5 Similarities Between the 2012 San Francisco Giants and the 2010 Team
One should never count their chickens before they've hatched, as a lot can change in September.
The Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves each had bigger leads at this time last season than the Giants have now, and they both collapsed down the stretch—losing on the final day of the season to miss the playoffs entirely.
Looking back to 2010, when the Giants won the World Series for the first time since moving west, the San Diego Padres had the edge in late August. Then, the Padres lost 10 straight games between August 26 and Sept. 5, blowing most of their 5.5 game lead over the Giants.
When the Padres visited the Giants on the final weekend of the season, they needed a sweep to force a one-game playoff back in San Diego. The Padres won the first two games, but Jonathan Sanchez delivered five shut-out innings, hit a triple and scored a run as San Francisco took the season's final game. Buster Posey sealed the win with a solo home run.
The Giants rode that NL West-clinching win into the postseason where they beat the Atlanta Braves in four games, the Philadelphia Phillies in six and the Texas Rangers in five to bring the franchise its first championship since 1954.
While the 2012 team has a long way to go to bring the franchise another title, there are at least five similarities between it and the 2010 World Series team.
One thing is for certain: the 2010 team had a great vibe to it down the stretch, and while this year's team appears to have replaced the frat boy fun of Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell with the more serious demeanor of Posey, confidence is oozing out of AT&T Park once again.
That Catcher Guy
On June 30, 2010, the Giants finally turned the keys to the franchise over to Posey when they dealt incumbent catcher Bengie Molina to the Texas Rangers.
At the time of the trade, the Giants were floundering at 40-37, having just been swept at home by the Dodgers.
Posey rewarded the Giants trust in a huge way. He hit .305/.357/.505 with 18 home runs out of the cleanup spot on his way to the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He also guided the Giants pitching staff to a 1.78 ERA down the stretch in September, and a 2.47 ERA during the 2010 postseason.
After a catastrophic leg injury ruined his 2011 season, Posey has returned with a vengeance. The All-Star catcher is hitting .327/.402/.531 with 20 home runs—good for 6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR)—putting him at the center of the MVP discussion.
It seems that as long as Posey is catching and batting cleanup for the Giants, the team will be a perennial contender.
Breakout Season from a Center Fielder
In 2010, the Giants received a breakout season from 32-year old journeyman center fielder Andres Torres. Torres was signed as a minor league free agent prior to the 2009 season, and he served as a fourth outfielder that year.
Then, Torres broke out in a big way—hitting .268/.343/.479, while slamming 67 extra-base hits, stealing 26 bases and playing tremendous defense in center field.
After a down year last season, Giants general manager Brian Sabean flipped Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez to the Mets for Angel Pagan.
Pagan has had a breakout year of his own this season. The speedster is hitting .287/.339/.433 with 25 stolen bases and a league-leading 11 triples while providing the Giants with nearly 4 wins in value already this season.
Torres was an unsung hero out of the leadoff spot in 2010. Two years later, Pagan has filled the void in center field.
Overcoming Dead Weight on the Payroll
The Giants paid Aaron Rowand $12 million in 2010, yet received only $1 million in value from him, according to FanGraphs, as he lost his job to Torres.
This season, the Giants paid Rowand $12 million to do absolutely nothing, as he was released towards the end of last season.
The Giants paid Barry Zito $18.5 million in 2010, yet received only $8 million in value from him. This season the Giants are paying Zito $19 million, and they are once again getting less than equal value on the field from their fifth starter.
In Zito's defense, he takes the ball every five days and delivers a quality start half the time. He provides value, just not at the level of his ill-conceived contract.
Prior to 2010, the Giants signed Mark DeRosa to a two-year, $12 million contract. DeRosa played in only 73 games with the Giants, and hit just .235/.313/.279 over the life of the contract.
The Giants were the only team to offer a contract to Aubrey Huff in the winter of 2010, and that was only after they lost out on Adam LaRoche and Nick Johnson in free agency. For the cost of only $3 million, Huff hit .290/.385/.506 with 26 home runs and 83 walks that year.
The Giants rewarded Huff's big year with a two-year, $22 million contract extension. Over the last two seasons, Huff has rewarded the Giants with nearly negative $4 million in actual value.
