the best of them, too -- but so can Peralta. In fact, this season, Peralta ranked ahead of Crawford in fielding percentage, double-play involvement, range rating and dWAR. Advantage: Cardinals

Left field: Matt Holliday is a seasoned vet in these situations. Travis Ishikawa, meanwhile, had made just three starts in left field before the playoffs. In 13 at-bats this postseason, Ishikawa has just two singles. There's a chance the Giants' Mike Morse will be ready in time for Saturday's Game 1, but he's still a major question mark, having not started a game since August because of an oblique injury. As for Holliday, he may not have put up his usual numbers during the regular season, but he hit .295 in September and crushed a three-run homer in Game 1 of the NLDS. Advantage: Cardinals

Center field: Gregor Blanco has wheels and can cover a lot of ground in AT&T Park's spacious center field, but that hasn't made up for his anemic bat this past week. He's just 2-for-22 (both singles) this postseason, the polar opposite of St. Louis' Jon Jay, who hit .455 against the Dodgers with a .571 OBP. Plus, Jay has shored up his glove from this time a year ago, when he was a defensive liability. Advantage: Cardinals

Right field: No matter who starts in right for the Cardinals, this matchup is a no-brainer. Hunter Pence played all 162 games for the Giants during the regular season, leading the NL with 650 at-bats. He's been the club's sparkplug since arriving in 2012, and he hit .278 with a pair of doubles against the Nationals. St. Louis will most likely go with Randal Grichuk, who homered against Kershaw in Game 1 of the NLDS, but didn't do much else. Advantage: Giants

Bench: Neither team boasts a particularly impressive bench. The only pinch-hit for either team this postseason was a single off the bat of St. Louis' Oscar Taveras. The Giants' bench is still depleted because of injuries to Morse and Angel Pagan. The St. Louis bench may not offer much in terms of pop, but several of those Cardinals subs have serious postseason pedigree, and with Taveras, Peter Bourjos, Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, the Cards' bench is certainly deeper. Advantage: Cardinals

Rotation: Come October, it's never a good idea to bet against either of these rotations. We've learned that much from the past five postseasons. Veterans Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson have once again turned the Giants' staff into a force to be reckoned with, and Madison Bumgarner is becoming one of the best clutch pitchers of his generation. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have the most proven starter on either side in Adam Wainwright, and Lance Lynn turned himself into a bona fide ace in the second half with his 2.22 ERA. Plus, it looks like John Lackey is up to his usual October tricks, and Shelby Miller was solid in his first playoff start Tuesday. This one's extremely close, but Wainwright struggled against the Dodgers and there has been some question about soreness or stiffness in his arm, giving the Giants the slightest of edges. Advantage: Giants

Bullpen: No relief corps has thrown more innings this postseason than the Giants' 'pen, which has been up to the task every step of the way. The San Francisco bullpen finished fifth in the Majors with a 3.01 ERA, while St. Louis finished 17th at 3.62. Don't be fooled, though. The Cardinals' bullpen is loaded with talent. Trevor Rosenthal's 45 saves were the second most in the NL, and Pat Neshek, Seth Maness and Marco Gonzales had great regular seasons and have thus far carried that over into October. But the Giants have a great closer in Santiago Casilla, a handful of great matchups options -- both left and right -- for the late innings, and Yusmeiro Petit as a proven long man. Advantage: Giants

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.