Huff's 2010 was so good that his performance over the last two seasons will likely be soon forgiven by Giants fans.
Edgar Renteria, the World Series MVP in 2010, signed a two-year, $18.5 million contract with the Giants prior to 2009. Aside from his heroics in the postseason, Renteria was mostly a disaster for the Giants, hitting just .259/.316/.344 while battling injuries.
In the end, the Giants have been contenders over the past several seasons despite having dead weight on the payroll, including the $6 million that they are paying to an injured Freddy Sanchez this season.
The Giants have made up for their mistakes in free agency with bargain pick-ups like Torres, Pagan, Melky Cabrera, Juan Uribe, Ryan Vogelsong, Cody Ross and Marco Scutaro.
Overcoming Struggles of Lincecum and Sandoval
Renteria would have never been on the field in the postseason had it not been for the struggles of Pablo Sandoval.
After hitting .330 and carrying the Giants offense in 2009, Sandoval came to spring training out of shape and hit just .268 for the Giants in 2010. His weight increase reduced his range at third base, which eventually forced the Giants to reinsert Renteria at short and slide Uribe over to third.
This season, Sandoval has hit better than he did two years ago, but after getting into better shape last season, he's noticeably bigger again. The weight gain and two trips to the disabled list have prevented the Giants from getting the Panda of 2009 and 2011.
Tim Lincecum was not in great shape in 2010, either, and it showed in August of that season when he put up a 7.82 ERA. Lincecum bounced back in September and October, then delivered a gem during the World Series clincher on Nov. 1—the day that will live in eternal glory for the Giants and their fans.
After putting on weight to maintain velocity down the stretch in 2010 and through last season, Lincecum shed the extra pounds this winter. He couldn't adjust to the weight loss during the first half of this season, when he delivered only three quality starts and put up a 6.42 ERA.
Once again, Lincecum appears to have turned the corner. During the second half his ERA is down to 3.22, and he's delivered quality starts in eight of 11 tries.
The Giants have once again received up-and-down performances from two of their most talented, though oddly shaped, stars. Perhaps this offseason Sandoval can donate his excess weight to Lincecum, and both players can revert to their All-Star performances of 2009 and 2011.
Average Offense Combined with Excellent Pitching
It's a bit misleading to call the Giants average on offense and excellent at run prevention because that statement doesn't take into account the effect of AT&T Park, which was fairly neutral in 2010, but has become an extreme pitcher's park over the past two seasons.
With that caveat in mind, the 2010 Giants were 17th in baseball with an average of 4.30 runs per game, while this year they are 15th at 4.35 runs per game.
Meanwhile, the Giants led of all baseball with a 3.36 ERA in 2010, and are seventh at 3.71 this season.
The loss of closer Brian Wilson and the first half struggles of Lincecum have dragged down the numbers of the pitching staff this season. The staff is once again led by starters Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong in place of Jonathan Sanchez, Lincecum, with Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt and Guillermo Mota holdovers from the 2010 bullpen.
The 2010 team was a group of unwanted parts that included bargain free agents like Torres, Uribe, Huff, Casilla and Burrell, as well as waiver-wire pickup Cody Ross and the unheralded midseason trades for relievers Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez.
Posey and the pitching staff were ultimately the glue that held the team together and made up for the lack of production from big-money free agents like Rowand, Renteria, DeRosa and Zito.
The 2012 team has also been assembled with unheralded players like Pagan, the now-suspended Cabrera, Scutaro, Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco, Vogelsong and bullpen pickups like Jose Mijares and George Kontos. Once again, Posey and the pitching staff are the backbone of the team, making up for dead money in Wilson, Sanchez, Rowand and Huff.
In the end, the Giants run of success since 2009 has been mostly the result of what the organization has done on draft day.
Drafting Cain (2002, 25th pick), Lincecum (2006, 10th pick), Bumgarner (2007, 10th pick) and Posey (2008, fifth pick) has built a foundation around which GM Brian Sabean supplements with later draft picks, waiver pickups, minor league free agents and shrewd trades for players like Cabrera, Pagan and Scutaro.
Time will tell if this year's squad is also meant to be a team of destiny.